We’ve covered some general martial art/self-defense concepts in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series. Now it’s time to dig into some concept specific to certain martial arts. That being said, these concepts can still be applicable to other styles and self-defense in general. In fact, some of these principles are even more valuable than those previously discussed.
In addition to the concept, I will also be listing what style I’ve learned these concepts from in case you are still looking for a style to train in. Without further ado, let’s dig in!
This is a bit of a tough principle to explain so bear with me. Those who have already trained in a martial art that has locks, throws, and submissions are probably already familiar with this idea even if they use a different term.
Many, if not all, of the techniques in Aikido involve staying connected with your opponent. This isn’t the emotional connection that most of you are probably thinking of, mind you. Rather this is a physical connection that allows you to effectively and efficiently perform the technique. It’s a tautness of the opponent’s muscles, joints, and ligaments throughout the entirety of the technique that allows him no opportunity to recover and retaliate.
To “lose the connection” with your opponent means that somewhere in the technique you released the tension being applied to your opponents joints, thus allowing him a chance to escape, reverse the technique against you, or otherwise counterattack.
Connection is typically retained in by a few ways:
- Pulling the opponent just far enough past their center of gravity that they’re slightly off balance, but not quite falling over (think of the sensation where your toes dig into the ground to avoid falling over).
- Twisting the joints to apply tension throughout the entire system. To understand how this feels, use one hand to twist the wrist of your other hand inward until you feel tension all the way up to your shoulder.
This principle is very subtle in application but has a profound impact on your techniques. Applying it to martial art styles with little to no throws or locks is a bit tricky at first and requires a bit of creative liberties on the concept.
One application outside of its intended usage could be establishing a connection in a standing clinch against your opponent. This could be done by constantly pushing, pulling, and striking your opponent so that they never have a chance to recover and counter. Push and strike your opponent mercilessly and just when he’s about to regain his footing and push back, pull him forward throwing him physically and mentally off balance again. Letting off the constant and aggressive push/pull would qualify as losing the connection in this instance.
Everything From the Center (Aikido)
Your center plays a very important role in martial arts. Many eastern arts describe this phenomenon with an air of mysticism (think Chi or Ki), but it really boils down to simple biomechanics. Simply put, you are at your strongest when your exertions come from the centerline of your body as opposed to any degree off said centerline. Take any martial arts and watch them train their punches. Their punches are all aimed towards the center of their body as opposed to off to the side.
Why is this? Simply because the further off center a technique is, the less power it has due to the fact that there’s less of the body’s mass behind the strike.
How does this apply to Aikido, a style dominated by locks, submissions, and throws? Again, many of the locks and submissions pits your strength against your opponent’s. The goal is to execute the technique in your center while simultaneously having your opponent out of his.
Applied to other martial arts, this principle has equally devastating effects. You should be constantly moving out of your opponent’s center while striking them from your own. This will ensure the maximum damage you can inflict on them while minimizing what you receive in return.
Defanging the Snake (Filipino Kali)
Filipino Kali is one of the most brutal martial arts I’ve come across, partly because it’s all about training in escrimas (which is actually training for machetes) and knives. Even the way you salute to a training partner can have multiple meanings. Salute incorrectly and you’ve just challenged him to a duel to the death. This mindset of brutal combat has lead to many advancements in melee weapons combat with the concept of Defanging the Snake being arguably the most important of them.
I like to illustrate this concept by comparing it with an actual snake. Pretend for a moment that there is a very pissed off black mamba hissing at you from mere inches away. One quick bite from him and you’re dead. The level of terror you’re probably feeling would be pretty high, right?
Now take the same situation, but now the black mamba has no fangs. The situation is still probably a bit scary, but doesn’t evoke the same level of terror.
Why is that?
Because the snake has lost its means of injecting its poison into you. For all its malice towards you and its deadly venom, it has no means of delivering it into your veins thus killing you. With the snake rendered harmless, you are free to dispatch of it how you please.
Filipino Kali applies this concept to its weapons fighting in much the same manner. An armed opponent is many times deadlier than an unarmed one, be it a machete, knife, bat, or gun. One you eliminate their ability to wield the weapon (ie – their fangs) you eliminate their primary means of killing you (their poison).
Filipino Kali approaches this concept by focusing on the opponent’s weapon hand first. For example, if you and your opponent are pitted against each other with each of you wielding a knife, what’s the closest target you have to strike at? Chances are it’s their hand wielding the weapon. When they come in to strike, use your own knife to slash at their hand and arm. If you manage to cut in the right spot, they will be physically unable to hold the knife any longer. Only then, once the snake is defanged, should you move in for the kill. Moving in for the killing blow when your opponent is still wielding their knife is sure suicide. Yeah, you might get them as well, but you’re most assuredly dead too.
These concepts are a bit loftier than the previous ones I’ve discussed, so don’t worry if they don’t initially make much sense. As you train and gain a deeper understanding of your martial art style, revisit these posts and see if these principles become clearer.
As always, leave your comments and questions down below and I will do my best to address them.