Within Tensoku Ryu when we issue a block we want to ensure the block makes contact with the opponent using what we refer to as rotational delivery. This method of blocking provides many benefits often not considered or available with typical blocking methodologies. We will cover these basic delivery mechanisms for this blocking style and consider the many benefits and potential issues of these blocks.
Most common blocks can be delivered with the rotational delivery method. Blocks using the feet, shin, knees, elbows and other larger and less flexible parts of the anatomy are seldom able to use this method of blocking. So the first major disadvantage of this blocking method is that it cannot be universally applied to all blocks. But if the block involves the hand or forearm then this blocking practice can be utilized. In Tensoku Ryu we suggest that rotational delivery should be utilized whenever a blocking method can support it.
Rotational delivery is the method of ensuring a large surface area on our body contacts a small surface area on the opponent’s body. We do this by rotating the forearm and wrist from the moment of first contact until the wrist and forearm have turned as much as 90°. Let’s look at two examples.
In the first example we will consider the Chudan Uke delivered with a closed fist. As our block moves inward toward the opponent’s approaching arm the blocking hand is positioned such that the thumb of that hand is facing our torso and face, or what we refer to as local octagon angle two. As the block makes first contact with the opponent’s arm it begins to rotate. Assuming this is Migi Chudan Uke, the thumb will be moving to our right. The thumb will eventually point in the direction of local octagon angle four.
This method of delivery will accomplish several things. Firstly, the impact of the block will be distributed over a larger surface area of our arm or hand. Since our arm is rotating during contact any stresses are distributed along the rotating surface, reducing the stresses at any single point of our arm. These same stresses are delivered over a much more localized surface area of the opponent’s arm (or leg) because it is not likely to be rotating.
But there are other advantages to this blocking strategy that are less obvious.The act of rotating the arm during this block also pulls your hand closer to your torso. Try it yourself. Put up a fist in the initial blocking position (perhaps resting it gently against a wall as a point of reference) and then rotate your arm. You will notice your hand and forearm move inward perhaps two or three inches. This is partly due to the hand moving so the palm of the hand now faces us, but from the opponent’s perspective, your hand has moved in your direction. This will impart, due to the sticky hand principle, a tugging force on the opponent’s arm. The tugging force will have an effect on the opponent’s structure, especially if they are significantly weightless.
The combined effect of the rotational delivery and inward tugging force will generate some instability in the opponent’s structure. This may be quite minimal or quite pronounced, depending primarily on the stability of the opponent during strike delivery. If there is a weakness in the opponent’s structure it will become apparent during this block. In the case of Migi Chudan Uke it is not unusual to see the opponent pitch both forward and toward our left side as a result of this block. This often conveniently positions the opponent’s head in the vicinity of our left arm. But more importantly it severely compromises the opponent’s structural integrity. It is now possible to put the opponent in a position of extreme jeopardy. Naturally, the opposite conditions would apply if we delivered Hidari Chudan Uke.
Another aspect of this blocking sequence is that the inward tugging force is not applied immediately. It is strongest near the point of maximum rotation. This means the opponent’s arm is pressed outward during the initial phases of the block, but is then pulled inward as well as toward you as the tugging force is applied. So the opponent’s arm (or leg) is also pressed outward and then pulled inward, adding to the instability the opponent will experience. This aspect of rotational delivery is quite subtle and may not occur in every instance due to variable positioning and timing issues. But it can be an important aspect of these blocks. The effect can be amplified by slightly raising your elbow as the block approaches full rotation.
With Ura Chudan Uke a similar effect occurs. This time the block is delivered by initially positioning your hand so the thumb (or perhaps the back of your hand) faces you. Now the block is rotated so the thumb moves in the direction of local angle four (assuming Migi Ura Chudan Uke). The careful observer will notice this is exactly the same hand rotation involved in Chudan Uke. The only difference is the movement of the arm and the blocking surfaces that will be employed.
With Ura Chudan Uke the arm moves from your center in an outward direction. As your arm rotates it offers the same benefits of distributed impact and sticky hand movement. You will also notice, if you do this carefully, that the elbow is moved toward your center as the rotation occurs. This adds to the manipulative effects of the block, helping to pull the opponent off structure.
Another primary benefit of rotational deliver is that it inherently overcomes one of the major problems with most blocks. Most blocks are, frankly, dangerous. When most blocks are applied the practitioner delivering the block establishes a rooted posture and then drives a hand or forearm into the incoming strike to divert the strike from its intended path. This is all fine (if you ignore the fact that impact damage to your arm or hand may occur), but the after effects of the block are what we want to examine. This method of block delivery imparts a rotational movement into the opponent’s hips. The nature of this rotation, in the case of Chudan Uke, is to cause the opponent’s striking arm to move outward, which in turn causes the opponent’s opposite arm to move inward. You have inadvertently initiated the opponent’s next strike from his or her opposite side.
This problem is compounded by the fact that this form of blocking causes you to momentarily freeze in your final blocking position. Your muscles are tight and you are focused on preventing the strike from landing. All of this causes you to tense up and lock your structure for a moment. How long will be be frozen? In reality it is not very long. It is just long enough for that incoming strike from the opponent’s opposite side to find its target.
Rotational delivery helps solve these problems (though they can still exist to some extent). This is in part due to the manipulative forces being applied to the opponent. The blocks pull the opponent off structure making it unlikely they will initiate a second attack, and if they do, the structural changes imparted into the opponent will make the strike far less effective.
But rotational delivery also helps to solve the problem of freezing. Since the arm is in rotation the entire time it will not have a tendency to lock up in a final posture. Instead the arm can immediately move in another direction and for another purpose. Perhaps the arm begins to rotate back in the opposite direction which can impart additional destabilizing forces into the opponent. Perhaps the hand opens and encircles the opponent’s arm as your arm begins to pull or push to further reposition and destroy the opponent’s structure. Because of the rotational delivery the hand, arm, and your entire body can be in constant fluid motion. Once you make contact with the opponent you keep working to destabilize them, keep them disoriented, and ensure they are unable to continue with any form of attack.
Blocking is often seen as a defensive methodology. But in Tensoku Ryu we think that with the aid of rotational delivery, blocking becomes an offensive weapon. It is used to initially compromise the opponent so they are susceptible to our continued manipulations, strikes, and assertive dominance.
Rotational delivery is also useful for skills beyond blocking. Most Tsuki hand strikes benefit from rotating the forearm as the hand extends forward. The last bit of rotation occurs immediately after impact. This delivery method has the following advantages:
- It helps to keep the elbow pointing downward during the first half of the strike. Keeping the elbow down helps ensure that the larger two knuckles on the fist make contact with the target. If the elbow flares out early during a punch then the smaller two knuckles of the fist will contact the target, resulting in a less efficient strike and greater risk of injury to the hand.
- The rotating motion of the fist will cause some additional additional twisting and potential tearing of surface tissues on the opponent. While tearing of these tissues is not particularly likely, there can be increased tissue damage in the area due to this delivery method.
- The path of the strike is more direct and linear when rotational delivery is used. The strike makes greater impact because it is a straight line strike that does not meander on its way to the target. Other delivery methods are more circular in the path they scribe on the way to the target.
- The strike is more likely to remain within your center triangle if it employs rotational delivery.
Using rotational delivery is often beneficial for other hand strikes as well. For example, if a Migi Tettsui Uchi is delivered to the left side of an opponent’s face using rotational delivery, then far greater impact forces are generated than if the strike took a more fixed trajectory. This is because rotation of the forearm adds increased energy to the strike just before impact. This added energy can be quite substantial. An additional benefit is that the rotation can be continued following impact allowing an Uraken Tsuki to be applied to the opponent’s collar bone. This is unlikely to be a powerful secondary strike, but it can be quite useful as a checking or manipulative action.
Even weapon strikes, particularly Tsuki strikes, benefit from rotational delivery. Many of the benefits associated with hand strikes are applicable to weapons as well. Rotating during delivery slightly improves and constrains the path of the weapon’s travel so it moves in a straight line toward the target. This will results in greater impact power. And if the weapon is still rotating upon impact it may increase localized tissue damage at the impact site.
Your skills will benefit from thinking about rotational delivery in every movement you make. In some cases rotational delivery will offer little benefit. But in a great may circumstances it will add precision, power, focus, increased effectiveness, and improved safety to your movements. Experiment with this concept at every opportunity. It is a simple application of the laws of physics, and having this knowledge will make you a better martial artist.