Saturday, November 21, 2015

Using overhand inverted punch as simultaneous deflection

My recent article on the overhand inverted punch covered the surprising utility of that technique.

It's main use, as exemplified by Holly Holm in her fight against Ronda Rousey, is of course, as a punch - one that can come from an unexpected angle.

In my article on the punch, I also added an extra video showing its use as a projection/throw.

But something I neglected to discuss was actually one of the most important attributes of the punch: the fact that it can, while striking, also "simultaneously" intercept and deflect (what some people call "block") an incoming attack.  This should be apparent from the animated gif below:

The key to understanding how it works lies in understanding one of the most basic techniques of traditional martial arts - and also helps explain the function of that technique.  I'm talking about the humble "rising block" (age or jodan uke).  I've previously dealt with this technique in "Back to basics: blocking".

What you'll notice from that article is that the basic rising block is far from "sexy".  To the average combat sports practitioner it looks positively silly and even many karateka think it is "worthless".

But what I think they are missing is that this technique is, like all basics, a "compromise move": it teaches you essential angles and planes that can then be modified and adapted according to the needs of the situation and how the technique is to be applied.

In the case of the humble rising "block" it is angled directly forwards for a very simple (and, when you think about it, quite obvious) reason:
It can angled either backwards or forwards to great effect - depending on the situation.
This is clear from the animated gifs below:

In the first one above, you'll see what I think is the predominant manifestation of the rising block in karate kata, and hence in bunkai (application).  You will notice that in this version the forearm is angled so that it moves away from the attack after interception.

A classic example would be the technique from the goju ryu kata seiunchin kata, depicted in the image to the right.  Basically the upper hand in this technique is generally (and I believe correctly) interpreted as a movement that intercepts an attack and sweeps it back past the head.

And there are literally hundreds of similar movements in other kata - of both Naha and Shuri/Tomari (Shorin) tradition.

However what many tend to forget is that the rising block is also just as effective when it is angled so that the forearm is moving towards the attack - as illustrated in the animated gif below:

In my experience, this technique comes into its own when you are facing an "Oh sh*t! moment" - one where you've decided to launch a punch and noticed mid-way through that your opponent is going to beat you to it.  In that instance you can convert what was going to be a punch into a defensive deflection - swiping slightly sideways as you move to intercept the arm, and letting the attack slide over the top as you rotate your forearm to create torque (see my article "Hard blocks" where I discuss this aspect in detail).

So the basic rising block, as seen in karate classes, is really a compromise between two possibilities, ie. it is the mid point between two methods of interception - one moving away, one moving towards.  I discuss this more completely in the video below.

Which brings us back to the overhead inverted punch.  Clearly it is just a variant of the "moving towards the attack" rising block.

So why not use this in every instance instead of a rising "sideways" deflection (either away or towards)?  The answer to this question is actually very simple: it depends on your positioning and timing.

If you are caught sufficiently off-guard so that you need to be completely defensive, the "moving away" option of the rising block might well be your only option.

You must use the "moving in" version of the rising block (where you angle towards the attack but not so much as to effect a punch) if it is necessary to do so to avoid being hit.  I cannot stress the latter part enough.  Remember that if your opponent is going to beat you to the punch, then you are toast.  Your punch won't matter because he's getting to your face a millisecond before your punch does.  This will "cut your supply line" of force so that even if your punch lands, it will have most of its "sting" taken out.  Meanwhile your attacker's fist will have buried itself nicely in your face.

In the above case it make sense to make a smaller movement, angled sideways to deflect the attack (rather than try to doggedly pursue landing your own).  This is because while you might not have time to hit your opponent, you might have time to make a shorter defensive movement ("shorter" in the sense of time till your forearm intercepts your opponent's).

I've previously discussed how angles of deflection and angles of attack aren't always the same: indeed, the closer you are to being beaten to the punch, the greater the risk they will be very different.

So when can you use the overhead inverted punch as both an attack and deflection simultaneously?  The simple (unhelpful) answer is:
"When your timing permits it."  
A longer (more helpful) answer would be:
"When you feel confident that:
  • you will beat your opponent to the punch; or 
  • at the very least, your punches are timed to reach their targets at approximately the same time."
The gif below depicts an application of the sequences from Chen Pan Ling taijiquan known as "hit with reverse fist" and "step back to hit tiger".  What should be apparent is the use of the opening overhead inverted punch (option 1 in the gifs above), followed by a punch that has been converted to a deflection (option 3 in the gifs above) followed by a deflection that is angled away from the opponent while the other hand strikes (option 2 in the gifs above).

I discuss the sequence more fully in the video below:

In other words, there is a time and place for every time of interception: the notion that we can or should only use one (usually the most direct - ie. option 1) is flawed.  Don't get me wrong: using the overhead inverted punch as a simultaneous block/deflection is a fantastic thing.  Just be aware that it isn't always going to be appropriate/possible.  In such a case your traditional art will thankfully have a backup plan in the form of an analogous/related movement!

Copyright © 2015 Dejan Djurdjevic