Chin Na in Tai Chi Chuan

I’m pleased to be asked to contribute to this excellent blog created by Karateka and Tai Chi Chuan practitioner Charlie Wildish, aimed at bringing different styles of martial arts, and martial artists, together under the banner of “bunkai”, the Japanese term meaning “applications”. So much in the oriental martial arts seems vague, hidden or obscured (quite often at the behest of cultural or political reasons inappropriately transplanted from another time and place), so it’s particularly refreshing to discover a group of traditional martial artists dedicated to unearthing the treasures hidden in the arts they practice, rather than simply going through the moves by rote, in blind obedience to tradition. I think this progressive attitude is something positive that Western culture can bring to these ancient arts from the East.

While forms, salutes, uniforms, attitude, places of practice and class structures may vary wildly between “traditional” martial styles, it’s in the applications that the arts are at their closest. While the stylistic manner of execution, “body mechanics” or the strategy may differ greatly between arts, a wrist lock performed by twisting the radius and ulna bones of the forearm until they lock in Tai Chi Chuan is the same wrist lock performed by twisting the radius and ulna bones of the forearm until they lock in Karate or Wing Chun or Ju Jitsu. By looking at the applications we can start to see the similarities between styles and gain new insights into the arts we practice.

In the following clip I am performing an exercise known in Tai Chi Chuan as Tui Shou or “Pushing hands”. Practitioners of other martial styles will no doubt recognise many of the locking and takedown techniques from their own styles. Observers of Push Hands competitions would be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that Push Hands is about pushing the opponent away, hopefully in a convincing enough manner to score a point. As such it becomes a wrestling match where you’re not allowed to grab with the hands, and while not without merit, such competitions seem (to me) to have strayed from the original martial intent of the art. To gain the most benefit from Push Hands I believe the Tai Chi Chuan community needs to reclaim a lot of the elements that have been taken out under competition rules. One such element is the traditional art of Chin Na (translations vary: “Catching and locking”, “Catch-Arrest”, “Seize and Immobilise”, etc…). To perform Chin Na following the principles of Tai Chi Chuan it is important that you don’t force the situation. Instead, you adapt as it changes, without opposing it. Done correctly the technique happens of itself. The constant flowing pattern of push hands encourages this spontaneity of technique.

As it says in verse 2 of Lao Tzu’s classic of Taoism.

“Therefore the sage goes about doing nothing, teaching no-talking.The ten thousand things rise and fall without cease,Creating, yet not.Working, yet not taking credit.Work is done, then forgotten.Therefore it lasts forever.”

In future posts I hope to offer more technique-specific insights into both Tai Chi Chuan and Choy Lee Fut.

By Graham Barlow of Bath-Tai Chi and Choy Lee Fut (www.bath-taichi.co.uk)

Why Did Karate Develop It’s Linear Technique?

Although this blog is primarily about the application of martial technique, sometimes understanding the history of how certain techniques developed give a better idea of how those techniques can be applied in today’s world (where competition rules have clouded the issues).

Believed to be born in 1796, Sokon “Bushi” Matsumura was a martial arts fanatic and some would say genius.  He was known to be very clever, good at psychology and ruthless.  At the age of 14, he announced that he would become the greatest fighter on Okinawa; by the age of 25 he was widely accepted as having achieved this goal.

Matsumura is a key figure in Karate history for 2 main reasons.  Firstly, two of his students were Azato and Ituso, who were teachers to Funikoshi, now widely regarded as the father of modern Karate.

Secondly, he appears be central in the development of linear technique.  Before Matsumura there is little evidence of linear technique, with most Okinawan Karate following the lead of Chinese Kung Fu and emphasising circular technique.  The Okinawan style of Naha Te and its main derivative, Goju Ryu were not influenced by Matsurmura, and still today their kata’s employ predominantly circular technique (just look them up on Youtube). Matsurmura was central to the Okinawan style of Shuri Te and most derivatives of this style clearly emphasis linear technique.

Due to his martial prowess, Matsumura quickly rose up in the ranks to become Chief Of Security to the King of Okinawa, a post which he held for 50 years.  The Okinawan king was basically a “puppet government” under Japanese rule.  The Japanese banned the use of weapons on Okinawa, a ban which extended even to the bodyguards to the king.  These were the only bodyguards to a head of state in history who were not allowed to carry weapons, and Matsumura was their boss.  It is known that anybody working for the king in any capacity would have had to be a martial artist as well.  It was a job requirement, even for clerks.  In the vulnerable position that the king was in, everybody would be expected to jump in if a situation arose.

But who was the main threat to the king?  The answer stunned me when I first found out after decades of training without knowing this.  The main threat was Westerners.  Whaling boats would want to trade with Okinawa when supplies got low, but due to rulings by the Japanese overlords they would not be allowed to.  This would sometimes lead to a ship-load of angry Western seamen, armed with whatever they had with them, going up to the Shuri Castle (centre of government) to “sort out” this little king.  Seemed a safe bet on an Island where nobody carried weapons.

However, the most serious incident happened in 1853.  It is widely known that Japanese isolationism was forcibly ended by an American fleet led by Commodore Perry.  What is not so well known is that Perry stopped at Okinawa before going to Japan.  Perry’s behaviour would seem very arrogant by our standards, but Perry understood the Japanese mindset at that time.  He realised that they respected force much more than diplomacy.  As such, he deliberately set about “bullying” the unarmed Okinawan’s, so that when he arrived at Japan he would arrive with a reputation as a hard-man.

The Okinawans had no way to know this, they would have just seen it as an invasion.  Especially when Perry led a parade up to the Shuri Castle consisting of 2 companies of armed US marines, 50 naval officers and 2 brass bands. Oh, and some big cannons from the ships!  This was Matsumura’s nightmare scenario.  Had Perry decided to take over and ordered the king’s detention, how could Matsumura and his unarmed men possibly protect their king against such overwhelming odds?

We can never know with exact certainty how Matsumura planned for such an invasion should it happen.  However, in the book Shotokan’s Secret, by Bruce Clayton, Ph.D., it lays down what skills Clayton believed would be needed in such a situation, why you would need them and what you wouldn’t need.

For a start, you wouldn’t be interested in holds and restraints.  No good pinning somebody down when you are outnumbered, his comrades will simply kick and beat you.

Matsumura would have known that the rifles took about 30 seconds to load and fire the first round, so should a fight break out you have 30 seconds to incapacitate as many opponents as possible and get your king out the back door before bullets start flying.  With circular technique relying on centrifugal force, you are almost waiting for people to come to you.  After you’ve dropped a few people, the rest would likely hang back until the riflemen start firing.  However, with linear technique, taking larger forward steps in any given direction, you can take the fight to them causing confusion, panic and disorientation.  You might even reach the riflemen before they have chance to load and fire.

Also, when surrounded by opponents, being stationary is not a good thing.  By attacking forward (in any direction) you will probably take your opponent by surprise (a mob does not expect to be attacked by it’s intended victim) and you put distance between yourself and anybody behind you.

With rifles being loaded, you also need to incapacitate opponents very quickly; no time to choke them out, just one punch . . . next please . . . punch . . . . next.

I want to make clear that I am not saying that linear techniques are better than circular.  I’m just saying that these are the requirements and circumstances that probably led to the creation of linear techniques.

Fast forward to today.  If fighting one on one, circular systems do generally give you more options.  They include strikes, grapples and pressure point strikes coming in from all odd angles.  These applications do appear in linear styles too, but with much less emphasis on them.  However, if you get attacked by a gang, being able to surprise them, knock some some out very quickly to balance the odds and spread them out so you can pick them off one by one obviously has some advantages too.  It should be remembered that linear techniques were designed to fight untrained multiple opponents, not other Asian martial artist who might be able to cope with such techniques.

If we are set upon by a gang of thugs, these people are basically cowards; not the hardy seaman or trained soldiers that Matsumura faced.  Whilst a basic stepping punch may not work well in a competition against somebody else who is trained; suddenly stepping forward to attack the leader of a gang who is expecting you to cower away is more likely to work.  Especially if you use your lead hand to distract as you move forward.  After a few steps forward (and hopefully a few assailants down), you need to be sure that nobody is about to jump on your back, so spinning round fast (as we do in our katas/hyungs/patterns) is a good idea, even if there is nobody close enough to actually strike at least you keep the initiative.

Incidentally, the elite British Special Forces regiment, the SAS (and probably others), are taught that if ambushed whilst driving along, they put the foot down.  Most people when ambushed run for cover, which allows the enemy to consolidate and concentrate their fire on your position.  This is similar to a group of thugs closing in and all hitting you at the same time.  However, when ambushed the SAS are trained to accellerate, becoming a moving target, not allow their enemy to concentrate their fire and get out as quick as possible.  That is not so different to linear Karate, stepping forward into a surrounding crowd, not allowing thugs to consolidate and not complying with their expectations.  Similar tactics from the top warriors of today and the past.

In Bruce Clayton’s book, Shotokan’s Secret, he makes it clear that the battle plan that he believes Matsumura drew up is just his own theory.  However, by comparing the requirements with the techniques best suited to that particular scenario, you come up with a style almost perfectly matching Shotokan.  Even today you can see in modern Karate and TKD that there is an emphasis in being mobile, forward movement and the emphasis on “one strike one kill”.

All the derivatives of Shuri Te, (including Tae Kwon Do and Tang Soo Do) have these features in common and more closely resemble each other than they do any of the Chinese Kung Fu styles or the Naha Te derived styles.  Again, I’m not saying that any are better than the other, just different in emphasis.

Shotokan’s Sectret is a must read for anybody interested in history of martial arts and although it has “Shotokan” in the title, the history and technique applies to any Shuri Te derived style.

Fighting Dirty With Karate/TKD/TSD’s Most Commonly Used Technique

The most commonly practiced technique in Karate, TKD, TSD and many styles of Kung Fu is Hikite, which is Japanese for pulling the hand back (usually to the hip), and is usually performed in conjunction with a punch, strike or “block”.

Applications for Hikite are usually depicted as grabbing the opponents wrist and pulling them on, whilst the other hand/arm attacks the opponent, either by striking or applying some kind of joint lock/break. You can see this application in some of the video’s below.

However, for this posting I would like to look at other self defence applications for Hikite when the fight get close in and dirty. I would like to approach this from the point of view of being attacked by an untrained thug, rather than a trained fighter (of any discipline).  A trained fighter might well be able to cope with some of these tactics, but an untrained thug probably would not.  And lets face it, we are more likely to be attacked by a thug, then by a disciplined and trained fighter.

Whenever a fist is made (in basics or kata/forms/patterns), it is quite safe to assume that it is either to strike or to grab. As Hikite is pulling back to the hip, then it is safe to assume that the fist in Hikite is grabbing.

First of all though let’s look at Hikite more closely as it varies from style to style.  It normally starts with the arm extended, palm facing down. Some styles start with an open hand whilst others start with a fist. If the hand is open, then the first thing it does is to closes into a fist, which more or less gives all variations the same start point; a grab. From here, some styles rotate the fist to palm facing up as it starts to pull back to the hip. Other styles however, begin to pull back and rotate the fist to the palm up position near the end of the travel (as fist reaches the hip).

The applications covered in this article will work with either variation.  However, in these specific applications, the twist is used to increase the pain threshold.   I would therefore suggest that these specific applications will probably work better if the twist is performed at the beginning of the pullback, rather than at the end of the pullback.

The first application I would like to look at is pulling somebody’s hair.  Although often considered “girly fighting”, it can be a good way to control an opponent (pain compliance) and brake their structure/balance.  With a training partner try grabbing their hair and just holding, it will not be too uncomfortable for them.  If you then pull, it hurts them.  If you stop pulling, it stops hurting. This is why in a “girly fight”, they grab the hair and keep pulling backwards, forwards and sideways, to keep the pain going.

Now grab your partner’s hair and apply the Hikite. First just grab and twist. The act of twisting, drives the small knuckles of your fist into your training partners head and at the same time, maintains the pulling tension to the hair without you having to pull and push their head all over the place. Whereas with normal hair pulling, your training partner/opponent can move with the pull/push to lessen the effect, they cannot do anything to lessen the effect of your grab and twist. The pain is constant for as long as you keep the twist on.

Now pull back to the hip as usual and their structure and balance will be compromised as they are distracted with pain. It will also work if you pull first before twisting, but without the pain of the twist at the beginning, the opponent will be able to resist the pull a little bit more at this stage.

Once you have them prone, in pain with their head by your hip, if you judge the situation as being not too bad, then you may try to talk some sense into your prone opponent. If the situation is serious, then you can beat some sense into your opponent without them being able to resist very much.

This would have been particularly useful when these techniques were first introduced as many men wore their hair in a top-knot, which is quite easy to grab. However, today many men wear their hair short and many are, well . . . follicly challenged. In this scenario, grab the ear instead. There is a reason why many of us can remember parents and/or teachers grabbing us by the ears as kids; it because the ears are sensitive and it hurts. It just requires a bit more accuracy then grabbing hair.

Another application is grabbing the throat. This has to be reserved for all but the most serious of confrontations. Grabbing the throat and squeezing is always dangerous, but grabbing around the windpipe and twisting applies more pressure and can seriously damage the windpipe which can lead to death (and a long jail sentence).  A much safer way, but still very effective, is to use a flesh (or skin) grab.  This is common in many styles of Kung Fu, but has not been transmitted very much into Karate.  For this application, let’s go back to when we first started to learn martial arts and we are taught how to make a correct fist. First, close up the outer set of knuckles (in the fingers), then close the last set of knuckles (where the fingers join the hand).

Try with a partner, clasping their neck, fingers one side and thumb the other side. Now close the first set of knuckles (in the fingers), but as you do so make sure that you secure some skin of the neck. Be careful with your training partner as this can be very painful and usually leaves marks. Now continue to close up the rest of the fist, twist and pull (carefully). This is more painful than the hair pull, but you end up in almost the same prone position where you can talk or beat sense into your opponent.

If you are in a clinch and you are both trying to control each other, grabbing hair, ears or throats will be awkward, as obviously both of you will be trying to guard your heads from attack.   However, whilst so close to each other, your opponent may not notice if you lower one hand to the side of their body, preferably just below their ribs, then grab lower torso flesh by closing up your first set of knuckles as before. You don’t need to grab large amounts of flesh, just some skin on the side will do. Then of course, grab, twist and pull. This should be enough to make them loosen their grip, off-balance them and give you the opportunity to land a clean blow.

Just be aware however that if the opponent is drunk or high on drugs, they may not feel the full effect. That said, as long as you can pull them off-balance, you can follow through.

Take another scenario where some thug has taken you to the floor and is sitting astride you trying to hit you. Grabbing the flesh around their waist, twisting and pulling will to say the least get their attention and probably stop them trying to hit you as they try to release your hands. From here, pull with one hand whilst pushing with the other to remove them sideways. This should be enough to move the average Joe thug; though again, be aware that if they are very drunk or high, they may not feel it so much.

Another defence if you are caught in this position is believe it or not gedan barai (lower sweeping block). The hand that you would normally “block” with is always pulled back to the opposite ear before sweeping downwards. Use this position to cover your head from your opponents blows. Your Hikite hand, slides down the centreline of your body until you find your opponents testicles. From here, your hand should already be in the palm up position (usually only here after twisting). Grab and pull at the same time as you sweep downward to push your by now very distraught opponent off you. You could actually twist your wrist in the opposite direction, just to add some insult to injury. If you opponent is too drunk to feel this, then he should be too drunk to walk, never mind fight.

Basics and kata/patterns don’t just teach techniques, they teach principles and the principle here is grab, twist and pull (or pull and twist depending on style). The flesh grabbing can be applied to most parts of the body, not just the examples above. Anywhere that you can grab flesh/skin, be it torso, limbs, head, wherever, this Hikite principle can be applied.

It should also be noted that our biceps are our main pulling muscles and our triceps are our main pushing muscles. To get the best pull, we want out biceps to be able to effectively contract. They contract better when we twist our palms upwards as Hikite teaches us to do. Hikite therefore teaches us to use our body in its strongest alignments.

This actually leads to one more application, such as pulling clothes.   Although it does not directly cause pain, it can give a momentary jerk to the opponent (another jerk) which can unbalance them just long enough for you to hit them.

These techniques may not be fight finishers, but they can give you an advantage to distract (through pain) and break the opponents structure and balance.  It is a human instinct to try to correct the balance first.  If somebody has to re-gain balance at the same time that an opponent is trying to hit them, they will instinctively try to regain balance BEFORE they try to fend off the blow. This gives you a small window of opportunity to finish them off.  A small window should be enough for a well trained martial artist of any style.

Note:  This article is in Issue No 7 of Iain Abernethy’s Jissen Magazine.

Soto Uke (Outside Block) & Related Kung Fu Techniques

I have written in a previous posting about how I believe that Karate’s Soto Uke was probably based on an instinctive human reaction and developed by the masters of old.  In the following video sequence we demonstrate some applications for Soto Uke, whilst also looking at Chinese Kung Fu movements that are almost the same.

Note:  The block called Soto Uke in some styles is called Uchi Uke (inside block) in other styles.

Bearing in mind that much of Karate’s original bunkai has been lost, and that Karate is largely based on Kung Fu, it is good to look at similar Kung Fu movements and how Kung Fu practitioners apply them.  By looking into our roots we can learn more about our own style and read across from what the Okinawan masters probably learnt from the Chinese masters.  The Okinawan masters would have adapted the movements to suit their own physiques and needs, which is fine as the Chinese masters did exactly the same.  That is why there is such a vast array of Kung Fu styles.

When a beginner looks at different styles of Kung Fu, Karate, TKD etc., they see lots of differences.  However, the experienced practitioner sees many similarities.  This why we are able to learn from each other, to increase our knowledge and understanding of our own style, without necessarily having to study other styles in depth.

We hope you enjoy our video:

Bunkai: Heian Nidan/Pinan Shodan (Won Hyo, Chum Kiu)

In the clip below, we look at some applications from the opening sequence of Heian Nidan/Pinan Shodan/Won Hyo.  We don’t say that this is necessarily the best or only interpretations for these moves, it just our take on it.  Although Heian Nidan and Pinan Shodan are in effect the same kata (just named differently in different styles) and Tae Kwon Do’s Won Hyo pattern is closely based on it; Chum Kiu is essentially quite different.  It is the second form from the Wing Chun Kung Fu system.

However, some of the moves in Chum Kiu quite closely resemble the opening sequence of Heian Nidan/Pinan Shodan, although is performed quite a  bit more tightly.

Is this surprising to find such similarities?

Not at all.  Tae Kwon Do is largely based on Karate and Karate is largely based on Kung Fu.  The nearest part of China to Okinawa (where Karate developed) is Fukien Provence and it is known that White Crane Kung Fu was particularly popular in that area.  Wing Chun Kung Fu is based mainly on the Snake and the Crane, so there is a common lineage.

Anyway, we hope you enjoy our short video:

Kevin O’ Hagan: Combat Jutsu & Manstoppers Course

I have recently had the pleasure of seeing Kevin O’Hagin and his two sons, Jake and Tom, performing a demonstration at the Rotary Martial Arts Festival in Bath.  It was fast moving, dynamic and one of the highlights of the Festival.  Kevin’s style of Combat Justu, based on his many years studying various froms of Ju Jutsu, and other related arts, is a no-nonsense brutal system for defeating an opponent quickly and efficiently.  The people that Kevin has trained with is extensive and reads like a who’s who of reality martial arts.

Kevin is a former professional cage fighter as well as successful author – brawn and brain 🙂    However, he separates his teaching between the sporting MMA side and his Combat Jutsu street defence style.

He has recently been awarded his 7th Dan in Combat Jutsu and is a 6th Dan Senior Instructor in self protection with the British Combat Association, the most respected reality based self protection organisation in the UK.  In short, Kevin knows his stuff.

I have inserted a few Youtube clips of Kevin teaching, so that you can see for yourself the type of training he gives.  Furthermore, Kevin is running a course soon in Bristol (UK).  I have inserted a copy of his promotional poster below.  I would say to anybody from the Karate, TKD world etc., who may not think that this is anything to do with your style; think again.  Many applications from our Kata’s/patterns/forms, are very similar (sometimes identical) to Ju Jutsu, so I’m sure that if you look carefully, you will find Kevin doing moves that you have seen before, but never thought of applying them in that manner.

(Note:  This third video looks quite close to Kung Fu Tiger style with the raking fingers)

To find out more about Kevin O’Hagan, go to his website: www.KevinOHagan.com

 

Soto Uke (Outside Block)

Firstly, lets define which block we are talking about.  What Shotokan Karate (my style) calls Soto Uke (Outside Block, because it comes from the outside), some other styles call Uchi Uke (Inside Block, because it travels to the inside).  I am talking about the block that starts from just by the ear and travels inward across the body (same direction as the hip rotation), stopping roughly in line with the opposite shoulder.

Although in many Japanese and Korean martial arts we were originally taught that Soto Uke is for blocking a straight punch aimed at our body, it has become more and more obvious that is an unlikely.

Firstly, most people outside of the dojo/dojang, do not usually attack with straight punches, it is usually haymakers.  As we are more likely to be attacked by a thug then another martial artist, why do we train so much for an attack that we are not likely to be attacked by?

Secondly, even if we were attacked by another martial artist, how often do use a Soto Uke in sparing.  We virtually never use is because it is too slow to be used as a block.  It is fine in a pre-arranged sparing routine, but is extremely difficult to make it work when the attacks come at random.

Conclusion: it is quite useless as a block when used in the traditional manner.

Anybody who has been interested in alternative bunkai for any time, will probably have seen the humble Soto Uke use for other purposes, such as arm-locks or close in striking etc.  This will be covered later in subsequent postings.

However, for anybody who still thinks that the primary function of a Soto Uke is to block a straight punch to the torso, should have a look at the video below.

But first some explanation!

The video is taken from a F.A.S.T. Defence course.  F.A.S.T. stands for Fear, Adrenalin, Stress Training.  Many people when under the stress of a real life confronation, freeze.  This even happens to high grade martial artists.  F.A.S.T Defence (amongst other things) trains people by taking then into this adrenalised state, then making them respond to overcome the “freeze” reflex that many of us have.    The idea is to provoke the student into an adrenalised state.  They get to respond full power against a “Bulletman”.  That is a man in  padded suit with a bullet shaped helmet, so that he can take blows and kicks full power.  The student does not have to worry about control in their adrenalised state.  There is more to it than just that, and the training is appropriate for both trained martial artists or for people who have never done a days training in their life.  Having done one of their courses myself, I would highly recommend them.

So why is that relevant to us and our Soto Uke?

When people are under that kind of pressure, they often extend one hand forward to restrain their attacker, whilst bringing their other hand back behind their ear, before swinging it round and striking hammer-fist to their attackers head.  This intuitive method, used by untrained people is very close to our Soto Uke (and the Wing Chun whipping punch)!

Could it be that the masters of the past took what is an instinctive human reaction and developed it?  Take a natural reaction and enhance it?  We often hear that modern systems like Krav Maga build on instinctive human reactions and when Krav Maga is adopted by law enforcement agencies around the world (including the FBI and the US Secret Service), then they must be doing something right.

So is it possible that our past masters did exactly the same thing, by building on instinctive reflexes?

We will never know for sure, but I think it is highly likely.  The video below comes from a F.A.S.T. Defence training session, where you will see the student reacting in way described above.  Have a look and decide for yourself if this instinctive reaction could be the route of the Soto Uke.

Warning:  It contains foul language, so check who is around you first:

Soto Uke (Outside Block)

Firstly, lets define which block we are talking about.  What Shotokan Karate (my style) calls Soto Uke (Outside Block, because it comes from the outside), some other styles call Uchi Uke (Inside Block, because it travels to the inside).  I am talking about the block that starts from just by the ear and travels inward across the body (same direction as the hip rotation), stopping roughly in line with the opposite shoulder.

Although in many Japanese and Korean martial arts we were originally taught that Soto Uke is for blocking a straight punch aimed at our body, it has become more and more obvious that is an unlikely.

Firstly, most people outside of the dojo/dojang, do not usually attack with straight punches, it is usually haymakers.  As we are more likely to be attacked by a thug then another martial artist, why do we train so much for an attack that we are not likely to be attacked by?

Secondly, even if we were attacked by another martial artist, how often do use a Soto Uke in sparing.  We virtually never use is because it is too slow to be used as a block.  It is fine in a pre-arranged sparing routine, but is extremely difficult to make it work when the attacks come at random.

Conclusion: it is quite useless as a block when used in the traditional manner.

Anybody who has been interested in alternative bunkai for any time, will probably have seen the humble Soto Uke use for other purposes, such as arm-locks or close in striking etc.  This will be covered later in subsequent postings.

However, for anybody who still thinks that the primary function of a Soto Uke is to block a straight punch to the torso, should have a look at the video below.

But first some explanation!

The video is taken from a F.A.S.T. Defence course.  F.A.S.T. stands for Fear, Adrenalin, Stress Training.  Many people when under the stress of a real life confronation, freeze.  This even happens to high grade martial artists.  F.A.S.T Defence (amongst other things) trains people by taking then into this adrenalised state, then making them respond to overcome the “freeze” reflex that many of us have.    The idea is to provoke the student into an adrenalised state.  They get to respond full power against a “Bulletman”.  That is a man in  padded suit with a bullet shaped helmet, so that he can take blows and kicks full power.  The student does not have to worry about control in their adrenalised state.  There is more to it than just that, and the training is appropriate for both trained martial artists or for people who have never done a days training in their life.  Having done one of their courses myself, I would highly recommend them.

So why is that relevant to us and our Soto Uke?

When people are under that kind of pressure, they often extend one hand forward to restrain their attacker, whilst bringing their other hand back behind their ear, before swinging it round and striking hammer-fist to their attackers head.  This intuitive method, used by untrained people is very close to our Soto Uke (and the Wing Chun whipping punch)!

Could it be that the masters of the past took what is an instinctive human reaction and developed it?  Take a natural reaction and enhance it?  We often hear that modern systems like Krav Maga build on instinctive human reactions and when Krav Maga is adopted by law enforcement agencies around the world (including the FBI and the US Secret Service), then they must be doing something right.

So is it possible that our past masters did exactly the same thing, by building on instinctive reflexes?

We will never know for sure, but I think it is highly likely.  The video below comes from a F.A.S.T. Defence training session, where you will see the student reacting in way described above.  Have a look and decide for yourself if this instinctive reaction could be the route of the Soto Uke.

Warning:  It contains foul language, so check who is around you first: