Skip to content

How Not to Get Hit – The Third Point

December 17, 2011

The single most un-escapable fact about Chinese telly, beyond the constant period dramas, war ‘epics’ and long-distance wailing, drums and scary staring that make up Chinese Opera, is that it is all in Chinese.  There is one exception, in the ironically named CCTV ‘news’ channel, but rarely does this station look over the Great Wall and cover stories from the West.  So, through the magic of modern interweb technology and a bit of jiggery-pokery to boot, we have taken to downloading most of our telly from sent-by-heaven BBC iPlayer.

This explains then how Jess and I have been able to get in to a recent TV series called ‘The Origins of Us’, a documentary about – well, guess.  Set aside the seemingly now mandatory smug looking scientist takes advantage of the BBC’s current crass addiction to wearing its budget like a pimp wearing a diamond watch and velvet suit as thinly veiled excuse to jet off around the world staring meaningfully off in to sunsets in Africa and watching chimpanzees scratch themselves in India to basically tell us things that could have been achieved with a half-decent voice-over and a bit of Attenborough stock footage like the good old documentaries of the 80’s.

Having said all that, it really was a pretty good show actually, and one that now more than ever really needed to be made – so I salute your insecure bling, Auntie – this time.  This particular episode was talking about how our ancient ancestors broke apart from other primates to become bipedal and, eventually walking, running, dancing skipping us.

The thing that I found most interesting was how many adaptations had to take place to allow us to stand tall on two legs with an erect spine, and just how difficult it was to pull this trick off.  After all, we don’t emerge from the womb and take a casual stroll back up the bed to thank mum very much for all her hard work, and it takes many, many years to gain the complex range of motions required to walk, run, dance, balance and, of course, kick people in the head.

It’s testament to how effective nature has been in pulling this party trick off that what appears so simple is in fact such a bloody complicated thing to do.  I think all martial arts, to one degree or another, spend an amount of time studying how to achieve the transition in another person between this finely honed party trick and letting gravity do its thing.  But you can’t learn how to make someone fall without first understanding how they stand.

Whether they know it or not, all balance taking martial arts take advantage of a concept called the third point.  Many don’t know it, and instead attribute the success of their techniques to Chi, Ki, or other principles of movement such as Koku (the void), centres of gravity, breaking or harmonising.  But it all comes back to the third point.

Put simply, the third point is the direction toward which the body’s centre of gravity ( a point about 1-2 inches below the navel, if you’re wondering) wishes to move to create a forward motion, and is the point toward which we would all naturally collapse in a heap if we don’t keep putting one foot in front of the next to achieve something that none of us even register is happening, yet takes the coordination of at least 200 muscles for every step – a walk.

Balancing on two long, thin pins is a neat trick.  The only other creatures able to do it as skilfully as us, in all of known history, are birds and their great-great granddaddies, dinosaurs.  And they had/have the advantage of a balancing tail, light body and a natural 50/50 weight distribution. By comparison, we are the equivalent of two pencils being stood up on their ends, jabbed in to a potato.

When we stand, we are constantly making micro adjustments to maintain our upright position as our centre of gravity shifts precariously over its’ supports.  To move, we allow this centre of gravity to shift in the desired direction, then move the supportive struts underneath it.

Causing someone to fall is simply a matter of causing their centre of gravity to move in a given direction, and then hindering the ability of the supportive struts (legs, if you’re getting confused) to move beneath them.  This can be achieved through blocking movement (tripping), compromising the structure (moving the centre of gravity to a place where the legs are not able to move) or using a tipping point to move the centre of gravity over (think: Judo throw).  All, though, depend on shifting the centre of gravity from a point of balance to a point of motion.  And this begins with the third point.

You see we’re all pretty good at standing upright and although the above sounds easy, it really isn’t.  If you don’t move the centre of gravity in the right direction or way, the body can use tension and a dropping of the weight (like sitting down on an imaginary stool) to resist your influence.  If you move it too far then your opponent can adjust.  If you move it too little your opponent can resist.  The third point is the sweet spot where your influence is not significant enough to cause an adjusting reaction in your opponent, and not little enough for them to ‘tense up’.  To find it, look at your opponent’s feet and imagine they are two points of an equilateral triangle.  In your mind’s eye, fix a spot on the ground where the third point of this triangle would be.  Lastly, look at the shoulders.  If they are in front of the navel & hips, then your ‘third point’ will be in front of the feet – throw here.  If they are behind. Then your ‘third point’ will be behind the feet – throw here.  If the shoulders are directly above the hips your opponent still has balance – move the shoulders then throw.

Whether you’re a twelve year old boy reading this looking for an advantage in playfights over the lunch break at school, or an Aikido master who for some reason stumbled across this blog whilst looking for something far more worthwhile of your time, these simple principles of geometry and body mechanics are worthy of your time, should be considered fully and are looked at in more detail in ‘How Not to Get Hit’.

And for those of you who actually come here to read about China, terribly sorry – it’s been a quiet month; normal business will be resumed next time.


One Comment
  1. Marc Moor permalink

    Sweet as a Chinese chestnut as usual. I may start a fan club…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: