Archive: Learning new techniques

Source: Gisoku no Jutsu
Original post date: 24 August, 2007

Part of being an above-knee amputee is accepting that it’s tricky learning new techniques and mastering ones you’ve already been taught – granted this is difficult for anyone trying to master any kind of martial art, but when you’ve lost a limb (or part thereof) in a discipline that is designed to work your entire body in perfect harmony, you get some tricky stuff coming up. To this day I still can’t fire off a decent round kick with my right leg as I have very little support from my prosthesis on my left – I don’t have a foot to subtly shift my centre of balance, I don’t have an ankle to control the pivoting of my body, and I don’t have a knee to take the weight and securely leverage and assist my hips in swinging through a powerful kick; in contrast, I can feel all of this working in natural coordination when I kick with my fake leg and accordingly stand using my right. The best analogy for someone able-bodied is to imagine that they have to kick with their good leg whilst they balance on a stilt attached to their hip with a hinge in the middle in place of a knee – not only do you have to balance yourself by default, but if you shift your weight a little you’ll go arse-up as the hinge will cause the leg to collapse on itself. It means that your stance isn’t as stable as you would like, and its from your stance that you deliver true power.

On a technical note, there are legs with knee units that can counter the ‘collapsability’ of the knee unit I use; the side-affect of such a knee is that by doing this, I lose the ability to swing my left leg around and snap it back like a nunchaku. The knee I use is better suited to the way I use my leg, and it has the benefit of being servicable locally.

So, technicalities aside, I’ll get to the point of this post. Due to my physical condition, there has been a bit of self-taught/self-learnt techniques, or rather, variations of existing techniques better suited to my body. I’ve started working these out over time, but I thought it might be a good opportunity to start to write about them, if I haven’t mentioned them already 😛

The easiest (and the first) variation I learnt came early on, after I’d been training for about 6+ months and I had my boxing station to help with my training. When breaking down a simple round-kick, the move consists of raising your leg (bent) so that it’s horizontal to the floor, swinging through with your hips and letting your leg swing out, quickly retract it once it hits full extension, then return to your stance. The variant on this technique is what I call a ‘torque kick’; the principle movements are the same, but it employs a greater swinging action by using your supporting knee and your hips to generate a much greater level of impact.

I’ll explain by using myself as a reference – remember that my right leg is the good leg, and the left is my above-knee prosthesis; I’m not sure if this will be of much use to below-knee amputees, but I thought it might still be interesting in case the technique some how helps them. First up, start off in a short fighting stance. Slide your right foot across a little to your left, keeping your foot pointed straight ahead like you normally would in a short fighting stance; keep your left leg in the same spot. Doing this should twist your hips very slightly.

Next, keep your right leg in the same position, but twist your right foot further to your right about 10 – 15 degrees and turn your hips slightly clockwise. This movement is what earns this technique its name – you’re literally holding your body in a twisted position and have all the muscles in your leg, hips and torso torqued nice and tight.

Next, release all of the built-up pressure and swing the leg out using your stump, leg, hips and torso (in that relative order) into the target. The result, with practice, should be an incredibly powerful round-kick into your target. When I got the hang of the move, I spent a good 10-20 minutes pounding my boxing bag with the kick repeatedly, using both the foot and the steel pole of the ‘shin’ without the padded cover as striking points. The technique proved so effective that I actually tore the bag apart, sending shit everywhere. It was supremely awesome in the heat of the moment, but it also meant I had to grab another bag 😛

All that being said, the technique is certainly not without fault. It’s difficult to master control of the technique, making it extremely dangerous if performed outside of the appropriate circumstances, and never, ever use it when sparring; never.

Secondly, the pressure it places in your joints (ankle/knee/hips/lower back) is quite high and without the proper precations and care, you could do yourself a pretty serious injury to these vital parts of your good leg and your lower back – don’t say you haven’t been warned!!

Finally, if you don’t connect with your target and you haven’t mastered control of the technique (which is difficult as it relies un unleashing a large portion of stored energy), you’ll be leaving yourself open for a nasty counter attack. Again, don’t let me tell you that you’ve been warned 😛

I was going to write about a couple of other variations I’ve worked on, but I’ve waffled on enough for one post 😛 The names I’ve attributed to some of the other variations include the spinning-heel strike (like a modified roundhouse kick, but taking advantage of the strength of the artificial foot), modified jumping round kick, inside-out hook kick, jumping inside-out hook kick and modified-ish jumping roundhouse kick (possibly evolving into a modified tornado kick – we’ll see how it goes).

I’m hoping to actually throw together some footage of some of these techniques as well as some basics that show how amputees can perform and control a number of the basic moves if people are interested, and will probably fire up a blog and send out a bulletin whenever I get around to doing it. I’ll probably get it done whenever I manage to get Wifey to take some training photos, which we’ve been meaning to do for ages. I’m keen to share all I can about how these excellent moves can be modified to suit the limits of what amputees can do. I think what I’m afraid of is coming off like some kind of faux-expert, when I’m a student through-and-through, and am always learning from my teachers and from personal experience. Humility is the best trait one can have when doing martial arts, and my fear is that this won’t be reflected if I throw some footage together or what-not. Having had to learn a lot of this myself through trial and error, I’m hoping that by showing it in motion it’ll be easier for people to understand.

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