Monday 10 April 2023

反撃 (Hangeki) 101


There seems to be some real confusion about  反撃 (Hangeki) or ‘Counterattacking’ in 五本組手 (Gohon Kumite), 基本一本組手 (Kihon Ippon Kumite), and 自由一本組手 (Jiyu Ippon Kumite).


Some people assume that they must also counter with either 中段逆突き(Chudan gyaku-zuki) or 上段逆突き (Jodan gyaku-zuki). Yet, others are more ‘creative’ and counter with a wide range of 技 (waza).


Both of these ways are both right and wrong, with the exception of creativity, which is outrightly incorrect.


Let me explain from the direct teachings I’ve received from two of Japan’s greatest Shotokan masters: Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei and Osaka Yoshiharu Sensei. What I am explaining here today is not 'André Bertel's theory'. No, this is the 'old school JKA Shotokan' that I have always trained. It is also what my seniors want to see preserved, as it's dying from the suffocation of sports-centric karate.


So, to answer this question about HANGEKI: The correct counter is  ‘the best counter in that very moment, in that very instant’. That is, the waza which in that split second has: (a) the best distancing to cause maximum damage to the opponent; (b) the best angle of attack in relation to both yourself and your opponents positioning (i.e. – their kamae, tachikata, shisei, etcetera); (c) it also utilizes a karada no buki (weapon of the body) most appropriate for the area being targeted; and (d) is the most direct—immediate— and ‘simple waza’ to achieve the three aforementioned points (‘a—c’). THIS TRAINING IS SO VERY-VERY IMPORTANT, EVEN IN PRE-ARRANGED-KUMITE!


From this critical understanding it is easy to see that Gyaku-zuki is regularly the best choice 'hangeki-waza'; however, this, by the nature of kumite, is “never always the case”. Keep in mind that this is not referring to beginners here. Often the mae-geri, enpi, shuto-uchi etc, is optimal for kime. This must become second nature if one is to truly become a 'karate expert', as opposed to merely being a 'karate performer' (which according to Osaka Sensei is "all too common now").  


Important point for lower grades and confirmation for instructors (common-sense - but just to clarify): In reference to beginners, when they counter with Gyaku-zuki they must not alter their stance by moving nor bend the upper body forward; thereby, breaking their 基本 (fundamentals). Likewise, they shouldn’t lose the kakato-chushin of the rear foot. Rather, they should not worry about ‘not reaching the target’ at the expense of their technical form. Their focus must be to achieve excellent form and steadily increase their speed, power and accuracy.


This point of ‘reaching the target’ is also misunderstood by many advanced practitioners. Reaching the target is fine if one doesn’t practice budo karate and just wants to accumulate 'points'; however, for budo karateka—irrespective of 流派 (ryuha)—we must use a waza which 'will cause maximum damage to the respective target (if not controlled).'


As I have stated before, “…this is the real meaning of control in karate’. The sun-dome principle, and rule in traditional shiai, is firmly based on this. It is not merely based on reaching or surface impacting with techniques.


This type of karate, which is now the norm all around the world, actually results in less ability to fight. Why?  Because it is "subconsciously grooving incorrect maai whilst counterattacking (and attacking for that matter)". Many people with high Dan certificates from Japan do not fully understand this and, consequently, "...their training and teaching is sports karate": even though they think they are doing budo karate, and that is preached to them. The sad thing is that these people deep down know that their karate is combatively 'near useless'; yet psychologically fool themselves into believing in their paid Japanese ranks and instructor hero's. Interestingly, the 'instructor hero's become their own personification to justify their own skill. What I say about this, is one thing. A person's association, and stars within it, cannot attribute karate skill and ability to oneself. Nor can selfies with them. Two words: WAKE UP!

In true budo karate, the control we exert means that if the sun-dome rule is not applied, the waza we are using is no different from when we desire to break thick boards or concrete tiles. Also, the waza distancing is the same as when we do full-contact bag work.


In this way, the various forms of yakusoku-kumite are harmonious and contribute to all forms of jiyu-kumite including actual self-defense.



アンドレ バーテル

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2023).

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