Chushin - The Centre Line

Gyakuto

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I was practising some of Wado Ryu’s ‘Kihon Gumite’ on my own, in between sets in the gym this morning. I used a floor board as a convenient centre line (chushin in Japanese) off which I’d just move to avoid an imaginary attack and perform the appropriate defence. It suddenly struck me how silly this idea of moving off chushin was since the attacker would merely have to slightly change their angle of attack, in real time, to render the defender’s little twist or side step useless and land their kick or punch. It’s such a ubiquitous concept in the MAs and it looks impressive in pre-arranged sparring or a class demo, when the punch or kick just misses it’s target, but practically it just wouldn’t work because any assailant worth their salt, would just need to subtly redirect their attack. To make it work you’d have to make a big deviation from the midline (the width of several of my gym’s floorboards) which would be difficult to hide. It’s the same in swordsmanship, Wing Chun, Aikido.

Is the idea of the importance of chushin another flashy MA myth? Does this idea exist in boxing/MMA/BJJ?
 
I was practising some of Wado Ryu’s ‘Kihon Gumite’ on my own, in between sets in the gym this morning. I used a floor board as a convenient centre line (chushin in Japanese) off which I’d just move to avoid an imaginary attack and perform the appropriate defence. It suddenly struck me how silly this idea of moving off chushin was since the attacker would merely have to slightly change their angle of attack, in real time, to render the defender’s little twist or side step useless and land their kick or punch. It’s such a ubiquitous concept in the MAs and it looks impressive in pre-arranged sparring or a class demo, when the punch or kick just misses it’s target, but practically it just wouldn’t work because any assailant worth their salt, would just need to subtly redirect their attack. To make it work you’d have to make a big deviation from the midline (the width of several of my gym’s floorboards) which would be difficult to hide. It’s the same in swordsmanship, Wing Chun, Aikido.

Is the idea of the importance of chushin another flashy MA myth? Does this idea exist in boxing/MMA/BJJ?
I don't know the term you're using, but we have a concept called 'tai sabaki' or body shifting, to remove yourself from the fight line. This is seen in Isshinryu in the kihon called "Otoshi Geri," in which one steps out on a 45 degree angle, sweeps to capture an incoming punch, and kicks with the leg at about a 45 degree angle to the floor to the attacker's midsection. Not entirely unlike a more common mawashigeri. It does require 'sen no sen' to be effective - you're reacting to an attack that is being or has has already been launched, rather than anticipating. It seems to me that it's a bit harder for an attacker to change their angle of attack once they're starting to throw their punch.

One only has to watch boxers slip a punch to see that this can be quite effective, IMHO.
 
I don't know the term you're using, but we have a concept called 'tai sabaki' or body shifting, to remove yourself from the fight line. This is seen in Isshinryu in the kihon called "Otoshi Geri," in which one steps out on a 45 degree angle, sweeps to capture an incoming punch, and kicks with the leg at about a 45 degree angle to the floor to the attacker's midsection. Not entirely unlike a more common mawashigeri. It does require 'sen no sen' to be effective - you're reacting to an attack that is being or has has already been launched, rather than anticipating. It seems to me that it's a bit harder for an attacker to change their angle of attack once they're starting to throw their punch.

One only has to watch boxers slip a punch to see that this can be quite effective, IMHO.
I suppose with a weapon, such as a sword, where a glancing blow or a slice from just pressing the blade against one’s enemy, the idea of chushin is a bit meaningless. boxers slipping punches is a very good point.
 
I used a floor board as a convenient centre line (chushin in Japanese) off which I’d just move to avoid an imaginary attack and perform the appropriate defence. It suddenly struck me how silly this idea of moving off chushin was since the attacker would merely have to slightly change their angle of attack, in real time, to render the defender’s little twist or side step useless and land their kick or punch.
So this is how it works. You want to encourage a linear punch and make your opponent commit to it. In TMA the slip is often done with the use of a guard hand that prevents your opponent from adjusting the punch.

It's a sound technique. If it doesn't work for you then you are probably missing a piece of the setup which is also common in TMA kata and forms.
 
I suppose with a weapon, such as a sword, where a glancing blow or a slice from just pressing the blade against one’s enemy, the idea of chushin is a bit meaningless. boxers slipping punches is a very good point.
This works with weapons as well. Swords and spears cannot change their linear path like a bent arm.

If you know the path of a strike then you should have a very good chance of redirecting it.
 
Is the idea of the importance of chushin another flashy MA myth? Does this idea exist in boxing/MMA/BJJ?
The concept absolutely exists and works in Boxing/Muay Thai/MMA/BJJ as well as in various weapons arts like HEMA and Kali. It's an essential element of becoming a high-level fighter.

The problem is with how it is often taught and demonstrated in many TMAs.

It's super common in many arts to present demonstrations where the attacker commits to a linear attack and then stands frozen in place like a doofus (often with the punch extended) while the defender moves off-line and executes all sort of counter-attacks from the superior angle. This is arguably justifiable in the very beginning as an illustrative tool so new students can see what's going on.

The reality of using this tactic in fighting is a bit different ...

  • You have to time your off-angle movement correctly so your opponent doesn't just follow you. This can work in a few ways. You might move offline just as your opponent is fully committed to his attack and can't change his trajectory. You might pre-emptively change angles as you attack so that your opponent has to adjust their angle while defending, making their defense more awkward. You might change angles in the middle of a attack combination, so that your opponent has a hard time seeing what you are doing. (This works particularly well if you can cover their vision while you step offline. Lomenchenko is a master of this.
  • Once you do win the superior angle, you typically only have a split second to take advantage of it before your opponent adjusts. If you are prepared to do so, you may be able to land one or two free shots that you wouldn't have otherwise. This is obviously very different from demos where the instructor moves around the opponent executing a 15-move combo.
  • If you do want to maintain a superior angle after achieving it, you have to continue anticipating how your opponent will move to square back up and keep adjusting your own footwork to stay ahead. This is very advanced stuff and even high level fighters who are masters of footwork can only manage to maintain such an advantage for a few seconds at a time (as opposed to the split second you normally get).
In ground grappling (whether BJJ, Judo, wrestling, or whatever), things are a little different. Once you win a positional advantage, you'll usually be able to maintain it for a minimum of a few seconds and sometimes minutes or even for the full duration of a match. IMO, this is one of the biggest differences which affects how ground grappling plays out differently from stand-up striking.
 
I was practising some of Wado Ryu’s ‘Kihon Gumite’ on my own, in between sets in the gym this morning. I used a floor board as a convenient centre line (chushin in Japanese) off which I’d just move to avoid an imaginary attack and perform the appropriate defence. It suddenly struck me how silly this idea of moving off chushin was since the attacker would merely have to slightly change their angle of attack, in real time, to render the defender’s little twist or side step useless and land their kick or punch. It’s such a ubiquitous concept in the MAs and it looks impressive in pre-arranged sparring or a class demo, when the punch or kick just misses it’s target, but practically it just wouldn’t work because any assailant worth their salt, would just need to subtly redirect their attack. To make it work you’d have to make a big deviation from the midline (the width of several of my gym’s floorboards) which would be difficult to hide. It’s the same in swordsmanship, Wing Chun, Aikido.

Is the idea of the importance of chushin another flashy MA myth? Does this idea exist in boxing/MMA/BJJ?
Yes, it exists in boxing/MMA. It's timing. Move when the opponent can't change.

What is Wado-Ryu? Karate, Jujutsu, Japanese swordsmanship...

 
you're reacting to an attack that is being or has has already been launched, rather than anticipating. It seems to me that it's a bit harder for an attacker to change their angle of attack once they're starting to throw their punch.
This is the main point - timing - not too soon, not too late. As JowGaWolf said, "make your opponent commit to it." It's hard to change the angle of attack once initiated, not only physically, but mentally as well.

But what's just as important as the angle of his punch is the angle of his weight (momentum). This is much harder to change and adjust. So, even if the attacker can adjust this punch, his weight (power) will not be behind it. Even if he manages to catch you as you're moving off-line, the effect of his punch will be significantly reduced.

you should have a very good chance of redirecting it
I think this is the other main point. Tai sabaki, body movement alone, will not always do the job. It may work well in demos, or even sport tournaments, but not the more accelerated actual fight. It must be accompanied by an active parry to redirect/deflect the attack an extra few degrees.

Since one's guard is closer to the attack it can intercept it, deflecting it a few inches, giving the body room to safely move off-line. This also has the side benefit of getting you in contact with the attacker (control) to set up your counter.

edit - the video above shows all this well.
 
Yes, it exists in boxing/MMA. It's timing. Move when the opponent can't change.

What is Wado-Ryu? Karate, Jujutsu, Japanese swordsmanship...

I’ve seen the sword defence in Wado Ryu (including the founder, Ohtsuka Hironori at Crystal Palace in the 80s). It’s truly awful and they’d be sashimi double quick!
 
This is the main point - timing - not too soon, not too late. As JowGaWolf said, "make your opponent commit to it." It's hard to change the angle of attack once initiated, not only physically, but mentally as well.
sen no sen, as they say.
 
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The concept absolutely exists and works in Boxing/Muay Thai/MMA/BJJ as well as in various weapons arts like HEMA and Kali. It's an essential element of becoming a high-level fighter.

The problem is with how it is often taught and demonstrated in many TMAs.

It's super common in many arts to present demonstrations where the attacker commits to a linear attack and then stands frozen in place like a doofus (often with the punch extended) while the defender moves off-line and executes all sort of counter-attacks from the superior angle. This is arguably justifiable in the very beginning as an illustrative tool so new students can see what's going on.

The reality of using this tactic in fighting is a bit different ...

  • You have to time your off-angle movement correctly so your opponent doesn't just follow you. This can work in a few ways. You might move offline just as your opponent is fully committed to his attack and can't change his trajectory. You might pre-emptively change angles as you attack so that your opponent has to adjust their angle while defending, making their defense more awkward. You might change angles in the middle of a attack combination, so that your opponent has a hard time seeing what you are doing. (This works particularly well if you can cover their vision while you step offline. Lomenchenko is a master of this.
  • Once you do win the superior angle, you typically only have a split second to take advantage of it before your opponent adjusts. If you are prepared to do so, you may be able to land one or two free shots that you wouldn't have otherwise. This is obviously very different from demos where the instructor moves around the opponent executing a 15-move combo.
  • If you do want to maintain a superior angle after achieving it, you have to continue anticipating how your opponent will move to square back up and keep adjusting your own footwork to stay ahead. This is very advanced stuff and even high level fighters who are masters of footwork can only manage to maintain such an advantage for a few seconds at a time (as opposed to the split second you normally get).
In ground grappling (whether BJJ, Judo, wrestling, or whatever), things are a little different. Once you win a positional advantage, you'll usually be able to maintain it for a minimum of a few seconds and sometimes minutes or even for the full duration of a match. IMO, this is one of the biggest differences which affects how ground grappling plays out differently from stand-up striking.

Martial Arts in general tends to complicate itself. I’m not sure why, maybe as a result of trying to teach things clearly and safely.

I think it’s more so in situations that don’t have controlled contact to the facial area.

I try to picture myself when I first started boxing training. And have my sparring partner hold that jab in the frozen doofus pose for me to counter with a sweet combination.

It has been my experience that Martial Striking Arts have quicker hand strikes than boxing. Which muddies the waters of the doofus pose even more.

I don’t know, maybe I’ll figure it out one day.
 
Martial Arts in general tends to complicate itself. I’m not sure why, maybe as a result of trying to teach things clearly and safely.

I think it’s more so in situations that don’t have controlled contact to the facial area.

I try to picture myself when I first started boxing training. And have my sparring partner hold that jab in the frozen doofus pose for me to counter with a sweet combination.

It has been my experience that Martial Striking Arts have quicker hand strikes than boxing. Which muddies the waters of the doofus pose even more.

I don’t know, maybe I’ll figure it out one day.
I think ‘frozen doofus pose’ should be adopted as a legitimate MA term. It needs to be rendered into Chinese, japanese and Korean! 😂
 
I was practising some of Wado Ryu’s ‘Kihon Gumite’ on my own, in between sets in the gym this morning. I used a floor board as a convenient centre line (chushin in Japanese) off which I’d just move to avoid an imaginary attack and perform the appropriate defence. It suddenly struck me how silly this idea of moving off chushin was since the attacker would merely have to slightly change their angle of attack, in real time, to render the defender’s little twist or side step useless and land their kick or punch. It’s such a ubiquitous concept in the MAs and it looks impressive in pre-arranged sparring or a class demo, when the punch or kick just misses it’s target, but practically it just wouldn’t work because any assailant worth their salt, would just need to subtly redirect their attack. To make it work you’d have to make a big deviation from the midline (the width of several of my gym’s floorboards) which would be difficult to hide. It’s the same in swordsmanship, Wing Chun, Aikido.

Is the idea of the importance of chushin another flashy MA myth? Does this idea exist in boxing/MMA/BJJ?
Short answer. Lomenchemco.
 
The concept absolutely exists and works in Boxing/Muay Thai/MMA/BJJ as well as in various weapons arts like HEMA and Kali. It's an essential element of becoming a high-level fighter.

The problem is with how it is often taught and demonstrated in many TMAs.

It's super common in many arts to present demonstrations where the attacker commits to a linear attack and then stands frozen in place like a doofus (often with the punch extended) while the defender moves off-line and executes all sort of counter-attacks from the superior angle. This is arguably justifiable in the very beginning as an illustrative tool so new students can see what's going on.

The reality of using this tactic in fighting is a bit different ...

  • You have to time your off-angle movement correctly so your opponent doesn't just follow you. This can work in a few ways. You might move offline just as your opponent is fully committed to his attack and can't change his trajectory. You might pre-emptively change angles as you attack so that your opponent has to adjust their angle while defending, making their defense more awkward. You might change angles in the middle of a attack combination, so that your opponent has a hard time seeing what you are doing. (This works particularly well if you can cover their vision while you step offline. Lomenchenko is a master of this.
  • Once you do win the superior angle, you typically only have a split second to take advantage of it before your opponent adjusts. If you are prepared to do so, you may be able to land one or two free shots that you wouldn't have otherwise. This is obviously very different from demos where the instructor moves around the opponent executing a 15-move combo.
  • If you do want to maintain a superior angle after achieving it, you have to continue anticipating how your opponent will move to square back up and keep adjusting your own footwork to stay ahead. This is very advanced stuff and even high level fighters who are masters of footwork can only manage to maintain such an advantage for a few seconds at a time (as opposed to the split second you normally get).
In ground grappling (whether BJJ, Judo, wrestling, or whatever), things are a little different. Once you win a positional advantage, you'll usually be able to maintain it for a minimum of a few seconds and sometimes minutes or even for the full duration of a match. IMO, this is one of the biggest differences which affects how ground grappling plays out differently from stand-up striking.
Here is the tennis example I use for people to visualise that. So he commits to one side. You take the other side.

 
The problem is with how it is often taught and demonstrated in many TMAs.

It's super common in many arts to present demonstrations where the attacker commits to a linear attack and then stands frozen in place like a doofus (often with the punch extended) while the defender moves off-line and executes all sort of counter-attacks from the superior angle. This is arguably justifiable in the very beginning as an illustrative tool so new students can see what's going on.
I agree with this statement... But I will add that it is a problem with how we train with these drills.

I have been able to make these drills effective in my own training.... but you have to dig a little deeper. Most people get happy, because the attack missed me, I scored my attack and it looked pretty..... Then we stop, considering the job done and the skill acquired.

As pointed out before, if you move too soon, the attacker tracks you and you get hit anyway. If you move too late, you get hit. The trick is in the timing. Ideally, you want to wait until the attacker is sure he is going to hit you, so that he commits to the punch... and then you move, once the attacker is past the point of no return.

This is a very small moment in time. Some people may naturally see it and be able to use it.... I am not one of those people.

The drill of having the overly telegraphed attacker (sensei announced to the whole class what attack will be coming and when) throw the punch, on a straight line can work if you use it "correctly." The first bit is to learn the mechanics of getting off the line and into the position where I have the angle to counter.

Once that is learned, now the training and study starts. At first, I try to see how close I can allow the punch to get, before I move. The closer I allow the punch, the quicker and more efficient my movement needs to be. While it is hard to measure my movement speed and efficiency... I can much more easily measure how close did I let the punch get, before I moved. The trick is to never be happy, but always be pushing to let it get closer in.

This means I get to see the attack coming, and get used to seeing it and being in the right position. I can now start studying the attacker. As mentioned above, you need to see how his body is moving, where the momentum is going.... It also allows me to start to recognize when the attacker has gone beyond that point where he can no longer redirect.

Because the attack is so big and long, it makes it easier for people like me to analyze and see what is happening and when. I just cannot fall into the trap of "I got offline, he missed, I countered and it looked good." I am always pushing myself, to let the punch get closer, and to try to wait until they cannot redirect. Many times I will ask my training partner to hit me and to track me. This means.... I get hit a lot (just being honest)... but it also allows me to see when I get it right, (he committed and could not redirect) verses when I moved to soon.

One of the things I like to do, is to try to catch the punch in my gi. If I let the punch come close enough, then turn fast enough and at the right time, their punch should slip inside the lapels my gi top... (loosen up your gi top, so it flairs out a bit when you turn) On a good day, I can sometimes do this.... Most of the time, I am on the receiving end of a glancing blow.... which I prefer to the straight shot landing flush.

In the end, this has made my techniques become more efficient, my timing better and my ability to roll with punches better. It has also helped me to get comfortable with people punching me... I know I can make them miss, I can make them glance and I have taken the shots.... thus there is nothing to be afraid of.... I have felt this before and can stand in and practice what I need to do. (don't forget, many people really have to work to not panic when someone throws a punch intended to hit them.... they are not all battle tested masters of martial arts like we are....)

In the end, its how you use the drill and what you take away from it. If you goal is to make it look pretty in a demo.... that is one thing. If your goal is to make it effective with someone actually trying to hit you.... you have to work the drill to the point that they are hitting you... even to the point where the drill is forgotten and you are sparring.
 
I agree with this statement... But I will add that it is a problem with how we train with these drills.

I have been able to make these drills effective in my own training.... but you have to dig a little deeper. Most people get happy, because the attack missed me, I scored my attack and it looked pretty..... Then we stop, considering the job done and the skill acquired.

As pointed out before, if you move too soon, the attacker tracks you and you get hit anyway. If you move too late, you get hit. The trick is in the timing. Ideally, you want to wait until the attacker is sure he is going to hit you, so that he commits to the punch... and then you move, once the attacker is past the point of no return.

This is a very small moment in time. Some people may naturally see it and be able to use it.... I am not one of those people.

The drill of having the overly telegraphed attacker (sensei announced to the whole class what attack will be coming and when) throw the punch, on a straight line can work if you use it "correctly." The first bit is to learn the mechanics of getting off the line and into the position where I have the angle to counter.

Once that is learned, now the training and study starts. At first, I try to see how close I can allow the punch to get, before I move. The closer I allow the punch, the quicker and more efficient my movement needs to be. While it is hard to measure my movement speed and efficiency... I can much more easily measure how close did I let the punch get, before I moved. The trick is to never be happy, but always be pushing to let it get closer in.

This means I get to see the attack coming, and get used to seeing it and being in the right position. I can now start studying the attacker. As mentioned above, you need to see how his body is moving, where the momentum is going.... It also allows me to start to recognize when the attacker has gone beyond that point where he can no longer redirect.

Because the attack is so big and long, it makes it easier for people like me to analyze and see what is happening and when. I just cannot fall into the trap of "I got offline, he missed, I countered and it looked good." I am always pushing myself, to let the punch get closer, and to try to wait until they cannot redirect. Many times I will ask my training partner to hit me and to track me. This means.... I get hit a lot (just being honest)... but it also allows me to see when I get it right, (he committed and could not redirect) verses when I moved to soon.

One of the things I like to do, is to try to catch the punch in my gi. If I let the punch come close enough, then turn fast enough and at the right time, their punch should slip inside the lapels my gi top... (loosen up your gi top, so it flairs out a bit when you turn) On a good day, I can sometimes do this.... Most of the time, I am on the receiving end of a glancing blow.... which I prefer to the straight shot landing flush.

In the end, this has made my techniques become more efficient, my timing better and my ability to roll with punches better. It has also helped me to get comfortable with people punching me... I know I can make them miss, I can make them glance and I have taken the shots.... thus there is nothing to be afraid of.... I have felt this before and can stand in and practice what I need to do. (don't forget, many people really have to work to not panic when someone throws a punch intended to hit them.... they are not all battle tested masters of martial arts like we are....)

In the end, its how you use the drill and what you take away from it. If you goal is to make it look pretty in a demo.... that is one thing. If your goal is to make it effective with someone actually trying to hit you.... you have to work the drill to the point that they are hitting you... even to the point where the drill is forgotten and you are sparring.
Sparring will cleanse all. If you aren't using the technique in sparring then you aren't using it.

Stepping off the centerline cannot be fully understood until it practiced in free sparring.
 
At first, I try to see how close I can allow the punch to get, before I move. The closer I allow the punch, the quicker and more efficient my movement needs to be. While it is hard to measure my movement speed and efficiency... I can much more easily measure how close did I let the punch get, before I moved. The trick is to never be happy, but always be pushing to let it get closer in.
Timing is definitely one skill that can only be gained by experience working against a variety of opponents and can help develop the abilities in the quote below.
get used to seeing it and being in the right position. I can now start studying the attacker
But there is a limit to this. This can be done much of the time in a sport context, just like tactics. There is give and take and good opportunities to observe and plan over the course of three or five minutes. Not so in actual combat, usually lasting less than one minute and often much less than that.

This doesn't mean one shouldn't practice timing skills as wab25 suggests - just the opposite. Extensive practice and experience are required to get timing down to an instinctual level. A big part of this is recognition of pre-attack tells such as breath intake, body tension, chambering, weight transfer, etc. IMO, being able to take in all this in a split second is one of the greatest skills a fighter can have. It has the effect of reducing your reaction time by giving you a head start.
 
But there is a limit to this. This can be done much of the time in a sport context, just like tactics. There is give and take and good opportunities to observe and plan over the course of three or five minutes. Not so in actual combat, usually lasting less than one minute and often much less than that.

Why?

Like seriously where do you have to be so urgently you can't take 5 minutes to fight a bit more effectively.
 
I’d just move to avoid an imaginary attack
Lately, I try to remove "dodge" and "deflect" from my dictionary. If my opponent attacks me, I'll attack back right at that moment.

If my opponent uses

- straight line attack, I'll counter with circular attack. My circular attack will knock my opponent's straight-line attack off his attacking path.
- circular attack, I'll counter with straight line attack. My straight-line attack will separate my opponent's arm away from his head.

This will simplify the fighting. The advantage of this strategy is when you see a punch coming toward your head, you will have a big smile on your face because it's your favor game - your opponent attacks your head. You attack his punching arm.
 
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