Indirect Movement

Indirect movement is the process of causing some specific part of the human anatomy to move by moving a different part of the human anatomy. You move Part B to indirectly get Part A to move in a known and specific manner. An indirect movement is a specific form of manipulation which is fundamental to Tensoku Ryu training.

It takes quite a while to become proficient at indirect movements. Extensive practice with these movements on yourself or a training partner will give you a better appreciation for how to control and manipulate an opponent. Without this knowledge, your movements will remain haphazard, indeterminate, and largely ineffectual. With a sound basis in this form a manipulation, you will be able to quickly place an opponent in a precarious and disadvantageous position.

There is a common children’s song called Dem Bones that has some bearing on the martial arts and indirect movement in particular: There are various versions of the lyrics to the song, but they generally go something like this (repetitive verses have been eliminated):

Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones
Shake dem skeleton bones.

The toe bone’s connected to the foot bone
The foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone
The ankle bone’s connected to the shin bone
Shake dem skeleton bones.

The shin bone’s connected to the knee bone
The knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone
The thigh bone’s connected to the hip bone
Shake dem skeleton bones.

The hip bone’s connected to the backbone
The back bone’s connected to the neck bone
The neck bone’s connected to the head bone
Shake dem skeleton bones

The finger bone’s connected to the hand bone
The hand bone’s connected to the arm bone
The arm bone’s connected to the shoulder bone
Shake dem skeleton bones

Like the Hokey Pokey, it’s a pretty cute children’s song, but a bit short on anatomical detail. Nonetheless, it is quite instructive. The major point of the song (aside from teaching very basic anatomy to young children) is that everything in the human anatomy is interconnected. From a martial arts perspective this tells you that if you move any part of the body, other parts of the body must move as well. They are all connected somehow.

Let’s look at three specific locations. For example, the right knee, right hip, and right shoulder. If you move the right hip forward you will notice that the knee and shoulder will also move. No big surprise, probably, but try this on a partner and notice how they move. Now move your hand to your Uke’s shoulder and move the shoulder in the same manner you had observed it moving before. You will notice that the knee and hip are moving exactly as they had earlier when you were moving the hip. Coincidence? Nope.

And it should come as no surprise that if you reach down and move the knee in the way it was moving earlier that the hips and shoulders will also move exactly as they had before.

Now the skeptics among you may say, “So what, you move the hip to the right and the knee and shoulder also move to the right. Big deal!” I would like to make a few points about this.

  1. You are correct. This should not be extremely surprising.
  2. Have you ever noticed this before?
  3. If you have noticed it before, have you ever found a practical use for it?
  4. If you have found a use for it, can you make it happen reliably?
  5. The movements are not linear; they are circular.

Here is one simple use for this very basic principle. Let’s say you move slightly behind your opponent so that you are facing them and just behind their right side. You are essential just behind their ear side. You decide that you can throw your opponent to the ground in a purposeful way if you could only reach their left shoulder, which is turned away from you, somehow. Why reach for the shoulder when you can bring it to you? Press forward on the opponent’s right hip. The left shoulder will pull back and into your grasping range. Mission accomplished.

Try this on a training partner. You should experiment with intensity here. You are likely to find that very subtle pressure on the hips works best to move the far shoulder closer. While firm pressure also works, subtle and gentle pressure will usually make the person more compliant, making your task easier. Using too much force may push the person away rather than produce your intended manipulation.

But what would happen if you had positioned yourself such that your right knee pressed into the back of the opponent’s right knee? Now the right hip will move forward as it did in the previous example and the far (left) shoulder will move into the range of your left hand. You have used a different form of manipulation to achieve the same goal. You have placed your right leg so it traps the opponent’s right leg, making a backward fall somewhat more likely.

The real power of this simple song is to suggest there is a multitude of ways to move the body both directly and indirectly. This is one of the primary underpinnings of Tensoku Ryu. Explore how this works by moving a part of your body to see what else moves. Then move one of those parts to see what moves as a result. Do the same experiment with a variety of different Uke. You will find many similarities and some differences in how Uke of difference sizes move. Study them all extensively. You want this to become second nature. You want to be able to move nearly any part of the body from some other location on the body. Become an expert at this type of involuntary persuasive movement. Don’t just read about it; practice this skill relentlessly. You will need to rely on it later.

Another useful experiment is to move only the hips and then observe how other parts of the body are affected. Consider moving the hips:

  • Left or right laterally.
  • Forward or back
  • In a rotational manner back or forward
  • Both sides back or forward simultaneously.

Through self-studies such as these, you will ultimately learn a great deal. Now you can consider additional skills. What happens if I move one part of the body, but constrain the movement of another part of the that would normally move indirectly? How can this be of benefit? Indirect movement is a powerful conceptual skill. With very little effort you can control and manipulate someone pretty much at will.

Here is a general list of the joints or other parts of the anatomy you should practice moving. Practice moving each body part in isolation. Also, move each body part in multiple ways, but only in one direction at a time so you come to fully appreciate how that specific action will influence or affect other areas of the body. You will want to notice what parts of the anatomy move involuntarily when you move any specific portion of a person’s anatomy.

Following the suggestions in the ‘Dem Bones song:

  • The ankle. Consider the differences when you move the front and back ankles. Cause the ankle to extend, flex, and rotate in all directions. Rotate by loading the ball of the foot and the heel to see how these differences affect other parts of the body.
  • The knee. Again, there will be a likely difference when you move the front or back knee.  You will also notice a difference if a leg is lightly or heavily loaded. Flex, extend and rotate the knee in all directions.
  • The hips. Move the hips as suggested above.
  • The spine. It moves, bends, and twists. Be sure to try all possible combinations.
  • The neck. It is the upper part of the spine, but it has particular effects on the shoulders and head (and what else?)
  • The head. Moving the head can have a dramatic effect on other parts of the anatomy. Rotate the head and tilt it toward every octagon angle to experiment with how other parts of the body move.
  • The hand or wrist. How are the arm, shoulders, spine, hips, knees, and ankles affected when you move the hand or wrist. They can all be dramatically impacted by a simple movement of the hand or wrist. Push, pull, twist, and bend the hand and wrist to experiment with the resulting indirect movements.
  • Elbow. Move the elbow in, out, up, down, and rotate it as you note how other parts of the body move. If you wanted to kick someone in the face, how can your manipulation of the elbow aid you in that endeavor?
  • The shoulders. It is hard to move the shoulders without moving the spine – that’s what it’s all about.

Here is a simple experiment to try with a cooperative Uke who is accustomed to falling. Go slowly at first so that Uke is neither surprised nor injured. Stand on the face side of Uke. With your training partner standing in a relaxed erect posture (or a tense posture at times), gently place your hand on his or her chin so that you preclude the chin from moving in any direction. Now use your free hand to press gently but firmly into Uke’s hips from the front – causing the hips to press directly back. What happens? That’s an easy question. Now, why? Understanding why will help you gain a deeper understanding of indirect movement.

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