Saturday, November 4, 2017

Self-Defense and Karate Kata

Two black belt instructors from Utah Shorin-Kai practice one of dozens of techniques from Meikyo kata during clinic
at the Arizona Hombu Dojo in Mesa. This application shows near the end of the kata and is taught with a jumping
application. But it also works very well to keep your feet planted on the ground as an attacker attempts to grabs a leg
for a take down. Imagine the force of the blow of a downward elbow strike on the top of the head or back of the neck.
This is such a powerful technique that some martial artists use it in record setting cinder block breaking. Warning, do
not use this on anyone - it is dangerous (photo courtesy of Nemec Photography).
Visualize an attacker moving fast and low to try to take you to the ground by gabbing and lifting your leg, or lifting you by your crotch or ankle. I periodically see people practicing these moves at the Lifetime Fitness in Gilbert, Arizona and it is likely a great move against someone not properly trained in self-defense.

From my martial arts education in karate and jujutsu in 50 years of training is that you should never grab anyone until you first apply atemi (attention getter - basically a knock out strike to the jaw). As you can imagine, if your opponent is seeing stars, it should be relatively easy to take them down. But another thing I have been taught in the many martial arts I've trained in - never go to the ground for any reason! By going to the ground, you leave yourself open to an attack by one of your opponent's friends, and you also have fewer options for self-defense whether you take a person down, or you are taken down. 

So, as I watch these individual practicing take downs, a couple of bunkai (practical applications) I've taught in classes and clinics come to mind. One is in Meikyo kata and designed for situations like this. The technique is disguised in kata and begins with a 360-degree jump. Of course you should not jump while an attacker is trying to take you down, but using a downward elbow strike on the top of the head, neck, or spine would likely end a take down attempt (it could also end in very serious injury, so be very careful and do not use this unless you are prepared for the consequences).

There are two other bunkai from Rohai kata that are also designed to defend against a takedown. One is a hard punch directed downward, and the other is a double, open-hand technique also directed downward. Imagine a person trying to tackle you while you apply a hard punch to his spine while at the same time pushing his head to the ground with your other hand. Or imagine using the other bunkai - slapping your attacker on both ears while he rushes in for the take down. Game over. 

Every kata taught in traditional Okinawan karate has many self-defense applications such as these that people should be practicing for self-defense. Imagine, training every day with kata that contain dozens of devastating self-defense applications. Your muscles learn to move properly, you build speed, power and balance. This is what kata and karate are all about - building proper muscle memory. Then, take individual pieces out of the kata and periodically practice them with a partner - soon you will soon be dangerous! This is karate!

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