Thursday, September 18, 2008

Urban Combat #3 -- Jail House Rock

Ok, I'm getting it now. It takes a while for this old white dude living in the deep woods of the Pacific Northwest to understand the dynamics of Brooklyn Street Arts.
These guys call their self-defense system "52 Blocks". According to Wikipedia, "52 Blocks" is a form of "Jail House Rock", a prison fighting system with "52" refering to a deck of cards--- "let them fall where they may".
Wiki goes on to describe this as a unique martial style with origins dating back to the days of slavery and indigenous African fighting skills. From Wiki:
"A Version of Jail House Rock, referred to as "52 Hand Blocks" or "the 52s", is said to have originated in the gang neighborhoods of Brooklyn and nearby boroughs of New York City during the late 1970s and early 1980s. 52 was created from old "asiatics" boxing that was modified in the penal institutions such as Comstock, and Elmira and later used heavily on the streets as a male rite of passage."
--Obviously, I haven't reviewed the entire system, but I do have these observations:
1. A lot of their strength training involves schoolyard paralell bars and other climbing bars. According to one video, this training was prefered because it was superior overall conditioning, and that the Prison weightroom was too dangerous to train in. I like that.
2. While I have seen some of their offense training, mostly boxing and kicking, they appear to rely heavily on broken-pattern constant defensive movement. This is done without an extended bridge position, perhaps due to the influence of cutting weapons both on the street and in jail.
-The problem I have with that is that without an extended bridge (arms extended in defensive structure) the opponents punch gets much, much closer to you before you can neutralize it. This is more like "slipping" in Boxing or "shaving" in Mantis style. It's more as a secondary blocking position than a primary defense bridge.
-Additionally, even the best blocker can only block "so many", and will eventually get pasted.
-Now, the one thing I don't think I've seen them work yet is blocking and striking at the same time, clearly a superior method than a 1-block, 2-counter - which gives the opponent a split second to get their second punch in.
-We did recieve instruction on random arm movement such as this defensive pattern. It was from Wing Chun expert Ron Ogi, who suggested that we use it if you were temporarly blinded by blood in the eyes etc. Ogi's method was to "noodle" your arms in an extended position until you make contact with the opponent's arms and the sense of touch guides your response.
*** Al-in-all, I've enjoyed looking at the "52 Blocks" system and their spirited, innovative training methods.


Hand2Hand said...

Like I said before, this art looks like it takes a lot from the Filipino martial arts.

In the empty-hand aspects of Eskima, Kali and Arnis, there is a lot of use of elbows just like in those videos.

While it looks defensive, it's really pretty offensive. Those elbows are used for limb destruction, by trying to cause the other guy to break his hands and/or forearms against your elbows.

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Dojo Rat said...

I thought it was interesting that Wiki said it had "origins in asiatic boxing".

Bob Patterson said...

This was one of your more interesting posts in a long time. I'm biased though because once upon a time I worked in prison.


I never heard of this, period. However, I was in the Nebraska system which is in the middle of nowhere. We had bloods and cripps from Omaha and Lincoln. Past that a dash of Hispanic gangs and the standard nutball white supremacists.

East coast and West coast gangs are another story. Dawgone it but I've toyed with figuring out a way to get a second masters in criminal justice. I already have a bachelors in it. This one screams thesis topic with field work!

I'm going to file this idea away for sure!

Back to what I saw...

Nothing refined aside from a few inmates who either boxed or wrestled. Past that it's the usual street fight stuff.


Wim Demeere said...

I heard from a few prison guards comments along the lines of what Bob said: they've never seen anything like it. Frankly, I'm wondering if it isn't a myth. That said, if it works, it works so who cares? :-)

Scott said...

You guys are a little too nice. I know that using a raised elbow for blocking a solid (outside) hook punch from a trained larger opponent only works if you are stepping forward into their centerline for your own downward strike.
Even two arms up isn't going to stop a good hook punch.