This article discusses some alternate ways in which you might think about common martial arts activities. This suggests that you will want to begin thinking beyond basic blocking, striking, and kicking strategies. You will discover that any part of your anatomy can be used at various times for positive benefit. We will also suggest that you can learn a great deal from simple observation.
In earlier belt studies you explored various ways in which to block an incoming strike or kick. Most of these involved various leg or hand movements intended to disrupt or redirect an incoming blow of some kind. While these can be very useful actions you may find situations in which such blocks are either impractical or impossible to accomplish. In such instances you will want to consider other forms of blocking, what we refer to as unconventional blocking.
One of the simplest forms of blocking is to actually allow yourself to be struck by the incoming blow. This will at first sound counter intuitive but after a bit of explanation it may make at least some sense. You will also wish to be selective in which blows you elect to receive and which you elect to avoid by other means. Let’s explore a few examples.
Naturally if someone has thrown a blow that is intended to hit you squarely in the face you will not stand passively by and watch your nose implode all over your face. Blocking with your face is never a good idea. But receiving strikes using other parts of your anatomy can make good sense.
If someone has thrown a Migi Mawashi Geri just above your left hip you could rotate your center toward local octagon angle A3 and absorb the blow with your abdominal muscles. This also has the advantage of positioning your center and hands so that you can readily grasp the offending leg before it can be retracted. This is not better than escaping the blow altogether, but it can offer you a strategic advantage in some situations.
You could block a similar kick targeting your head by lowering your head and raising your left shoulder. It is not the most effective block you might use against this strike but it may be of benefit if you were not well positioned prior to the kick.
The main point here is that any portion of your body may be used to block a strike in some circumstances. You may also find that these same blocks can be used to initiate a manipulation of your opponent’s structure. As you work with others see how you might use random parts of your anatomy to functions as blocking surfaces against a variety of strikes delivered by your training partners. You will quickly discover you do not need to rely solely on arms and legs for those instances where you are required to block.
Just as various body parts may be used as blocking surfaces many of these same areas of the body might be used for delivering strikes. Moving your shoulder forward or backward might be used to impart a broad area strike into the opponent’s back or chest wall. This is not going to be a devastating blow, but it can be powerful enough to unbalance, destabilize and perhaps even throw your opponent.
Your hips or rear might be used in a similar manner. A chest bump could be effective as well. When you are in a conflict think of any part of your anatomy, with one exception, as being a potential striking or manipulative surface. This includes any part of the legs, arms, back, hips/rear, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and neck.
The one area of the body that you should never use as a striking surface is your head. The likely outcome of such an action is a concussion, perhaps even a loss of consciousness, which is of course not how one becomes victorious in a conflict. But this does not mean the head cannot be used as an offensive weapon. The head can be used to influence, move, manipulate, or disrupt an opponent. But this is accomplished by applying pressure with the head against some portion of the opponent’s anatomy. It should never be done where any type of percussive impact is delivered to the head.
Take every opportunity you can to study motion. Watch people who are walking, running, sparring, doing Kata, jumping, street fighting, or skiing. Also pay close attention to how your various Uke move when both receiving and performing a technique. Observe how the entire body is oriented at any moment in time. Where is the center of gravity as the person moves? Where are the hips, head, shoulders, arms, knees, and feet located relative to the torso? How is the person imbalanced as he or she moves?
These movement studies are critical to understanding how to take advantage of your opponent’s structure. It is important to know where a person will be located next. Knowing how the person’s anatomy is currently aligned is key to this insight.
If you study a person walking you will eventually reach the conclusion that at some point during a stride the outcome of that stride is predetermined. You will know exactly where the next step will occur and how the person’s body will be structured as the foot contacts the floor. Based on this information you will be able to predict with some level of certainty where the next footfall will occur.
But no two people will move in exactly the same way. Different people will have long legs, a squat body, a physical impairment, a sporty physique, or a quirky personality. These differences will result in unique movements. But there are great similarities in these movements as well. You will want to know both these similarities and how people of a general body type tend to move. Large muscular people move differently than slender svelte people, who in turn move differently than a person who is obese. What the hip, knee, shoulder, lower back, and head movements of these various types of individuals as they walk. You will gain insights into how people with these different builds tend to move. This can be very valuable information.
Of course studying how people of various structures move when sparring, utilizing a weapon, grappling, or doing Kata can be of great benefit as well. Study every type and form of movement performed by people of varying body types. These studies will provide you with untold insights over time.
Unfortunately you are unlikely to learn these insights quickly. It is also unlikely you will come away with a small set of critical insights that have become crystal clear. You will instead come away, after a fairly long period of time, with a general sense of movement. This is what you want. You want to understand how someone is likely to move next based solely on the person’s general body type and current structural orientation. Now you are getting somewhere.
If you want to study people who are walking simply sit in an airport, mall, or similar high traffic area for an extended period of time. You will encounter all manner of people with varying body types. See what similarities you can detect both among varying body types and within a group of people with a similar body type. These can be useful insights.
Go to a track meet, soccer game, basketball game, 5K run, or similar event to see how people move when running. A 5K run is good if you wish to observe a variety of people who have a greater variance in body type. Organized sports are more likely to have people with a similar body type, which can also be instructional.
Watch videos of people doing Kata, explaining martial arts skills or techniques, sparring, or even street fighting. After you’ve studied what the people in the video are doing begin to study how they are doing it. By that I don’t mean what are the specifics of how the hands move or how a weapon is wielded, but instead, how are the legs, hips, knees, feet, center line, shoulders, torso, neck, and head employed to make the aggregate movements possible. Notice the order in which various body parts are utilized. Notice shifts in structure, center of gravity, and center orientation. These are all necessary to accomplish the associated task. If any of these are disrupted then the resulting task cannot be completed as planned. Study this carefully because it tells you both where a person must move next from his or her current position, and how you can prevent that from occurring. This is not easy to do, but over time you will become quite proficient at understanding these subtleties. Now see if you can begin testing and using this knowledge when working with various Uke.