One thing many karateka fail to do is to focus on developing ‘really destructive’ punches, kicks and strikes, which are our ‘the main weapons’ in our art. Indeed, the sweeps, takedowns, and grappling techniques are absolutely imperative in Budo/Bujutsu Karate; however, the percussive blows are—as I said already—THE MAIN WEAPONS. Even if we finish with a shimewaza (choking technique) or likewise, with a nagewaza (throwing technique)—a percussive blow is what gets us there. Furthermore, in the case of a very serious situation, an impact (or series of impacts) may follow “…to ensure the opponent is not only down, but stays down.”
Put another way “PERCUSSIVE BLOWS are ALWAYS a part of the equation”; whereas, the other waza, when employed, are used in combination with them (as opposed to being used in isolation, like they are in Judo).
If you have trained with me here in Japan, or at a seminar, you will know that while, I don’t advocate going to the ground, I train a lot in Newaza (Ground Fighting) to supplement my karate. 20 years ago, in my mid-20s that wasn’t the case, but working in security I found that my standup locks, holds and chokes just weren’t enough. I felt that against a competent grappler it would be like someone who can’t swim well falling off a boat into the ocean.
However, a decade later, in my mid-30s, I felt just as competent grappling on the ground (as I did when fighting on my feet). Finally, I knew I could ‘swim’ well! In fact, in jiyu-kumite, I sometimes enjoy taking my opponents down as most karateka are not very skillful on the ground.
Still, punching and striking, and kicking have always been my main focus… Therefore, returning to the opening statement in this article, PERCUSSIVE ATTACKS MUST BE DESTRUCTIVE, which means: (a) Effective; and (b) reliable. From now, left me define both of these:(a) EFFECTIVE: This is easy to understand… Yet, so many karateka don’t seek this enough. You have to seek effectiveness by directing adapting/evolving your training to achieve more and more explosive speed and power. Impact training must always be done—it is imperative ‘kihon’ training. In the case of strength and power, most people need to follow a strength training routine with ‘functional exercises’ like squatting, bench pressing etc… In the case of smaller built people and those with strength deficits, this must be done (if effective karate is to be achieved—please remember this, in the next point), as they will need to make up for their lack of mass or lack of fast twitch muscles. And indeed, any strength gain is also good, for those with a lot of mass: as this can only help them to use it better!
But this too is not enough… We have to also be able to do this in a ‘freestyle context’. This is a key to Asai Sensei’s karate and, accordingly, the karate way I follow. Obviously, full contact sparring is not possible for everyone; however, freestyle effectiveness with attacks can still be achieved via adequate impact training. You need to regularly be hitting things with your best techniques and will full power, furthermore, the target (or targets) need to be non-compliant in movement.
These points are on my high agenda as an instructor and, indeed, in my self-training. Now many instructors demonstrate nice techniques, but these are meaningless unless they can be reproduced at nearly 100% under maximum physical and mental pressure. Before I end this article I would like to apologize as it fails to neglect 'getting hurt' and still being able to function reliably. To expand on this point, I will give a personal experience. I once got into a street fight with much more technically talented karateka. However, once I hit him in the face it was over. He still managed to escape the full force of my blow, nonetheless, he had clearly never been hit before. He was terrorized, and after that I elbowed him just once and it was all over. Actually, lots of fights are like this. The first hit wipes out people's 'technique' and confidence; then they are in both shock and fear. The fact is that in karate, unless you train full contact, you will not be used to being hit. More importantly, in this case, you will not know how you respond in a violent altercation on the street. Thankfully, there are highly effective methodologies that you can assimilate, which overcome this issue without engaging in full contact kumite.
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2020).