Sunday, March 20, 2016

Dead Center

(thanks for the inspiration Guro Rose)

The picture denotes the "Line of Pain", illustrating that many of the most common pressure points used in self-defense are located along the centerline of the body.  These are by no means exhaustive, but they highlight the importance of controlling the opponent's centerline (and protecting one's own).

Defining combat situations involves several three-dimensional zones.  Among them are the horizontal planes --- high line, medium line and low line (which equate to lines of the shoulders, waist/belt and groin or lower, such as knees and ankles/feet), distances (far, medium and close which generally equate to kicking, punching/striking and CQB/grappling), and longitudinal axes (inside/outside, which equate to passing in front of the chest or across the back, respectively).

The centerline is important for a number of reasons beyond just an understanding of pressure points.  The centerline represents the most direct way of accessing the opponent's balance via control of the head, neck and spine (which are of course all along the centerline).  It can be said that the simplest goal in a fight is to get access to and control the head, neck and spine since this is the mechanism for all human movement.  Power is generated along the spine and into the muscles and joints effectively only with proper posture, and posture is determined by the relative position of the head, neck and spine.  Once these are manipulated it is not possible for an opponent to have effective strength or balance.

In Kali Majapahit, we are often encouraged to "GET IN", meaning to move inside of the range of the opponent's punches or kicks, usually to control the centerline.  This is an important habit for beginner martial artists because the fear response usually makes us want to move away from any attack, and that leads to covering up and getting hammered.  Getting in gives us the best chance of putting aggression back on the attacker and breaking their focus and intent.

Influences of Hakka martial arts such as Wing Chun emphasize the study of the centerline and build their strategy around it.  Aikido and other Japanese martial arts consider it as well, and many of them seek a direct line to the opponent's torso for the definitive technique.

As we become better skilled, we should continue to consider that the ultimate goal should be to disrupt the structure and balance.  This can be done at any distance, across any horizontal plane, or through movement to either inside or outside axes (as well as the split entry).  Various systems prefer various combinations, but the outcome should always be one where the opponent's balance and structure are compromised.  This is an important lens which can be used to study any technique of any style.

Very much like a game of tennis, every hit is followed by a return to a central "ready position" (in tennis this is center court) from which it is easier to move to any new location in response to the opponent's next hit.  Strategically, good tennis players use the court (especially the sidelines) to work their opponents and prevent him/her from being able to be back to center.  Too far to the side, or too far front or back and an opening to finish the point is created and usually exploited.

Good chess players as well know how critical it is to own the middle of the board, and there are many famous texts on the implication of each position and move relative to the center of the chessboard.

Defensively, I often remind my students to "protect the box", referring to four corners at each shoulder and each hip point.  These four corners bound the center mass and we try to keep the opponent "outside the box" as a general rule.  We aim to be compact and centered, staying inside the opponent's box while defending our own.  Since Filipino martial arts are based on blades, it is not hard to see the benefit of protecting the box, since the majority of our vital organs are within the four corners.

Of many important concepts in martial arts, centerline is one of the cornerstones and worthy of significant study and consideration.


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