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All throwing techniques, including trips and tackles,  involve movement in the transverse plane. Initiation may involve sagittal or frontal plane movements, but the follow through and landing will occur around the thrower’s longitudinal axis to a greater or lesser degree.

For the person being thrown, this means that:

  • Landings will involve rotational forces and increased risk of damaging the ankles, knees, shoulders and neck. Pursue isometric strength conditioning as well as concentric conditioning, especially for the neck.
  • Falling skills should be thoroughly practiced in all three planes of motion, as well as from kneeling, standing and moving positions.
  • Failed throws wherein a foot remains planted will pose a high risk for knee injury, particularly ACL damage. Agility training can help a student to recognize these conditions and react quickly to move an endangered leg.
  • For students and fighters whose activity is throwing and takedown-intensive (Judo, wrestling), specific programming for muscle hypertrophy should also be included to protect bony surfaces and joints and to help diffuse impact forces.

Rotating around my longitudinal axis as I land

For the person throwing, this means that:

  • A throw will involve torsion on all joints involved in the technique. Specific strength and stability conditioning involving transverse plane movements can help to increase joint stability and ensure proper muscular activation around the ankles, knees, hips and core.
  • Depending on the other person’s weight and velocity, a successful throw will involve accelerating and potentially decelerating several times more than one’s own weight and mass.  Strength conditioning programs typically emphasize movements in the sagittal plane, while the frontal and transverse planes are less emphasized or neglected.
  • Progressive balance and stability conditioning, comprehensive core conditioning, and agility/reactive training in all three planes are strategies that can reduce the chance of avoidable injury while improving a student or fighter’s performance.
  • If a throw begins to fail at any phase, your body will be required to decelerate and stabilize the load while in non-optimal conditions, and several times your own weight and mass will pose a threat to your knees in particular. Condition the knees in all planes of motion, emphasize single leg balance and stability skills.
  • Throwing and takedowns  occur predominantly in the transverse plane. Most athletic injuries occur in the transverse plane.  Do not neglect conditioning in the transverse plane (do I sound like a broken record yet?) .

Gill travels around Chopper's longitudinal axis

Here, John’s knee is involved in stabilizing and producing force in the transverse plane

Drop us a line for more info on specific conditioning and programming ideas.

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I love karate, but these fights are really beautiful. Notice the lack of protective equipment. In the first fight you can see the BJJ competitor using open hand slaps (as well as punches) to his opponent’s head. Toward the end of the video you will see a karate man receiving elbow and forearm strikes to the back of his head and neck. These do not immediately end the fight, the karate-ka continues until he is choked out (note that even powerful, well placed blows do not always result in your opponent being instantly incapacitated).

Rather than dismissing these fights out of hand, karate people should study them. No matter how powerful our punches and kicks are we should assume that we are likely to be closed on.  Even punchers like Jack Dempsey, and Mike Tyson threw many punches before landing the “one” punch that knocked out, or injured their opponent.  Karate people should not delude ourselves that our experience is going to be that different. It is really difficult to get in that one good, fight ending strike.

Training to both hit hard and deal with the press of a determined attacker who is likely to push beyond our striking range is essential. We should not be naive about ground fighting. At the very least we should  include enough of it that we have some chance of regaining our standing position if we are taken to the ground.

Put aside the rhetoric about the superiority of whatever fighting method you practice and watch these fights.


"Try to see yourself as you truly are and try to adopt what is meritorious in the work of others. As a karateka you will of course often watch others practice. When you do and you see strong points in the performance of others, try to incorporate them into your own technique. At the same time, if the trainee you are watching seems to be doing less than his best ask yourself whether you too may not be failing to practice with diligence. Each of us has good qualities and bad; the wise man seeks to emulate the good he perceives in others and avoid the bad."
Funakoshi Gichin

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