Le tranche and its use in the art of Defense dans la Rue



mvc-010s-95.jpgmvc-009s-95.jpgLe tranche (English translation meaning to chop) , is an effective “edge-of-hand blow” taken from Japanese Jiu-Jitsu and adopted into the ‘ Defense dans la Rue’ systems during the early 1900’s.

While le tranche was generally executed at the courte(close) distance its long range application, particularly against English boxers, was recommended by instructors such as Emile Andre (1) and Joseph Renaud (2) .

In this article, Ralph Grasso, an instructor of WWII combatives and an ex LEO with the New York Police Department, provides techniques and principles for applying le tranche against pugilism type punching attacks. Ralph also discusses how to effectively combine le tranche with western boxing methods.

Le tranche and its use in the art of Defense dans la Rue

By Ralph Grasso


During the late 1800s Japanese experts and western practitioners themselves made the art of Jiu-Jitsu known to Europeans. Mixed matches between Jiu-Jitsukas and fighters from other systems were fought in different ways depending on the country in which these bouts took place in. For instance in England it was often boxing vs Jiu-Jitsu and in France is was Savate vs Jiu-Jitsu.

Jiu-jitsukas had two major methods of defense against boxers. The first involved the use of clinching and smothering the pugilists attacks, leading to take downs and followed by chokes or joint locks. The second defense involved the use of atemi waza, in particular the edge-of-hand blow, to fend off and attack the boxer. During the course of these mix bouts there were various victories and this writer can see no superiority in either Western or Asian methods. It is apparent that over time the winner became the martial artist who was open minded and diligent enough to learn the strength and weakness of their opposing systems. This, along with the wave of crime created by the French Apache gangs was the catalyst for the creation of Defense dans la Rue.

tranche3.jpg tranche4.jpgtranche5.jpg

Training the edge-of-hand blows against a boxer

Personally I have trained with boxers and used the edge-of-hand blows against a welter weight boxer (10-0 record) in N.Y.P.D. He told me that after this experience his arms were finished. I have also effected arrests with edge-of-hand strikes.

When I work edge-of-hand blows against a boxer, I don’t target specific areas of the arm instead I strike the surrounding area. To make this work, you must move like a boxer yourself and use le tranche accordingly.

My edge-of-hand blows never travel outside the length of my shoulder line until impact: they are actually shorter than a boxers punch.

The key to delivering these strikes is to relax the arm while keeping your vertical, horizontal and diagonal edge-of-hand strikes within range of your shoulder line. This principal maintains a natural defense in conjunction with the offensive action of the tranche. Whatever the opponent throws; be it a right cross- it gets hit, an upper cut- it gets hit. Keep in mind that you are not parrying but striking violently at whatever enters within your range. You do this while driving forward.

Against a boxer there are three training methods in utilizing edge-of-hand strikes. They are; ‘outside left’, ‘outside right’, and ‘inside’. When working to the outside of the boxers jab , you force him to step over and over extend his rear cross. The ‘short’ horizontal edge-of-hand strike, combined with drop-steps, drives the enemy’s jab across his mid line, while the vertical edge-of-hand hacks down inside his right cross.

I have experimented with this, using boxing gear and baseball shin guards : it is systematically trained slowly at first against lead jabs, progressing to jabbing and crossing. When confident expand to cover defense against feinting, punching, adding in upper cuts at full speed. The defender then gets taught elbow guards and how to combine them with edge-of-hands to destroy the knuckles, forearms and biceps.

Remember, don’t specifically target the knuckles, wrists or elbows when guarding or chopping at the opponents punches. Also avoid trying to ‘gunt’ a moving arm or fist with your elbows this takes fine motor skills and in real combat, against an aggressive and mobile adversary, will be virtually impossible. Instead use a simple turn of the waist to cover your body with your elbow guards. If you do manage to catch a punch on your elbow then that’s an added bonus- nothing more.

Le tranche combination


Picture-1 Ralph adopts the ‘Edward Allen’ guard.


Picture-2 The sucker punch(over hand right) is met with a left edge-of-hand strike which hacks into the adversary’s arm.


Picture-3  The second punch , a left hook, is countered with another edge-of-hand strike in one motion.


Picture-4  Ralph pulls his left arm back into a horizontal guard.


Picture-5 Using a sweeping edge-of-hand strike Ralph chops all the way through at the enemy’s head region.


 mvc-014s-55.jpg -6

Picture-6 This is followed with a shorter edge-of-hand blow to the side of the neck using the right hand- this strike may cause a knock out.

mvc-015s-45.jpg -7

Picture-7 Finally Ralph grabs the adversary and delivers a knee to the solo plexus.


Follow ups

As I mentioned earlier, you should be driving forward while hacking anything that comes into your range. Once you chop into the boxer’s arms he will react by either dropping his guard or pulling his arms in and turtling up-both reactions will leave him open to your strikes. Upon achieving dominance and traversing closer into the adversary, follow up with edge-of-hand strikes to his kidney, knee, peroneal. This also opens up your adversary to knees to the groin and strangles- fight over!

” Watch Ralph Grasso skillfully apply his edge-of -hand strikes against boxing attacks on this Youtube clip”

Boxing, atemi-waza, and the need for both

The edge-of-hand strike and its combined use with the closed fists of boxing has always been a controversial topic amongst martial artist. People who solely rely on either atemi- wazaor bare knuckle boxing are cheating themselves because they are not accounting for the real use of distance. The object of coordinating both edge-of-hand strikes with classical boxing is to promote damage by using the most destructive weapons at the appropriate range. This fusion will also increase the angles from which we can strike and in turn produce even more efficient skill sets. For the transition of bare knuckle blows to edge-of-hand strikes to be successful, the arms must be as relaxed as possible. By reducing unnecessary tension in the arms, combinations can be more easily improvised. If you are not taking advantage of bare knuckle boxing and atemi-wazayou are simply not taking advantage of the best of both worlds. In closing, I would like to say that if you have little or no experience with edge-of-hand blows, or have never been trained by someone that really knows this method, then you will be unaware how effective and dangerous they truly are. Gentlemen like Emile Andre, Georges Dubois and Joseph Renaud realized the efficiency of edge-of-hand strikes and adopted them accordingly into Defense dans la Rue.

Boxing & atemi-waza combination

a1.jpg -1

Picture-1 Ralph adopts a compact guard against his opponent.

a2.jpg -2

Picture-2 The attack is initiated with a straight lead while drop stepping into the opponent. The punch serves two purposes, the first as a range finder and the second to stun and open the enemy up to further strikes. If using Jiu-Jitsu the straight blow would be a tiger claw.

a3.jpg -3

Picture-3 On completion of the strike Ralph flexes his arm in preparation for an edge-of-hand blow. The bent elbow position protects the head from the enemy’s punches.

a4.jpg -4

Picture-4 A horizontal edge-of-hand strike is delivered to the throat.

a5.jpg -5

Picture-5 To end the combination Ralph smashes a  chop blow across the enemy’s jaw.

(1)- Emile Andre’s manual “100 Coups de Jiu- Jitsu”, printed early 1900s, emphasized the use of edge of hand strikes to deal with the punching attacks of a boxer. He recommends to strike the forearm of the adversary the instant he delivers a punch, this would be followed with a trip or a kick to the knee joint. He adds that when delivering the tranche the forearm also serves as a parry as found in English boxing.

(2) – During 1907 J. Joseph Renaud wrote a series of articles for the newspaper -” La Vie  au Grand Air”. In one such article entitled-” Boxe et Jiu-jitsu” Renaud touches on the use of le tranche against the classical English boxer – ” In front of a Jiu-jitsu  practitioner one should not adopt a long guard, feints are also illconsiderd, as one risks receiving on the arm a dangerous ‘chop’. One of these careless and unwise actions could result in the defeat of a boxer”.


%d bloggers like this: