One of my recent pleasures is that a certain channel has been re-running early episodes of “The Avengers”. The British ones, that is, not the Marvel characters.
The Avengers was quite a significant show in the history of British television, being one of the first shows to be sold to the US for Prime-Time showing. It is not hard to see why it was successful. The show was “Spy-fi” at a time when “James Bond” films and “Men from UNCLE” were all the rage. The show was witty, often subtly surreal and had a good dollop of British eccentricity. Steed was suave and dashing, Emma was brilliant and beautiful.
The Avengers was never short of action either. “Martial Arts” was another trend of the time and like many series The Avengers included “kung fu” and “Judo” techniques. Every now and then I notice a technique that is more likely to have come from wartime commando training.
Most television series are not a good place to learn realistic fighting techniques, and we can include The Avengers in this. Every now and then, however, I notice a move or two that gets me thinking.
In episode 5-13 “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Station” Emma immobilizes a man using an interesting hold. Her forearms form an inverted “L” shape and her hands are in what Erle would have called “a wrestler’s grip”: one thumb slipped between the fingers of the other hand. The horizontal forearm is across the man’s throat while the other comes up under his armpit in a sort of half full nelson. Interesting, and reminds me somewhat of the stranglehold used extensively by Moshé Feldenkrais in “Practical Unarmed Combat”.
The technique that inspired me to write something about The Avengers in this blog appears in episode 4-20 “The Danger Makers”. Blink and you may very well have missed it.
Emma parries a punch with a rather conventional forearm parry. Immediately the other hand swings up and slaps the attacker, sending him flying. There are several things I like about this apparently simple movement.
The first is that she makes the strike with an open hand. The slap is a much underrated defensive technique. With a relaxed arm it can be made with considerable speed and correspondingly hit with surprising force. A slap and a palm heel strike are not as different as some people think. In my book and on this blog I have often recommended the palm as a weapon since its use reduces the chance of hand damage to the user.
Another thing I like about Mrs. Peel’s technique is the economy of movement. As one hand does the parrying the other uses the same motion to counter attack. If you have brought my book, read this blog or read the Tai Chi book I wrote with Erle, you will recognize this as one of the fundamentals of Long Har Chuan. As one side of the body makes an outward parry the other moves in to make a second parry or an attack.
You will see this principle in a lot of effective combat moves. The one that The Avengers’ sequence most reminded me of was one of the applications of “White Crane/ Stork Spreads Wings” in “How To Use Tai Chi as a Fighting Art”. The most commonly seen application of this move is a pair of outward parries with the lead foot set up for a kick. Erle showed another variation. One hand makes an outward parry, preferably taking you to the foe’s outside gate. The other hand whips up in a fast, powerful centrifugal punch straight to the foe’s temple. Erle described this move using a punch, with the fist becoming fully inverted and striking with the first two knuckles. Since your target may be hard and bony there is considerable merit in practicing this as a palm strike instead.