The Importance of the “Checking Hand”

Involving yourself in martial arts can help you learn discipline, focus and persistence. However, one of the most important things martial arts can teach you is self-defense: learning how to get past an attack and keep fighting. The primary goal in any altercation is blocking the opponents’ attacks in order to avoid getting hit. But what if there was a more efficient way to avoid getting hit while also opening up your opponent to counter attacks? This is where the ‘checking hand’ comes into play.

The Michigan Modern Arnis Camp was held recently this past June at Master Gauss’ Martial Art’s Center in Westland, MI. This year, students were privileged enough to get the opportunity to train with not one, but three Masters of Tapi-Tapi: Master Chuck Gauss, Master Ken Smith and Master Gabriele Roloff. Combined, the three of them have nearly a hundred years of experience in Modern Arnis alone, not considering the other martial art styles in which they are all additionally trained. Their knowledge and hands-on experience in combat fighting is unquestionable, and when it comes to the checking hand, the three of them are nothing short of Masters.

So what exactly is the ‘checking hand?’ Well, it would be incorrect to say it’s just a way of blocking. “I think the checking hand is the live hand that keeps everything in perspective of blocking, stopping, checking, intercepting, striking… the checking or live hand Professor Presas said was key,” said Master Chuck Gauss. The checking hand is a way to bring the fight to your advantage in addition to protecting yourself from attack.

“The checking hand is going to be your defensive tool,” said Master Ken Smith. “You could use it to parry a punch, parry a stick (weapons), you could use it to ‘pop’ (strike) someone’s arm so it becomes ineffective for them to hit you back.”

The checking hand is not simply a lighthearted suggestion to martial artists, “it is the difference between winning and losing in a fight,” said Master Ken Smith. The checking hand is especially vital to those who train in Modern Arnis. “We use the check hand inside our tapi-tapi techniques. ‘Block, check, counter’ means that I block and I grab the weapon and counter. Rather than just blocking the attacking strike and countering, my check hand is in the middle of that controlling the weapon so he (the attacker) can’t use it against me,” said Master Ken Smith.

The concept of the checking hand and how to use it also stays the same when weapons are brought into play. “When you have a weapon, you have a check hand,” said Master Gabriele Roloff. “One hand has the weapon, the other hand is checking.” In addition, Master Gauss suggests that even if you have weapons in both hands, the checking hand is still possible with the weapon as an intercept and a strike.

For those who overlook the checking hand as a simple tap to redirect an attack, this is not always the case. Though a slight tap may knock an attack off-line, a powerful check will ruin your opponent’s stance and ultimately disrupt their body mechanics. This is why having a powerful checking hand can make or break a fight.

The checking hand may be vital to martial artists in Modern Arnis, but it can also be a helpful tool to any martial artist training in combat. Opening up your opponent to counter attack in addition to protecting yourself is an incredible skill to have. The goal when fighting is to avoid getting hit and to be able to walk away afterward. It is Remy Presas’s belief, and ultimately the belief of his students, that the checking hand is a lifesaving tool that can be beneficial to any and all martial artists.

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Hannah Lewis

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