Thursday, May 22, 2008

Stupid Moves

Kevin wants me to drop by the seminar he is teaching at the end of the month.  He'll go over a lot of weapon stuff and he had me look at his curriculum.  The man doesn't need my advice, but he's polite enough to ask for it.  In the course of the conversation, he described some of the techniques he would have them do for warm-ups.  Very simple stuff- slide in kicks; jab cross combos.
"Oooh, oooh," I said, "Make them do this one!" I held my right hand in front of my stomach, brought it in a circular action in front of my right hip, leading with the back of the hand and then up to eye height just in front of my shoulder, fingers facing forward like a hissing snake in a bad kung fu movie. We were seated. Standing, it would have been accompanied by a slight step forward with my left foot.
"An inside joke?" Kevin guessed.

There's some stuff that I never saw until I did it- things that have been taught for ages in older martial arts that have been laughed at and lost in more modern times.  That's partly okay.  The snake circle above looks like something out of a bad movie.  If you were to make the action sparring it would look like the stupid circling and posturing from a seventies martial arts flick (I've been sick for the last week, so I've been watching a lot of those.)
But dirty, close and ugly, the technique is completely different.

When a threat is at bad breath range and slams something towards your stomach (fist or knife, if you take the time to look it is too late) that snake circle parries  it across his body, comes up under the elbow (to give away one of the biggest secrets, there is a point on the elbow where you can control a threat's entire body, often without using your hands) and the circle continues, controlling that elbow as you take the threat's face and (using another leverage point) lever his head back beyond his point of balance. When it works right, he is forced to fall straight back without being able to move his feet.  Very hard on the spine.  When it doesn't work right it still controls the weapon hand, the spine, and breaks his balance while leaving you a free hand (as well as knees and feet).  That's kind of useful.

The X-block also gets a lot of heat in certain circles.  It's not a good sparring technique.  It's a big obvious move that leaves your head wide open.  It pins your weight forward. There's no finesse to it.  But up close it has a lot that you want from a quick emergency technique:  All gross motor skill.  Fast. Covers a wide area (aiming takes time, precision takes more finely skilled motor muscles).  Works on most linear or rising attacks- foot, fist, knife... even a gun draw.  There is a big clue here. A lot of things that are stupid for sparring or dueling have elements that make them good for assault survival.
There are problems.  Too many people throw their hips back when using this technique and too few have been taught to transition out of it while closing, but it gives you a lot of options, usually including getting behind the threat easily.

There is another move that looks like a bad imitation of a bird's wing.  Worse, a bad imitation of a city kid's imaginary idea of what a cranes wing moves like. The one I'm familiar with is done with both hands simultaneously.  It looks a little like the reverse of the snake circle, the thumb edge of the hand leads as the hand makes a circle from the same side hip, to the navel (then little finger edge leads) and then up to finish at shoulder hight with the wrist bent like the snake's head and the fingertips cocked out about 45 degrees from the body.  (Someday, I'm going to figure out how to post pictures here.)
Silly looking, but I wonder how many times from both clinches and punches I've come up under the threat's arm like that, forcing it across his body (and sometimes over my own head) and wound up with my hand exactly in that position before I grabbed the upper sleeve or collar and yanked him off balance.

Just be cautious before you discard something that doesn't work in your context.  It may be perfect when you need it.


Steve Perry said...

Your snake block is the core of our second short form (djuru.) All of the rest of our forms -- there are eighteen -- are based either on the first or second one, and the first form incorporates the opposite motion. These are good for close-in work.

I think the X-block that gets most of the heat is the overhead version, used to block the downward stab with a knife( or strike with a stick.) I learned this one as the first knife defense in Okinawa-te, and in that art -- and others I've seen -- there is a presumption that the overhead X-block will stop the blade and give you control of the attacker's knife arm.

If the guy is inept, it might. If he has any real feeling for his weapon, it will get you opened quicker than a greased zipper at a beer-drinking contest. Nothing but your head is protected, your lowline is wide-open, and a second cut will be on the way south before you get the X-block all the way up.

The problem is, you won't know how good the guy is until you get there. Assuming he doesn't know what he is about is more dangerous than figuring he does.

Rory said...

Agreed. You have the move, and you know what it is for. I've always been puzzled by systems that preserved the move, but have no idea how it applies.

Another one is called the "augmented block" in karate. It's one of the safest and most effective entries- your arms act like the icebreaker on a ship- nut it is silly as a block.

Steve Perry said...

We call that icebreaker-prow remedial silat -- akin to the Oh-shit! moves for a sudden knife. Not pretty, no skill, real simple. Not particularly good in a duel, but useful because it uses instinctive motions and is way better than just standing there. If it can buy you a half second, it can be an ass-saver ...