(I hope it is obvious to anybody familiar with Kururunfa which technique I am talking about here. It is the one including and following the ‘hands up’ posture in the middle of the kata).
Usually, in order to decode a technique, one has to consider it in the context of the ‘theme’ of the particular kata. However, this Kururunfa technique is so singular and bizarre the context is not needed (and woudln’t help anyway!). It is a unique puzzle, and one with a surprising solution!
First, some initial consideration:
1)Obviously, the technique begins with the ‘hands up’ movement.
2)The opponent is obviously not in front of us(obviously for the readers of this blog – we do not volunteer to be kicked in the balls)
3)The hand movement is symmetrical; which means two things are probable:
- the opponent is not coming from one side
- the attack is two handed, symmetrical as well
4)2 a 3 together give that the most probable position of the opponent is behind us!
5)From 4, it follows that the defense is against some kind of hold (defenses against punches and kicks from behind are generally not taught in practical SD systems!)
Here, we won’t use the standard way of trying to determine whether the principal destructive movement of the technique is punch/kick/throw/lock; mostly because unlike in other techniques, we cannot yet be sure which movement is the destructive one! We will rather try to determine the exact kind of hold used.
This is one of the instances where the rational analysis (above) doesn’t help by itself; one has to know ‘the context’ too. The question therefore is: ‘Is there a classic self-defense technique – preferably used in Chinese MA too – that matches this Kururunfa movement?’
And the answer – there is! Without further ado, the kururunfa movement perfectly resembles a classic defense against full nelson hold. The technique can be found in self-defense system worldwide – I encountered it in jujutsu, catch wrestling, and also in Chinese Qin-na. (picture from the Qin-na book). Moreover, the nature of full nelson (hold from the rear) matches our analysis perfectly.
The principle is as follows: The opponent tries to trap me in a full nelson. Before the hold is completed, I lift both arms above my head, and then, lowering my center, bring both my elbows down onto opponent’s arms, breaking the hold and trapping his arms in my armpits.
Note how you push your head back while driving the arms down to break the hold; which some people confuse with a ‘backward headbutt’.
(If you want to see a video of the nelson escape technique, this gentleman does good job on demonstrating it.)
Now you can see that this explains all the ‘bizarre’ characteristics of the movement of Kururunfa. That’s it: We defend against full nelson from the rear. The movement looks bizarre because of the nature of this applications.
Ok, so we neutralized the full nelson. Yet, we still have to neutralize the opponent himself – every technique in a kata has a decisive finish.
After the nelson breaker, there is a peculiar movement of the hands; first they thrust forward, then they spread and swing behind the back while stepping forward.
No wonder people come up with all sorts of nonsense bunkai for this – without the nelson break, it makes zero sense. However, not even with it is it easy to decode.
(Initially, I considered the following movement of ‘upper X block’ a part of this technique; because I couldn’t imagine the “arm spread” movement alone doing something. However, the X block is a part of another technique).
Again, analysis of the arm movement:
1)Must be a finishing technique
2)Symmetrical movement; probably having symmetrical effect on opponent
3)Opponent stays behind us; yet, we somehow still manage to control/manipulate him!
These facts made me suspicious at first; there are not that many (reliable!) things you can do to an opponent that is behind your back! (Well, there is the catch wrestling double wristlock; but this is obviously not the case). In the end, I believe I decoded the original application for the movement. It is based on an clever trick of body mechanics; I will let you be the judge on how reliable it is.
Opponent having his arms under your armpits is the key here. You grab his wrists and in the thrusting movement, pull him forward. This makes him bend over forward and lean against your upper back.
But what about the following spreading of the arms to the sides and behind the back?
While trying the movement out, I discovered an interesting mechanical fact: The arms are a part of your opponent’s balance. If you just keep pulling them forward, he is still having his balance; he can use his body to struggle against your pulling: pushing with his chest against your back, pulling with the arms,struggling to get back. However!
If you take his arms and pull them forward, then spread them down and to the sides and back, this breaks his balance toward the front. Now, he will fall flat on his face, unable to resist the pull! In effect, the ‘spreading arms’ movement make him anchored onto your upper back,off balance. (Note: This is one of the techniques that must be tried to be believed.)
Note: This figure serves only to explain the principle; in the kata, you spread your arms while moving forward, so the opponent falls not onto your back, but directly forward,onto your….(stay tuned).
Detail of the anchor:
If you only pull opponent forward and down, he can still struggle to get free by pulling back.
BUT if you then spread his hands to the sides and down, he is, in effect, falling forward; so he can’t struggle.
Now, if you do the above while stepping forward into zenkutsu dachi (as in Kururunfa), the above maneuver will make the opponent fall forward with his face onto the top of your hear; which will be thus driven into his nose. You pull his face onto your head, not vice versa. That is the finish of this technique.
I still haven’t decided whether this technique is crazy or crazy enough to work. However, I am firmly convinced this is the original application of this Kururunfa movement; the one the creator had in mind when he fashioned it.
It gives a definite purpose to the ‘arm spread’ movement; it is just part of a headbutt. If also makes the above application more probable – without the spread, the headbutt would not work. It is not the usual ‘why the hell did he put it here?’ but totally rational thing to do.
As usual, note how in the kata, the opponent is never struck in a haphazard way; he is always controlled – after the mechanical advantage is gained, the strike is done. Also note how this particular technique of Kururunfa makes use of a clever trick of body mechanics to control the opponent (even when he is behind your back!).
The headbutt is not just ‘throwing your head around’ (backward, in this case); instead your body is stationary and the opponent is pulled face first onto your head, with his weight and your pull driving the strike.
(It’s ironic that the so called ‘backward headbutt’ in this technique is just part of the nelson escape; while in the real headbutt the head is held still and the body does the work).
(I apologize for the quick sketches; but I feel I have more control over them than over photos).
PS: When searching the web for a nice picture to put as the heading of this article, I found this explanation of the same movement (allegedly coming from Kenwa Mabuni):
While the technique is not that bad when compared with other explanations (it has the full nelson part right!), as for the final takedown – I am not impressed. It conveniently lacks the forward thrust of the arms (preceding the backward swing); but more importantly – it is so dangerous it hurts to watch!
What do you think is the first thing the (uncontrolled!) opponent does when you grab his knees and try to push against his chest with your head? He will try to grab onto something! And you made sure he has plenty to grab on! You hair, your neck, your face are all but defenseless in this ‘takedown’. The least of your worries should be that he pulls your on the ground with him (which he will, I promise). He will probably also choke you or wreck your face. That the force application posture is very flimsy (so you might not succeed in taking your opponent down at all or fall down on your own) is just a bonus.
Sorry, Mr.Mabuni. This takedown is stupid and mechanically unsound. Never try it at home, folks. (Compare it with the anchor&headbutt, where you still have a correct posture when striking; you don’t have to lean back).