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Paul_L's picture
Does kata assume unarmed attackers?

I found this on a Japanese blog and I think it is an application for Naihanchi. Google Translate was a little off, so it is difficult to be certain for sure. The only weapon defences I am aware of are the implausible ones  such as in Pinan Godan where supposedly you are jumping over a staff attack from behind. It  seems to me to make some sense that there would be some applicable weapon defences, particularly against big sticks; a readily available improvised weapon tht an untrained attacker would use.

JWT's picture

It's all just movement.  

Think of the hands and feet as swords. If you tailor applications to asume that the unseen or attacking arm is holding a weapon then you're not necessarily doing yourself a disservice. The litmus test is in assessing whether it's a natural way to attack with a weapon, whether it's a trained way to work with a weapon, and then whether what you do actually works.  

All the best John

Wastelander's picture

As John said, movement can be used in a wide variety of ways, and so they could feasibly be applied against weapons, in at least some cases, provided you can make them work. As the image you shared suggests, karate does historically include defenses against weapons. We can see this in the extant practices of Motobu Udundi, for example.

Chikara Andrew
Chikara Andrew's picture

As others have said movement is movement, I think a lot of people make the mistake when adding weapons into the mix is trying to find a reaction to the weapon in the kata. If we are unarmed and faced with an armed attacker we should absolutely be thinking pre-emptively, anything else will see us on the wrong end a weapon.

A lot of pre-emptive movements will work against armed and unarmed opponents, if they have produced a weapon they are the aggressor!  

Paul_L's picture

Thanks, I only really thought about defence against unarmed attackers, probably because the typical bunkai that included armed attackers just seemed so unrealistic. But saying that pretty much all of the typical bunkai armed or unarmed is that way. Chalking up a foam knife and trying a few drills could be interesting.

Tau's picture

Very interesting question.

To a large degree it's irrelevent - clear the limb and knock the f***er out is a solid principle. Many of the kata techniques are universal in their application.

Dennis Krawec
Dennis Krawec's picture

As I've gotten more involved in finding application of techniques, as many others have said before that the application of kata are open to interpretation based on ones need and ability, and there is no one fixed interpretation. Take a movement or set of movements, then if needed add or subtract movements to make it work to your need and abilities. 

ie. In Heian/Pinan Yondan movements 2-4 add in a low knee strike or kick after movement 2 as to assist in getting your opponent to double over, so that movement 3's X-block your hands fully grasp/wrap your opponents head at about your waist level, then movement 4, the middle level augmented block actually becomes a head crank. Good night, fights over. 

As to uses against weapons, play around and find how movements in the kata can be applied. Check out this video which applies Heian Nidan/Pinan Chudan against knives.


Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

As others have said, the skills of controlling a limb apply whether the enemy is armed or unarmed. So does body shifting and angling. The tactic of impact and escape is ever-present too.  

I did a podcast on this a few years ago which may be of interest:


All the best,


Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Dennis Krawec wrote:
Check out this video which applies Heian Nidan/Pinan Chudan against knives: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZ19mA8S2Xs

While I agree with the premise, the examples in the video are not to my tastes. I’m not a fan of disarms and there are many in that clip. Getting a weapon out of someone’s hand is very difficult if they are intent on keeping hold of the weapon and seriously using it. Impact and escape is a far more practical option. As was once remarked to me by a very experienced Arnis practitioner, “The best way to defang the snake is to rip the snakes f###ing head off”. Nothing fancy. No complex Bourne-esque disarms where we use the enemy’s weapon against them. Use solid tactics, smash the head, escape. There is no “good” solution to weapons; but there are better ones and plenty of bad ones. If there was ever a time to keep things super simple, this is it.

All the best,


Andrew Sheldon-...
Andrew Sheldon-Thomson's picture

We did a stick defence using the first move of Kanku Dai.   I got this from Krav Maga but it fits the kata.


There are a few other movements that krav uses as weapons defences where I can clearly see the same movement in kata.  For instance krav use a movement very similar to move 4-5 of Shisochin as a knife defence.  (basically move in and wrap the arm with the knife).    Elsewhere the slide to the side with the hands up one covering the head and one flat down the side (can't remember the kata name) is used as stick defence by krav as well.   

So to me there is clearly movements that can be used against weapons.  However weapon defence tends to by dynamic by its nature, where as kata can be very stylised and static. So well the principles of the movement are captured in the kata their applications for weapon defence are not obvious.  In fact I would say I have only ever picked up on weapons defence in kata when I have learned the weapon defence first and then had, an aha moment and realised it relates closely to a kata.  I have never been able to see the weapons defences in kata and pull them out.

Mark B
Mark B's picture

In relation to the original question I don't believe kata assumes anything.

If the Kata was to assume something I think it would be that the core principles and concepts which underpinned the Kata at their creation will remain constant from that day until the end of time.

The moment that no longer continues to be the case then kata will become irrelevant .

Anything else is simply personal interpretation of those principles.