Monday, December 20, 2010

Get off the tracks...

One of the simplest concepts that often proves difficult to apply is to 'get off the tracks'.  I think naturally, we tend to back straight up when we are being attacked.

It is very important to get off the center line.  Sideways, angles, circles, moving in, these are all options.  I see it again and again where people keep backing up.  This is a bad idea.  First off, it's easy to lose your balance and fall or not see obstructions behind you (including another attacker).  Second, it very rarely offers any tactical advantage.   You are in exactly the same place you started off from, and often you're worse off.  Third, it is quite likely you may be bowled over by your attacker if they continue forward.

It's a simple concept, it sounds simple.  It's not so simple to do.  My particular style usually moves in towards the attacker, or off to the sides to best utilize their strength and momentum against them.  We often yield to the opposing force and then re-direct to a position of advantage.

Occasionally, I still find myself backing up, but this is normally during sparring, and less often during Randori.  Spend some time watching other students to see if they tend to move straight back.  Spend some time watching yourself too.

Remember, you're not in control if you're backing up.  You can't plan and get out of danger.  At best, you're just trying frantically to protect yourself, which doesn't help you get control of the situation.  Your opponent can also track you and time their attacks.  A linear target doesn't require the attacker to reacquire their target area and re-aim, they can just keep firing off shots  The same can apply if someone pulls a gun on you, but that's a topic for another post.

So the next time that trains coming towards you, do yourself a favor and get off the tracks!!!


  1. i notice a lot of boxers--compared with traditional martial artists--move their heads much more for this same reason... many mma guys have started to do this (likely from boxing coaches).... the idea is to keep the target moving and to keep the opponent's brain reassessing his/her attack. forest griffin and frank mir are good examples of this.... that said, the traditional guys, in theory, need to move it less as they aren't supposed to position it as far forward as a boxer does.

  2. Our style of jujutsu uses bodymovements (taisabaki) which does exactly what you suggest and what you describe your jujutsu teaches. It's also the same for Yoseikan Budo (I'd be interested if the offshoot Yoseikan karate applies the same approach). Just want to say I really like the 'get off the tracks' explanation. I'll have to remember that one when I'm teaching bodymovements.

  3. J.C,

    It's interesting to see how the landscape is changing. MMA is changing to adapt to the style of straight on face to face combat. Interesting to watch the progression.


    Using body movement to break or disrupt your opponent's balance (kuzushi) is an integral part of our training and is in my opinion, an essential component of any martial art which uses Aiki type concepts or techniques. The mantra of 'get of the tracks' has served me well as an easy way to encapsulate the whole issue of defending from attacks.

    Thanks to you both for your feedback and comments.

  4. You're observation is enlightening. JKD practitioners look forward to the backward steps of opponents because of the applications of trapping.

    When I spar full contact/No-holds barred, I look forward and even try to create this phenomena with my sparring partner. I like to use fakes or even place holds that make them want to move backwards.

    Awesome post!

  5. Elmer,

    Thanks for your comments and for stopping by. I took a quick look at your blog and new website. Congratulations and good luck. I'll be checking back soon.

  6. 'Get off line!' is a frequent chant from our instructor when we are sparring but it's also a principle we use when developing ippon kumite techniques. Though I agree that stepping off line is really important to disrupt an attack, there are actually 8 angles of evasion, including stepping forward and stepping backwards. Stepping backwards can be useful if the attack is a front kick (just to avoid it). The attacker is off balance on one leg anyway, so it is easier to step back in as the kick lands and punch them. Stepping straight in can also disrupt a roundhouse kick. But on the whole I agree - angles are better! Nice article

  7. Sue,

    There are certainly times when moving straight back can be advantageous. As long as it's a deliberate response and not simply back peddling to try to get away from your attacker. Thanks for bringing up the point.