|Motobu Choki (left) and Kano Jigoro (right)|
Kano Jigoro, the founder of judo, once met with Motobu Choki to discuss martial arts. We don’t know a great deal about that conversation, except what Motobu told to his students. According to Motobu, they talked about many things, but “…about karate, he [Kano] asked me what I would do if my punch missed. I answered that I would immediately follow with an elbow strike from that motion.” For a long time, I found this statement to be hard to believe, because I certainly couldn’t turn a punch into an elbow strike! After working on it for a while, though, I discovered that it was definitely possible. In fact, it wasn’t just possible–it was a great idea!
In the animated GIF, above, you can see Paul Enfield Sensei–a senior student of Taira Masaji Sensei and former uchi-deshi (live-in student) of Higaonna Morio Sensei—using a makiwara to train a punch and elbow that flow together in one motion. I am nowhere near as smooth or powerful as Enfield Sensei, but I do work on this technique on the heavy bag and, to a lesser extent, the makiwara. It takes some work to get a feel for the flow, and it’s easy to lose the punch by being too focused on the elbow strike.
|Turning a punch into a trap into an elbow during jiyu kumite (free sparring)|
If you use this technique as an actual punch and elbow, it works best when your opponent has avoided your punch by moving to the outside of the attack. They could do this by moving their head, or parrying your punch. Either way, it leaves them lined up for the elbow strike. If they move to the inside, you can still catch them with an elbow, if they haven’t moved very far, but it isn’t as powerful. In the animated GIF, above, you can see that my partner blocks my telegraphed lead punch, pressing it to the outside, but I counter by trapping his hand down and following with the elbow. It’s essentially the same technique, but with a hand trap added in. If you miss with the elbow, you still have a strong backfist or hammerfist in the chamber, ready to fire.