Movement Mid Positions
In most martial arts, the main focus is put on the movement itself, wereas the mid position is equally important – this is where the technique is being set up and the opponent is being put into the position you need them to be. There are reasons for everything in martial arts – it is not randomness where hands and feet move to when loading up for a movement. You should question everything - why are the hands where they are during load-up? There are two reasons:
Yin Yang - 'Load-up' vs 'Blocking and Grabbing'
The Yin Yang tells us there are at least two reasons for everything, and it is true here also. One reason for mid-positions is, in fact, just loading up for the technique - you need to bring your hand back to then strike or block with force. This does not explain, however, why hands need to be in a particular position or why one hand is on top of another. The second, and less taught, reason is that it is a blocking and/or grabbing method. The mid-position is a critical and frequently overlooked tool.
Load-up for a technique
The load up for each technique has its use in the application of the defense
There are several aspects to mid-positions.
1. Movements should be done from a firm stance.
2. Your head turns to face the direction the technique will be delivered. You need to see what is happening in that direction before you react to it, so it is important to get used to this in training
3. The stepping foot moves close to the stationary foot and the hands come together. This comprises of two parts:
- Legs - The feet coming together is for balance. Bringing your feet together moves your centre of balance over your supporting foot, so you will have more control of your direction. Your knees bend slightly to help you 'spring' into the new position
- Hands - load-up is different for different movements so these will be described seperately, but generally palms will be facing in opposite directions and the power hand is almost always the closest to your body. As described in the Centre of Distance, the further out your arm is, the weaker it will be - so the hand which needs the most strength needs to be closest to your body. Having it the wrong way around will feel awkward.
4. The moving foot steps out and the technique is performed.
1. From a start position
2. The head turns to face the position the technique will be delivered.
3. The stepping foot moves close to the stationary foot and the hands come together
4. The moving foot steps out and the technique is performed
Let us look at the left Lower Block – blocking from the outside of their body to the inside.
1. As the opponent’s right hand comes out, your left hand blocks theirs inward. This is one of the safer moves, as it is moving their hand across their body and blocking their left hand, preventing a second strike.
2.As your hand moves their across their body, your right hand comes underneath and continues to push their hand away. This position is mid-way through the technique – your left hand loaded up, palm towards your right ear, and your right hand beside your left, palm out, ready to grab the opponent’s wrist.
3. Your right hand grabs their right wrist, and rotates it clockwise while pulling in to your waist. This movement further twists their body away from you as well as pulling them off balance and towards your strike. The twisting of their body exposes their right ribs for the strike.
Strike is blocked
Grabbing their hand and loading up your counter
Pulling opponent in and executing your strike
Step 3 above also explains why the striking hand is loaded up on the inside - if it loaded up on the outside, it would prevent you from cleanly grabbing the opponents wrist.
Looking at the same movement – blocking from the inside to the outside.
1. As the opponent’s left hand comes out, your left hand blocks theirs outward
2. As your hand moves their arm out, your right hand comes underneath and continues to push their hand away. This position is mid-way through the technique – your left hand loaded up, palm towards your right ear, and your right hand beside your left, palm out, ready to grab the opponent’s wrist
3. Your right hand grabs their left wrist, and rotates it clockwise while pulling in to your waist. This movement twists their body away from you as well as pulling them off balance and towards your strike. The twisting of their body moves their right hand away from you preventing a second strike and exposes their left ribs for your strike.
Blocking the strike outward
Loading up for your counter
Grabbing opponents wrist and executing your strike
Training Mid Position vs Self Defence Mid Position
The information above describes the mid-positions as performed in training. They are technically correct, and deliver a crisp and professional movement. This is done so all students look the same and move at the same time – it looks beautiful. There is, however, a difference between the perfect world of the Dojo (training hall) and the practicalities of the real world.
As described, both the feet and the hands move to the mid-positions at the same time, and move to their final positions at the same time.
In practice, however, the time you block a forceful strike is not the time you want to be balancing on one foot. The opponents strike should be blocked while you are in a strong stance and then you move your feet into the mid-position. For the same reason, you step into your new stance a fraction of a second before your hand technique is performed so that it is landed while you are in a strong stance
Real World – hands block attack
Real World – hands and foot loads up
Real World – foot touches ground fractionally before the hand strikes
This is for two main reasons:
1. Moving your hands is a lot faster than moving your body to a new position. When an opponent strikes, the defence must be instantaneous – you can block even before your foot leaves the floor.
2.Most blocks and strikes uses the twisting of the torso to add power – and you can only generate this twisting by having both feet firmly on the ground.
So, the real world application would be block, move foot to mid-position, move foot to final position, and then strike with hand - four distinct movements done together as quickly as possible. When you get the speed, it will look more like two movements.
Alternative Load-up positions.
As we keep mentioning, the Yin Yang says there are at least two options for everything. That means there is an alternative to the load-up positions that we show here, and there is.
While we mainly show the load-up positions of a lot of the movements is beside the head or by the shoulders, there are clubs which train the load-ups in front of the body. The Upper Block, for example, can be loaded up in front of the stomach, and the blocking hand raises vertically upward into the position. There are certainly a few applications for this movement, but since it does not use the hips or shoulders to help execute the movement, it mainly relies on the strength of the arm and therefore will not be as effective. It is for this reason we do not advertise this method.
From a ready stance
Loading at the side as per instruction
Body twists and arm extends for a strong block
Alternative - from ready stance
Alternative - load-up in front of the body
Alternative - execute block. Only using upward arm movement and not the body means less power.
Which hand goes on top?
One confusing aspect to mid-positions, or load-ups, is which hand goes where. Does the striking hand go closest to the body or on the outside?; do palms face opposite ways or the same?
There are two answers to each and they relate to what technique you have chosen. The Yin Yang explains there are Hard techniques and Soft techniques. The loadup can be different for each. While these are discussed below, for training, we use the rules for Hard techniques – you then modify them when learning the Soft techniques.
There are a few standard rules which fit most movements:
1. The vast majority of movements require the hands to rotate during execution. If in doubt of the load-up, perform the final movement, and the hands need to face the opposite way than they are now. If either hand does not rotate while performing the movement, the most power will not be gained.
2. The ‘Centre of Distance ‘states you can gain more power by using your body weight if your striking hand is closer to you. For this reason, when the hands on the load-up are beside each other, the striking hand is almost always closest to your body and the balance hand on the outside. Eg Lower Block, the striking hand is closest to the body.
3. The further the hand travels, the more speed it can achieve and it will strike harder. For this reason, when the hands on the load-up are stacked on each other, the striking hand is almost always furthest from the impact point. Eg Inner Forearm, the striking hand is on the bottom
Hard Techniques - Power hand inside, palms opposite
Inner Forearm - Power arm loads up below the balance arm
Soft Techniques (Grappling)
Grappling is the gripping and holding of the opponent. This is the soft method of self defense, compared to the hard hitting. Grappling movements do have some exceptions to the rules already discussed as they do not need to gain the type of power that the Hard techniques require. Load-up position now relies more on where the opponent is.
Exception 1. The power hand can be the outside hand where you are grabbing the opponent
Exception 2. While the power hand will still almost always rotate during execution of the movement, sometimes the balance hand will not
Example - using the Lower Block to release a grab and apply a wrist lock
From left to right wrist grab
Right hand rotates upward
Left hand reaches underneath - power hand on outside, palms both inward
Grab opponents hand and Lower Block to apply wrist lock