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The Good Second Position - Choosing an Inferior First Position

In his oldest work (Shanghai Municipal Police - Manual of Self-Defense 1915), W.E. Fairbairn includes the following tidbit towards the end of the book in a section that matches situations and techniques (no picture or further description is in the manual):

(2) Your opponent attempts:-
(A) To strike you with his fist...
(3) With baton, strike forearm a smart blow from below.

Those of us who practice certain forms of Jujutsu probably understand a number of reasons why the baton may be down in such a position as to allow this strike - most obviously, it is not particularly civil for police to begin many interactions with weapons in offensive positions (the photo below is from the UN Police Manual 2015, showing the sort of position we are talking about).

So one reason to have a less than ideal starting position may be context - especially when equipped with weapons one cannot simply get the weapon between themselves and a possible aggressor, let alone cocked into an aggressive position as a matter of routine.

Let us have a look at the end sequence of the Jodo kata RanAi - the sequence starts with a 'miss' of a downward strike, creating a 'poor' fist position for the 'defender' and a good first position for the 'attacker':



The upward trajectory not only deflects the incoming blow, but it also results in an excellent second position for the 'defender' and a poor second position for the 'attacker'.  The timing is also such that a window of opportunity has opened for the Jo to attack:



So in this example, the reason for a poor starting position was an unsuccessful technique that finished in a position that was not ideal in terms of offense but still left a defensive option.

Are there tactical advantages to having a less than ideal starting position?

If we couple a defensive movement that leads to a good offensive second position, there may often be a good tactical reason to employ an offensively poor first position if our aim is to counter the enemy - indeed this can also help direct the line of attack by exposing an area that appears safe to strike.

This is indeed a tactic regularly used by Aikido practitioners - we may shiver at the implementation by a lot of groups, however, the tactic itself isn't unreasonable.


One of the lessons of the RanAi sequence is perhaps to keep the second position in mind.  Overcommitment in the attack effectively disregards the second position and makes no preparation for an enemy's counterattack.

I will grant that as a tactic it requires enough time and space - so dropping your hands and sticking your chin out is still only a good idea if you have time to get out of the way...






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