Friday, August 20, 2010

On the Theory of Countering Locks and Projections

Sherman Harrill maintained that the most important part of the study of Karate kata application potential was learning the underlying principles that could in turn be applied to any technique. I’d like to take the same approach to look at the art of countering locks and projections (techniques as used in the study of aikido and similar grappling arts), by sharing an underlying principle I’ve developed to train students.

The odds are sometime an instructor used you to demonstrate a lock, you grab or strike and they lock up your limb creating great pain that can be used to direct you as they wish. At that point you might well wish you knew how to stop them. Of course they didn’t teach you that.

To explain this I’m going to begin with a very small example. There of course is not one answer how to counter a lock or a projection. Factors like size, speed, power, intensity, the force multipliers in play all combine to make many varied attack possibilities to counter. I’m going to ask you to do the following with a partner, at slow speed. This allows you to see the controlling factors and understand how the lock disruption forms.

You take your right hand and grab your partner’s right wrist (a cross hand grab).

  1. They take their left hand and press down on their right hand fingers and then grab them and your wrist.
  2. As they do that your right hand fingers roll clockwise up alongside their wrist (palm away from their wrist.
  3. Rotate your hand clockwise and then reach down to grab their wrist. This action bends their wrist forming a wrist lock.. They do this they pull away from you, straightening your arm and creating the lock.

That is the basic lock for this test. It can be formed with different openings, such as double wrist grabs to one arm, double wrist grabs to two arms and from strikes, but they require different dynamics to form the lock.

What happened when they formed the lock, they drew your arm away from their body alignment centerline and the lock formation allowed them to shift their centerline alignment towards the locked area. This puts their centerline alignment in control, and when the pain begins their force is magnified because of the force multiplier effect involved.

I’ve described the lock exactly to the mid point of it’s formation. This is the point a counter must take place, else the formed lock and the various force multipliers in play (movement, knee release, etc.) magnify the effect to increase the pain and the control.

A lock (or a projection) is most vulnerable for counter at the mid-point of their formation.
It is at the mid point of the lock formation that the counter must begin.

In turn there are two basic answers.

First answer you can neutralize their control to stop their ability to form the lock.
Second answer you can counter their lock with your own lock at that point, reversing their intended result back on themselves.

Lock Neutralization

Let’s start by neutralizing their control of the lock formation. Have them begin the same lock to your grabbing hand a second time. The simplest answer is as they begin to form the lock shift your arm/wrist 1” to the right. Where the first time you moved directly into the lock, now they can’t form it and they are stymied.

What happened is your slight arm shift moved their lock attempt away from they’re centerline alignment. At the same time you did that, unknowingly, you shifted your own centerline on you wrist. That alignment shift placed you in control and their lack of alignment no longer makes the lock work.

If you think that sounds to simple, you’re both wrong and right.

You should think of yourself as being in the middle of a sphere that forms exactly at your range of touch. Your opponent is likewise in the middle of their own sphere. A technique works if you and your attacker are correctly aligned. A strike, a lock, a projection all work the same. Practice of a skill is actually learning how to find the right alignment between you and your opponent’s sphere to make things work. A strike to their midsection has far less effect if they step or spin away at the time it is delivered because both your sphere’s of influence are no longer aligned correctly.

In your 2nd test if your partner is mobile when you shift they might slide along till they get their lock alignment right and then reapply it for effect. So simply moving the arm isn’t the total answer, though the principle of the shift to disrupt their alignment is correct.

Now you can use your own force multipliers to stop their reacquisition of that lock. Simply have your left fingers lightly touch your arm (not grab your arm or even touch your arm with power). If you do that even their shifting no longer works. What that touch did was engage the left side of your body, cementing your own body centerline alignment on the locked wrist making it immobile. And you can have some fun, just touch with your left hand little finger and they still can’t make the lock, or you can cross your left arm, over and above the right arm (and never touch) and it still works, for the body centerline alignment is still present.

Remember this is a simple answer. Vastly stronger power or quicker speed are force multipliers that might overcome your own efforts, still you might use your knee release and drop your center creating another force multiplier increasing your power.

Lock Reversals

When the forming lock reaches the mid-point of it’s formation, there is another possibility, that of reversing the lock.

At the lock midpoint (previously described) on your right arm, take your left hand and grab their right hand (your palm down) and start turning it counter-clockwise. Pull your own right hand back across their finger tops and then press your right palm down atop their back knuckles for a force multiplier for an outer wrist turn projection.

This is just one example of a reversal. Note that counter grabbing, shifting and turning as well as the knee release doing so provide other force multipliers, but the key player is using both your hands keeps your centerline alignment directly on the new lock, controlling the opponents center by the pain involved.

Lock reversal is a practiced skill and while we’re just using one simplified example, takes work and practice to work a wide variety of locks. You should practice a wider range of locks for reversal than you realistically expect to face, just for a logical response incase something unexpected arises.

As I started this is but a simple exercise in lock neutralization and/or reversal.

You cannot expect that your counter will go unopposed. If you neutralize that original wrist lock and if they keep trying to make it work, you can use that left hand to respond with a strike to their head while they’re focused on the busted lock.

A skilled opponent may well have a very different counter-counter and if you’ve only trained for the initial neutralization that can be used against you as well.

A Historical Lesson

I’m not an Aikido stylist, but most of the books I’ve seen on Aikido go into the many variations of locks and projections studied and often how they can be applied to a wide range of attacks. It is very, very rare to find them showing counters to their techniques.

I’m aware that Yoshikan and Tomiki aikido both have countering studies, but I’m of the impression that is rare in most aikido. This was bolstered by an article I read decades ago that explained that the last thing Usheiba Moriro (Aikido’s founder) would teach instructors, he was sending out world wide to teach aikido, were how to counter those lock and projections, so their new students could no use the same techniques on themselves. Unfortunately I no longer have that article, but it may be telling.

We should take that a step further why the study of counters may not have been central to Aikido, that being the pre-WWII aikido was accompanied with Atemi (vital point striking). I’m sure that’s a unique thought for karate, striking someone hard. The use of Atemi made a less skilled Aikido stylist able to perform the locks and projections with less chance of counter attack from their opponent. Of course that possibility still exists today, and the precursor to lock countering might be blocking or striking first.

Genesis of this article

Actually watching Patrick McCarthy share his arts with a local school several weeks ago got me thinking on these skills and concepts I’ve acquired over the years. His technique studies follow the 2 person set standard, start an attack, neutralize it at the mid point and reverse it with another, which is neutralized and reversed and so forth.

Among those numerous techniques was one extremely painful lock I’d learned but never thought about neutralizing. Patrick’s answer was new for me, but when I tried it with my son the next week found his answer was in a form I’ve practiced for 30 years, and taught the initial movements to most of the young people I’ve ever taught, but had never thought it applied to this painful lock. So a new instant answer borrowed from another’s powerful teachings, using a movement potential I had down cold.

Thoughtful suggestion

Start such studies slow.

Learn how to make them work.

Practice to avoid excessive pain on your partner, unless you expect them to impart the same level of pain on you in turn.

Build skill and speed and work hard.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Destroyer continues - Victor Style

I have a very private hobby. In 1972 I started reading the Destroyer Series by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir and along the way have read (and own) the complete series. Way back when I started writing my own stories in the Destroyer Universe and unintentionally after the arrival of the internet have probably written more than several books worth of my stories.

The series is about the Reigning Master if Sinanju, Chiun, and his pupil Remo Williams training to become the premier assassin on the planet, something the North Korean village of Sinanju has been turning out for 5,000 years. Remo is in service to a secret United States organization called CURE.

My works are fan fiction, not authorized by the authors (each of whom I hold in very high regard) and on the whole are written in the fringes of the 5,000+ years of Sinanju history. The effort has taught me a great deal about writing as a craft, what effort goes into creating a work and given me true esteem to those who do so professionally.

Copies of my completed works can be found on the following links. They are presented in the order I wrote them.

The Whispering Women

Along the Silk Trail

Before Sinanju

Out of Time

Sinanju 2K

At God’s Request

Generations – The Ripple Effect

By the Light of the Laser

Nuhic’s Song (the complete work is not posted … someday I’ll post it on this site)

A Very Sinanju Christmas

The series is not currently in production and all Destroyer fans hope that changes soonest.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Meeting Patrick McCarthy

Last weekend I met Patrick McCarty at a seminar he was presenting for his hosts Ken and Mindy Akiyama at the Londonderry NH House of Samurai dojo.

McCarthy Sensei and I first met on the internet 8 or 9 years ago and I assisted his research with several translation projects, but this was the first time we were face to face. We had some personal time to chat about common friends and experiences and were pleasantly surprised how much we did have in common compared with the vast differences between our lives.

Attending his clinics allowed me to experience a small part of what Koryu Uchinadi represents. Especially valuable were other KU students in attendance. The East Coast KU representative Darren Johnson and that of Nicholas De Paolo and his students from Florida.

This gave the opportunity to learn the techniques being shared and experienced much more advanced practitioners.

As an instructor McCarthy Sensei’s vast experience shows! He runs his clinics at a casual pace that enhances the students efforts to learn, but shifts to jokes, historical lessons as well as effortlessly handling all questions no matter how diverse and never losing track of how to return to the topic of study. This approach to instruction engages the student at many levels and allows the student to participate at the method of learning which is natural for them.

Most impressive is his mastery of the knowledge he’s sharing. Watching his advanced students rolling around the ground with the locks, counters, counters to counters and his suddenly stopping their action to change the placement of a foot in one encounter because the correct lock would not follow shows impressive intensity in following a complex drill.

I only experienced a small slice of McCarthy Sensei’s KU but see it is a unique way to use the common techniques within karate in a extremely dynamic manner. He presented number of two person sets and they move in many dimensions including standing and ground fighting studies that can be done with no resistance up to very hard resistance.

At one level they are akin to other two person studies, such as in the Chinese arts. First they are non-resisting drills for basic study, yet there are other levels where the technique complexity in the same drill is ramped up. At another level they are much more than I have seen elsewhere, especially in the intensity of workout they work towards.

I found the time to participate in this clinic very worthwhile. It won’t change my own art, but does give me a lot to think about, especially from the notes I took (part of my own method of learning). I can see the appeal world wide to those who wish to push their use of their karate beyond their current approach of study.

Without doubt I have gained from meeting with Patrick. I think both of us now have a clearer picture of the other’s drives and goals and that can only enhance our future discussion.

Of course to complete my thoughts I should include my lesson learned. I have to work harder to bring forth the beginner mind. As McCarthy Sensei said there’s nothing he was using seniors haven’t seen, but I keep relating the drills back to my previous training and that blocks understanding what is happening. Lesson to Ponder.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Karate Lessons from the Blueberries

On my back acre I have about 100 large Blueberry bushes. They came with the property when I bought it and with a minimum of maintenance we normally get a large crop each summer for friends and neighbors who want to drop by and pick them.

What I’ve discovered over the years is how many lessons picking blueberries have to the study of karate.

1. We net our berries to keep the birds off. When they start to ripen you have to lift the net up and start picking all that are blue. In a while you’ve picked all that you saw ripe and move on the next bush, but as you move there you turn your head and discover whole lot of blueberries you missed, so you turn back and pick everything you find and then move on. Working around the next bush you look back and discover, again, a whole lot of ripe berries on the original bush.

What you discover is how the bush leaves hide berries from any perspective you view the bush from, and to truly get every ripe berry you have to keep changing your perspective, lift branches up, hunker down and look up.

Kata applications are just like that. It really doesn’t matte what the original creator meant a technique to use, if you keep your perspective and see one answer that you can make work you’ve succeeded. Later if you look at the kata a new way, perhaps against an entirely different attack you can find a new use, and in time you might discover so many different uses for one move as perspectives of where the blueberries are hiding on the bush.

2. When you pick berries you can stay on one bush and not move until you’ve grasped every perspective to find every actual berry. Or you can be a grazer and move from bush to bush always looking for the sweeter, larger, more succulent berry. If the crop is true, for about the same amount of time picking you get the same amount of berries in either case.

Train 20 years and study one kata and make it work for you, or train 20 years and study 50 kata and find enough answers to make them work for you. You’ll find that it’s not the number of kata you study, but that for 20 years you’ve worked on whichever answer you follow.

The secret isn’t the number of bushes you pick from or the number of kata you practice. The secret is hard work for the same time yields similar results, enough berries or enough technique studies so your art works.

3. You can’t give anything away for free. My berries don’t cost me anything but some work to net the bushes and at times cut some grass. We’ve always allowed any friends, neighbors and acquaintances to come and pick as they wish. I’m sure in the last quarter century at least 200 people have take advantage of our offer, for one time.

But they don’t come back the next year to pick more.

The berries don’t care if you don’t pick them they will fall to the ground. We’ve exhausted our personal desire to use them long ago. The years of making blueberry everything or 20 cases of jam are over and I always make clear they’re there for the taking.

But they don’t come back. I think I’ve worked out why, guilt. Guilt perhaps for getting free berries. Guilt perhaps because they or their kids no longer train with me. They don’t understand by they’re not picking them, I’m not and the berries keep falling.

I teach for free, many have called me the dumbest karate instructor in existence for doing so, especially as we have a real quality program. And when they stop we never hear from them again, whether they trained one year or 20 years with me.

I suppose I understand they might feel awkward about no longer training but I understand everyone does what they have to do in the long run. My program keeps moseying along whether they’re there or not. In the end everyone does what they have to do. All young people will leave your program because they grow up. Personal reasons, age, different interests, etc. all are reasons to leave me. I have never felt any of them betrayed me by their choice.

It’s just they’re no longer around and the berries keep falling regardless.

Some people pick blueberries for the berries. I pick blueberries but never take my mind off of my training and teaching. That and I remember each one who used to come and wish they still were around.