Controlling the Center

Thursday, 18. November 2010

One of the more universal concepts within martial arts is the control of the center of the engagement.  This makes natural sense as when the opponent is within range, so are you.  If not immediately, you are within a step of being potentially in trouble.  As the shortest path between 2 points is a straight line, controlling the center of an engagement becomes paramount.  As with nearly everything however, we have to apply the rule of threes to this.  Controlling your center as well as controlling the center of the opponent equally important.

As for controlling the center of an engagement… there are 2 ways this can be accomplished; directly and indirectly.  The direct method is to have something in between you and your opponent be it an arm or a weapon.   This prevents your opponents from simply closing without consequences and allows you the opportunity to check and parry.  It also allows you to have a simple method of attacking as well through thrusting and striking.  The indirect method is perhaps more interesting, command of  the center is simply “implied” rather than having it physically controlled.  This is accomplished by having a weapon ready to strike or otherwise being able to punish your opponent for attempting to take it.  Indirect control is particularly useful in the case of blunt weaponry where you don’t necessarily want it grabbed and taken away from you.

Controlling your center is important for a large variety of reasons.  The first of which is that it gives you a consistant set Ma-ai for percussion as well as allowing you to be rooted when you do so.  Secondly, a good center will allow you to maintain a good neutral posture which has no tells in your movement… very important or an opponent will exploit these.  Lastly, maintaining that center makes it much more difficult to throw you or otherwise use controlling techniques.

Controlling your opponents center has a number of good applications as well… most of which are listed above however I’ll reiterate them for emphasis.  An off centered opponent is far easier to throw, control or sweep.  Good application of technique will off center them rather easily.  Their movement will also be considerably more predictable, as moving to the off centered sides is far slower as a weight lowering and then shift is necessary to accomplish the task.  In the case that they are forward, their techniques will lack speed, power or the proper distance to do the damage that’s required of them.  There is a number of ways to achieve this;  successfully attacking either of the legs is one of the simpler ones.. as properly applied control will take them out of the fight immediately.

Control of all of these can be accomplished through training proper technique diligently.  That same technique is applicable across all systems, so it is important to get it right and into muscle memory so it can be easily applied.

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2 Responses to “Controlling the Center”



  1. runjikol Says:

    Good article, Grey. It took me a little while to translate your terminology. I’m interested in your thoughts on multiple attackers vs. one defender.



  2. Grey Says:

    Thanks, I had hoped to get it up on Wednesday but my connection at the airport dumped me and with it all my writing~ Here is the nutshell version..
    Multiple attackers are a very bad situation to be in, but there is a couple of advantages as well. You have substancially more targets that you can possibly attack, but also have the disadvantage of being blindsided. Motion is absolutely paramount. You need to be constantly stacking your attackers on top of each other to minimize the incoming ones and use them to block the others attacks. That keeps it down to a far more manageable 1 or 2. Your attacks should be more interested in crippling and keeping people out of the fight rather than trying to finish them off properly. Joints, eyes, throat, groin, etc. The old roman strategy works very well also, run and fight the first person to catch up to you. Repeat as necessary.

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