Blue Belt Atemi

You will no doubt be happy to know there are no new hand strikes to learn in this belt. You have completed that aspect of your training. But that does not mean there are not additional things to learn or consider. In this article we will cover some salient points about striking that will serve you well into the future.

For your ranking examination you should provide some evidence that you have learned and appreciate the following points, skills, and concepts. You will find these skills useful in sparring and in the event you have to defend yourself during a physical conflict. It is important to understand and appreciate not only how, where, and when to strike, but also to know intuitively where you should not strike an opponent.

Identify at Least 30 Hand Strikes

It’s time to take inventory of your offensive arsenal. Without referencing any other materials, see if you can identify at least thirty different single hand strikes. This should not be especially hard, but you may need to think about it some. There is no correct answer since there more than thirty striking possibilities. This is just a simple exercise to review and reassess what you have learned. Knowing that you have these strikes available will provide you with a great deal of flexibility in a conflict.

If you consider the use of both hands then you should easily be able to identify at least fifty different strikes or striking combinations. See how many you can identify in under two minutes.

Now spend thirty seconds to see how many different and unique striking patterns you can deliver. Try not to repeat any striking pattern twice. You may need to do this exercise many times before you can do it without any repetitions. Once you can do that reliably then see how quickly you can deliver perhaps twenty different sequences. Allow your center to rotate and your striking elevations to change as you go through these combinations. You will now begin to get an appreciation for what it means to keep your opponent occupied so that he or she does not have time to think.

Chest-Wall Grazing

One of the limits of human vision is that we do not see down very well when we are looking directly ahead. As an experiment, stand up and place your hand on your lower abdomen and then fix your gaze directly ahead. Now move your hand up under your chin. If you were looking directly ahead you did not see your hand move at all. This condition is even more pronounced if you head is projected forward even slightly.

We can take advantage of this limitation in various ways. If we move to the ear side of our opponent and then strike upward just forward of the chest (so they do not feel your hand moving) then this may allow us to strike the opponent’s chin without them ever detecting the strike. Moving to this same side of the body and delivering a Mae Geri directly up the chest wall may allow us to kick to the opponent’s face without them noticing the impending strike. We may need to check the opponent’s extended arm so it does not come down to interfere with our kick. Otherwise we should have a reasonably good chance of striking before the opponent notices what is happening.

But we can do much more than just strike. Moving the hands upward while grazing the chest wall would allow us to grab the opponent’s chin and thereby turn his or her head. We might instead press the chin upward, forcing the head back and initiating a controlling action or Nage. Nage might also be accomplished by moving your back arm up the opponent’s chest wall and then around the far side of the opponent’s neck. If you avoid contact with the chest wall they are unlikely to notice your actions until it is too late.

This is in reality just a rather specific case of masking your movements. You could easily mask strikes that move up the opponent’s back, directly upward along his or her side, or from above if they are bent forward. It pays to know where the opponent’s vision is focused so that you can initiate a strike from a direction they cannot observe.

Ineffective Striking Points

There are many places on the body where a strike has little or no significant pain or injury benefit. All strikes have some effect, but many parts of the body can be very difficult to injure or may produce little or no pain response. Here are some such areas of the body.

The buttocks are extremely well padded. There are very large muscles here, but causing enough injury to induce dramatic pain or limit mobility is quite difficult to accomplish. There are far more beneficial areas to consider.

Striking the chest of an adult male does little to harm him. There is some significant risk that a direct strike in the vicinity of the heart can cause cardiac arrest, but this is not possible to accurately predict and is a very rare occurrence. It is also possible to cause rib or sternum dislocations or injuries, but these too are hard to accomplish. If you are able to strike with a strong kick such as Yoko Geri, then a direct strike to the front of the chest, if it lands in the right place, may cause some injury, but it is more likely to be a waste of time and energy. Even if you were to break a rib this is not an immediately debilitating injury. It may be extremely painful in twenty-four hours, but your opponent may not even notice they have been injured initially.

This does not imply that such a strike is a useless tactic while sparring. These kicks are quite beneficial while sparring. They are not, however, particularly useful in a self-defense scenario where it is important that you stop an assailant as quickly as possible.

Striking the upper arm seldom produces any significant injury or pain. The same can be said for the upper back directly behind the shoulders.

This is not to say that striking these areas is a complete waste of time. You are unlikely to cause much pain or injury in these areas, but you will often find them useful for manipulation and control. For example, striking the right chest wall might be used to prevent that side of the body from rotating into a strike. Striking the upper back might cause your opponent to lean forward or rotate somewhat allowing you to take advantage of their new structural alignment. Striking into the buttocks from directly behind affects the alignment of the hips and consequently the relative positions of the knees and shoulders. This can be very effective as part of a manipulation sequence.

When you explore a potential target area with a training partner think of all of the possibilities is presents. Can it be used for leverage? Can it immediately cause substantial pain? Will an injury limit the opponent’s ability to continue or pursue you further? Will a strike cause the opponent to move to an advantageous position? Will gentle pressure cause the opponent to move in a compliant manner? Will a strike be a potentially life threatening event? Will a strike rob the opponent of a critical sensory ability? Will a strike cause a major misalignment of the skeletal structure of the opponent? Will a strike potentially cause injury to yourself? Will a strike cause you to be otherwise vulnerable in some way?

This knowledge will become critical in later training. Try to make as many of these assessments as possible. They will prove most beneficial later.

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