Wednesday, October 01, 2008

How does Aikido deal with the jab?

Can Aikido handle the jab?Let's rephrase that: How does the art of Aikido deal with an uncommitted attack of the snappy, balanced flavor? Or, how do you throw, lock, or break a weapon (arm) that isn't there?

I remember experimenting with this during my several years training in Canton Wing Chun. A group of us were training on Pak Sao (an open hand block/parry with the palm) in the basement of our Sifu [instructor], and someone asked, "How would we adapt to deal with a quick boxer?" We huddled up, and started experimenting and discussing, as we usually did. Since I had some (OK, extensive) boxing and kickboxing experience, I served as the sacrificial lamb and did the jabbing. We quickly learned that our traditional techniques had trouble with redirecting an attacking limb that was quickly retracted. Try as we might, the quick, pumping jab was difficult, if not impossible to trap, parry, or drive through.

Months later, one of my si-hing (seniors) came over to train with me, and we went full-contact sparring, pitting his superior WC against my Muay Thai. It was a great day for learning new things! I learned that the high kick is not a good tactic versus a very good WC stylist - it actually hurt my well-conditioned shins when he blocked the kicks. His offense was something I could reasonably handle, but only because I had the WC training, but what was most effective was my jab. The plain, old jab!

Aikido and Judo training also gave me that perspective. I was practicing knife sparring (tanto randori) with a kid no older than twelve, and I was able to handle everything. Except. Except when he "didn't attack me right" and just poked at me with a balanced, uncommitted (his weight was still back and approximately 50-50) stabbing attack. He pumped it, and all of my fancy counters went out the window. And I got stabbed. A lot.

So this isn't focused on the art of Aikido at all, but on anyone who studies a similar style. Chime in via comments - or email (tdatraining at g mail dot com), and let me know if you don't want me to publish your feedback.


Blackbeltmama said...

I'll be watching these comments. I'm interested to know too. My instructor was talking about aikido, judo, jiu-jitsu and their foundations just last week.

Nathan at TDA Training said...

BBM, welcome, and thanks for the comment. I have just the thing for you, a reply post from Pat:

And, congratulations on your recovery and new house! said...

I think this article is a great example of the need to cross train. If you study one art, sparring with just people from that art will leave you only able to deal with attacks youre used to.

Learning to deal with all kinds of attacks can only be accomplished through training with all kinds of people, whatever style. Great post!

Colin Wee said...

Nat - Great topic.

I have spent many many years bending and stretching my syllabus to provide adequate skills to the beginner practitioner to deal with this.

On one level, the folding for blocks are taught as deflections and blocks in themselves. The blocking part of the move is taught as a strike or a follow throw for a throw or aiki type move.

Two handed reiterative movements like you see from wing chun from my syllabus is also included to provide the student some general 'windshield wiping' techniques to counter the job or reiterative snappy punching from non traditional stylists.

A good part of these two combined approaches is to have the elbow placed right in front of your face while you are performing your movement. The backhand provides further coverage. If I'm not wrong I've included some video of some of my students doing an exercise to showcase how a beginner learns this. Defending against straight blast punches to the face

Where I think we diverge away (from what you have discussed in your post) is that the broad range of out aiki skills allow us to bypass the wrist and arm and look at manipulation of the body using the head/neck. In the case of the jab, I reckon that you should just forget the arm and go for the neck - perhaps kokyunage or iriminage.


Jesse Crouch said...

Lots of similar feelings here about Aikido and uncommitted attacks. In that regard Wing Chun is Aikido's worst enemy.

However, I don't try to compare them for a couple reasons:

1. Aikido is based on the sword and generally most applicable toward sword combat you would find on a battle field. Not that uncommitted attacks don't come there, but they're less so because many sword strikes would not work well with such attacks and you don't have time to trade shots when you've got multiple attackers all around.

2. I trained Aikido for a long time and no longer consider it a martial art in the common sense of the term today. Much of the essence of Aikido is in fundamental martial technique (balance, center, footwork) and introspection / inner peace. While it is undeniably a viable art for training certain fighting skills, it is by no means a full system of fighting on its own.

From what I have read of Ueshiba I believe the martial side was never the end goal, but more a means to an end for philosophy and spirituality. I should also note that I greatly enjoy where Aikido has taken me in that regard.

Sam Guthrie said...

Awesome post, Nathan! I, too, have studied both WC & boxing (in a JKD format, big surprise, right?), and I loved WC's response (to a jab) of cutting/sliding over the jab, simultaneously, with your rear hand, striking their face. Also tan sao & hit (simultaneous) can work if you're very mobile & dynamic so you don't eat his cross. Lastly, bong sau can be cool against a jab if you use it to really attack/hit opponent's jabbing forearm or elbow w/your bonging elbow, while, again avoiding his cross by zoning to his outside w/your footwork. Wait, bonging elbow— that doesn't sound legal.

Anonymous said...

In my view the most effective counters to a good jab are low-line kicks (kicks are great tools to intercept with as the leg is longer than the arm) & destructions to the knuckles, nerves and muscles. Even a common hammerfist hitting the offending arm a couple of times with force is usually enough to teach him to keep his distance. Pak sao da and other WC techniques are useful but only at long range, if he comes closer standard boxing defenses (parry, catch, cover, slip, duck, bob& weave) are more practical. For street fighting I'd prefer to gunt his arm or kick the groin or inside of the knee. In any case it's important to counterattack on the jab and not staying passive since this will lead to combined attacks which are significantly more dangerous and harder to defend against than single strikes.


PS: I agree with Jesse, aikido and traditional JJ are not suited to fight a boxer since the attacks and context are totally different. This is why training in boxing is imperative for modern self defense, regardless of your main style. As a jujutsuka I've learned it's near impossible to get in close with a boxer to bring my own tools to bear (locks, throws, chokes) using traditional means, not without eating a few punches on to the way. Once you've succesfully defended his attacks (employing quick, short parries & body evasion) and get your own shot in it's far safer to go for the arm, leg... and take him down. The standard karate blocks we were taught in the beginning only work against committed, karate-style attacks not against boxing punches. Against the wide, swinging type punches commonly employed by drunken, enraged and untrained individuals they work fine, as do traditional JJ and aikido defenses.

Nathan Teodoro said...

So many great comments here!
Zara and Sam, I agree with most of what you're posting here. My curiosity was with the Aikido response to that uncommitted attack, however. I saw a similar problem in Wing Chun, and most styles, though, which rely on committed attacks to mount a successful defense. Interestingly, one of the most important things brought up in your comments is that boxing responses are needed for boxing problems. It makes sense that Boxing should come up with the best responses to boxing problems, but it deserves to be said. In a similar fashion, many BJJ ground techniques are best solved by BJJ (tried and true) defenses or counters. You see it, you learn to defend it. Thanks a bunch for the great comments!

Anonymous said...

You're welcome, glad I could contribute. It's always interesting to see what practioners of other styles have to say about a given problem, especially when they're experienced. As to the ground work: I agree learning BJJ helps a lot and in terms of competition it's probably your only viable option (counter fire with fire) but self defense is a slightly different matter. In this context it could stilll work but there are two problems with this: 1) manouvering for escapes & superior postion takes time, time which you often don't have. The second problem I see is the time needed to acquire enough skill to apply these defenses & follow-up attacks in the stress of a violent situation, especially when punching, biting etcet. enter the picture. The basic escapes are invaluable and should be practiced untill they become second nature (at least when you're even a bit concerned about groundfighting). In my view the best solution is to create enough space between yourself and the opponent (using BJJ-techniques like bridging, shrimping...) and then insert damaging blows like elbows, knees (a good knee to the head is likely to cause knockout which is the ideal situation in SD) or eye-gouges to distract and weaken, then and only then you can escape and get back up asap. BJJ is a great art 1-on-1 and unless you're very good at defending the takedown you'll get taken down or thrown and then you're basically at his mercy unless you're either very proficient yourself, either in pure BJJ or an effective street ground fighting system. Like everything else it has its downsides too, especially in the context of self-defense which is my main area of interest. Every art has its strong points and we try to pick the best techniques and approaches for practical problems we're likely to face for real, especially when the traditional things we've learned are less than optimal or downright ineffective (e.g defense against boxing punches), without claiming expertise in any art but our own.

I once heard a saying by a high ranking instructor that always stuck with me: 'the style that is the most dangerous is the one you haven't got any experience with'. Even experts in their own style can be beaten by lesser trained opponents using a style they don't know or one that capitalizes on their weaknesses, as demonstrated by the Gracies in UFC.