vs. CLOTHING GRABS
Story and photos by Jane Hallander
(left) grabs Alesia Harvey's lapel (1). Harvey uses her left hand
to grasp his left hand, then locks his wrist and executes a standing
is sacred from the clutches of muggers thieves-not even the clothes
on your back. Criminals have learned through years of experience
that your sleeves and lapels can serve as perfect handholds for
dragging you wherever they please during the heat of an attack.
That's precisely why the Korean martial art of kuk suI includes
numerous techniques specifically designed to combat assaults that
begin with a clothing grab.
Alesia Harvey, a St. Peters, Missouri-based husband-and-wifekuksool
dynamic duo, routinely teach escapes and counters for clothing grabs.
Called eui bok (also spelled eue bok suI), the techniques have their
roots in Korea's ancient Buddhist martial arts, the Harveys say.
The logic goes something like this: Because monks wore long, loose-fitting
robes, they were easy targets for the thugs and hoodlums that roamed
the remote regions of Korea. However, the monks' belief in ahimsa,
the Buddhist doctrine of refraining from harming other living beings,
prevented them from taking up arms or hiring weapons-toting escorts
for protection. Their only option was to devise a means of defense
that would not seriously injure their assailant, and their brainchild
was eui bok sul-a set of leverage-and pressure-point-based techniques
that enabled them to counter a grab to the sleeve, lapel, belt or
collar effected from the front, back or side of the defender.
Many of kuk
sool's clothing-grab defenses use the same principles as the art's
wrist-grab defenses, the Harveys say. The main difference is that
instead of countering by grabbing the assailant with the hand he
has just seized, you reach across the front of your body with -
your free hand and grab his wrist in a cross grab. For example,
if he uses his right hand to grab your left sleeve, you use your
right hand to grab his right wrist. That action gives you a definite
strength advantage because you can use two arms to overpower his
If an assailant
grabs your sleeve and you counter by grabbing his wrist with your
free hand and then locking it, it's relatively easy to free your
trapped arm, swing it over his grabbing arm and take him down by
pinning that arm to your body, the Harveys say.
someone grabs you from the front, his wrist is exposed to your counter-grab,"
Jack Harvey says. "If you're quick enough, you can lock his
wrist and take him off-balance before he can use his other hand."
Speed is one
of the keys to defending against a clothing grab, the Harveys emphasize.
If your actions are fast and smooth, the assailant will be in a
painful wrist lock and under your complete control before he even
knows what hit him.
Kuk sool teaches
a variety of defenses against the types of clothing grabs you are
most likely to encounter on the street. Some eui bok suI even allow
you to use your own clothing against the assailant. For instance,
if someone approaches you from the front and grabs your lapel, you
can pin his hand in your clothing by twisting his fist. That will
prevent him from withdrawing his hand and give you an opportunity
to throw him.
Many of kuk
sool's defenses against a clothing grab start with a pressure-point
manipulation that targets the assailant's arm or wrist, the Harveys
say, and for good reason: Manipulating a pressure point distracts
the assailant and frequently causes him to lose his balance. Pressure
points are very sensitive-so much so that a strike can cause extreme
pain or weakness throughout the affected limb. It can even disable
the entire nervous system. At the very least, a correctly applied
pressure point stimulation will sap the strength of the assailant's
grabbing hand, and often it will weaken his rooted stance to the
point of forcing him to stand on his tiptoes, which can facilitate
execution of eui bok suI, kuk sool stylists consider the utilization
of ki (internal energy) every bit as important as the exploitation
of pressure points. Their preferred method for using ki is to channel
it through the index finger. When the finger is extended, it literally
points the martial artist's power in the direction the finger is
aimed. During the execution of a joint lock that is used to respond
to a clothing grab, the student separates his index finger from
the other fingers and points it in the direction the lock is moving
so his ki can aid in the execution of the technique.
Kuk sool theory
also holds that straightening the index finger improves the execution
of many techniques. As odd as that may sound, it is backed by some
valid reasoning, the Harveys say.
you grasp anything with all four fingers and your thumb, you automatically
place more pressure on the object with your index finger. That reduces
the grip strength and "intention" of your other three
index finger alone is not as strong as your other three fingers
combined, the tendency to focus on using your index finger detracts
from the grasping ability of your remaining three fingers and ultimately
weakens your grip.
To see for
yourself, try grabbing your partner's wrist with all four fingers
and your thumb, then ask him to resist. Next, grab his wrist while
keeping your index finger straight and have him resist. You and
your partner will notice a significant increase in grip strength,
and that can improve your joint locks and pressure-point manipulations.
the "ki finger" improves your wrist flexibility, the Harveys
insist. When you lift your index finger and place more intention
into your other three fingers, you shift your strength to the outside
of your wrist. That gives the joint more flexibility for any technique
that requires outside wrist pressure, such as joint locks, counter-grabbing
actions and escape techniques.
Third, if you
try to use all four fingers to execute a lock on a small joint,
you may end up completely covering the joint. That can prevent you
from generating a good twisting action. Likewise, trying to activate
a pressure point with four fingers at the same time can cause you
to overlap the relatively small area. Using three fingers, the Harveys
say, makes it easier to stimulate a point with sufficient strength
to accomplish your objective.
best part of eui bok suI is that you don't have to be an expert
to make them work. In fact, kuk sool students learn them long before
they become a black belt. With some practice, you too will be able
to turn an assailant's attempt to grab your clothing into an excruciating
joint lock, a debilitating throw or an immobilizing takedown. His
attack will become his own worst nightmare.
Jane Hallander is a San Francisco- based free-lance writer and tai
chi chuan instructor who has studied the martial arts for more than
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