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The Kung Fu Short Range Arsenal
The Chinese martial arts teach the kung fu student to use his or her body as a weapon, with the hands and feet being the most used of all the weapons the body possesses. Countless punches and kicks, blocks and strikes of all kinds are practices to create a complement fighter. Kicks are used as long range weapons and hand technique for closer targets. At very close range, the kung fu practitioner has an arsenal of elbow strikes to use to bring a swift end to a hand to hand combat encounter.
The elbow is a short distance weapon. This may seem a weakness at first but when used properly the elbow is a devastating weapon. Being used at close range the elbow strike travels a short distance to its target. The shorter the time taken to hit the target the less time an opponent has to perceive and counter the strike. The power of the elbow rests in the body not just the arm alone. The strike can be delivered with a shift in stance, drop of the body or turn of the waist to add power. Once the strike is delivered on target the arm is in position to follow up with hand technique due to the fact that the arm and is in a chambered ready position.
Elbow techniques are so important to the Chinese fighting arts that several forms have been developed to teach their usage. The following examination of elbow technique draws upon many kung fu styles and forms in an attempt to present an overview of this powerful weapon.
The Straight Elbow Strike- The straight elbow strike is delivered in a thrusting action into the target. From an on guard position the striking limb is drawn back across the body and then the elbow is driven outward out into the upper or middle gate of an attacker. If the kung fu stylist is standing in a natural relaxed position the elbow can be thrown without drawing the limb back across the body. Just raise the arm in a chambered position and strike. If the off side hand is able to grab the wrist or arm of the attacker then the straight elbow can be used as the opponent is pulled into the strike. This elbow is a fast and powerful technique to use in a close quarter fighting situation.
The Inward Hooking Elbow- The inward hooking elbow is used to strike to the inside upper gate. This elbow is powered by a solid root and a turning of the waist. The inside elbow is usually directed against a target on the head, the temple, behind the ear or along the jaw line. This technique can be delivered with either the lead or rear arm and can be thrown in a two count fashion, one elbow impacting the target and driving it toward the second.
The Outside Hooking Elbow- The outside hooking elbow is the reverse action of the inside hooking elbow. To throw the strike, pull the bent arm to the inside and using the back and shoulders swing the elbow back in a circular manner into the target. This technique is not often seen but is a useful follow up to the inside or rearward elbow strike. The outside hooking elbow can be found in He Hu Chuan or Black Tiger forms.
The Upward Striking Elbow- The upward elbow strike is a commonly seen close range technique. Upward elbows can be used to respond to attacks from the front or the side. This strike is aimed primarily at the chin and snaps the head up and backward exposing the throat. A good technique to follow this elbow is a straight elbow thrust.
The Downward Elbow- The downward elbow strike is a powerful technique used as a follow up after an opponent has been pulled downward or as a finishing technique applied to someone who has been dropped to his or her knees. Several downward elbow strikes can be hammered in to devastating effect. Failed take downs can be met with a downward elbow as part of the counter attack.
Downward Angled Striking Elbows-The downward angled elbow strike can be thrown with the lead or rear elbow. These strikes come down and in to the upper gate of the enemy. Thrown with the weight of the body behind the elbow, this strike is a powerful close range weapon. The lead hand can be used to block or trap opening the way for the elbow technique. One set that uses these techniques is the She Chuan or Snake style.
Rearward Elbow Middle Level- This elbow strike is a simple thrust of the point of the elbow to the rear or back side of the kung fu fighter. A good response to someone behind you in body to body contact, this elbow allows for follow up technique to the groin or a reverse hooking elbow.
High Rearward Elbow Strike- This elbow technique is not as common as the reward elbow but is a very effective attack to the high gate of the aggressor. Drawn from a style of Northern White Crane this technique appears to mimic the flowing wings of a bird but in application the movements become a strike that starts with the arm dropping down and then is circled around to make a semi circle ending with a elbow strike to the side of the kung fu fighters head. This elbow is aimed at the face of someone to the rear. Care must be taken not to overextend when using this strike.
Forward Thrusting Elbow- The forward thrusting elbow strike is both unique and powerful. With the arm held in the vertical position the point of the attacking elbow is driven forward into the target. These strikes are powered by the legs, a solid stance as well as the waist (turning) and shoulder (dropping and extending) of the kung fu stylist. This is a technique best used inside the arms of the enemy and is aimed to the chest, solar plexus or face. The forward thrusting elbow is the close range elbow technique of the Pa Chi Chuan form of Kung Fu.
Working with heavy bags or hand held striking pads are an excellence method of training for the effective use of elbow strikes. At the beginning stages of training the kung fu student would strike the bag or pad over and over again with a single type of elbow technique. After good form, power and accuracy have been achieved the student can begin to use combinations of elbow strikes. If using a hand held pad the training partner can move front to back and side to side to add an element of distance and foot work training to the drill.
Sparring and fighting drills that develop elbow technique involve close range fighting concepts. Moving to the outside of the attacker is preferred, but when this is not a possibility trapping and covering techniques can be utilized to open a path for an elbow attack/counter attack. Drilling for elbow application to the rear include both low and high counter strikes to an attack from behind or after body to body contact has been made. For example, the defender is attacked with a choke from behind in the form of an arm across the throat. After grabbing the attacking limb and pulling it away from the neck while bending forward for added momentum, the defender counters with a rearward elbow strike.
Fighting takes place at several ranges from kicking to body to body contact range. In order to be a complete fighter close quarter techniques must be learned and drilled to become second nature. Elbow striking techniques play an important part of the kung fu fighters close range arsenal.