Attaching to the opponent's centre line or head/neck are two prime areas for indexing.
I'm currently working on the draft of the upcoming second volume of my Seed of Shuri Karate book series and I thought that followers of my work may enjoy this little segment taken from the chapter on percussive impact delivery. The finished publication will no doubt read different to this as I always extensively edit, but nevertheless, I hope you'll find this sneak peek on the principle of 'indexing' a nice complement to your cup of coffee...
Indexing (also known as a 'set up', 'controlling', gauge' or 'leveraging arm') is an important concept taught in modern day self-defence systems and is also a key tactic expressed throughout the application of classical movements found in karate kata. You only need to spend a few moments searching YouTube for footage of real street attacks, self-defence encounters or bar brawls and you will see that the use of indexing is rife. This is simply due to the fact that it is both natural and highly advantageous. It is also a strategy used extensively in weapon attacks (especially puncture weapons such as knives or screwdrivers), where repetitive thrusting or clubbing 'sewing machine' styles are employed to devastating effect.
Check out the videos below that shows indexing being used to help facilitate some pretty brutal attacks employing both weapons and empty hands...
In a combative sense, the term ‘indexing’ essentially means to actively use one hand in order to make contact with the opponent for means of control, deception and/or to increase the success rate of subsequent strikes with the other limb. Rather than attacking the opponent 'unattached', the use of indexing works to support the use of your primary strategy (percussive impact delivery) and ultimately makes your self-protection game plan much more effective.
Indexing is most often applied with the lead hand as it is reached out like a tentacle in order to touch the opponent. The tactile stimulus here offers vital and almost instant information that far surpasses visual stimulus alone, making a physical response far more substantial. To understand the clear advantages that indexing can offer in a close-range altercation, you can try out this simple drill...
"Have your partner hold a focus mitt in front of you as the intended target to strike and close your eyes. First, try to hit the focus mitt stationary and then ask your partner to move the focus mitt between shots without letting you know. Without any visual stimulus to rely on, you should find it extremely difficult to land a solid shot. Next, simply take hold of the back of the focus mitt with your non-striking limb and repeat the exercise. Hey presto – who needs eyes to fight!"
In reality, your opponent is very unlikely to stand still and make it easy for you to throw repetitive shots. So, by attaching to the target with your non-striking limb, Your reference is to strike towards your own indexing hand, because this will go wherever the target goes.
Now of course, you would never voluntarily close your eyes in a self-defence scenario so in most applications you can expect to make the best use of both visual and tactile sensory information. However, what’s to say you haven’t already been hit and are disorientated, or maybe you have tears or blood in your eyes. Add the potential of weapons or multiple opponents to the mix, plus high levels of situational stress/fatigue and you can then begin to appreciate how difficult it can be to land accurate strikes that carry enough purchase to end the altercation swiftly. Thus, it becomes clear that the unregulated and sheer chaotic nature of combat makes the use of indexing essential.
To summarise some of the main advantages of indexing...
As you can see from the video clips above, indexing is such a natural tactic that most antagonists will tend to employ it unconsciously. Therefore, it's also imperative that you practice drills in the dojo that aim to counteract or exploit an opponents attempts to control via indexing. Again, it's not surprising that many classical kata contain these methods too.
Here's a video clip of Iain Abernethy teaching a common application found in numerous classical kata, which includes the use of indexing, limb control and tactile mapping for dominating at close-range....
I've also added below a short montage of clips taken from a much longer video tutorial I made a few years ago on focus mitt training. The full lesson was focused on providing fundamental strategies to help construct specific drills for self-protection and as you'll see, a few examples include the use of indexing...
So, I think it's very important that traditional karate practitioners deeply consider the application of indexing, how the tactic may be best employed, how it can be swiftly countered if used against you and where these strategies show up within the choreography of the classical forms. You may be surprised at how often kata makes reference to it...another aspect of meotode in action!
Thanks for taking the time to read this post, I hope it was informative and as always, my best wishes,
Chris Denwood has been studying martial arts since childhood and specialises in the practical application of karate's traditional principles for civilian self-defence, personal development, life integration and discovery.