When considering the combative nature of kata and how it fits into the civilian self-defence model of old-style karate (whatever 'old-style' may be, we'll leave for another blog post!), we have to first start with some simplistic truths. Once these are understood and appreciated, it is not too difficult to see how the movements of kata fit well into that model.
The first aspect to consider is that from a practical standpoint, there are really only two states when applying 'self-protection' against a threat to our safety. We are either 'escaping' from the threat, or we are 'engaging' that threat in such a way so that we may facilitate escape at the earliest appropriate opportunity. This is in stark contrast to consensual violence, where physical confrontation is actively sought out and time spent in that confrontation is often purposefully drawn out.
In terms of engagement ranges, there are again, really only two to be concerned with. You're either engaging the threat 'unattached' or engaging them 'attached'. These can of course be both pre-emptive and reactive, but the key contrast is the physical attachment. Your enemy may attach to you, you may attach to your enemy or both. Although crossovers exist, these two states require different combative tactics and it is obvious that being unattached will naturally facilitate an escape much easier than if already attached.
So based on the above, the list of priorities for the context of civilian self-protection may look something like this:
Real world application of the somewhat formalised movement pathways in karate kata for percussive impact require the ability to maximise function away from the clear and uninterrupted line of standard performance. Specifically, strikes need to be able to work under pressure, at varying ranges, with modifications on the fly and from uncomfortable positions. This can never be achieved through repetition in thin air or even against a makiwara, heavy bag or focus mitt for instance unless of course such levels of pressure, range, modification and restriction are thoroughly explored and incorporated.
For self-protection, Hick's Law suggests that it pays to have a single 'go-to' striking technique that's been comprehensively honed to provide a high level of confidence in its ability to serve you well should it ever need to be relied upon. However, repetitively generating a powerful palm strike for instance against a heavy bag does not equate to a technique that's been 'comprehensively honed'. Here are a few ideas to try during training to help check if your strikes are really as functional as you need them to be.
Please check out this incredible playlist that features a series of short interviews with some of Okinawa's most respected karate masters...
These genuinely heart-warming interviews have been beautifully produced and serve to create a very valuable record of 16 teachers who not only have direct links to the pioneering masters of our past, but who have also contributed greatly to karate's continual evolution and inspired so many to find passion in this incredible art.
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.