|First move of Seiunchin kata,|
breaking the attacker's grab.
And with that, the boy raised his bowl, palm up with his arm bent at the elbow. And the master shrugged with that universal gesture of ignorance, shoulders lifting, with both arms brought up and out, away from the body, palms turned up to heaven, as if to say, "What the dickens! I have no idea."
|Initiating an arm-bar to bring|
the opponent down.
No, there was no bowl, there was no master, and of course there was no little orphaned boy named Oliver. But I did find myself thinking about this gesture the other day while doing Seiunchin kata. I thought, "Why bring the hand up in this curious gesture, as if you're raising your bowl for the cook to fill?" I can see what's going on here: the grab release, the control of the arm, the attack to the head. But if you're just grabbing the head from the down position, why bring the hand up this way? And even less satisfying is the way some schools interpret this as an inside block of a second attack.
I don't know about you, but I find that explanation about as satisfying as a bowl of watery gruel with a stale bread crust. So, let me describe what's happening so that we're all on the same page, so to speak. In the opening move of the kata, you step forward on an angle into shiko dachi, bringing the arms up with the hands out, palms up, more or less back to back out in front. Then the hands close and are brought down and out to the sides. Then the left hand is brought up to the ribs and the right hand comes up into this curious palm-up position at shoulder level. Then the right hand turns over, pulling in as the left open hand pushes out.
|Rolling on the opponent's arm to|
control the elbow.
Now I realize that in many traditional circles this first move is used to grab the wrists of an attacker who's got both his hands around your throat and is trying to choke the breath out of you. But if that's the case, there's no reason to step into the attack or forward as the kata does. (Some teachers maintain that even though the kata shows forward movement, it's really meant to be applied stepping back--as if we're supposed to do the opposite of what a kata shows--an example of the kind of logic we often find when it comes to martial arts applications!) So if we could, for the moment, imagine that an attacker has grabbed one's left wrist or arm with his left hand. Both arms are brought up to break the grab. The defender moves to the outside. In bringing the arms down and out, as in the second movement, the defender's left hand reverses the grip of the attacker and grabs the attacker's wrist with the right forearm being brought down on the elbow. Then, maintaining one's left-hand grip on the opponent's wrist as it is brought up to "chamber," the right arm is rolled in this "Oliver Twist" palm-up position, maintaining contact and control of the opponent's arm. With the opponent brought forward and down, the right hand then turns over and grabs the opponent's head, while the left spear-hand attacks the neck. This "rolling" quality of the arm-bar technique is found repeatedly in Goju-ryu kata.
|Grabbing the head and attacking|
I'm not sure that's a very adequate description of this "rolling" technique or coiling, as they might call it in the classical Chinese arts. Perhaps it would be better to call it a "twisting" motion, since both arms are really used to execute it. Or we could call it the old Oliver Twist, 'cause it looks sort of like you're raising an empty bowl.