Twister: Axial rotations and torque

Contact with an opponent does not need to be always powerful. As with checks and joint locks, subtle contact works well too. In fact, it can create better situations to continue your attack. In a sense, it is the softening of a target—preparing it for another assault by destroying the defenses.

I’ve talked before about manipulating targets along the X, Y, and Z-axis. These are linear strategies to control the opponent and disrupt his balance. Using the twister concept, you employ axial rotation that torques the opponent’s body around the axis. You see this often in joint locks using the chin to control the head. The axis you spin around is usually the centerline.

For instance, you’ve just hit the face with your palm. Instead let the hand collapse on the face as if you were holding a football. Push the head to its side by rotating it to its maximum operational limit. This puts strain on the neck joint. Unbalance the opponent with a hip bump or leg hock. As they are floating, pull the head along the perpendicular axis. In other words, pull on the head against its rotated position towards you. This will put intense pressure and strain on the neck, immobilizing the opponent.

We often use this in submissions after a technique ends. As you sit upon the opponent’s hip and shoulder with their arm in a lock across the knee, you can push the face away from you. This is often only taught at Brown Belt level or higher due to its difficulty and danger.

One place that is technique is used is Kata 4 (aka Kamuki 4). About midway through the kata when you step into a low Dragon stance with a supported inverted ridge hand block (from the Ten Point Blocking set), you next grab the head and perform a knee strike. For years I thought this section of the kata looked nice but was really silly. Now I see the beauty behind the fancy moves.

The block intercepts the attacking fist and deflects it off the line. Before you loose contact with the arm, step up. This action slides you up the arm towards the head. As the arm veers offline, the head usually follows suit. Your palm contacts the chin and begins the rotation in the same direction. By the time the opponent’s chin is opposite of you—a full 180° rotation—your knee should be making contact with the opponent’s back and spine. I like to use the other hand to pull back on the head, assisting the torque hand in a full neck crank.

In my humble opinion, this little move is the most devastating technique in the kata. Well worth the years of practicing it over and over again. The assistant instructor at the time probably didn’t know this “hidden” technique when he taught the kata to me. I didn’t know it either until years later as I thought and toyed with bunkai (application) and applying theory from one technique to others.

To recap, axial rotation allows you to break the balance of your opponent. This distracts the opponent. It is difficult to think when your head is pushed around and you are falling. You disrupt the thought process and diffuse the ability to mount a counter offensive. Second, it locks out the body. This is called skeletal freezing or skeletal locking depending on whom you ask. Wrenching the body in this manner produces ancillary benefits too. Often a stray limb will dangle about allowing you to capture it and apply additional joint locks or submissions. Finally, the torque on the joint produces intense pain that allows you to end the conflict quickly.

Twister is the concept of axial rotation and torquing the opponent into a submission hold. It’s another layer of applying proper technique to your combinations.