One of the subjects covered in the Bunkai-Jutsu book is “Predictable response”. For those who haven’t read the book yet, “Predictable response” refers to the unconscious action an opponent will take when subjected to certain stimuli. These unconscious actions are common to all human beings, and are used by the katas to predict the opponent’s most likely position and movement.
If you’ve done any full-contact sparring, or have been involved in a real fight, you’ll know how difficult it can be to land accurate strikes in the rough and tumble of combat. It is for this reason that I believe it is better to hit anywhere fast and hard, rather than endeavour to hit specific targets. However, there can be little doubt that striking the opponent on a weaker area will have a greater effect (these weak points and their effects are listed in chapter 7 of the bunkai book). One way in which we can make these areas more accessible to attack is through the use of predictable response.
Before we go on to discuss this concept in a little more detail, it should be remembered that avoidance, and failing that pre-emptive action, should be our primary strategies. If our awareness is what it should be, then we may be able to avoid the situation all together. If we can’t avoid the confrontation, then we should strike the opponent in the dialogue stages and then make our escape. At this point (before blows are exchanged) it is much easier to hit accurately. However, once the fight is underway the accurate placement of blows becomes very difficult. The katas address this “in-fight” problem in two main ways: A - Predictable response, and B - Close-range control (see chapter 6 of Bunkai-Jutsu book). In this article we will concentrate on predicable response.
A classic non-combative example of predictable response is what happens when you touch something hot. The hand is snatched away before your brain even has time to register the heat! This action is outside the conscious control of the person being burned. They don’t decide to move the hand, there isn’t time for that! Their subconscious mind moves it for them in order to protect the body from harm. The katas use similar methods to cause the opponent’s subconscious to react and hence move them in a particular way. It is important to understand that the opponent moves themselves! All the karateka does is provide the stimulus for the movement. In this way a smaller person can move a larger person, and we have a classic example of using the opponent’s strength against them. The katas then instruct us to strike the target areas the opponent’s movement makes available. This will increase the chances of our blows incapacitating the opponent. I feel I must stress again that the key thing is to keep hitting fast and hard until your safety is assured, regardless of the target areas available. If a target is available, hit it. If not … hit the opponent anyway!
I’m sure that you all know that blows to the head decide most real fights. Choki Motobu – who was one of the most feared fighters in karate history – once said “In a real confrontation, more than anything else one should strike to the head first, as this is the most effective”. Why are so many attacks to the body in the katas then? The answer is that they are not! Many of the strikes that are “middle level” in the katas are preceded by actions that will cause the opponent’s head to drop through the use of predictable response. So what looks like a blow to the body, is in fact a blow to the head. The technique from Pinan / Heian Yodan on page 70 of the KGM book is a good example. The opponent will lean forwards from the waist in response to a subconscious instruction to protect the elbow joint from the pressure being applied to it. The technique from Pinan / Heian Sandan on page 109 is another good example. Here the bones of the forearm are twisted together. In an attempt to alleviate the pain this causes, the opponent’s subconscious will instruct them to bend their legs (this will straighten the arm, bring the shoulder joint into play and hence untwist the forearm. The opponent does not think this through … there isn’t enough time! They just do it.) The motion then makes them vulnerable to the hammer-fist strike. In fact, if you have a look through all my books and tapes, you’ll notice that a great many of the techniques demonstrated make use of predictable response.
There are many such actions, which would be impossible to list here. However, if you have a read of the Bunkai book, and more importantly study the katas themselves, you’ll learn how to use predicable response to control the opponent’s movements and make their weak areas easier to attack.