In my last blog I wrote about taking your opponent's balance and destroying his structural integrity. I didn't set out specific tactics for accomplishing those tasks, just addressed an overall strategic goal. This week I'll start at the foundation of tactics: Offensive and defensive movement.
I won't be discussing specific footwork, because different schools require different footwork. Some teach very deep, rooted stances, some very light and acrobatic; some teach weak side forward, some strong side. I personally believe you should perform equally well on either side, and that you should be constantly shifting between powerful, damaging entries, and fluid, blending evasions. However, the concepts I'm outlining today should work with whatever your style.
I was taught, and continue to teach, that you should constantly change distance, angle and elevation. It's obvious that if you always operate at the same range, you're easier to predict and counter. The same goes for your angle and elevation. Martial artists have known and taught that for centuries, yet how often do you see striking combinations that feature 17 movements all delivered from the same position, never moving closer or further from the uki, and never defensively shifting the head or body? Not to mention that the uki just stands there and receives the 17 strikes, without reacting or countering. Or Jujitsu combinations performed without any thought to an uki's follow up strike or reaction.
You won't see those combinations in sparring or free practice (rondori), because your opponent is constantly either initiating an attack or countering your attack. The combinations that you see actually work will be elusive and/or deceptive, and set your opponent up for the strike, throw, pin or submission.
second, although that may not really be possible. It just sets the goal of constant, unpredictable movement. This can be especially important when working with edged or impact weapons.
Your "body shifting" or Tai Sabaki doesn't just take place upon the initial approach, but during your technique as well. It doesn't do you any good to set up the perfect strike, lock or throw if you get punched in the face at the same time. And this coordinated head and body movement adds power to your technique while providing an elusive target.
Let me give a few brief examples to illustrate:
1. You just happen to catch your opponent's kick, either inside or outside. You KNOW he's going to follow that kick with a punch, most likely to your face, and try to get his leg back under him. If you just stay where you are and try to lift his kicking leg, sweep the other one, or kick his exposed groin, you may succeed in any of those, but you may get punched in the face at the same time. BUT if you secure the leg to your body, turn your body into his knee, bend your upper body and shoot your leg out for a sweep, you not only potentially lock his knee and take his balance, you make your head and body very difficult for him to hit.
2. You simultaneously parry your opponent's punch (inside or outside), and strike to his head or neck. Realistically he's going to react to your strike both offensively and defensively. You can now be one step ahead of his reaction if instead of staying where you are and continuing your attack, you let your initial strike be your "bridge" to close the distance. Continue following your strike forward and slightly to one side or the other. This will keep your head out of his "power zone" and set up elbows, chokes, sweeps, etc. Once you're that close and can lock up his head or shoulder(s), your "body shift" to the side and down will destroy his balance, limit his ability to hit or throw you, and limit the open targets on your body.
When changing distance remember that it doesn't always just mean alternating closer and further. It can mean pressing your advantage and moving in, in, in, while your uki crumples backward. It can mean working your back angles as you create an opening to move in on. It can mean moving from striking range, to lock up, to take down, to finish or exit.
When changing angle remember that you want your uki to never be confident of where exactly you'll be. Work your forward and backward 45's, and allow that movement, combined with sweeps, strikes, and grabs to create holes in your uki's defense that you can take advantage of. When you've already closed, changing your angle, or "body shifting" will add power to your technique and take power away from his.
When adding your offensive techniques to your movement, remember to vary the elevation of your attacks: from sweeps and ankle picks, to leg and body kicks, to head, shoulder and arm locks. Also you should be defensively moving your head and body during these attacks: think bob and weave.
Obviously, we're just touching on the infinite variety of combinations of movement and attack, but that's exactly the point; why limit yourself to a specific "strong" position, when you can constantly be trading up to a better distance, angle or elevation?
Master Andy Tourin - Director, Goju-Shorei Jujitsu