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diadicic
diadicic's picture
Did Karate Grappling really Exist article.

Article I am talking about    http://www.iainabernethy.co.uk/article/karate-grappling-did-it-really-exist

I have to say I agree with all Iain observations.  The artical is also very direct and easy for me to understand, that also helps. Has a lot of good references that I can check out myself.  

I have had this discussion with many students of mine and still cant answer it.  At least I think I am not able to answer it.  If Karate Grappling is only able to deal with unskilled agressers and MMA grappling is able to deal with all agressers.  Why not just train MMA and throw away the Karate system all together?  It's a good point.  Even for myself. I can't answer it.  I say there is more to a fight  then just grappling, and that I believe but I still can't answer the basic question.

What's your take on it?

Dom

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

Can you link ot the article please? Many thanks.

Yes interesting article by Iain, I am of course in doubt that karate has grappling in it's kata and indeed was underpinned in the old days by Tegumi (free wrestling like) practice.

Technically it's pretty much all there if one unlocks the kata, and trains in an appropiate way - I also agree that a karateka against a MMA guy or proberly more appropiatly a BJJ guy in a sporting contest with rules to stop striking is really going to struggle.

ky0han
ky0han's picture

Hi gents,

Dom, I think you have to distinguish between MMA the sport and Karate as a self defense system.

MMA grappling is surely the more dominant thing and MMA fighters are highly skilled grapplers. But self defense wise I don't want to outgrapple an opponent. I just want to get rid of him as fast as possible.

When you are forced to go to the ground, you need a certain skill set to make you free and put yourself on your feet as fast as possible. Thats what karate provides. If you are engaged in a long grappling encounter, you can be kicked in the head and/or stabbed/clubbed by third persons. That is the last thing you want.

Hope that helps.

Regards Holger

diadicic
diadicic's picture

Now here is the next part of the argument.  We do a lot of Judo and Catch Wrestling I learned from different teachers I've had in the past.  I say that we have incorporated a lot of different stuff in the past 10 years. I have also thrown out stuff I feel is of no relevance anymore. (Traditional One step sparing) I don't really consider my self as practicing the original system anymore.  I feel that it is my teachers and my karate, but still Karate.   We have just adding what we feel is need to survived.  What ever new stuff I bring in, It still follows the same theme of keeping it simple and fast.  In the article I read that this is what the original master would have probably done.  It may not be the same thing they passed on, but shouldn't we always look to improve it.  A lot of the stuff I bring in, is from Judo, catch, and Pilipino Martial arts.    So let me have it. I can take it. 

Dom

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

I really liked the article. There's alot of nuance there that gets missed by most internet arguments on the subject.

I think though the bigger question is how exactly to learn to "grapple" for Karate. Fortunately I now have a couple of Jujutsu guys training alongside me, and Kris is a Judoka..so I get some exposure to very qualified grappler minds. My  goal is suss out what I think is beneficial to my Karate training..but even with great resources like these it gets confusing trying to figure out what exactly is gonna end up being relevant to me, and what isn't. Is it worth learning any submissions, or just focusing on position and escape etc..there are plenty of questions in my mind.

Basically, it seems like whatever things were like historically, the most practical thing to do today is figure out what bare-bones method fits Karate, and then go learn the stuff from someone who really knows it.

You can take a Karateka who has learned a mount escape, and maybe used it against other Karateka, it might be ok but it really seems as if there will be some major points of effectiveness you get (especially with "basics") that will simply be superior with an actual grappler. So while the historical piece is certainly on the money...it still seems like we are stuck looking elsewhere if we truly wnat to learn groundfighting.

Quote:
MMA grappling is surely the more dominant thing and MMA fighters are highly skilled grapplers. But self defense wise I don't want to outgrapple an opponent. I just want to get rid of him as fast as possible.

True, but I can say that the year I spent lazily doing Judo here and there taught me more about "escape" than spending a similar amount of time on my own trying to escape stuff with knowing some minimal positional movement would. That's the conundrum I think, if you want to learn to escape holds..grapplers are simply better at that stuff generally.

But, I think that's what they did back in the day anyway, you went where knowledge was.. so we are just following tradition right?

Gavin Mulholland
Gavin Mulholland's picture

I really struggle with this mindset. What do you mean 'karate grappling' and 'MMA grappling'? There is only grappling. How exactly do people expect it to differ? There are only so many ways to hit, strike bend or break someone and those things are common to almost all systems. The only difference is the emphasis you place on the various elements of combat and of course, the scenario you are training for.

Of course a twice-a-week karateka would struggle against a professional cage fighter! But not necessarily if he trained like a professional fighter (one of my guys won again in UCMMA this weekend by the way).

Grappling has always been a part of the Goju I have studied and was done by every Goju instructor I trained under. Yes, back in the day the grappling was more - shall we say 'agricultural', but that doesn't mean you have to keep it that way.  The concept that I might no longer be doing Goju because I got good at doing a specific, and often neglected, aspect of it is, to say the least farcical!

A punch is a punch, a choke is a choke, a throw is a throw.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

diadicic wrote:
Why not just train MMA and throw away the Karate system all together?  It's a good point.  Even for myself. I can't answer it.  I say there is more to a fight  then just grappling, and that I believe but I still can't answer the basic question.

What's your take on it?

Dom

My take on it is explained in the article itself. I’ll copy that below than add some additional thoughts in another post.

Iain Abernethy wrote:
One of the first things we need to explore is what type of grappling we are talking about when referring to “karate grappling”. In 1908 the purpose of traditional karate was clearly defined by the great Anko Itosu. In a letter to the Okinawan education authority outlining the nature of karate he wrote, “[Karate] is not intended to be used against a single opponent but instead as a way of avoiding injury by using the hands and feet should one by any chance be confronted by a villain or ruffian”. What Itosu is telling us is that the original karate was not designed for dealing with a single skilled martial artist in a ring or in the dojo, but is instead a means of keeping ourselves safe in civilian self-protection situations. This is very important and we shall return to its significance shortly.

In the same letter Itosu also states, “Enter, counter, withdraw is the rule for torite.” Torite is an old term for grappling and means “seizing hands”. Itosu is therefore telling us that the karate way of dealing with civilian grappling is to get in there (enter), do some damage (counter) and then, once it is possible, flee (withdraw). As we shall see later, some of Itosu's students recorded examples of this strategy in their own works.

From Itosu's outline of karate we can see that the karate of the 1900s did not concern itself with outfighting a single skilled opponent, but instead focussed on the simple and direct methods needed to ensure safety in civilian situations. We can also see that the karate of that time did address grappling in that environment. However, karate did not contain the grappling methods for dealing with a skilled “single opponent”. Therefore, those that state skilled MMA style grappling can be found in traditional kata are quite wrong. MMA grappling is of such a level to be able to deal with both a skilled “square go” and the civilian environment (when put into context and when the illegal methods are added back in). Traditional karate grappling does not address a consensual fight with a skilled opponent.

Further evidence that the methods found within kata were not for a skilled square go can be found in Shoshin Nagamine's book “Tales of Okinawa's Great Masters” (translated by Patrick McCarthy). In the book Nagamine recalls the words of his teacher, Choki Motobu. Motobu studied for a time under Anko Itosu, he expressed great distain for any method not directly applicable to self-defence, and he tested his skills in hundreds of real fights in the rougher areas of Okinawa (a practise which eventually lead to Itosu expelling Motobu from his dojo). Nagamine tells us that Motobu said, “The applications of kata have their limits and one must come to understand this. The techniques of the kata were never developed to be used against a professional fighter in an arena or on a battlefield. They were, however, most effective against someone who had no idea of the strategy being used to counter their aggressive behaviour.”

This is not to say karate is in any way deficient. It simply means it was designed for a certain set of circumstances and that we need to be clear on what kind of grappling we are discussing. If you think of the direct low-level methods that most martial artists would utilise in actual self-defence – as opposed to the methods martial artists use to outsmart each other – that is the karate of the 1900s and of the kata.

http://www.iainabernethy.co.uk/article/karate-grappling-did-it-really-exist

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Shoshinkanuk,

Is there an “no” missing from this sentence?

shoshinkanuk wrote:
Yes interesting article by Iain, I am of course in doubt that karate has grappling in it's kata and indeed was underpinned in the old days by Tegumi (free wrestling like) practice.

Did you mean to say, “I am of course in NO doubt that karate has grappling in its kata”?

Just thought I’d check because the rest of the post would suggest you do accept there is grapping in kata?

All the best,

Iain

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

diadicic wrote:
Why not just train MMA and throw away the Karate system all together?

This podcast will greatly help explain my thinking on this:http://www.iainabernethy.co.uk/content/martial-map-free-audio-book

To keep it brief though the bottom line is we can never divorce what works from the environment in which it is designed to operate. And I’ll expand on that in a moment.

Gavin Mulholland wrote:
I really struggle with this mindset. What do you mean 'karate grappling' and 'MMA grappling'? There is only grappling. How exactly do people expect it to differ? There are only so many ways to hit, strike bend or break someone and those things are common to almost all systems. The only difference is the emphasis you place on the various elements of combat and of course, the scenario you are training for.

It’s the scenario bit that marks the distinction for me and why I personally would say that there are different types of grappling. Totally true that there is little difference in terms of technique as good technique is good technique; however, the relevance of given techniques, and the tactics used to employ them can alter radically when the context changes.

As an example “Judo Grappling” requires a whole host of techniques to turn a person from their front onto their back so you can pin them and win the match. However, “Police Grappling” requires the exact opposite i.e. you want to turn people face down so they can be better controlled and handcuffed. Police Grappling therefore will spend very little time on “front to back” in the same way that Judo Grappling will spend no time on “back to front”. The methods of “front to back” and “back to front” both work, but the desire to train specifically for the environment they operate in means the police ignore one set of skills and Judo players ignore the other. You can never divorce a method from its environment / context, or expect all things to be appropriate in all environments. You also need to focus training on the objective.

If we are talking about the sport of MMA, then those methods are designed to win a match and that is the context in which they are designed to work. Again, it’s not so much the technique, but the choice of technique and the overall tactics employed.

In a MMA match deliberately seeking a grapple, deliberately taking a fight to the floor, deliberately keeping a fight on the floor, and looking for fight winners such as ankle-locks and knee-bars can all work great. Taking that wholesale into self-defence could be disastrous though.

Most of the MMA guys I know fully appreciate that and change their choice of techniques and tactics to match the environment … however some don’t get it and fail to discriminate.

For self-protection we don’t need the advanced skills to outsmart a trained grappler. We don’t need to spend lots of training time on passing guards, applying triangle chokes, avoiding ankle-locks etc. We do need to know how to avoid common grabs and how to disengage from those grabs so we can flee. One or two throws can help, but we don’t need the highly developed throws, feints and combinations needed to “throw throwers”. We also don’t need all the tactical skills associated with competitive grappling i.e. how to use their training against them by making them assume A when in reality it was technique B we wanted all along. We just need to go straight for the technique we want fast and hard.

The standard training model should always be:

1, Clearly define the problem and identify what actions will lead to a win in that environment.

2 , Specifically train the actions that make success in that environment likely.

The grappling associated with the karate of the past was not developed with MMA matches in mind. It was a civilian self-protection system that existed long before MMA as we know it came into being.

Any MMA gym that is not 100% competitively focused, and who also trains for self-protection, will have a set of skills and drills specifically for self-protection. And that grappling will be very similar to what you’ll find in any dojo or gym, regardless of style, that has a similar focus. It does not matter whether is MMA, Krav Maga, RBSD, Judo, Jujutsu, Karate, etc. It’s not the style that determines the methodology but the environment.

The grappling we find in the karate of the past / karate kata is designed for the context of self-protection. As Motobu said:

“The applications of kata have their limits and one must come to understand this. The techniques of the kata were never developed to be used against a professional fighter in an arena or on a battlefield. They were, however, most effective against someone who had no idea of the strategy being used to counter their aggressive behavior.”

And as I said in the article:

“This is not to say karate is in any way deficient. It simply means it was designed for a certain set of circumstances and that we need to be clear on what kind of grappling we are discussing. If you think of the direct low-level methods that most martial artists would utilise in actual self-defence – as opposed to the methods martial artists use to outsmart each other – that is the karate of the 1900s and of the kata.”

In answer to the original question, what you should not do is swap methods designed for the environment you are training for with methods appropriate to an environment you are not training for.

This is also not an MMA vs. Karate thing either as both approaches will have very similar answers when it comes to what it appropriate for civilian self-protection. Again, this is because environment dictates. So you’d either be swapping one set of skills for the same set of skills (so what would be the point?) or you are swapping a set of skills designed for one environment (self-protection) with ones designed for another environment (competitive MMA); which leads to inefficient training.

Before the oft asked, “What happens if we meet an MMA guy in a self-defense situation?” comes up, I’ll pre-empt and point out that it’s not the opponent that that determines the context, but the environment in which they meet. This thread covers that for those who want to explores that further: http://iainabernethy.co.uk/content/trained-fighters-boxers-kicking

A longer post than intended, but the key thing is never underplaying the vital importance of context and never failing to clearly identify training goals. As I said, the podcast better explains the whole notion of context if it’s not clear.

All the best,

Iain

Gavin Mulholland
Gavin Mulholland's picture

I would agree with the vast majority of that as its written (and possibly with all of it in spirit) but I would say that the distinction between 'judo grappling' and 'police grappling' is simply a distinction of tactics and strategy- i.e. one wants the opponent face up and the other face down. However, the knowledge and understanding of body mechanics, weight distribution, body control etc. inherent in all good grappling, remain the same.

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:

Hi Shoshinkanuk,

Is there an “no” missing from this sentence?

Did you mean to say, “I am of course in NO doubt that karate has grappling in its kata”?

Just thought I’d check because the rest of the post would suggest you do accept there is grapping in kata?

All the best,

Iain

Yes indeed Iain, I meant I am in NO doubt - can you edit for me so it's correct to read.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Gavin Mulholland wrote:
I would say that the distinction between 'judo grappling' and 'police grappling' is simply a distinction of tactics and strategy- i.e. one wants the opponent face up and the other face down. However, the knowledge and understanding of body mechanics, weight distribution, body control etc. inherent in all good grappling, remain the same.

Absolutely. Tactics change, so that choice of techniques may change too. However, as you say, the core technical concepts remain unaltered.

All the best,

Iain

JWT
JWT's picture

I'm of the same opinion as iain here.  I posted this elsewhere on the site, but realised I didn't know how to link to individual posts, and still haven't posted it as an article on my own website!

I apologise that the footnotes have come through as end notes.  cheeky

Karate is often viewed by both outsiders and practitioners as a striking art, with little or no grappling techniques.  Though this has varied from system to system, and there are many different branches  on the Karate family trees, there are a number that currently have no throwing or locking/joint control or destruction techniques in their core syllabi.[1]  It was not always this way, and fortunately due to the work of a number of instructors, the broader heritage of the techniques contained within karate kata is beginning to be taught once more.

The evidence for the core use of grappling and throwing in Karate can be found in a number of early Twentieth century texts.   It is unfortunate there are large gaps in the available written records for Karate (if they ever existed) due perhaps to the devastation caused by the battle for Okinawa in the Second World War.  Even before this Gichin Funakoshi commented on the paucity of historical information, observing that “there is virtually no written material on the early history of karate, we do not know who invented and developed it, nor even, for that matter, where it originated and evolved.”[2]  Fortunately, Funakoshi, possibly the most influential figure in the spread of Karate to Japan and thereafter the world, has left us both a written and photographic legacy of some Karate grappling techniques, while the surviving copies of the pre-twentieth century in origin Bubishi  give a tantalizing glimpse of the likely prevalence of such close quarter methods in early Okinawan Karate.

Okinawa’s Bubishi was described by its first English translator and martial arts historian Patrick McCarthy as “an anthology of Chinese gongfu, its history, philosophy, and application.”[3]  While McCarthy explained that the document is enigmatic and not always easy to understand, there are large sections of text and diagrams that provide clear advice and instruction to any martial artist prepared to invest time in their study. 

Other than its importance as a reference guide for martial artists today, the Bubishiis valuable because we know that several significant figures in the  development of nineteenth and early twentieth century Karate had access to copies.  Gichin Funakoshi, founder of Shotokan Karate, used part of the Bubishiin Karate Do Kyohan; Chojun Miyagi chose to name his style Goju Ryu after part of it; according to McCarthy Tatsuo Shimabukuro, founder of Isshin Ryu, also used it;[4]  Kenwa Mabuni, the founder of Shito Ryu, said that he had made a copy from a copy that Anko Itosu had created – indicating that Sokon Matsumura also owned the text.[5]   This record of ownership is significant because it adds to our understanding of the information available to these talented Karateka.  The styles and reference books that survive as a legacy of these men  in essence tell us what they taught, but transmission of information is rarely perfect and can often be deliberately selective.  TheBubishitherefore adds to this picture by showing us in addition what these instructors probably knew. 

The Bubishi teaches many lessons to those able to devote time to the study of the text, but one theme that is prevalent through the advice and illustrations within the text is that to be effective striking and grappling are linked like the Yin Yang symbol – the majority of the time each needs the other to achieve maximum effect.  Some of the advice in Article 16 illustrates these basic principles that are the bread and butter of basic karate. Item 2 notes that “By taking away your adversary’s balance, you will have greater opportunities for victory.”  Item 20 advises practitioners to “maintain your balance while and after throwing the adversary”.  There is even reference to ground fighting in item 25 which advises that “if you are taken down, make every attempt to attack the adversary’s genitals.”[6]

The Forty-Eight Self-Defence Diagrams of Article 29 are of great interest to anyone looking for alternative applications of limb positions and postures commonly found within Karate Kata.  The diagrams are quite simplistic, only illustrating a fixed moment in time rather than an entire sequence of movement.  Despite this, by analyzing the arm and leg positions of the diagrams, combined with the brief instructions, it is possible to identify elements of trapping, grabbing, locking, unbalancing and throwing.  Any count is arbitrary, but of the 48 diagrams there are at least 29 that definitely illustrate grappling/throwing and 9 that show an element of limb parrying that might be considered (or progress to) grappling.  A large proportion of these positions have survived within Karate Kata, so the tradition of grappling was definitely there – the next logical question was whether it was taught or trained.

In Karate Do My Way of Life, Gichin Funakoshi described his experience of Okinawan wrestling, tegumi, as a youth.  It is interesting to note the similarities and differences between this and Karate training.  Funakoshi observed that tegumiuses the same written characters as kumite, which are reversed.   One interesting aspect of the sport was that individuals were allowed to compete with multiple opponents simultaneously.   In tegumi leg and foot kicks were banned, as were attacks with the fist, sword hand, elbow, hair grabs and pinches – other than that it seems to have been a free for all with each participant having a second ready to intervene to prevent serious injury or unconsciousness.  Funakoshi noted that “to stop the fight, all that any boy who felt he had had enough needed to do was to pat his opponent’s body.  Some boys, however, were so dauntless that they would go on fighting until they were knocked out.  In such cases, it would be the duty of the referee to try to stop the bout before that happened….and if it sounds like nothing but a children’s game, I can assure you that those of us who engaged in it took it very seriously”[7]

Funakoshi’s reference to the possibility of being knocked out is very significant given the list of prohibited techniques.  It is impossible to be certain how precise his descriptions of these were: distinguishing between leg and foot kicks seems to rule out all the available angles of foot and shin – but does it also rule out the knee? Funakoshi does describe knee strikes to the head in his later books.  Similarly while sword hand, the fist and the elbow are ruled out, palm strikes and forearm strikes are not mentioned.  Alternatively strangles and chokes may have been used to render an opponent unconscious.

It is important to stress that tegumiwas a widely practiced Okinawan past-time completely separate from karate.  While it is entirely possible that elements of tegumitechniques may have been combined with Chinese martial arts techniques to form Karate, the Bubishi clearly illustrates that the imported systems were not without grappling movements of their own.  What Funakoshi makes clear is that grappling was a fairly significant part of every Okinawan boy’s heritage, the few Karate students in Okinawa (before its introduction into schools) were therefore unlikely to fail to recognize and understand grappling movements contained within the movements of Kata. 

This raises the question therefore as to whether grappling actually needed to be taught or practiced as part of regular Karate training in Okinawa?  The Kata showed the students the possibilities for grappling movements combined with striking techniques, and indicated possible set ups or follow-throughs, but Karateka in Okinawa were able to gain the essential experience of the grappling itself through tegumi.  We should also consider that when Anko Itosu proposed the introduction and teaching of Karate into schools, he did so primarily as a form of exercise for health, with self defence being a secondary factor: there was thus no requirement to teach explanations behind the movements in depth.  As Karate spread beyond Okinawa to Japan, this small cultural difference may partly explain why the drilling and transmission of this knowledge received less emphasis than the elements of Karate that were banned from tegumi(and thus probably focused on in slightly greater detail by Okinawan Karate teachers in their lessons) such as fist strikes, bladed hand strikes, elbow strikes and kicks.

In 1922 Funakoshi’s first book, Ryukyu Kenpo Karate, was published.  Unfortunately the plates for this were destroyed by an earthquake in 1923, and demand necessitated a new edition in  1925 entitled Rentan Goshin Karate Jutsu.  Although the line drawings of the original work were  replaced with photographs of Funakoshi himself demonstrating techniques, the two texts were almost identical.  In this work Funakoshi described a number of hand and leg techniques: what is of interest is how his descriptions indicate that so far as its combative use is concerned, Karate is so much more than merely striking an opponent.  In his explanations of hand techniques Funakoshi refers to grabbing and pulling, twisting an arm as you pull, striking at the same time as pulling and destroying an opponent’s balance,  In his explanations of leg techniques, he refers to striking the inner thigh with the knee, using the knee against the outer thigh to destroy balance and posture, and stepping onto an opponent’s thigh.[8]  What is important in these descriptions is that they clearly show how close range Funakoshi envisioned Karate being used if were to be used for self defence. 

Funakoshi’s brief introduction to throwing techniques is particularly interesting.  He noted that “In contrast to Ju Jitsu, karate might be considered a “hard’ art, and throwing or taking down an opponent are not fundamental aims.  However “hard” exists only because soft exists, and so a combination of the two is certainly advantageous.  The instinctive blending of hard and soft when forced to adjust to an opponent’s physical strength can produce amazing results.  Even a single throwing technique can have three or even four different modes of execution, but rather than saying much about that here, I will leave the point up to the reader’s own experimentation and research.”[9]

Photographs with brief descriptions then illustrated six unbalancing techniques.  Although this is a limited number, they demonstrate limb control, joint manipulation and throwing, and importantly although each is only illustrated by one photograph, the author has stressed that each has more than one mode of execution. 

Excepting his later ‘autobiography’, Karate Do My Way of Life, Funakoshi wrote two further texts; Karate Do Kyohan: The Master Text, published in 1931 and Karate Do Nyumon: The Master Introductory Text, published in 1943.  The later work predominantly concentrated on stories concerning Funakoshi’s instructors, Karate in the past, and the importance of Karate as a means of self development rather than a fighting system.  Illustrations in this text are few and far between.  Karate Do Kyohan: The Master Text was by contrast, far more concerned with the specifics of techniques and filled with photographs.  This book was published in two editions, the more commonly read edition being the posthumous 1958 edition, which is considerably different from the original edition.[10]

Although there are differences between the two editions of Karate Do Kyohan (most immediately notable in the illustrations with Funakoshi not demonstrating the techniques and the photographs showing the adoption of deeper stances), there are areas of commonality.  In both Funakoshi stressed that karate incorporated various throwing techniques, but primarily consisted of striking, kicking, thrusting and back-hand techniques.  Similarly both editions stress the importance of unbalancing through the pulling and twisting action of Hikite, though this concept is reinforced by a description of Daki-te(hugging hand) in the original edition that has been omitted from the later work.  

There is  a notable  difference between Funakoshi’s later and earlier work in the sections on leg and foot techniques.  The later edition of Kyohan closely resembles the modern Shotokan syllabus in content, focusing on (and demonstrating) kicks as a means of attacking the torso or head.  Hiza tsuki(knee strike) is referred to as a strike that could be used against the head or testicles in grappling, but the reference made to striking the thigh in the earlier edition has been removed.  It is not the only omission.  In the 1935 edition Funakoshi refers to Keri-Komi, the trample kick:

"Throwing one leg to kick at the opponent is the same in this technique as in keri-hanshi (snap kick).  The difference is that you do not withdraw the kicking leg, but instead you aim at the opponent’s inner thigh or knee joint to trample with your foot, “thwack!”  In keri-komi it is more effective if you grasp the opponent’s arm, pulling him closer as you execute the technique.  If you go directly into trampling without kicking first, it is called fumi-komi or trample step (step and smash).”[11]

Here Funakoshi is clearly advocating targeting the leg and unbalancing by grabbing and pulling at the same time.  Techniques such as Fumi-Komi  that attack the legs have survived (and many Karateka who specialize in close quarter combat will use Fumi-komiin the manner Keri-komiis described above), but while both texts advocate their use against the legs (in particular the knee and shin)  to break posture, it seems more common today to see this technique applied as a stamp against a prone opponent.

One of the most interesting sets of  demonstrations in both editions of Karate-Do Kyohan, are the Iai– sitting together.  In the original edition Funakoshi demonstrates six exercises from the seizaposition.  What is noticeable in these exercises is the combination of limb manipulation, grabbing, unbalancing and striking.   Although these close quarter engagements are performed in the ground, there is no reason why the same principles could not be applied while standing.  Far from forbidding such experimentation and development, Funakoshi stressed that

“These are simply examples of the many applications of basic kata.  Thus, once you have become proficient in these, you can apply the basic kata and kumi-te kata that you have already learned using your own inventiveness.”[12]

Both editions of Karate Do Kyohancontain instruction in throwing techniques, with photographic demonstration.    Both editions show nine throws, and tellingly in the earliest edition  Funakoshi states

“Just like with kumi-te and Iai-te, which I have explained in the previous chapters, there are many different ways and variations for executing throwing and saka-te techniques.  The point is that how you perform a throwing technique should change depending upon your opponent.  I am going to leave this with each learner.  For the sake of beginners I am going to show some throwing techniques with explanations and pictures to serve as a reference.  Using this as the woof and basic Kata as the warp, like in weaving fabric, with an accumulation of study and practice,  one will come to the point in which he can block, throw, and topple without making a conscious effort.”[13]

It is obvious therefore that far from being an innovation in response to the popularity of the events such as the Ultimate Fighter Championship and the spread of Mixed Martial Arts, grappling and throwing have always been at the core of Karate.  Although Funakoshi only demonstrated a small number of grappling and throwing techniques in his books, his  references to the application of various striking techniques as “when you are grappling”, and his exhortation to his readers to study further themselves, clearly indicate that he regarded this as an important part of understanding Karate.

[1]By which I mean techniques examined up to the basic level of Shodan.

[2]G Funakoshi, Karate D My Way of Life, (Kodansha International, 1975), page 29.

[3]P McCarthy, The Bible of Karate: Bubishi, (Charles E Tuttle, 4th Ed. 1997), page 27.

[4]As above, page 23.

[5]As I have noted in Heian Flow System: Effective Karate Kata Bunkai, Itosu’s other teacher Toudi Sakugawa seems to have concentrated on Karate as a form of physical exercise rather than a form of self defence.  As a result it is likely that it was Matsumura from whom Itosu copied the Bubishi.

[6]P McCarthy, The Bible of Karate: Bubishi, (Charles E Tuttle, 4th Ed. 1997), pages 161 - 162.

[7]G Funakoshi, Karate Do My Way of Life, (Kodansha International, 1975), pages 123 - 124).

[8]G Funakoshi, Karate Jutsu, trans.  J Teramoto, (Kodansha International, 2001), pages 46 – 53.

[9]As above, page 53.

[10]I am extremely grateful to Karate historian Iain Abernethy for drawing my attention to the publication of a new translation of the original 1935 edition published by Neptune Publications. 

[11]G Funakoshi, trans. H Suzuki-Johnston, Karate Do Kyohan: The Master Text, (Nepture Publications, 2005), page27.

[12]See above, page 185.

[13]As above, page 192. 

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

sorry John...........................not enough detail! LOL.

Seriously thank you for this interesting piece of written work, greatly appriciated.

Gary Chamberlain
Gary Chamberlain's picture

Apologies if this has already been covered (I rarely read loooong posts)

My feeling on the difference between 'karate' grappling and 'judo' grappling is that I'm going to do my best to make an opponent see stars before I attempt to take them down.

Gary

diadicic
diadicic's picture

Gary Chamberlain wrote:

My feeling on the difference between 'karate' grappling and 'judo' grappling is that I'm going to do my best to make an opponent see stars before I attempt to take them down.

Gary

Agreed 100%  :)

This article has triggered a lot of good food for thought.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Gary Chamberlain wrote:
My feeling on the difference between 'karate' grappling and 'judo' grappling is that I'm going to do my best to make an opponent see stars before I attempt to take them down.

There is that distinction because karate is primarily a striking system. Funakoshi tells us in Karate-Do Kyohan that, although karate does contain locking and throwing, the emphasis in conflict should remain on the striking.

All the best,

Iain

Gavin Mulholland
Gavin Mulholland's picture

But isn't all grappling supposed to be enabled by striking? Judo excluded as a sport I guess but didn't Ushiba say that Aikido was 90% atemi?

michael rosenbaum
michael rosenbaum's picture

JWT wrote:

to stress that tegumiwas a widely practiced Okinawan past-time completely separate from karate.  While it is entirely possible that elements of tegumitechniques may have been combined with Chinese martial arts techniques to form Karate, the Bubishi clearly illustrates that the imported systems were not without grappling movements of their own.  What Funakoshi makes clear is that grappling was a fairly significant part of every Okinawan boy’s heritage, the few Karate students in Okinawa (before its introduction into schools) were therefore unlikely to fail to recognize and understand grappling movements contained within the movements of Kata. 

This raises the question therefore as to whether grappling actually needed to be taught or practiced as part of regular Karate training in Okinawa?  The Kata showed the students the possibilities for grappling movements combined with striking techniques, and indicated possible set ups or follow-throughs, but Karateka in Okinawa were able to gain the essential experience of the grappling itself through tegumi.  We should also consider that when Anko Itosu proposed the introduction and teaching of Karate into schools, he did so primarily as a form of exercise for health, with self defence being a secondary factor: there was thus no requirement to teach explanations behind the movements in depth.  As Karate spread beyond Okinawa to Japan, this small cultural difference may partly explain why the drilling and transmission of this knowledge received less emphasis than the elements of Karate that were banned from tegumi(and thus probably focused on in slightly greater detail by Okinawan Karate teachers in their lessons) such as fist strikes, bladed hand strikes, elbow strikes and kicks.. 

For me that pretty much sums it up.

I think it very important not to get caught up in the limited mindset of: Did they or did they not grapple? Did they use tegumi or some other form of grappling. Let us remember that prior to karate's introduction to Japan it was practiced in a eclectic manner and by its native practitioners. Therefore tegumi when practiced outside the te,tudi,karate, class was probably considered wrestling but when used in conjunction striking was considered te-grappling. The distinctions we make today towards karate and its various components were probably a lot more lax, if they even existed at all, on prewar Okinawa. For instance take bluegrass music. Outsiders first introduced to it usually get caught up in this purity/traditional thing. However for the old bluegrass muscians (who by the way just called it ole-timey music) anything they could use, mix in the pot one might say, was considered bluegrass just so long as it reflected the cultural mores, history and stories of the people who played it. Sort of like karate. Once it left Okinawa the creative spirit that gave birth to it  died/was killed and all the outsiders became concerned about keeping alive a tradition that never existed originally. So yes there was grappling associated with karate prior to karate going mainstream, but probably not in the way we currently envision it.

Mike

danpt
danpt's picture

Gavin Mulholland wrote:

But isn't all grappling supposed to be enabled by striking? Judo excluded as a sport I guess but didn't Ushiba say that Aikido was 90% atemi?

I believe there is some debate about the exact percentage he stated, but otherwise, yeah pretty much. The way I was taught Aikido, strikes are not the main aspect of it, but we do use them as one way to set up grappling techniques. We also have "spaces" in a lot of the techniques where you can use a strike if required, and we use them as alternate options if the situation changes to where a good hard whack does more good than a throw or lock.

Locks, throws and general unbalancing are still our primary strategies, but strikes are used to facilitate them... a lot. I think for us, grappling without striking - or some other form of setup -  pretty much happens when your technique and timing are perfect, when your opponent gives you an unintentional gift, or when you can fairly easily overpower him. Or training in the dojo when uke is being nice wink

I'm not sure it's even possible to separate grappling and striking entirely for self defence. Having the option of striking to unbalance for a throw or of controlling the limbs/spine to set up more effective strikes seems to make more sense than only training one aspect (except for sports of course).

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

It’s interesting the emphasis that various systems place on various aspects of conflict. While it’s true that we need to cover all aspects, it would still be fair to say that throughout the martial arts - with their myriad of manifestations including sporting, classical, self-protection, fighting, etc - the various elements are not prioritised equally nor are common tactics employed.

My take on karate is inline with Funakoshi’s in that I see striking as the primary method with grappling being used to back that up. The intention of the strikes is to take the enemy out there are then (“one blow – one kill” and all that), not stun them to set up grappling. I feel the strikes are “ends in themselves” not a “means to an end”. If the blow does not do the job, then of course we flow on without hesitation to the next technique, and the intention is again to end it in that instant.

Grappling is not something I see as being actively “sought” in karate (again, a comment Funakoshi made). The reason being that it ties us to one person and can hamper escape. That’s said, we still need solid grappling skills should we end up grappling. This general tactics are therefore pretty much what you’d expect for a civilian self-protection system.

If you look at classical arts that had a military / battlefield purpose, striking becomes far less effective due to armour and the priority given to weapons. So in the classical versions of those systems we see grappling being given greater emphasis and strikes being viewed as facilitators as opposed to finishers.

Of course, regardless of a system’s origins, all modern groups that focus on self-protection will adopt similar tactics i.e. striking being given priority and grappling being avoided if possible (but still practised in the firm realisation that things don’t always go as planned). I see that in all the effective self-protection training I’ve came across, regardless of whether the group’s core system is karate, jujutsu, aikido, krav maga, MMA, RBSD etc. It’s the environment that dictates the best tactics.

As an example, leading realist Geoff Thompson states the key skill for physical self-protection is being able to “hit ####ing hard!” and describes grappling as “the last resort”. This is pretty much exactly what the practitioners of the civilian self-protection systems of the past also said.

I’d therefore suggest that, from a self-protection perspective, striking is used to take people out and facilitate escape. Any progression to grappling is not deliberate but by default. I also see the grappling as helping to facilitate further striking too. What I mean is that when we end up grappling we don’t stop striking.

Definitely a need to train both methods in an integrated fashion; but, as always, there is a need to be aware of the nature of the environment. And for the self-protection side of things I would suggest that, tactically, striking should be given priority and strikes be viewed as finishers not facilitators. That way strikes are delivered with the intent of ending the fight “now”, not “next”.

All the best,

Iain

Gavin Mulholland
Gavin Mulholland's picture

Agreed. Grappling in any real scenario is very much worst-case-scenario and in no circumstances should it be sought - but then a lot of karate training is geared up to worst-case-scenario.