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The concept of centerline involves an imaginary line that extends vertically down the length of the body and divides the body into two bi-laterally symmetrical halves. The centerline is important because many vital organs and pressure points lie along it (both front and back), such as the brain, throat, heart, solar plexus, bladder, testicles, and the spine. By shifting your centerline in relation to your opponent, you may make it less accessible and less vulnerable to attack. Your guard and blocks should always protect your centerline.

The opponent's centerline serves as the point of convergence for your strikes. Your attacks should be directed toward targets that lie along the opponent's centerline. Extend your attacks and blocks to, but not much past, your own or your opponent's centerline or you will expose your side and rear targets to attack. Not extending your strikes and blocks to your centerline leaves your centerline open to attack.

If one can control the opponent’s centerline, then his or her 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.

Defending the centerline

Using blocks

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 the concept of using "strength against strength." This will be successful if the block is stronger than the opponent's strike.

At another level, the effectiveness of a block can be enhanced by simply shifting off the line of attack and adjusting the angle of your body obliquely (about 45 degrees) to the incoming strike. In this way, the lead arm slips the strike, using the concept of” soft contains the hard.”

At yet another level, blocking can be performed using the concept of "intercepting and redirecting." 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. Or, the trailing hand may be used to intercept, and the leading arm used to counterattack the opponent. 

People are particularly vulnerable to counterattacks at either the initiation of or the termination of their attack. Therefore, it is essential to protect your centerline during both times.

During hand attacks

Protecting the centerline 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 after the attack, then the trailing hand should move through a slight arc crossing the centerline to protect it before the lead hand returns to chamber. 
  • The lead hand can be used to add protection to the head or body simultaneously with the punch. In this case, the lead hand is not immediately 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 kick.

During kicks

Protecting the center during kicking is usually achieved in the following two ways:
  • Maintain a central closed guard position with the hands throughout 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 beginning of the kick.
  • Raise the knee of the kicking leg high enough to afford protection to the abdomen during the kick.

While moving

Stance and body shifting may also be used to protect the centerline. Any stance which provides maneuverability in all directions and keeps your center facing away from your opponent will provide some protection from an attack. Rotating your body and shifting your center away from the attack without changing your basic foot positioning will also provide some 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.

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