Sunday, January 17, 2010

Karate and modern martial arts

Karate still a potent self defence system today

Here are my thoughts on karate and modern martial arts training today.

In the last two decades the evolution of mixed martial arts (MMA) and reality based self defence (RBSD) in today’s modern world has cast some questions on the more traditional martial arts (TMA) like Karate, Judo, Jujitsu, Kung fu, Silat, Tai Kwon Do etc as a means of effective self defence.

Sometimes we have practitioners of the modern martial arts like MMA and RBSD coming out and saying that the traditional martial arts are obsolete and don’t really cater for self defence in today’s modern society, claiming that the training methods in TMA’s have nothing to do with self defence or self protection and that these methods are outdated at best.

Are these people correct in assuming TMA’s are no longer viable or transferable to self defence situations

First let’s have a look at what constitutes MMA and RBSD.

The standard MMA formula at most gyms or clubs as we know it today is basically the mixing of Muay Thai (MT) for striking and Brazilian Jujitsu (BJJ) for grappling, both of these are great arts to be sure but they are nothing new or exotic, both existed in one form or another, way before MMA ever came to the fore.

Brazilian Jujistu

Brazilian Jujitsu is a great martial art that specializes in ground grappling, in other words being on the ground and grappling your opponent into submission is what BJJ, teaches, trains, applies and excels at.

BJJ is a sub component of judo, its roots can be traced back to Judo, today’s judo also has ground grappling in the form of BJJ but the judoka don’t train the ground grappling as extensively as the BJJ practitioners who only concentrate on this one component that is ground grappling techniques.

BJJ is not a new martial art it too has been around for over fifty years, you could say that the BJJ practitioners have taken the sub component of judo and trained these few techniques so extensively they are now the specialists in this area.

There is a Japanese saying for the grappling martial arts, it goes along the lines of,

“One year ground, ten years standing.”

Meaning you can get good at ground grappling in one year but it will take you ten years to be very effective at grappling in the standing position.

Wrestling also has ground grappling, but again the ground component isn’t trained as extensively as the BJJ practitioners, wrestling and Judo encompass a much broader range of grappling techniques that include standing, kneeling and ground, I think it would be fair to say that wrestlers and judoka prefer to stand in the grapple.

Muay Thai

Muay Thai is arguably the toughest striking ring sport due to the use of full contact elbows and knees and when mixed with western boxing for the hands one of the best striking arts on the planet, it has been around possibly even longer than karate as we know it today.

Muay Thai has signature techniques in the round kick, and the distinct use of elbows and knees, it also includes clinching and throwing your opponent to the ground which all score very highly in the ring.

Reality Based Self Defence

RBSD is a self defense self protection system that utilizes the theory of human behaviour, psychology and self defence techniques including scenario type training, it has very useful information and statistics about the way people (both predator and prey) will behave in a self defence environment and tries to simulate and induce these feelings in its participants through scenario training.

The ultimate goal of RBSD is not to specifically train techniques so that you may be able to physically deal with any situation you are presented with but rather it focuses on self preservation which may mean, recognizing a situation before its starts, your surroundings with respect to safety, and the choices that may be available to you.

RBSD condones backing down, walking away or avoiding the situation all together, whatever it takes to avoid a nasty encounter and live for another day, fighting is the last option or resort.

RBSD does have signature physical self defence techniques in the shredder, the fence etc. which are easy to apply and imo don’t require training on a daily basis, and it also uses psychological weapons like trying to talk your way out of the predicament, trying to diffuse the situation, pre-emptive striking and improvised weapons.

Overall RBSD is a subject worth exploring and will enhance your theoretical knowledge of self defence and self preservation, while giving you some new ideas about how to train your techniques.

Karate's striking and kicking is second to none

So where does this leave a traditional martial art like karate?

First of all let’s talk about striking in my opinion the striking found in traditional karate is on par or it may even be superior to the striking found in Muay Thai of course this also depends upon the person who is using any martial art.

The striking techniques found in traditional karate-do encompass all of the techniques found in Muay Thai and Western Boxing, as a matter of fact there are more ways to use the human body as a weapon in traditional karate-do than most other martial arts.

Following are some of the ways karate uses the human body as a weapon,
Elbows, knees, punches, kicks, sweeps, hammer fist, knife hand, edge hand, palm heel, hand knuckles, finger knuckles, finger eye jabs, ridge hand, forearm, wrists, eagle hand, chicken hand, bear hand and many many more including grappling and throws.

Many martial arts that haven't got effective hand techniques usually adopt western boxing for the hands, or if they lack in the kicking department they may employ Muay Thai for the legs.

Traditional karate-do has not had to adopt, pinch or borrow any striking technique from any other art, because it has effective hand and leg techniques of its own, the techniques of karate-do are just as effective and lethal as any of the techniques found in western boxing and Muay Thai.

Training methods play a big role in the ability of an individual to use his or her art effectively in a real encounter, just picture Muay Thai stylists who only ever do shadow boxing and then claim that their art is too dangerous to be practiced with aliveness and non complaint partners, just how effective will this type of Muay Thai be in a combat situation, yet many martial artists make these types of claims, these guys best be avoided.

While fresh air shots are important in karate, if karate is to be used in a real situation you need more, there has to be resistance training like makiwara, heavy bag, focus pads, non complaint partners, aliveness in applications and once you have reached brown or black belt level plenty of continuous sparring applying the techniques of karate-do against a non complaint partner.

The physiology and mechanics that make up traditional karate-do techniques is one of the best ways to strike punch or kick and fall in line with modern day Newtonian physics. So my point here is traditional karate doesn’t lack in the striking department and is definitely potent provided it’s trained and applied in the right fashion.

Couple this with the principles, strategy, tactics and philosophy that is found in karate-do and you have a complete striking system.

Engaging in plenty of continuous sparring against many different types of people and body sizes which a dojo environment allows you to do with resistance, this will go a long way in you being able to apply your techniques under pressure, there is just no other way.

Nothing can simulate a real fight on the street and of course you and your partners want to go home with all your teeth in the right place, but controlled shots to the head that must at least make skin contact and body shots up to 75% power is a good way to practice one session at least once a week with advanced karateka, using personal protective equipment and with safety in mind.

If you want to be good at fighting you must fight, it’s better to find out in the dojo what works for you than on the street.

Stand up grappling found in kata compliments karate's striking and kicking 

Grappling for a long time was ignored and neglected not only by traditional karateka but by most striking arts, you only have to go back a few decades to discover this.

Today thanks to many karate pioneers we all know that kata which has always been at the heart of traditional karate is more than a set routine you practice for a grading.

Within kata there are many combinations of striking and grappling techniques for civilian self defence, it is my belief that the grappling component found in the kata of karate-do will grow and in time become just as important as the striking component.

There are already many traditional karateka who train and apply the grappling component of karate-do’s kata, the grappling techniques found in kata are no different to the grappling techniques found in judo, jujitsu and aikido.

So then if traditional karate is practiced and applied with all its syllabus intact which includes striking and grappling what is missing for it to be a modern day martial art that deals with modern day habitual acts of violence.

If your karate-do instructor is also inclined towards real world violence and self defence, which was the case in years gone by the RBSD theory/element will also be present in your martial art, these days more and more traditional instructors are looking into RBSD and exposing this knowledge to their students.

If karate lacks in anything today, it would have to be ground grappling, in my opinion ground grappling is great to know but in a civilian self defence scenario not your first choice for self defence.

Many traditional karate-do instructors are exposing their students to BJJ, they invite BJJ instructors to take seminars at their dojo or the instructors are also doing BJJ and passing on the knowledge.

Going back to my original question of karate-do in the modern world of martial arts, karate is still effective and potent as it ever was, all you have to do is train it in the right way, so guys and gals keep punching.

Traditional karate-do has not changed in over sixty years because it is effective and doesn't need to incorporate techniques from other arts.