The method of karate I practice and teach heavily emphasises the study of kata below the surface. It continually takes on the challenge of what I call 'boiling off' the templates found in karate to help better understand the movements (i.e. essence) contained within them. The result typically reveals more similarities than differences and an art that's comparatively narrow and deep, as opposed to wide and shallow.
The techniques found in kata may involve (1) separation/splitting, (2) meeting/colliding or (3) joining/connecting the hands. Despite the many choreographed shapes and movements performed across the plethora of classical forms, this is really all the hands are (or can be) doing. And although each of these three core interactions possess individual importance, it is really the connecting of hands in kata that I'd like to focus upon in this blog post.
To begin, I'd like to recollect a story from a while back...
Following the ongoing debate and controversy over the Internet surrounding the practical purpose of Hikite (pulling hand), I thought I would offer my own take, which doesn't suggest any specific application per se, but instead covers what is in my opinion, a far more essential understanding of this concept in action.
For me, in order for the physical expression of karate to become both holistically effective and integrated, we must look at the classical kata choreography according to its most essential elements. Regardless of any particular combative purpose (which due to lack of historical evidence is always going to be a product of reverse engineering based on informed opinion), the expression of universal principles that govern karate are entirely dependent on how we move as a human being. That is really our only constant.
If you practice or teach karate as a means of self-defence, then I think it's crucial that you make a conscious effort to explore common traditional practices for aspects that are counter-productive to this goal. I'm not saying that we should eliminate these altogether (as they may provide other values), but it's important I feel that we are proactively mindful of where they may contextually sit.
One of the issues with traditional karate practice in terms of training for self-defence is that of environment. In reality, the application of any self-defence effort will involve interaction with either a real or potential violent threat to the safety of you, a friend or loved one. And the environment by which this interaction takes place may be totally unpredictable and critical to the outcome. Furthermore, that environment is likely to be in direct contrast to that of the dojo.
Here's an excerpt from My Book on the application of Naihanchi Kata for self-defence that discusses environmental considerations...
A few weeks ago, I was sent a spring loaded dummy arm for makiwara by its inventor Braulio Mira (Dimira) from Portugal. His website www.ronin777.com features lots of great training aids and having already made great use of one of his dummy arm sets in my dojo for over a year now, I was excited to see how his newly designed makiwara arm would hold up.
I've been incorporating this product in my training routine now for around a month or so and wanted to share a quick review for any interested karate practitioners who may be thinking about purchasing one. I know how important it is for martial artists to find good quality training equipment, so I hope my honest views below may help readers make an informed decision about this, or similar products.
Here's a short video clip of the product in action...
Within the chapter that focuses on the percussive impact in my upcoming book on the exploration of civilian combative methods found in Naihanchi Kata, I mention the 'Hierarchy of Impact' and how this important principle may be utilised in the practical application of traditional karate.
The components of 'distance' and 'time' are luxuries seldom enjoyed in the realm of civilian self-protection, so it stands to reason that any system that relies heavily on these is fundamentally flawed when aligned to this specific context. And in my opinion, due to extended ranges emphasised in many of the more contemporary karate systems in order to meet other goals, the hierarchy of impact is not often given the attention it deserves.
In this blog post, I'd like to write a little about the hierarchy of impact and why I believe any self-defence based karate dojo should look to embrace this principle throughout a variety of training protocols.