Showing posts from May, 2011

Why block with the forearm (rather than the palm)?


One of the most common queries I've had over the years from combat sports practitioners and eclectic martial artists is why traditional martial arts use the forearm as a blocking/deflecting surface. Why not use the palm?

Indeed the palm is a useful tool in "blocking" (ie. deflection/parrying and sometimes even actual blocking/stopping). However what is inherent in the question is the assumption that the palm is fundamentally more useful than the forearm. The forearm is often seen as "brutish" or inelegant compared with the sensitivity afforded by the palm.

Yet the traditional martial arts are full of forearm blocks. They are common throughout the Asian martial systems. They are even a well-established part of Western boxing traditions, going back as far as Ancient Greece right up to the more modern bareknuckle boxing era. [Consider the adjacent image as one of many examples one can find. As a side note, take a look at hip chamber being used!]


Back to basics: punching

Introduction: the basic chudan zuki (chest level punch)

Following my recent "back to basics" theme, I thought I'd touch on that most archetypal basic of karate (and many Chinese martial arts), namely the corkscrew punch.

The basic punch is often aimed at chest level, however this should not be confused for a striking target. Rather it is a basic angle relevant to teaching brand-new beginners. In particular, beginners need to learn to punch in a straight line (ie. without unintended sideways deviations or up and down wave-like movements). They also need to learn to punch without any other extraneous movement. The basic chest-level thrust (chudan choku zuki) is ideally suited to teaching these concepts - both from the teacher's and student's perspectives.

Step 1

Start with one hand (in this case the right) in the pull back position, the other (in this case the left) in the finishing position.

For more information on the pullback, see my article "Chambering punc…

Back to basics: stances


Some time ago I wrote the article "The role of traditional stances", however I have never attempted to describe these in any real detail (although I have previously discussed stances and stepping in stances in various articles, eg. "Northern and southern kung fu, karate and the question of range").

So following my last post about basic blocks, I thought I'd describe how to assume the basic stances of karate (and most other traditional martial arts):

Heisoku dachi (attention stance)

Feet together, weight evenly distributed.

Musubi dachi (V stance)

Heels together, feet out at angles, weight evenly distributed.

Heiko dachi (parallel stance)

Feet parallel, shoulder width, weight evenly distributed.

Hachiji dachi (figure 8 stance)

Feet angled outwards, shoulder width, weight evenly distributed.

Zenkutsu dachi / gong bu (forward stance)

Feet shoulder width, weight 70% on front foot, 30% on back, front shin vertical, outside edge of front foot pointing forwards, back…

Back to basics: blocking


Over the years I have written extensively about various basic techniques, but it recently struck me that I have never sought to include a kind of "online lesson" of such techniques in my blog.

Accordingly I will make this entry about "how to perform basic blocks".

You will note that I generally use the term "block" but this is a force of habit: a more correct term would be "deflection", "parry" or "interception". Generally traditional blocks are used to intercept and redirect attacks rather than stop them dead in their tracks. In karate and other Japanese/Okinawan arts these techniques are classified as "uke". "Uke" comes from the Japanese word "ukeru" meaning "to receive".

In this article I shall focus on the 4 main forearm blocks. I propose to deal in later articles with the question of why the forearm is the principle tool for deflections (rather than say, the palm).