Karate Styles And Blocks
If we learn Karate for self defense, do we really know which Karate styles will teach us practical street fighting techniques?
Imagine this: A black eye and bruises. That's what your friend was sporting when you met him. Apparently he was in a real fight. He's been learning Karate for 3 years and all those blocks and punches his Karate instructor taught in class failed him.
So, what do you think went wrong here, he certainly did tried to block and fight back the way he has been trained. Did it ever occurred to him that there's something fundamentally wrong with many of Karate styles being taught today?
The problem is complex and deep-rooted. Without any basics in martial arts, a beginner seeking to learn Karate for self defense will be lost in vast variety of the many Karate styles available today: Shotokan, Shito-ryu, Wado-ryu, Goju-ryu, Kyokushinkai are among the more popular ones.
So how can he decide which Karate styles will teach him practical street fighting techniques and effective Karate blocks. In my humble opinion, the answer lies in listening to your instinct.
IF YOU HAVE DOUBTS, TEST YOUR TECHNIQUE AGAINST A MOVING RESISTING OPPONENT
I think there isn't one Karate student in world who hasn't said to himself or herself at one time or another, "This block will never work in a real fight, so why am I learning it?"
But he or she is within the confine of the dojo, and for those Karate styles or dojos who practice "tradition" over everything else, it's unthinkable and disrespectful to question your Sensei. When your Sensei said, you listened, trained and that's it.
The most common reply would be it's not working because you did not trained hard enough or long enough. Nobody ever thought it's because that particular Karate block is not practical in a real fight. So our common sense, body biomechanics and anatomical capability are thrown out of the window just because of tradition or ego.
I suggest everytime you have doubts on a particular Karate technique, voice it out or better, pressure-test the technique against a moving resisting opponent.
All those typical Karate blocks you've been taught: Gedan barai (downward block), Age uke (high block), Shuto uke (knifehand block), Soto uke (outer forearm block), Uchi uke (inner forearm block), Morote uke (supported hand block) and etc. most likely won't work in a real fight.
Heck, you probably didn't even get those blocks to work in your dojo kumite (sparring) sessions. If you've been training in the way most Karate styles are, you would be hit while drawing your hand back to chamber a block, it's simply too slow. You probably stand a better chance blocking those incoming strikes or punches by covering your head with both your arms (like a boxer).
In the heat of a real fight, everything would be flying fast and furious. So chambering any punches, strikes or blocks will not be effective, whether to block, strike or to generate more power.
It's better to just strike or block from where your hands and legs are, unless the opponent has been stunned or sufficiently incapacitated for a final KO blow. That's why any simple one-step street fighting move is always more effective than any elaborate Karate technique from most typical Karate styles.
News about Karate black belts being beaten-up by street gangsters or hoodlums are nothing new. The way unarmed people fight now is no different from feudal Japan few hundred years ago.
Most fights consist of lots of hand work: punching, slapping, grabbing, pushing, pulling, poking and scratching. Most of the strikes will be aimed at your head. In many typical Karate styles today, the "yoi" or ready stance trained you to keep your arms low, leaving your head relatively unprotected!
SPEED IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ATTRIBUTE IN BLOCKING
To survive a real fight, you must be able to block the attacks on you and retaliate decisively. To be able to block successfully is insufficient by itself. To end a fight, you must hit him more and harder than he hit you.
Practical street fighting techniques always consist of simple straightforward techniques emphasizing on speed. With speed, you'll naturally get power. For us in Kissaki-Kai, most Karate technique is both a block and strike. That means we hit our opponent the same time we block his strike.
Shorin-ryu Karate master, Shoshin Nagamine judge the worth of a Karate technique by 7 rules, and the first rule is: "Block and counter-attack must be one movement."
We believed that most Karate blocks are composed of a parry and two strikes. The parry and counterstrike occur almost simultaneously. The parrying hand then delivers the stronger or KO strike.
One of our most commonly used defensive technique is the Mawashi uke (circular parrying block). In this move, you:
1. Parry an incoming strike with your open palm while moving your body (using tai and ashi sabaki) 45 degree to left or right side of your opponent, away from his centerline.
Move fast and slap his fist hard when you parry. Slapping the fist instead of the wrist or forearm gives you more time to react.
Bear in mind that moving 45 degree into your attacker is more important than parrying his strikes. Parrying is just your insurance, your main defense is closing the distance and moving away from his optimal striking range (or pyramid of power).
2. Grab the opponent's striking limb and using hikite, pull him towards you. (Many typical Karate styles teach hikite as a move to chamber a punch or block).
3. As you pull him towards you, strike his eyes, face, neck, throat or ribs hard, the choice of target depending on your last shifted position and your intention (stun, hurt or KO).
Parrying is the fastest defensive movement you can do, being an instinctive and reflex action. Since the parry is a deflection of an attack, it does not need power to stop it head-on, unlike a hard contact direct block.
You do not need to muster so much strength and tension. By being less tense, you have more energy, stamina and endurance to last the fight or run whenever possible.
Another Kissaki-Kai signature block is the Kanku no kamae which is similar to renown combative instructor Tony Blauer's SPEAR. I shall talk about this technique in our free newsletter, Bunkai World. So please sign up for it.
Why so many Karate styles today teach ineffective Karate blocks? Some of the answers might be:
1. For safety. Karate master Anko Itosu introduced Karate to elementary schools beginning in 1901 as part of physical training curriculum.
Since the original Karate techniques were considered too risky for young children, he removed and modified the dangerous techniques and simplified his kata into mostly block-and-punch techniques, omitting pressure points, joint-locks, throws, chokes and ground fighting, all the necessary components for effective street fighting techniques.
2. Due to secrecy and dilution of information. Many of the Karate styles today are simplified forms of the Chinese martial arts, consisting mostly of block-and-strike in 2 separate movements, as opposed to the Chinese way of block-and-strike in one movement.
This is mainly due to mistrust, misinterpretation, misunderstanding or simply clash of egos between nations, schools, and individuals, henceforth the appearance of so many different Karate styles today.
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