Centerline theory involves an imaginary line that extends vertically and divides the body into two bi-laterally symmetrical halves. The centerline is important because many vital pressure points lie along it (both front and back), such as the brain, throat, heart, solar plexus, bladder, testicles, or the spine. By shifting your centerline with respect to your opponent, you may make it less accessible and less vulnerable to attack. Your guard and blocks should protect your centerline.
The opponent's centerline serves as the convergence point of your strikes. Attacks should be directed toward the centerline. Do not extent your attacks and blocks past your own or your opponent's centerline or you will expose your side and rear to attack. Not extending your strikes and blocks to the centerline opens your centerline to attack.
If one can control the opponent’s centerline, then his ability to effectively move and strike will be nullified. Thus, understanding centerline theory and applying it in practice can greatly enhance one’s ability to strike and to defend.
Ways to Defend the Centerline
Blocking techniques may be applied in multiple ways depending on circumstances. For example, at the basic level the blocking arm can be used to simply parry a punch or kick using a "strength against strength" principle. This will be successful as long as the block is stronger than the opponent's strike.
At another level, the effectiveness of the blocking can be enhanced by simply shifting off the line of attack and adjusting the angle of your body obliquely (approx 45 degrees) to the incoming strike. In this way, the lead arm slips the strike, and the ”soft contains the hard."
At yet another level, blocking can be performed as a two level system based on "intercepting and redirecting" the incoming attack in conjunction with the body shift mentioned in the previous paragraph. Here, the trailing arm is used to "intercept" or cover the incoming attack after which the leading arm is used to "redirect" the force of the attack away. Alternatively, the trialing hand may be used to intercept and the leading arm used to counter strike the opponent.
People are particularly vulnerable to counter-attack at either the initiation or the termination of their attack. Therefore, it is essential to protect your center at both of these instances. Protecting the center during punching is mainly achieved through the action of the trailing hand. There are two ways to accomplish this:
- If the attacking lead hand is to be returned to chamber, then the trailing hand should move through a slight arc crossing the centerline prior to returning lead hand to chamber.
- The lead hand can be used to protect the head or body protection simultaneously with the punch as in combat or competition fighting. In this case, the lead hand is not returned to chamber but finishes by the side of the face or chest after arcing across the center.
Protecting the center during kicking is also important. In addition to the general vulnerability at the commencement and termination of a kick, there is an added complication of being solely supported on one or no feet during the kicking. Protecting the center during kicking is usually achieved in the following two ways:
- Maintain a central closed guard position with the hands throughout the duration of the kick. Hand positions will need to change sides depending on which leg is being used. The only time to use an open guard position is when you want to lure an opponent into attacking you at the opening.
- Raise the knee of the kicking leg high enough to afford protection to the abdomen.
Stance and body shifting may be used to protect the centerline. Any stance which provides maneuverability in all directions and also keeps your center facing away from your opponent will provide protection from an attack. Rotating your body and shifting your center away from the attack without changing your basic foot positioning will also provide protection.
An additional way to protect the centerline is to take your body off the line of attack and provide distance between you and the attacker. You will need to determine the speed and direction of the attack and move away accordingly. Remember to reposition yourself where your opponent will find it difficult to continue his attack.