I’m currently rereading “The Study of Karate Techniques” by Morinobu Itoman (1934). It’s great book that all pragmatic karateka are sure to enjoy. The book includes discussions on throwing, choking, pins, improvised weapons, “cheating”, verbal deception, pre-emption, etc.
You can get a great English translation from Mario McKenna via this link: http://www.lulu.com/shop/morinobu-itoman/the-study-of-china-hand-techniques/hardcover/product-20620858.html
Morinobu Itoman was a police officer who wrote to book with a view to helping other police officers:
“I was a police officer and my life was focused on keeping order in the streets … I made use of my karate when on patrol and realised my follow officers could benefit from it”
There’s loads in that book that could spark discussion. For example, this paragraph on chokes:
“Choking techniques are usually applied to an opponent’s throat or stomach, and can use the bare hands or legs, the opponent’s clothing, or the use of an object. The neck can be strangled with the bare hands or feet and techniques include the hooking choke, pressing choke, single arm choke, and single leg choke. Abdomen chokes include the single leg choke. Chokes using the opponent’s collar are essentially the same as those found in judo, however they have been much more thoroughly researched in judo. In karate then, it is important to study and be familiar with chokes, throws, and trips because failing to do so can place you in serious danger.”
Aside from being yet more confirmation that “old school” karate had a solid grappling component (there’s loads of it in the book), the above quote is very interesting because of the comparison with judo. He does this is other places too. For example, he also remarks that ground fighting holds have not been studied in karate to the same degree that they have been in judo. He also makes many judo comparisons when discussing several karate throws:
Riding Throw: “resembles Judo’s hip throw”
Back Rising Throw: “same as Judo’s single arm shoulder throw”
Shoulder Throw: “resembles Judo’s shoulder wheel throw”
Supine Throw: “resembles Judo’s stomach throw”
Front leg trip: “The front leg trip resembles Judo’s major inner reap, small inner reap, major outer reap, and small outer reap where you hook the opponent’s leg to trip him to the ground”
There are lots of other grappling methods listed where comparisons to judo are not made, but there’s no doubt Itoman definitely sees some commonality in method. However, despite this, he clearly marks the difference in the degree of “research”.
Karate definitely does contain a significant grappling component, but – primarily being a percussive self-protection focused system – karate does not study these methods to the same degree that Judo does. I talked about this in my “Karate Grappling: Did It Really Exist?” article: https://iainabernethy.co.uk/article/karate-grappling-did-it-really-exist
In my dojo we have the mantra that, “We can’t be experts in everything, but we should be beginners in nothing”. So we place the primary emphasis on striking (in which we aim to excel) and back that up with core grappling methods (in which we aim to be competent). The difference is therefore primarily the degree and depth of study, as opposed to the field of study. Karateka and Judoka will both study throws and chokes, but the Judoka will do so to a much greater degree.
The key is to determine which methods are most likely to lead to the achievement of your objective, and then study those methods to the appropriate degree. The karate of the past’s stated objective was dealing with criminal violence; and I think it has the balance right.
There are only so many hours in the day, so if you overemphasise one element, you won’t have time to develop other elements sufficiently. Ignore grappling all together and then you are, as Itoman states, placing yourself in serious danger. Study grappling too much and you have less time for striking practise; the core striking skills will deteriorate and you are again placing yourself in danger.
Itoman never deviates from karate’s emphasis on criminal violence. For example,
“If protective equipment was worn for a match, then the ideals, meaning and significance of karate would be lost”.
“If you spit in a person’s face they will unconsciously turn their face away in revulsion; you can then use that natural response to help with both your attack and defence.”
“Teeth are an extremely dangerous weapon used in combat to bite and slice”.
“Your speech can be used to manipulate and confuse an opponent”
“Stones, branches, handkerchiefs, or even eyeglasses can be thrown at an opponent’s face to create a distraction that can be taken advantage of. Even teacups, lighters and matchboxes can be thrown; anything that will create a distraction can give you an advantage.”
“Make sure you are in a position that allows you to make use of the objects surrounding you.”
“Karate is a martial art that completely and freely uses the entire body, objects to hand, and a person’s surroundings.”
It’s a great book that reflects karate’s nature as a civilian self-protection system (i.e. an emphasis on keeping yourself safe from unsolicited criminal violence, as opposed to defeating a fellow martial artist in a consensual exchange). It also captures karate’s holistic nature, and the degree to which all the various elements are emphasised. Something of a must read book for us pragmatic karateka.
All the best,