SPLAT!  A tall strapping young man hits the mats.  A woman who stands a head shorter and who is easily old enough to be his mother put him there.  How does this happen?

I do have more strength than the average woman my height and age, and there are people who I can muscle down to the ground (admittedly, these are mostly teenage girls).   But not this young man.  Working with young giants forces me to bring timing and positioning together to create leverage.  When everything goes well, taking someone down feels effortless.  I call it the magic of leverage.  I’ve learned to stop and evaluate what I’m doing if I feel myself bringing my strength into play. My strength won’t budge a young giant.

Leverage doesn’t apply just to takedowns.  One can shatter joints, take away a weapon, or render someone powerless to go anywhere but where you want them to go.  Leverage definitely comes into play even in basic blocks we teach in a new beginner’s very first class. By blocking, one is manipulating someone else’s limb, using leverage to divert its path.  I’ve done just a teeny tiny bit of weapons training and you bet there’s leverage there, especially when it comes to disarms.

One time I came away from learning an empty-hand vs. bo disarm asking myself, “How practical is that?  Who the heck carries a bo down a city street?”  Then I realized all I had to do was adjust the technique slightly to disarm someone with a baseball bat or tire iron.  The leverage used would vary only by the length of the weapon.

Creating leverage isn’t easy, especially when you get into some of the fancier takedowns, disarms, etc.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve failed miserably to create leverage, or stood patiently while a partner tries to get me down to the mats.  I have no illusions about my ability to actually use anything more than a couple of the simplest takedowns “in the street.”  I simply have not drilled these things enough with a live, resisting partner at a speed and in a context that would be similar to the way things go down in real life.  I don’t have the precision, timing, or reflexes yet.  This is where experience and years of training come in.

There is one aspect of leverage that I absolutely have mastered.  I’ve mastered having fun with the magic of leverage.  I feel a certain amount of glee when I’ve got someone at my feet after I did something that felt effortless, or when I’ve taken away someone’s bo.  Practicality (i.e. will it work “in the street”) is secondary to me.  Leverage is cool, and I love geeking out over it.

Author: Joelle White

I began training in Karate in June of 2014 after a 27 year hiatus.

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