Friday, December 30, 2005



This is from a newsletter sent today by an old associate, Janette Fennell of Kids and Cars, an advocacy organization she founded after she and her husband were imprisoned in the trunk of their car in a widely publicized incident years ago. She has lobbied tirelessly and successfully about vehicle safety issues that seem to fall through the cracks. For the past couple of years she has tracked deaths of children in non-collision vehicle incidents, particularly drive-over incidents in driveways. Here, then, is her basic list of safety tips to help protect kids around cars. These are worth knowing and sharing with friends and family members.

1. Walk around and behind a vehicle prior to moving it.

2. Know where your kids are. Make children move away from your vehicle to a place where they are in full view before moving the car and know that another adult is properly supervising children before moving your vehicle.

3. Teach your children to never stand behind vehicles, even if the car is parked. And teach children that “parked” vehicles might move. Let them know that they can see the vehicle; but the driver might not be able to see them.

4. Teach your children to never play in, around or behind a vehicle; enforce this rule by keeping toys and sport equipment out of the garage and driveway.

5. Consider installing cross view mirrors, audible collision detectors, rear view video camera and/or some type of back up detection device.

6. Measure the size of your blind zone (area) behind the vehicle(s) you drive. A 5-foot-1-inch driver in a pickup truck can have a rear blind zone of approximately 8 feet wide by 50 feet long. A driver’s blind zone in a large SUV is up to 40 feet long and 7 feet wide - the approximate size of a kindergarten class.

7. Be aware that steep inclines and large SUVs, vans and trucks add to the difficulty of seeing behind a vehicle.

8. Hold children’s hands when leaving the vehicle.

9. Homeowners should trim landscaping around the driveway to ensure they can see the sidewalk, street and pedestrians clearly when backing out of their driveway. Pedestrians also need to be able to see a vehicle pulling out of the driveway.

10. Never leave children alone in or around cars; not even for a minute.

11. Keep vehicles locked at all times; even in the garage or driveway and always set your parking brake.

12. Keys and/or remote openers should never be left within reach of children.

13. Make sure all child passengers have left the car after it is parked.

14. Be especially careful about keeping children safe in and around cars during busy times, schedule changes and periods of crisis or holidays.

15. Teach children that riding in a car is no safer than a carnival ride - sticking their hands, heads or any body part outside of the window is dangerous.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Every Touch Counts

Many people go for joint locks or disarms with a preconception of what move they want to make. It’s good to have a clear goal, but sometimes that mindset means they overlook many possibilities along the way.

Another problem I see is people giving up on a technique when it is 99% complete, thinking it is a failure and looking for another option without seeing the opportunity to secure what they already have. The trick is to follow your opponent’s move until there is no more slack to take up.

A goal I have for my students (and myself) is to be able to respond naturally and intuitively using all our senses, so that we lose the notion of trying to “do a technique” but rather allow our opponent to lead us to whatever technique organically presents itself through his own direction. Bruce Lee talked of having “no technique as technique” and this was his point. If you preconceive what you want to do, it means trying to force that onto whatever is really happening, whether or not it is appropriate to the circumstance. It might fit, but could require more force than absolutely necessary. Work smarter, not harder.

An exercise I’ve been practicing lately is making every touch the opening for something to happen. For example, against a right-handed strike (such as angle #1) people often do a double block (left inward/right outward combination) while moving outside to their left, using their right hand to establish control for a lock or disarm. That’s fine, but how many realize what could have been done from the first contact of the left hand as well? It could grab and reverse with a high outward twist or parry inward to snake down and around into a lock.

Each hand has different moves available, so it’s good to develop aptitude with as many of those options as possible. To this end, take a single attack and practice all the ways each hand can set up joint locks. Some locks are single-handed; some bring both into play. However you set up your opening, you should recognize familiar positions along the way. Eventually all attacks begin to look similar, because once you touch, you are going to go left or right with it using either hand, and that becomes completely intuitive.

One way we practice this is continuous flowing disarms with our eyes closed. You feel a movement, you control with whatever touch is available, you finish. Your counterstrike is the entry for your partner to reverse the disarm on you. We never just hand a weapon back to our partner; we offer him opportunity to do a move.

I call Escrima “the art of making adjustments,” so if something doesn’t work, just move on to the next opportunity. This might sound like a contradiction, but really it is about being unattached to the particular outcome of any specific action. Wristlocks can transition into arm locks or finger controls; arm locks can flow into wristlocks or body locks. Wherever you are, you should know how to flow through whatever changes occur naturally until you are able to lead your opponent into a position from which he cannot easily escape.

At the rodeo, cowboys on bucking horses or bulls don’t direct the powerful animal beneath them; they just try to ride whichever way it moves. Practice with this in mind and see what you might learn.

Longitudinal Joint Lock Exercise

I just came up with an exercise to demonstrate a subtlety in applying certain joint locks, in particular a wing lock. The wing lock is a variation on a figure-4 (particularly evident when both arms are used to secure the hold) except whereas the figure-4 bends the opponent's arm back over his shoulder, in the wing lock the opponent's arm is bent up behind his back. It's called a wing lock because it resembles folding a chicken wing so it stays in place during cooking.

First, the setup for the lock:

The way to execute this lock is using the opposing arm to control the opponent. In other words, use your left arm to control his right, or your right arm to control his left; a mirror approach. Most people do this wrong, reaching across the centerline to grab right with right or left with left. This is both ineffective and leaves the lead side of the body exposed to counters. Thus if you enter from a forward position (face to face), simply slide your closest hand between the opponent's arm and body.

Once you enter, the focus of the wing lock is on the elbow. A common mistake is to slide the hand up the arm, putting pressure on the shoulder. This loses leverage and makes it easier for the opponent to resist and counter. As your hand slides under the opponent's arm, you should concentrate on feeling the crease of the inner elbow with your thumb. You can practice this right now by bending your right arm slightly and then sliding the back of your left hand up the inside of your right forearm.

If you lift slightly as you snake your thumb around the elbow towards the tricep tendon nerve (the slight hollow spot an inch or two above the elbow) you will feel the control. Keep focused in this area rather than reaching with your fingers towards the shoulder. You should also notice as you do this that your left elbow will be lifting the right hand. This is good, because it secures the hold. On an opponent, that allows your upper arm to press his hand towards his spine; this is where the pressure is applied to his shoulder while securing his centerline.

One can simply snake the elbow with the thumb, lifting the opponent's arm to get it to bend, and then press the hand to the spine with your upper arm. That works in an expedient manner. However, Angel Cabales sometimes demonstrated a subtle yet powerful twist of his forearm during this maneuver, using the length of his forearm as a worm gear to force the rotation of the opponent's arm. This is what my new exercise is designed to demonstrate.

Grasp the back of your right wrist with your left hand. Next hook your right hand over the back of the left wrist, a typical joint maneuver to counter the grab. Now if you just press down with the blade of your right hand, there is little effect. If you press while extending your fingers downward, there is a slight increase in pressure, but still not a lot. However, if you point your fingers forward and reach to touch your left bicep while turning the palm downward (pronate) you should notice how the rotation of your right forearm powerfully (and painfully) applies pressure to your left wrist while requiring relatively little force.

This longitudinal torque is probably familiar to many jujitsu-ists, particularly small circle adepts. A Wing Chun person might recognize this as tan sao/bong sau, using a bit of forward grinding or extension as though blocking low rather than an elbow lift for a higher defense.

There are other applications for this forearm torque, most notably for a snaking lock against an opponent's kick. Again the left vs. right (and vice versa) applies, snaking from inside the leg, going under and around. The twist/extension rotates the opponent's leg, which turns his body. As with the wing lock above, this allows you to get to his backside, a position affording you the advantage.

Developing a feel for this technique has several benefits. First, in the wing lock it can allow you to gain control using only one arm, keeping your other hand free. Second, it develops your sticky-hand energy, which increases your awareness and ability to respond to an opponent by touch.

Just remember when working with training partners that joint locks can cause injury. Go slowly enough that your partner can tap out in time, and when the locks are practiced on your, do not resist with force, as that will encourage your partner to begin wrenching harder on you in response. The key to learning locks is communication and observation. When applying locks to the arms, you'll see your control when your partner's shoulder moves. It can be subtle, but once you've taken up the slack you have all the control you'll need.