I am a fan of martial arts that practice trapping. To recap the previous post, it’s an aspect of martial arts that I didn’t think worked until I rid myself of many misconceptions. Filipino martial arts, from which Counterpoint Tactical System is derived, study all ranges of weapons and empty hand fighting. So, it makes sense that trapping is included.
I define trapping as the practice of hand fighting to clear or check a line of attack. It took many years and many mistakes to come to this definition. Previously, I thought trapping was tying the opponent up into knots or into controlling techniques where I could strike with impunity. Even though I was studying with Master Zach Whitson in Counterpoint Tactical Systems, I still clung to this viewpoint. Despite what he and my instructors were showing me, I did not understand trapping. It is only recently that those lessons are taking hold. To be fair, in a decade, I might learn that my current definition is wrong as well.
The trapping in CTS – as I currently understand it – comes from the arts of Cacoy Doce Pares and Pekiti Tirsia. Both of these arts have sophisticated close range tactics, which is where trapping occurs. In Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee starts trapping where the back of the lead forearm rests against the back of the opponents lead forearm. This is the most distant edge of where I’ve seen trapping occur. It is potentially applicable all the way up to the Thai or wrestling clinch. Others may be able to use trapping techniques outside of the range I just described. I simply defined this range because that’s where I’ve been able to use it in a sparring context. As the kids say, your mileage may vary.
Sparring is the proving ground for martial artists who don’t regularly get in fights. It is where we find out if our attributes and training methods match up with the techniques we attempt. It is the training methods of CTS that have allowed me to start using trapping in sparring. Cacoy Doce Pares is a short (corto) range stick fighting art that has trapping drills. The focus isn’t the drills, though. Sparring is the key, but the Cacoy Doce Pares sparring isn’t the full out swing away with power and try to knock someone, anyone, out. It is a subtle art that blends the relaxation of tai chi push hands with the energy blending of judo to the speed and maneuverability of Cacoy’s close quarter curved striking.
Master Zach Whitson, founder of Counterpoint Tactical System, demonstrates this sparring in the video below with Josh Ryer of Ryer Martial Arts Academy. Pay attention to Master Whitson’s live hand – the hand without the stick. Master Whitson says the weapon protects you and the live hand protects the weapon. It’s easy to see that statement being applied in this video clip. This sparring is first introduced in the red belt curriculum.
Pekiti Tirsia is a bladed art. It means close thirds; so, you know from the name that it is has a short range component. Master Whitson has a Mataas na Guro rank under Tuhon Bill McGrath in Pekiti Tirsia and has incorporated much of the art in the creation of CTS. I tend to think of knife work when Pekiti Tirsia is mentioned, but really the art is more than just that.
From my viewpoint, the principles of Pekiti are present in every belt level in CTS. Trapping begins early in CTS training. It was during my preparation for the 2nd class brown belt test that I began to scrub my earlier definition of trapping and redefine it. Particularly, Pekiti Tirsia empty hands versus knife level 02 was the training method that helped me. I discovered that the clearing the line principle can be subtle. With the knife, small openings in an opponent’s defense can be just as effective for striking as huge holes. This drill also taught me counters to traps. It was an ‘aha’ moment weeks before the test that forced me to look at the entire curriculum that I had learned previously. Trapping was everywhere.
In this next video, Master Whitson is demonstrating third hand principle. Look for Josh to demonstrate counter tapping and clearing the line principles with the knife. You will occasionally see Master Whitson clear the line to strike with third hand principle. This drill is found in the green belt curriculum of CTS.
As you can see, there is a lot going on in Master Whitson’s videos. These videos showed advanced progressions of what the CTS student learns. The CTS drills and sparring follow the student as he/she progresses through the system. But that is a post for a different day. Each video shows that trapping is one tool of many in the martial artist’s arsenal. Through these drills and through CDP sparring, I’ve started to see functional trapping. It is working its way into my game in a realistic way. I’m not longer as focused on trapping as I was, but it is still one of my favorite parts of training.