Monday, March 1, 2021
Monday, February 1, 2021
Among many things that martial artists have named badly is the knife hand block.
If you try to block something with that front hand, well, good luck with that. There is a block involved, but the larger, more obvious motion of the front hand really only works as a strike.
There are a lot of style differences in knife hand blocks, so depending on what exactly you study, the specifics are going to be a little different. But in general, the BACK hand is the block (or trap or grab) and the front hand is a strike. And while there is a lot to explore in that back hand, this article is about the striking hand.
There are a few interesting points to notice.
1. Your weight is on the back leg.
Knife hand blocks are almost always done in a back stance, with the weight predominantly on the back leg. This is to facilitate what is going on with the back hand. Many applications involve pulling the enemy forward into the strike , so that back-foot weight distribution helps. But the downside is that the strike has to be effective without putting a lot of weight into it. One way to reliably do that is striking a vulnerable area like the neck.
You have a lot of important things in your neck, and hitting any one of them hard enough can ruin your day if not your life. A committed strike anywhere on the neck is serious business.
|Bringing that oh-so-famous Martial Journeys wisdom.|
2. The carotid sinus is a prime target for the strike part of this technique.
Your carotid arteries are the main way that blood gets into your brain. At the base of each carotid artery you have a squishy spot called the carotid sinus. They have a lot of baroreceptors, which have the job of monitoring blood pressure in the artery so your brain can make sure it's getting the right amount of blood. Too much blood pressure in your brain or too little is very bad, but fortunately your body is pretty good at getting it just right.
While it's certainly not the only potential target for damage in the neck, the carotid sinus is certainly an interesting one. I should digress for a moment to point out that it may or may not be a viable target, depending on what exactly the back hand is doing and even just the chaos of combat, the enemy's neck could be rotated any number of ways. You might not have a good angle on the carotid sinus. Maybe you'll hit the wind pipe or vertebrae. That is not any less serious, but again, that's beyond the scope of this article.
I'm focusing on the carotid sinus for this article because there seems to be a perception (which I'm sorry to say I may have contributed to) that short of a blood choke technique, an attack to this area will be painful but have limited effect otherwise. Actually it can be much worse.
3. This technique can end a fight.
The idea of striking a pressure point and having the person just keel over sounds like some weapons-grade bull. And when something sounds like bull, it's usually bull. Lean into your black belt level eye roll technique and then go hit something to try to blot said bull out of your brain. But it turns out that some interesting and awful things can happen from a strike to the carotid sinus.
|I know my audience, and you are not fans of bull.|
If you really want to understand it, I recommend this article by Brian Sagi, which explains how a strike to the carotid sinus can cause the brain to freak out about changes in blood pressure (I mean, you did squish it pretty good with that strike, and that will definitely affect the pressure, so your baroreceptors are kind of right?) and respond by rapidly decreasing blood pressure in the brain until the person falls unconscious. Lights out, from a strike to the neck.
I would hope this would go without saying, but THIS IS NOT SAFE TO PRACTICE. Although getting hit with this is usually not lethal. Usually.
If you really, really want to practice disrupting a friend's brain function and evacuating blood out of their brain, I have the following recommendations.
2. Watch this video before trying it out.
3. Seriously, don't play games with this stuff.
You can safely practice a knife hand block by striking air, or by your partner keeping a hand up in front of the neck. Hit the hand or arm instead.
Wednesday, December 30, 2020
Unpopular opinion time.
Yes, 2020 was a uniquely awful year. A global pandemic, social isolation, livelihood challenges, a distinct lack of slow news days... hopefully 2020 will be an anomaly that we can all look back on as a weird time that we all got through.
I have gone all-in with the meme that 2020 has been a malicious abomination that is actively out to get us. It has amused me during a time when amusement is a much-needed salve. And I'm not going to stop.
Real talk time.
We made 2020 what it was.
Think about the things that went wrong this year, all the lowest of the low points, and you'd be hard pressed to think of one that wasn't a direct result of--or exacerbated by--decisions made by humans.
Pandemics are governed by science, but humans chose to make it political, to listen to the experts or not, to make one less trip to the grocery or give in and buy the comfort food, to sacrifice one holiday season to save lives or not, to spread misinformation or fact-check diligently, and so forth.
With various parts of the world in government-mandated lockdowns, and other parts of the world leaving it in the hands of the people to make the best decisions to balance necessity against the spread of the disease, a lot of martial arts schools are closed. Very many of us have found ourselves without our classes, instructors, training partners, and sometimes livelihoods. Which, besides being painful, it has also been a test of our ability to adapt, to persevere, and to do what is right even when it is hard.
Isolation has been its own awfulness, and without our classes and training partners, we martial artists have lost a major avenue for social connection, which is no better or worse than the garden variety isolation blues that non-martial artists are facing. It's just easier to go unrecognized, since most of us don't show up to class because we're eager to chit chat. We go to train, and the social component is a less-visible side benefit. 2020 gave us an opportunity to recognize our dojang friendships, casual though they may be, and either do right by those friends or not. After all, those friends have also lost their martial arts classes and social connections.
Looking back on 2020, I can think of many decisions I can be proud of, and just as many things I could have done better. And the problems of 2020 aren't going to magically dissipate on January 1st. It's going to take a lot more than a turn of a calendar page to meaningfully improve humanity's biggest problems.
But, we're up to it, right? We, as martial artists, who proudly say we are physically and mentally strong, that we value character and character growth, that we want to be leaders in our communities (or at least positive influences on those communities), and that we are good people who strongly believe in the power of martial arts to make the world better?
Let's walk the walk. 2021 will be exactly what we humans choose to make it.
Let's do it right.
Friday, May 8, 2020
The main thing is the smell.
- I don't want to smell like food.
- I don't want to smell like a delicate flower.
- I don't want to smell like a hospital.
- I want to smell like a mighty death punch walking the earth in human form, confidently striding amongst mere mortals.
- I want to smell like ten thousand cuts of a samurai sword.
- I want to smell like the goddess Athena, so clearly in a mood after being momentarily inconvenienced by destroying an opposing army, that it only takes a sidelong glance to silence the next mortal who tries to explain warfare to her.
- I want to smell like a flying side kick so powerful and precise that it can rend an entire forest into perfectly cut makiwara materials in a single blow.
Monday, April 6, 2020
(Quick side note: Some of these translations are disputed. Don't shoot the messenger, just have fun.)
Which is a form name, and which is a metal song? Click your answer to find out if you were right!
Attack and Destroy or Seek and Destroy
For the Greater Good of God or Might for Right
Your Body is a Battleground or Internal Divided Conflict
Emperor's Crown or King's Eyes
Rest Calm or Tranquil Force
Power of One or Ancestors
Rise and Fall or Gazing Heavenward
Fighter to the East or South of Heaven
Center of the Universe or Heaven and Earth
Temple Sound or Spirit
Bonus Cheating Round:
13 or 13
Thursday, March 19, 2020
In the face of a global pandemic, martial arts instructors all over the world are looking for ways to help their students train at home while classes aren't being held. My own tiny school is doing this as well. But that does little for the instructors who are also stuck training at home. During these trying times, we have an opportunity to come together and support each other.
In that spirit, I'm offering up the lessons that I created for my students for anyone who wants to try them. Those who read this blog tend to be more advanced than the students these were created for, but you may enjoy them nonetheless.
If you have created exercises or workouts for your students to do at home and want to share them with a wider audience, please leave a comment on this post with the link. I will add them to the official list as quickly as I'm able.
Martial Journeys of Madison At-Home Training
Leigh Simms Progressive Karate
Clubb Chimera Martial Arts Shadow Sparring Workout
Karate Nerd 10-Minute Karate Workout
IMOK Karate Class Video
Iain Abernethy's Applied Karate Kata Bunkai App
Taekwon-Do Senior Instructors Class
Solo Training Dos and Don'ts
Northampton Martial Arts Online Classes
Fine print for those contributing links:
1. Please, only one link per school. If you want to offer multiple workouts, please use a link to a tag or a playlist or some other format that will allow for a concise single link.
2. Please only submit your own content. That way I know I'll only post links with the permission of the person who created it.