Progressive Defense: #3 Cashing in on Checks

CHECKING: If it is done properly, it almost intercepts the thoughts of the opponent. At its best the check prevents what will happen before it even starts to happen. The best kind of checks, and there are many, prevent the opponent from following up with the next logical attack. If, for instance, the opponent throws a right punch as I move to avoid or deflect I might also check the potential left hand to prevent a clear path to my face. The check is a natural reaction to what might happen NEXT. Like the expert billiard player this shot sets up the next shot at least to the extent that the opponent doesn’t get a decent next shot.

APPLICATION: Checks come in a wide range of  features. Kung Fu brings them to a fine art but different styles emphasize very different checking formations. In Wing Chun, for instance, there is a strong emphasis on tight checking while in Long Arm styles checking is often about the relationship of your entire body to the opponent. Consider this as you read some of the types of checks used in combat.
POSITION CHECK: This is a check that lies on the path of the opponent’s weapon but doesn’t necessarily touch him. A position check can be as simple as raising your cover hand between your opponent’s fist and your face.
FORWARD CHECK: This is a check that reaches out and touches the opponent preventing his free use of a limb or, in some cases, even his body.
DRAG CHECK: You’ve already struck forward and, successful  or not, you want to withdraw your striking hand and launch an attack with the other hand. As you draw the striking hand back you might as well re-cover the opponent’s limb with a dragging friction check.

WEAKNESS: I love this old Raymond Chandler quote which I remind my students regularly. “Don’t get complicated, Eddie. When guys get complicated they get unlucky.” Checking can become an obsession. The constant checking and rechecking can almost take the place of striking in your attention and then things can go downhill quickly. Checks are aids, not the goal.

HIDDEN TEACHING: Checking is a YIN of movement and remind us of a very important aspect of Kung Fu, namely negative movements that come towards you are, in many cases, as  powerful as outward  movement.

TRAINING: One of the best places to learn about checking is the classical forms themselves. Take this seriously because in many cases the forms are better at teaching you checking patterns than almost any other function they fulfill. Carefully examine the continual alterations in hand positions and notice the balancing of the non-striking hand through position and angle. All the checks you will ever need are there to learn and perfect.


Next: Evasion head on

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