Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Alternating Hand

Let's discuss what I've been calling the Alternating Hand principle.

Now, I have no idea if anybody is teaching this the way I've been thinking about this lately. Surely someone is, as it seems to me (now) to be a pretty obvious concept.

The idea of strike with one hand, then the other is fundamental to most martial arts. I've seen boxers do it, karate and TKD people do it, we do it in Kobudo, and of course, it's found in the Filipino Martial Arts.

Think of the basic combo in boxing (and other striking arts): jab+cross, and jab+cross+hook.

Muay Thai combo using alternating hands. Image found here.

I called this "the alternating hand" but of course I mean the feet as well, for those of you big into kicking.

This is related to what I wrote in "Three is a Magic Number".  The alternating hand principle is found in our core drills of Brush-Grab-Strike, Block-Check-Counter, Hubad-Lubad, and of course, Double Sinawali - all of these are lead hand, rear hand, lead hand.  It's found in other places, too.  For example, our Combative Response #4 is rear hand block, front hand block, rear hand strike - again, alternating hands.

Of course, you can do this with two (or four or whatever) strikes as well as three.  We use three a lot in Arnis (as I've noted) but it's not the only way to do this.

The reason it's been on my mind is because we've been working on these in classes at Mid-Cities Arnis and I don't know that in my training over time that I've ever thought of this quite this way before.  I certainly don't remember it being taught to me this specific way.  It's only occurred to me recently that this is actually a thing.

Alternating hands in brush-grab-strike in Modern Arnis.

There are downsides to relying on alternating hands alone, as it's a pattern that can be easily anticipated and countered by someone who is trained.  That's why you see boxers and other live sparrers also engage in what I think of as a broken "pattern" - they might only alternate hands now and then in a way that is designed to be difficult to anticipate.  Really good ones engage in a pattern and then break it once their opponent notices and anticipates the pattern on purpose.

Even with its downsides, the alternating hands principle is still something that's fundamental to what I do - to what many of us do.  I think this is true because it seems so natural - one hand, then the other, something that I've seen my children do when they are very little.  We're building on something that we do without training at all.

I've started talking about this idea with our students, as a way for them to approach and categorize things they are learning, and I think it helps them think about what we're asking them to do.

I'd like to know - how do you use alternating hands (or feet) in your art?  What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of alternating hands?  Let us know in the comments!