Showing posts from July, 2008

Keeping grapplers at bay

Brazilian jujutsu practitioners are fond of saying that most fights go to the ground, but as Chad Merriman (also a strong Judo player) likes to say, that's because most people don't know how to stop them from going to the ground.

It is important to note that I think one should learn grappling skills regardless of one’s “stand-up” fighting ability. But there have been times where I have not wanted to go to ground for the simple reason that I know my opponent is better there. I have managed to stay on my feet quite successfully despite repeated attempts at "taking me down".


The answer, I’ve found, is to get used to the "melee" range as I have discussed previously. Invariably the next question I’m asked is: “How do you keep someone at this range?” Yet this misconceives my point:

While some schools teach specific “formulae” for keeping grapplers at bay, I’m afraid I can’t offer anything like this. For me the question: “How do you keep a grappler at bay?…

Staying in the "melee"

My article “The melee: karate’s fighting range” has elicited many responses since I posted it on the net – many favourable and encouraging, others not so. I have had cause to address some of the points raised in forums and on the net, so I thought I’d summarise those comments here:

But your approach is too risky!

One of the principal arguments I’ve encountered is that “giving opponent an opportunity to hit you doesn't make much sense”. Another way this has been put is: “standing toe to toe and attacking will leave you open to attack.”

Superficially this argument might seem persuasive. However it relies on several flawed assumptions as to what I meant in my article about fighting in the “melee range” and about self-defence in general.

As a starting point, it is worth noting my opinion that the melee is the fight. Everything else is “sport”. Fights aren't about squaring off in stances, donning pads and bouncing etc. The fight will begin and end in the melee.

With that in mind ou…

Is karate a "striking" art?

My brother is fond of saying that karate is a "counterstriking" art. However I know that he really means a “countering” art, since karate counters are by no means confined to "striking". Rather, he uses “striking” (and more specifically “counterstriking”) in order to distinguish karate from those arts which are predominantly about grappling. Put another way, the reference to “striking” is not intended to imply any exclusivity in terms of striking (as opposed to locking/taking down etc.) in a counter. Indeed it is a critical mistake to label (or apply) karate as just a “striking” art since it misapprehends karate’s function....

Examples of true “striking” arts are boxing, Muay Thai and savate. Each of these is almost exclusively about landing blows. While I can see why the uninitiated might see karate in the same light, the way in which karate techniques were intended to operate is fundamentally different.

Karate (not just goju/Naha-te, but shorin-based systems …

Two for the price of one: more about karate "blocks"

Those of you who have read my article on Why blocks DO work will recall that I mentioned there that every basic block in karate contains 2 movements - the primary block (a larger movement) and a secondary block (a smaller movement) in the "pullback" arm (what some people call the "crossing hand"). I am astounded as to how few karateka today are actually aware of this fact.

So what is the function of these 2 movements? Well first, the secondary movement can operate as a deflection entirely on its own. While the move is generally smaller and weaker than the primary movement it can often intercept the attack sooner. And executed correctly it can be just as effective. Consider the pictures to the left of the secondary movement in goju-ryu's chudan uke (chest-level block). Just as the primary movement comprises a circular deflection, so the secondary movement also deflects with a circle (albeit smaller) on the same angle.

While the secondary part of the chudan uk…

The "melee": karate's fighting range

In my articles “Evasion vs. blocking with evasion” and “The karate 'kamae' or guard” I have mentioned what I call the “melee range”.

This is the range you're in when you're both swapping blows furiously - half a step in to elbows and knees, half a step out to a fully extended kick. In other words, wherever you step, you face a blow. Most other martial artists I know feel very uncomfortable at this range: for them it feels like the “no-man’s land” in tennis – the mid-court where the ball bounces. In other words, it is a place where you might venture on occasion, but generally it is too “hectic” to stay in (at least successfully) for any extended period. Like tennis players, most martial artists nowadays seem to stay at either an extended range (cf. the baseline) or in close at the clinch/grappling (cf. the net). The in-between is avoided, except in transit or unless the chaos of a particular exchange finds you there temporarily.

It is no surprise then that this “no-ma…

Punching: alignment with the forearm

I have often been asked: "What is the correct alignment of your forearm to your fist in a standard punch?" Given that in karate and most Eastern martial arts (excluding arts such as Wing Chun) the standard punch strikes with the 2 big knuckles, you could be forgiven for thinking that the top of the forearm should align (be flush) with those 2 knuckles. Makes sense doesn't it? But actually this is not the case.

Indeed, if you make a fist and then hold your forearm vertically, side on (so that your fist is pointing up and you're looking at your wrist so that you can see whether it angles the fist up or down), you'll notice that you could, if you wanted, make the back of your hand flush with your forearm. That means that the top knuckles are in a straight line with your forearm and your energy is going to be transmitted in a straight line (theoretically).

The problem however is that if you look at the palm side of your fist, it now slopes down quite a lot - incr…