Monday, April 3, 2017

The Blind Spot (with Weapons)

I get sent a lot of videos of people working with martial arts weapons.

Some are awesome - and please do continue to tag me or send me videos that are really good, thanks. Some are really, really horrible (and yes, I like them too, just like one of those "so bad it's good" movies).  And most are somewhere in the middle of the two extremes.

One thing that is kinda common, especially with knife defense videos being produced by people who are primarily in empty hand striking arts (such as taekwondo, karate, kempo), is a failure to attack and/or control the weapon hand or arm.

Oh, they'll "block" it - they'll use a standard block against the weapon hand and move in to attack the body.  Fundamentally, I think that's a sound strategy.  The idea is to incapacitate the attacker with a head or torso strike (that is, he'll forget about using his arms/legs).


Let's talk about that block.  Often, we're talking about blocks that look like this:

Image found HERE

Your typical empty hand block - with a fist or an open palm hand - will not stop that knife.  I know, because we practice this, and I promise you, if it worked, my teacher could easily stop me because he's big and strong and I'm smallish middle aged woman.  It'd be a piece of cake.

He can't.  At least, not reliably, and not without my ability to re-attack almost immediately.

So why do so many empty hand guys, when they put a knife in their hands, act like this sort of block will incapacitate the knife hand?

I think that a lot of people in the empty hand striking and kicking arts have a blind spot when it comes to arms and legs.

You see, when you are empty hand and striking or kicking, you don't have to control the arm or hand once you've intercepted it and gotten it out of the way.  You deflect it somehow, then you move in to attack the torso or head, or you move in for a lock or take-down, or what have you.  The risk of that arm being a problem for you is relatively small.

It's not important to monitor and control an empty hand attack, or rather, it's not as important as the counter attack to the center mass and head.

In sparring, especially point sparring, it's also not important to do much more than block empty hand strikes and kicks.  You earn points, typically, by attacking the head and torso.  You get no points for attacking the arm.

So, you train to attack the head and the torso.  The arm and hand is more of a obstacle to get past versus a target in its own right.

You develop a blind spot when it comes to the weapon hand.  There's no feedback or reward or risk in your training methodology to address it.

Of course, as an Arnis player, I see the arm and weapon hand as something that I have to deal with and control.  I can try "defanging the snake" (where we attack the arm in order to destroy its ability to attack) or at very least, my block of that arm better include me grabbing onto and trying to manipulate or trap or pin the arm so it can't do me any more damage.

That's because my assumption is always that there's a weapon there, and it's probably a knife, and I do not want the hand with the knife free and able to cut me.

Of course, there's problems with our strategy, too.  It's not easy to capture a weapon hand of someone seriously trying to hurt you, especially if it's a low poking stab.  Trying to smash or slash a small, fast moving target like an arm or a hand is difficult and must be trained a LOT to get good at it.

All of those objections are absolutely true.  That's why you train to attack/control the weapon hand and then ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE on the other parts of the body to make the bad guy stop.

Take the block in the gif above. This will work vs. a knife BUT - you can't just block and counter-strike as shown in this (very basic) technique.  That's because the weapon hand is not controlled in any way, and can easily retract and attack again.  The block deflected but did not actually stop the weapon from being re-deployed.

So, what I would do, in that block, is to upper block (or strike, whatever you want to call it), then open my hand and grip the attacking arm, then parry it down and of the way for a counter attack.

In fact, there is a move in our very empty hand Modern Arnis first form - Anyo Isa - where we do exactly that.

See the whole form HERE

There you go.

This post isn't a knock on empty hand striking and kicking arts, I promise.  Because while I was thinking about this blind spot, I then started thinking about the blind spots in my own style, and wondering where they are and how I need to address it.

We all have blind spots!

The trick is to figure out where they are, right?

So what blind spots are you spotting in your training or in online videos?  What assumptions do you make that you think should be challenged?  Let me know in the comments!