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conflict management and practical karate
Updated: 5 hours 44 min ago

Straight or Bent

Mon, 2014-04-21 11:17

A Pinan / Heian Sandan application from Volume 2 of the Pinan Flow System.

I’m talking legs. In fact I’m looking at what you’re doing with your rear leg in sparring, pad work, or indeed any paired drills.

Every martial arts system, whether it be predominantly grappling or striking based, or whether it hails from China, the Philippines, Okinawa, Japan, India, Malaysia, New Zealand or Europe, has a number of different foot and leg positions. These are often taught to beginners as ‘stances’ and in many systems we are conditioned at an early stage into thinking in particular ways about how to employ them.

I’m going to come out of a little karate closet, I believe that biomechanically (and therefore tactically) in almost every situation bent is better than straight.

Among the most important elements required to dominate a standing situation are the ability to move and effectively employ power or weight against another person. A bent rear leg achieves this quicker and with more power than a straight leg. The obvious ‘counter-argument’ to this is that a bent leg generally achieves the above by straightening, but there is a huge difference between straightening and becoming straight, and between thrusting and straightening.

Once the rear leg has thrust and initiated a process of power transference there is a moment of choice. The leg can continue to straighten: this effectively jams against any active return resistance (such as momentum of the target towards you) and checks forward momentum by placing the heel on the ground, but provides no further ability to drive forwards without give since a fully straightened leg has to bend in order to thrust again. Alternatively the leg can remain bent once sufficient thrust has been generated to drive forward or rotate the hips; if the foot stays where it is that gives less counter stability in the case of active resistance in the opposite direction, but a comparatively greater degree of hip rotation and arm extension which should transfer greater power. Another option is to carry the foot forward (not necessarily stepping through) post thrust with the momentum of the hip, then all the advantages of the bent leg are retained combined with the stability that easy heel placement with minimum give in a short deep stance can bring. The little elephant in the room being that when we push against a resisting object or a heavy object (think about pushing a car), in order to move we naturally take our heels off the ground anyway, so whether bent or straight the heel on the ground isn’t part of optimum forward power transference.

In many Traditional Martial Arts we see straight rear leg postures. Don’t think of these as wrong, instead try to view them in context. A straight leg can be an exaggerated example of thrust, codified into ‘good form’ for aesthetic purposes. It can also, due to the linked foot and heel placement, be a result of postures designed for employment in traditional inflexible flat or platform footwear.

The depth of a stance will affect the ‘need’ to bend or straighten the leg (or lift the heel) to gain power transference in strikes, but at close quarters against an actively resisting person the higher the stance (and therefore the straighter the leg) the more vulnerable you are to being taken off balance. That naturally leads to the question as to whether the spine should be upright or angled, ramrod straight or hunched.

 


Volume One of the Pinan Flow System released!

Sat, 2014-04-12 13:03

Another book on the Heian / Pinan kata?

I wrote my first book on the Heian / Pinan kata in 2004. Between that and the publication of the book in 2007 lay transplant failure, dialysis, and the gift of a second transplant – all factors that slowed me down but increased my appreciation of how good karate can be for the weaker person.

So why have I written another book, and not just one book, a whole series on the Heian / Pinan kata?

Over the last ten years the research and training methods that I’ve adopted have changed my karate practice considerably.

Through the investment I made in developing scenario training I’ve had the privilege of learning from watching large numbers martial artists face HAOV outside the comfort of the normal training environment. The process has been helped by the diversity of participants: from fit young aspiring martial artists to normal hard training middle aged men and women, and even young teenage boys and girls, all of whom have enabled us to create a variety of realistic and emotionally distracting challenges.

In those simulations I’ve observed how people have accessed or failed to use their training in more realistic conditions. Confined spaces, close ranges, doorways, furniture, verbal and visual and physical distractions from other people, trying to deescalate a situation, trying to shield or rescue a child or perceived weaker individual, having limited peripheral vision or not being aware of a situation until after it has begun: these have all put participants’ ability to access their physical training and knowledge to the test, whether their training base was Shotokan, Goju, Wado, DART, Ju Jitsu, Krav Maga, MT, TKD, Boxing, Kickboxing, BJJ, MMA, or some obscure CMA, and whether they were 6th Dan, 5th Dan, 3rd Dan, Coaches or kyu grade students, or experienced LEOs, security or military personnel. The successful tactics, when the participants were able to access their skill sets, were relatively diverse, but what brought them all together was the similarity of their responses when things didn’t go to plan, and both how and when things didn’t go to plan.

What is consistently visible in the footage of these events is that successful navigation and extraction of participants from the close quarter fighting comes not through accessing their well drilled kumite combinations, but through movements and stances that more closely resemble the strategies that are shown in karate kata, even amongst those participants who have no martial arts experience. In fact if I were to edit out the aggressors from the videos so that it appeared as if the trainees were fighting thin air, then the resulting movements would look more akin to a kata than anything else seen in the martial arts.

I wanted to share what I’ve learned with a broader audience than I can possibly reach through travelling round the world teaching seminars, and the logical next step was to try and condense my findings into more books. In doing so I wanted write something that appealed not only to the experienced black belt looking for greater depth and practicality from their practice, but was also suitable for the complete beginner in karate trying to make sense of the funny movements he was learning in class, and that an instructor could safely teach to beginners.

 For me the Pinan / Heian kata represent a comprehensive catalogue of the interlinking strategies and approaches I’ve seen work under pressure. The majority of these are found in other forms, but the Pinan are the perfect vehicle for spreading the word on how effective basic karate can be because as a set they are simple, taught to beginners in many systems, and practised by karateka at all levels of their training. The practical defences against HAOV and the strategies from common less desirable positions that I’ve set out in these books are not complicated, in fact they are deceptively simple and easy. Almost everything that is combat effective is simple and brought down to the bare essentials of movement.

I hope you have as much fun reading the books and trying the drills as I’ve had writing and training for them. I’m really excited to be able to release the first in the series covering Pinan / Heian Shodan and Nidan in both paperback and ebook. I intend to have all four volumes in the series published this year and I’m up for travelling to teach in person at any club that’s interested.

You can buy the new book here, or on amazon and any of the other major book retailers. If you have a local store that you like to use they’ll be able to get a copy for you too.

John Titchen


Volume One of the Pinan Flow System released!

Sat, 2014-04-12 13:03

Another book on the Heian / Pinan kata?

I wrote my first book on the Heian / Pinan kata in 2004. Between that and the publication of the book in 2007 lay transplant failure, dialysis, and the gift of a second transplant – all factors that slowed me down but increased my appreciation of how good karate can be for the weaker person.

So why have I written another book, and not just one book, a whole series on the Heian / Pinan kata?

Over the last ten years the research and training methods that I’ve adopted have changed my karate practice considerably.

Through the investment I made in developing scenario training I’ve had the privilege of learning from watching large numbers martial artists face HAOV outside the comfort of the normal training environment. The process has been helped by the diversity of participants: from fit young aspiring martial artists to normal hard training middle aged men and women, and even young teenage boys and girls, all of whom have enabled us to create a variety of realistic and emotionally distracting challenges.

In those simulations I’ve observed how people have accessed or failed to use their training in more realistic conditions. Confined spaces, close ranges, doorways, furniture, verbal and visual and physical distractions from other people, trying to deescalate a situation, trying to shield or rescue a child or perceived weaker individual, having limited peripheral vision or not being aware of a situation until after it has begun: these have all put participants’ ability to access their physical training and knowledge to the test, whether their training base was Shotokan, Goju, Wado, DART, Ju Jitsu, Krav Maga, MT, TKD, Boxing, Kickboxing, BJJ, MMA, or some obscure CMA, and whether they were 6th Dan, 5th Dan, 3rd Dan, Coaches or kyu grade students, or experienced LEOs, security or military personnel. The successful tactics, when the participants were able to access their skill sets, were relatively diverse, but what brought them all together was the similarity of their responses when things didn’t go to plan, and both how and when things didn’t go to plan.

What is consistently visible in the footage of these events is that successful navigation and extraction of participants from the close quarter fighting comes not through accessing their well drilled kumite combinations, but through movements and stances that more closely resemble the strategies that are shown in karate kata, even amongst those participants who have no martial arts experience. In fact if I were to edit out the aggressors from the videos so that it appeared as if the trainees were fighting thin air, then the resulting movements would look more akin to a kata than anything else seen in the martial arts.

I wanted to share what I’ve learned with a broader audience than I can possibly reach through travelling round the world teaching seminars, and the logical next step was to try and condense my findings into more books. In doing so I wanted write something that appealed not only to the experienced black belt looking for greater depth and practicality from their practice, but was also suitable for the complete beginner in karate trying to make sense of the funny movements he was learning in class, and that an instructor could safely teach to beginners.

 For me the Pinan / Heian kata represent a comprehensive catalogue of the interlinking strategies and approaches I’ve seen work under pressure. The majority of these are found in other forms, but the Pinan are the perfect vehicle for spreading the word on how effective basic karate can be because as a set they are simple, taught to beginners in many systems, and practised by karateka at all levels of their training. The practical defences against HAOV and the strategies from common less desirable positions that I’ve set out in these books are not complicated, in fact they are deceptively simple and easy. Almost everything that is combat effective is simple and brought down to the bare essentials of movement.

I hope you have as much fun reading the books and trying the drills as I’ve had writing and training for them. I’m really excited to be able to release the first in the series covering Pinan / Heian Shodan and Nidan in both paperback and ebook. I intend to have all four volumes in the series published this year and I’m up for travelling to teach in person at any club that’s interested.

You can buy the new book here, or on amazon and any of the other major book retailers. If you have a local store that you like to use they’ll be able to get a copy for you too.

John Titchen