Experimenting with empi techniques (elbow strikes)

For some bizarre reason, over the last couple of weeks as part of my insatiable habit of walking around the house doing karate, I’ve started rolling in some elbow striking combinations. Like I said, no idea why, but hey, if it feels right, why not?

The previous style of karate I used to train in incorporates two basic empi (elbow strike, also written as enpi depending on your preferred romanisation) techniques – age-empi (rising elbow strike) and mawashi-empi (hook elbow strike). Both of these used to be performed at a standing position like in most of our technique drills, rather than in movement, so until I started using a thrusting empi strike within my current combination techniques in prep for my next grading, I hadn’t spent a lot of time playing with them this way.

It’s interesting, as it’s been a few years since I stopped learning my previous style, and due to the approach my current instructors take with how they teach us in class, I’m finding myself more interested in experimenting with technique, and finding those essential common grounds/princples in form and movement and extending these to other strikes/blocks/kicks/etc. In the case of practicing empi, it means I’m trying to utilise my hips in order to generate greater power and stability in my technique, and I’ve also been looking at how to create an explosive impact to each technique. With the former, I’m finding that by lowering my stance and utlising my hips to a greater extent, it feels as though the technique now has greater “weight” to it, but more importantly, that it has more stability as well!! I think before I wasn’t utilising my torso and legs enough and felt like I was over-extending my body (balance), or that I would be knocked back if the technique was blocked by someone more solid than myself (“weight”). It makes my strikes feel much more effective. These are principles common to a lot of techniques in karate, but having been exposed to a wider variety of techniques over the last couple of years, some of the extra training sessions I’ve had in Koryu Uchinadi, kobudo and other weapon training, it feels as though this latest experimentation is a culmination of principles learned as a result of this wider exposure and additional time practicing.

The other area I’ve started playing with is generating fast, explosive power. In much the same way that a good backfist strike can benefit from a controlled, spontaneous release of energy, I’m currently seeing if I can apply those same principles to empi strikes… well, at least with age- and mawashi-empi strikes. My age-empi strikes are a little rubbish, but not without merrit I think. Where I’m finding greater success with my experimentation is with mawashi strikes, as the combination of solid stance, hips and attention to explosive energy creates an extremely effective technique, at least at close range.

On top of this, I’ve also started applying the technique with greater directional movement – moving either side, lunging forward, things like that. I think my movement is actually in need of a lot of work, as I’m a bit rusty and unsure about moving in and out confidently in a sparring situation, most of which is due to utilising the limited movement I have in my legs. Still, you have to start somewhere!

Working on all of this also helps put into perspective the raw effectiveness of an elbow strike, particularly at such close range where traditional punches or kicks may rendered ineffective, particularly in combination with other joint-manipulation techniques, like parrying a strike and countering with a mawashi-empi, or grabbing the arm and applying an age-empi technique against the soft side of the elbow joint. Like anything, it remains a tool to be used where appropriate and its necessary to consider this when thinking about elbow strikes.

Now my only concern is that, with all this theorising out on the table, my technique isn’t actually a bit on the rubbish side! I’ll make a mental note to have a chat to sensei about it in the future and see his thoughts on my technique and where I can improve.

If you’re keen on some more information on empi, Wikipedia lists them amongst other Shotokan techniques, and there’s also a page dedicated to empi (though the latter is only a stub, rather than a full entry).

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Working on my mawashi geri technique

So last month I whinged about my crap mawashi geri technique, and while I haven’t been to training in a two weeks due to all sorts happening, I’m pleased to say that I haven’t put my training completely out of my mind.

Much as Wifey loves it, I do have the habit of doing karate around the house. Over the last couple of weeks, this has been divided between 2-3 techniques – strong, whipping, flexible and smooth oitsuki (reverse punches), Maegeri (front snapping kicks) and mawashi geri (roundhouse kicks). With the last of those, I’ve been really pissed with my technique of late, so taking into account my belated realisation that I’d already worked out the trick to doing it with one leg, I’ve been practicing to try and get it to work correctly. At first I was constantly over-compensating with the technique and was having trouble retracting my leg fast enough for a graceful landing. It was an improvement, but the overbalance was killing it a bit, too.

So, with a bit more practice, and while far from perfect, I’m managing to snap the technique out and back in again and landing back on my foot without so much of a stumble. I’m also working on utilising my hips more as well – in fact, this lead to something quite interesting that happened only an hour ago – the hips!!!!

I was working up and down the corridor in the house earlier in attempts to be useful (having some issues with the server, and in getting an old IDE hard drive for McAdam that was inaccessible due to an old Norton Ghost/Type 44 partition — doing both at the same time also meant it took abnormally long to get either fixed :P), and I thought I’d try something different with my front kicks… I’ve always read and watched those with two legs perform snapping or normal front kicks and utilise their hips, but I’ve always really struggled as utilising your hips relies on a degree of muscular and body symmetry… and lacking a limb, naturally there are some issues with this 😉 So I thought – bugger it, give it a crack and hopefully you won’t fall over 😀

… and it worked!

I mean, it looked a bit stupid and I couldn’t kick anywhere near as fast as I would with an ordinary snap kick, but I think there was considerable more power in there.

And the trick? Same as with the mawashi geri, use your arms/shoulders/upper torso to take over and assist the hips.

Hopefully in time I’ll get more coordinated at it!!

Oh, and something else has been fun as well lately – I’ve always loved the kicking demonstrations where the martial artist performs multiple kicks with one leg, kinda like foot-boxing or something 🙂 Anywho, I’ve been trying for years now to pull off doing two proper kicks with my real leg (and therefore balancing on the left or the prosthesis, which is where it gets tricky 😉 ), and note that I said proper kicks, not stupid little kicks that look more like leg lifts than kicks 😀 Anywho, I think I’m finally making progress on this – granted there’s not a lot of utility with with this one, it’s there for fun and training balance. Again, getting control to actually start making the two kicks look like actual kicks has come down to greater mastery and control with my hips, so I figure I’m on the way 😀 If it actually starts becoming decent, I’ll let you know.

Hmmm, should sign this one off for some awesome tomfoolery 😀 Stay tuned 🙂

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