Now that you are quite familiar with how to strike with a stick weapon of nearly any type it is time to consider how to avoid being struck by these weapons. Sometimes this is easily accomplished, while at other times it can be nearly impossible. The one thing that you never do, however, is try to directly intercept an incoming weapon with any part of your anatomy. It is one thing to block a weapon with another weapon, it is quite another to block a weapon with what used to be your arm.
Our discussions will center on the case where your opponent has a weapon and you do not. The two-partner weapons drills you have practiced should have provided you with the necessary skills for blocking and countering a strike from another weapon. Now we will discuss how to deal with an attack using a weapon when you have no obvious weapon available.
You have previously encountered some defensive strategies in the Kuikku Bouei Kata series. Many of the skills found in those forms are either directly related to club defenses or can be easily adopted to work against a club attack.
As you have studied, attacks may come from a variety of different angles. Sometimes directly toward your head, at other times to your neck, shoulders, torso, elbows, hips, or knees. It is usually best to avoid strikes coming down vertically toward your head, neck, or shoulders by moving laterally away from the attack. So a vertical attack to your left shoulder is often best avoided by moving to your right. You may elect to go to your local octagon angles 7, 4, or 6 to avoid such a strike. You might also decide there is strategic advantage to moving toward your left instead. By now this should be intuitively obvious. These are fundamental stepping patterns.
If an attack is coming more horizontally toward your elbow, hip, or knee it is usually best to move inside the range of the weapon. So if an attack is coming toward your left elbow it may be best to move to angle 1 or angle 7.
For attacks that come in a rising vertical fashion, for example an upward strike toward your groin, it may be best to step back and away toward either angle 6 or 8. It might also be feasible, if you have time, to step to angle 5 or 7, which afford you better subsequent control of your opponent. This is a little more difficult to do since your trailing leg must cross through the path of the approaching strike. In this case it can be more difficult to get your leg out of the way of a rising strike than it can be to get your shoulder out of the way of a descending strike. This is why it may be best to move one leg back first and then move the other leg back and to the side. This provides you with the least risk of being struck, but also provides little opportunity to control and manipulate your opponent.
Aside from this one movement you will notice that most of these movement patterns place you only slightly outside the path of the weapon. This allows you to then both redirect and control the path of the weapon and to immediately begin controlling and manipulating the opponent. You control and manipulate the weapon by controlling and manipulating the path of the attacking arm. Do not attempt to engage the weapon directly. You will find it surprisingly easy to control and manipulate the arm holding the weapon.
If the weapon is a stick you can usually initiate a disarm by pulling the opponent’s arm inward and then using a combination of movements with your arm and torso to wrest the weapon from the opponent’s hand or to lock the opponent’s wrist, elbow, and/or shoulder to prevent a subsequent attack. With practice these actions become quite easy, but they do require some extensive practice and experience. You should endeavor to practice these skills at least once each week.
After you have immobilized the hand wielding a weapon you can usually then put pressure on the forearm or wrist to stress the opponent’s grasp. A sudden subsequent torso movement may then cause the weapon to be released. With a club you can also often reach down, while otherwise holding an opponent’s arm in an immobile position, and move the weapon in opposition to the opponent’s thumb to remove the weapon from the his or her grasp. It is very beneficial to work on these releases with a training partner. You will discover, with sufficient practice, that these releases are usually quite easy to accomplish. Studious practice will lead to an intuitive sense of how to move in order to release a weapon from nearly any position.
If the opponent is wielding a bladed weapon then your actions may be exactly the opposite. You do not normally wish to pull the weapon inward, but seek to keep it away from you. Part of this process is ensuring the attacker cannot simply bend his or her elbow and stab or slice the weapon into your body somewhere. This means you normally trap the attacker’s arm at the wrist. It is then imperative that you use this grip to pull your attacker out of their Optimal Structure so he or she cannot attempt to reposition to again use the weapon. Once this is done you must force the opponent to release the weapon, place the opponent in a lock from which he or she cannot escape, or immediately apply substantial destructive force against the opponent that will preclude any further use of the weapon. You should practice these defenses with a variety of unsharpened weapons and at different times work on forcing a weapon release, obtaining an inescapable lock, or inflicting debilitating injury.
There are times when you can move the opponent’s knife-wielding arm in a manner that causes injury to the opponent with his or her own weapon. Moving the opponent’s arm so that the weapon passes in front of his or her face or directly toward the opponent’s torso may inflict incidental injury while the weapon is in transit. This is another area where practice can help you understand precisely where such a movement might be beneficial. Be quite observant when practicing these movements. Some of them could have major injury or fatal consequences.
When practicing defenses with an unsharpened weapon (you should NEVER practice them with a sharpened weapon) it is quite common to ignore the little grabs on the blade, cases where the blade rubs across your forearm, or moments where Uke was able to turn his or her wrist to make contact between the blade and your torso. These small events should not be ignored. They are in fact a major error in your technique. For your technique to be effective there cannot be any contact between yourself and the unsharpened blade. If there is any contact then you are what we refer to as losing.