Tembin is one of our core juho techniques. It can be applied from a range of positions, whether grabbed from the wrist (tekubi), lapel or even neck. It can also be used as shikake waza (pick up techniques) and against punches and even kicks. The direct translation from Japanese means “balance” and can be thought of more as a pair of scales rather than a direct attack to the elbow. The trick with the technique is a dual counter motion of pulling the wrist back while striking down to the elbow area, while dropping the weight into the front leg. This action has the effect of taking the opponent down for a ground lock (gatame) or follow-up and finish.
The gripping hand should have a hold of the back of the hand to maintain a good twisting action on the wrist. This helps to turn the arm and expose the weak point for attack. The striking hand delivers a chopping action, hitting with shuto, the knife part of the hand, or gaiwanto, the outside forearm. The knack is to keep the arm weighted, like a heavy axe chopping a block of wood. A common mistake people make is not using enough force/weight in the chop (i.e. pushing) or not enough counter motion leaving the person standing.
The strike point is called chu-in. It’s just inside the elbow, about 3 fingers up and inside the tricep. There is no muscle protection there and even a gentle squeeze with the fingers hurts. When striking it is important to start hitting from underneath, where chu-in is located, and then bring the strike over and round the arm. If you try to strike from on top first it may still work, but opponents with strong triceps will be able to resist.
The most important thing with executing a good tembin is timing. It’s a delicate synchronisation between catch, twist, hit and drop. However, the action is very smooth so if done well, it is very effective. As you become more advanced, your action will become smaller and the technique tighter, making tembin more effective and faster. However, the only way to get there is to start with the basics and build up. One thing is for certain, tembin isn’t for the faint hearted!