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Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

Heath White wrote:

That would be my list too, with the exception that I would have said that if you are “clinching” you are also “grappling vertically.”  I mostly think of throws as finishing moves after the striking has been effective.

I can agree there, I think that's how most of them are shown in Kata as well.

e wrote:
Here I agree partly.  My primary discipline is striking but if I can throw safely and effectively, why not.  On someone significantly bigger than me, it’s dangerous.  However I have gotten a real appreciation for the knee strike in Muay Thai – it exists in karate but I practically never trained it or used it in sparring – and the most effective knees involve grabbing your opponent somehow.  Done right, it works great.

Yeah I guess one exception I make for my "don't grab unless you have to" rule is with knees and elbows. I think with throws the thing is that outside of throws of opportuniy like you mention earlier - basically throws that come after succesfful blows-, it requires some grappling skill to do them - that's what I mean by "vertical grappling", just using body feel/manipulation and grappling to throw.

e wrote:
So I feel like there are a couple cases here.One, you might grab someone offensively.  For example you throw a couple punches and they shell up.  A great follow up is to trap their hands and knee the gut.  You can go for a stronger clinching position like plum but it really isn’t necessary.  If you want to keep throwing knees it might be useful.

Two, someone is overwhelming you and so you initiate a clinch just to trap their arms and get a break.  Now you have to figure out what to do.  Getting a dominant clinch position like plum might be one plan, but there are a bunch of other possibilities too.

Three, you were overwhelming him and he initiated a clinch just to trap your arms and get a break.  Again, what to do.  One option is to swim for a dominant position, but again there are several other options.  Even if he got a plum clinch on you, you can simply change levels and go for a body lock takedown (legal in MT) or a double-leg takedown (not legal in MT).  If he is at the usual, instinctive distance for clinching you can almost certainly knee him.

Hmm, I'll give these scenarios some time in class when I can, I've actually been working a little on the body lock takedown lately.

e wrote:
What I took away from that video was that if the MT guy had been throwing his knees seriously, the BJJ guy would have been in major trouble.  I thought it was also a good illustration of how, once knee strikes are involved, you cannot grapple at the distance most grappling sports (and most grappling drills) use.  Wrestlers, BJJ, judo guys are not planning for knee strikes and if you take your drills directly from those sports, you’re missing a variable that should be key for karateka and self-defense.

Yeah, well it's kind of a pet peeve of mine with videos like that, the grappler just barrels through as if none of those knees would have done anything.

e wrote:
There are two basic takedowns I’ve seen in Muay Thai (with some variations).  One is a body lock takedown and the other looks like a no-gi version of sasae tsurikomi ashi or maybe hiza guruma.  (I don’t know any judo, that’s just what it kind of looks like.)  I am not good at either, but I’ve been thrown by them, and it’s like working with a skilled judoka, you’re on your back in seconds.

I think I know which ones you are talking about, but I will watch some videos, thanks for the info Heath, really interesting to read about.

Heath White
Heath White's picture

A while ago Zach asked about “long guard” in Muay Thai, and whether it was related to some karate moves you see in the Pinan forms especially.  I’ve been researching this and thinking about it, so here are my thoughts.  (Apologies for the lengthy post.)

Long guard in MT can be either static or dynamic.  Statically, it involves the front hand being more or less straight out, and the rear hand folded over the forehead or across the jaw (Dracula guard).  Although it’s very traditional, you don’t see this a lot anymore, since the Dutch kickboxers came in.  Dynamically, it’s the same kind of position (sometimes with the front knee raised) in response to an incoming punch.  The front arm stiffarms the attacker, or wedges down a punch from that side with what boxing calls a leverage guard—a straight arm pressing down on the biceps.  The rear hand protects the head from punches on that side.

Long guard was the traditional MT guard for two reasons.  One, traditional MT was fought in hand wraps, not gloves.  A tight guard works a lot less well without the big pillows on both fighters’ hands.  The other reason is that MT didn’t traditionally use a lot of short-range punches like hooks and uppercuts.  The reason for that is that punches are the least powerful MT weapon, inferior to kicks, elbows, and knees.  Therefore, at short range, the MT fighter would tend to clinch and elbow/knee/throw, rather than trade punches.  So the strategy was to keep the opponent at a distance with a static long guard and front kicks, and then if they got close, you would grab them, clinch, and go to town.

What changed the equation was the advent of Dutch kickboxers, who had boxing skills much better than what had been developed in Thailand.  They could move around the long guard and throw uppercuts up into it.  So MT fighters started developing closer static guards.  But you will still see a dynamic version pretty frequently.  Buakaw throws it up all the time.

So how does this connect with karate?  The first observation is that, like MT, karate fights traditionally don’t use gloves, and it’s a full-spectrum martial art.  So like MT, short-range punches are not unknown in karate but they are rare.  It’s much more natural to clinch and elbow, knee, or takedown at that range.  Karate also uses forearm strikes, knifehands, and hammerfists, which protect your hands more than hooks or uppercuts to the head.

So does karate have a long guard?  Well, yes and no.

I think it certainly has a leverage guard: defense against a big swinging hook by pressing down on the biceps.  This is the extended arm you see at the beginning of Naihanchi shodan, also in Bassai and Pinan godan.  Try it, it works great.

The closest thing to a long guard are the initial moves of Pinan shodan (Heian Nidan, Pyongan Edan) and Pinan Yondan (Pyongan Sadan).  It’s worth noting that, supposedly, in Motobu’s fight with the boxer he used this as a static guard.  What is long-guard-like about these positions are the raised rear hands over the head.  What is not long-guard-like about them is that the front hand is not extended straight out, but held around 90 degrees.  I tend to think the 90-degree angle is a “looks pretty” feature and for practical reasons you will want the hand farther out.

My bunkai for these moves is that they are responses, again, to big swinging hooks, the kind of strike mostly likely to begin a fight.  When the swing comes to your front side, use the leverage guard.  When it comes to your rear side, use the arm across your forehead from these positions.  The front hand either delivers a simultaneous strike (hammerfist or uppercut in Pinan shodan, knifehand to the neck in Pinan yondan) or gets extended to stiffarm the attacker, which is more long-guard-ish.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Heath White wrote:
One other variation on Plan A: in this karate grappling video by Iain, around the 5:00 mark, his opponent is doomed.  Iain can reach his left hand over and trap his opponent’s head down on his shoulder, then right knee to the face.  It’s a high knee but I promise you can do it.  (Ask me how I know…)  When clinching, you have to keep your head up.

I’d disagree there. The enemy’s biggest vulnerability is a powerful hook, elbow, etc delivered with my free (left in this case) hand. Keeping the head tucked next to my right shoulder eliminates that because I would not be able to even each him. If he puts his head up, in this position, he’s getting smashed. Hery hard to get to the head with the other hand if the head is tucked in and off to one side. If my arms were longer, I’d be tapping the back of head and hence the power / vulnerability of target ratio is not in my favour.

I would also struggle to push the head down, as you describe, for exactly the same reasons. If he had a very loose grip on my right arm then I may be able to pull free and push, but if he keeps the grip, as he should, then I won’t be able too.

I also have my scepticism about the power of a knee that high in the arc, but then again, I do have short legs :-)

For me and mine, I would worry more about the uncontrolled arm and the simple strikes they the enemy can throw, than a potential position switch relying on a loose grip and a high knee, and therefore position my head accordingly.

Of course, it’s our own faces and it’s up to the individual where the chose to stick them.

All the best,