Why do practitioners of Traditional Martial Arts tend to practice with their hands "chambered"? That is, why are their hands and arms down by their ribs/waist? Often this chambering is criticized as not being realistic or useful, but I beg to differ. Here are some of my ideas on why chambering is practiced and is very important to understand beyond the superficial.
First, and perhaps the most obvious, is for punching and blocking. Hands and arms are used for punching and blocking afterall. In a chaotic fight we do not know where a strike will come from (for us or the opponent) until it does. Therefore, staying in "the middle path", the middle of your body, seems a reasonable choice.
Second, slightly more sophisticated, is using it for parrying (think of a very light "block") and other strikes. For example, any "block" can be a "strike" (can be a "lock", can be a "throw"). Chambering practice is especially useful to practice one hand grabbing or trapping with a strike from the other limb.
Don't forget that elbows can be thought of as punching in reverse. As one hand punches, the other hand draws back into an elbow.
In general, chambering helps to generate rotation/torque/power, to "find your hips". This leads to power development in all techniques.
Chambering promotes using leverage, to keep limbs close to your body. To help with your locking and throwing and to prevent being locked and thrown from others. But, perhaps the most important thing chambering teaches, I believe, is that it promotes a natural stance (not a fighting stance) Most unexpected fights in real life (not sport) occur when you are not expecting them, with your hands down. Once the fight starts it is "hands up".
Thanks for reading.
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