Karateka! Do You Need A Reality Check?

“I swear, that was the last time, man! I’m starting boxing tomorrow!”

My friend was pretty upset, and quite rightfully so. Last night he had been attacked, robbed and beaten up for the fourth or fifth time this year, and nobody of us could understand why. “He is so kind to everybody! Why would anybody want to harm him?” me and my friends kept saying to each other.

So, my bruised friend began boxing.

And of course it didn’t help him a bit.

I tried telling him several times that boxing is a sport, and if he wants to learn effective self-defense there are better ways! Like training Karate! Or being aware of your surroundings, to begin with. But he wasn’t listening. “Like your Karate-dances are going to save your ass when a bunch of hooligans jump you!?”

Boxing made him feel strong and self-confident. He could already bench press twice his bodyweight, so he probably figured that he would become the ultimate killing machine, once he had mastered boxing.

And hopefully nobody would ever try to hurt him again.

How wrong he was.

When I met him a couple of months later, his right hand looked like that of an old Egyptian mummy. It had been broken, when he finally tried fighting back for once. “I told you boxing is a sport!” I said to him, but he didn’t care. He told me how he had been out jogging, around 11 PM the other night, when he was approached by three young men.

“What’s up?” the leader had asked him.

“Sorry guys, I’d love to talk, but I’ve got to jog. See you!” he had told them, sensing that they were looking for trouble.

He turned around and ran, hoping that they wouldn’t follow. But soon enough they were running next to him. One on his left side, one on his right side, and one behind him.

“We just want to talk!” one of them shouted, with a big grin on his face.

So, my friend decided to see what his boxing had taught him.

He stopped, turned around, and with all his power punched the leader in the head so he fell back  (“I never knew a head could be that hard!”), but immediately he was thrown to the ground by the two guys on his sides.

(His boxing coach always said “You’ve got to take some to give some!”.)

The two thugs pinned his arms to the ground with their knees, while the leader (who was recovering from being punched in the head) jumped on top of him. Something quickly flashed before my friends eyes.

A blade.

Luckily, these bad guys were stereotypical in the sense that the ones who show a knife rarely use it, and the ones who use a knife rarely show it.

They only showed it.

And it was over.

My friend was left lying on the jogging track, alone in the darkness, with a broken hand and a contorted face. Keys, wallet, digital watch and mobile phone taken away.

Naturally, I felt bad for him.

And I told him that he should consider himself lucky that his face wasn’t sliced up.

The thing is, my friend really thought boxing was his knight in shining armour, his saviour. But it had done nothing for him. Except brake his hand. And piss off a knife wielding assailant.

Needless to say, he spent the next three weeks going back to the “crime scene”, searching for his assailants.

He never saw them again.

Now, leaving this story as a backdrop, let me quickly change subject.

Answer this:

“What is beautiful, elegant yet dynamic on the outside, but logical, simplistic and brutal on the inside?”

Did you answer “kata”?

I sure hope so.

Because if you say kata”, you’re not only very correct, but you obviously know a thing or two about Karate that has gone largely unnoticed by an entire generation of Karate enthusiasts around the world.

Sadly, this knowledge (of the original defensive applications and principles which we are supposed to train and understand), were lost and obscured in the wake of the modernization of Karate.

Frankly, my boxer friend knows more about “the street” than most Karate instructors of today.

Modern Karate practise in Shuri Castle, 1938

Yet, he has never trained for “the street”.

It is my firm belief that Karate’s obvious value as a brutal discipline of percussive impact (aided by joint locks, takedowns, strangulations, throws etc), is something most people claim to practise, but fail to comprehend even at the most basic level.

And I want to see change.

I just don’t know how.

Keep in mind that most Karate people who call themselves “martial artists” are nothing of the sort. Most dojo are not martial arts dojo either (and yes, plural of “dojo” is “dojo”). They are glorified social clubs thriving in an enjoyable environment of emotional stimulation which is further heightened by a false and/or extremely limited perception of danger and reality.

Which is great.

If that’s what you asked for.

“But Jesse-san, what’s the problem? Can’t we just have fun? Why are you being so serious?”

Well, let me ask you this:

If you were to walk into a gun shop, and ask for their best revolver, you would expect to get what you ask for, right? Of course. But what if when your life might suddenly be in danger the time comes to actually use that revolver?

What if, at that very moment, you find out that your revolver is a water pistol?

A squirt gun.

You thought you were buying one thing, but you got something completely else.

You thought you were safe because you had the revolver, which may have changed your perception of what constitutes a threat, or perhaps even clouded your judgement.

Here’s a list of attacks.

Please have a look:

Top 10 Street Attacks:

  1. Push to the chest, often followed by the pushed party throwing a punch at the pushers head.
  2. Roundhouse or “haymaker” punch to the head.
  3. Lapel or shoulder grab, one handed, in conjunction with a straight punch to the head.
  4. Two handed clothing grab, followed by a head butt (“The Glasgow Kiss”).
  5. Two handed clothing grab, followed by a knee to the groin.
  6. Bottle, glass, or ashtray to the head.
  7. Frontward kick to groin/lower legs.
  8. Broken bottle or other sharp object jabbed to face.
  9. Slash with a short (3-4 inch) knife.
  10. Side head lock.

These attacks are the ten most common street attacks, according to British police.

Look at them carefully.

When I saw this list for the first time, I immediately asked one of our black belts in the dojo what he would do if I grabbed his lapel and kneed him in the groin. This is the fifth most common attack in the list above (“5. Two handed clothing grab, followed by a knee to the groin.”).

After ten to twenty seconds of thinking, he gave me an answer.

I didn’t listen. I just said “No. That wouldn’t work”.

So he gave me another, alternative, defense but I said “No, that wouldn’t work either”.

He continued, and gave me some more explanations, but I said “Look, you were kneed in the groin two minutes ago. Nothing you say will work, because the bastard is already jumping on your head!”

If you have to think that hard, something is lacking in your training.

(Hick’s Law, anyone?)

I’m just saying.

It seems that in Karate, theory often supersedes practise. Especially when something is not well understood and/or dangerous.

Why is this happening?

It happens because most Karate instructors of today have no idea (let me repeat that: NO IDEA) how to effectively use the defensive principles contained within kata. Some know, but most don’t. And if they do know, they most likely haven’t practised it enough to be able to spontaneously use it anyway. It doesn’t matter if the sensei is from Okinawa, America or Bombay; has a 10th dan, 5th dan or brown belt.

What’s even more naive is most of them either don’t care about this, or simply think it’s a waste of time!

(They sometimes even tell their students that it’s up to them to figure it out!)

The key is, and has always been, right in front of us.

But for some reason, trying to practically learn, or even theoretically understand, the “dispassionate outcome of self-defense” (effectively impeding motor performance) through analyzing the knowledge presented in simple physical templates (kata) which we know is the original purpose of Karate, is left to weirdos with blogs.


But I refuse to believe that I’m the only one who cares about the poor frustrated souls who, believing they get the “real deal”, are presented with learning preposterous applications against equally ridiculous attack scenarios because their style/master says, “it’s the true way”.

Style is just an interpretation of truth.

Truth does not conform to it.

What I’m saying is, though most styles/organizations/masters aren’t wrong, they just promote and preserve something which I can’t stand behind. Something that surprisingly often makes me hesitant of telling people that “Yes, I practise Karate!”.

Because I know what they’ll be thinking.

“If you want to truly understand something, try to change it”.

~ Kurt Lewin

I guess I’m just trying to understand.

How about you?


  • JK
    For a while I've suspected some of the standard applications taught in my style to be questionable at best (whether for me personally or as a general principle). I've recently read Kane & Wilder's "Way of Kata" and I have enjoyed applying the analysis principles and rules from it to find something (hopefully) more practical, even though I don't study Goju. Are you familiar with "Kaisai no genri"? Thoughts/opinions?
  • Batman
    Whenever I read stuff like this I feel really good about my sensei, who often lets us explore bunkai but will have us do it in a "nasty" way, as we would if attacked. I'm far from understanding it all but it's comforting to know it's available.
  • Leo
    "[..]what he would do if I grabbed his lapel and kneed him in the groin." -I thought (after certainly more than 20 seconds): bassai dai! ;) No, really, I feel your pain. But then I think at people like Ian Abernethy or Patrick McCarthy (pars pro toto)..and if I would appreciate hero-worship, I'd say they were beacons of light saving the art of karate. I count my teacher and also you to that people. Martin Riesebrodt writes about religion (as organization -translation by myself, so don't wonder if it sounds awkward): "Die Rückkehr der Religionen", p.46 ,,[..]a long-lasting and firm system of religious inequality and authority[..], that often tries, to monopolize religious salvation. For this cause religious knowledge, religious symbols, objects and rooms, as the education and license of religious specialists are put under central control. That allows the religious organization to spread their influence on persons and their access to power and wealth wide over their actual religious functions." It's always the same, probably it is this circumstance which creates "secret" arts. The one way or the other.
    • BF
      Right: Iain Abernethy was definitely some kind of eye-opener for me. I guess it will be the same for anyone who only knows the block-counter attack-type bunkai. BTW: There is a great article-series by K. Yokota titled 'Shotokan Karate myths'. One article is about Kata and this also discusses how these bunkai came to live. My bookmarked URL is http://www.jks-americas.com/en/library/, but they seem to have forgotten to renew this domain. Rgds
      • Batman
        Is this the one?
      • Leo
        Seems like the orignial website got hijacked. I think your meaning this one: http://ijka-americas.com/en/library/index.html Thanks for the hint! Looks like a piece of fine literature. PS: Doing a Google McSearch about this, I once more noticed how sick it makes me seeing how karate gets raped and commercialised. Fuckers.
  • Diego Romero
    so true. you also have the people that believe that they're gonna turn into ghandi while they practice stuff that basically equals maiming someone with their hands and feet. one day people are gonna understand that the physical side of martial arts practice consists of fighting techniques, and of how to effectively brutalize another person. anything else is inside your head and depends on your intentions.
    • So , if someone trains in an Okinawan karate style, say Uechi Ryu that emphsises a low, and closed in type of stance , rooted to the ground , can it still be compatible with a boxing stance with the rear heal off the ground for better footwork and mobility and striking while still holding onto Uechi Ryu techniques and concepts without any sacrifice of effectiveness for the style ?
  • mario dacanay
    The essence of a thing is in its reason for its existence. The ball pen is used for writing, otherwise it cease to be one. Fundamentally, karate is for self-defense, otherwise it cease to be one.
  • Saxon_Thor
    Love this post Jesse. I seem to infer that you have misgivings about the "sport" nature of popular karate today, even though you didn't explicitly mention it.
    • Actually, no, I enjoy Sport Karate. But they are two separate things.
  • mark
    i agree completely with this post , as i would being that it seems to follow on well from a subject i commented on recently.. i currently find myself at a junction in my training due to us not practicing realisticly enough the self defence side of things as to make them a tool you carry with you, where this apparent need and flaw in the class ive trained in for many years will now take me who knows , but its all a journey none the less
  • Drew
    I would definitely like to train under you some day Jesse XD! Great post! It was really thought provoking.
  • Thank you, thank you, thank you!
  • Is this a true story? How long had your friend been boxing, that he didn't know skulls are hard? And what would a good Karateka (how ever you define that) have done instead in that same situation?
    • Tibz
      Boxers use gloves so I imagine some never realize how hard a skull is. Personnally I would have done probably the last move in Seishan/Hangetsu or a elbow lock, though I'm not sure if I would've been fast enough. I think the idea people have that karate isn't a self-defense sport may be coming from the fact our kumite is based on touches. When they compare the K.O.s in boxing and the bone breaking in Muaï Thaï to the rare little nosebleed we can see in karate fights (except Kyokushin), it's true Karate doesn't seem impressive or even efficient... But it's only Sport Karate and not "real" Karate.
    • He had been boxing for a few months. But he couldn't clench his fist properly. "A good Karateka" would never be out jogging 11 PM (a dark autumn night) alone, with mobile phone, keys and wallet.
      • sunrei
        “A good Karateka” would had practised at dojo, a common sense would never let anyone to jog at 11pm, especially with all the valuables he has ... he should just get a dog if he has absolutely to go out, its safer than boxing and more fun :) ... karate will not teach people not to go out on dangerous hours, it however can consume the time on same hours, even at home :)
      • herrle 58
        Can`t refuse to comment too, you are right, self defense starts with avoiding dangerous situations.
  • Batman
    Couldn't help but think of your "eight reasons why not to wear gloves" page.
  • Maybe your friend shoud train running insteed of boxing!
  • Matt
    Outstanding post. Really served as a reality check while also being an entertaining story that is easy to recall.
  • Szilard
    In this article: http://www.24fightingchickens.com/2009/12/22/karate-as-the-solution-to-bullying/ Rob Redmond, the shotokan blog-god examines among other things kids' fighting techniques, it is pretty much on the same line what you are following: " You learn to block a straight punch to your face or stomach in a Shotokan Karate class. If any bully ever carefully stands in front of you and steps forward with one step and throws a linear, rotating punch at your chin, you will easily deflect the blow. Unless of course he too has been taking karate and his punch is too fast or well timed – or a complete surprise. But that’s not what bullies do. Being the parent of two boys, and having been one myself, I have considerable experience observing the fighting techniques of untrained children between the ages of 4 and 12. There are few techniques, and they are highly effective: Grab the other guy’s clothes and pull him around in a semi-circle until he trips and falls down. Jump on top of him and pound him. Charge at the other guy like an American Football player, put your shoulder in his gut, wrap your arms around his legs, lift him up and push him backward until he falls on his back. Jump on top of him and pound him. Run straight at the other guy screaming with both hands swinging randomly in circular fashion in all directions until finally one connects. Jump on top and start the pounding. Grab other guy around throat with arm, throw to ground, jump on top, and pound. Repeat as necessary. Push other guy to ground, jump on top, and as above, pound him. I haven’t really seen anyone assume a boxing or karate en guard position in our neighborhood during the many hundreds of spontaneous fights that have broken out amongst children here in the rural suburb we live in. I haven’t seen any one throw a single technique, attempt to connect, fail, and then back off so as to try again. I have not seen anyone throw a single swinging punch with their weight behind it. In other words, despite my many years of karate practice, which I began with the intent to defend myself, I have not seen an attack that looked defensible. They were all surprise attacks. Usually they were the result of a verbal provocation or a sudden burst of rage during a less intense play fight. You cannot defend yourself against a surprise attack. A surprise attack is just that – a surprise. If the attack is a surprise to the attacker, defending yourself is extremely difficult. There is very little that can be done to prepare oneself with weekly or twice weekly karate lessons to prepare to defend against a berzerker with no plan, no intentions, and no technique. You aren’t going to find combat reaction training effective twice weekly. And it is unlikely that any instructor will take 8 year olds and have them charge each other maliciously and with rage-filled wild swings or tackles and learn to defend against it." Now, in most katas there are actual applications, even on basic levels, that can be used against these attacks. At least in goju ryu katas there are. As I remember the Heian katas, they are against more serious attacks, with the intent of doing more harm, than what I would want my little daughter do to her classmates. When my son was 6 I was teaching him tai-chi. That worked rather well on the playground.
    • Fraser
      How to bully properly The is adage to bullying "sticks and stones will break their bones but names will scar them for life". The next secret to bullying is that,keep it secret. Society says don't tell tales so you are well supported. If as bully you push it too far and they hit you it will be they not you who will be in trouble. People say your parents don't care but have your victims parents done to help them. If they get it out in the open so everyone knows, do things that make the bully's parent care hit them in the pocket that makes most people care. Then if the victim then makes an excessive karate reaction you won't be able to pretend it was unprovoked. These things will make bullying much harder because it relies on fear and secrecy. In the karate kid in the plot he does go to the source of the bullying and gets it out in the open. If you do karate you are part of society and should make the best use of it's rules. As the guy in the posting I expect he was a teacher cause you can't teach them anything, just follows does not thing for himself. No empty cup. Made sense when I was thinking about it.
  • Kent
    I studied Shotokan for about three years when I was younger and off and on over the years in that art and others such as Kenpo, and I am sorry to our traditional friends out there but Ichi, Ni, San, Chi, Go, etc up and down the floor and being strong and staying down low in your stance doesn't cut it by themselves and doing thousands of Kata without any kind of applications doesn't either. Luckily my sensei did at least offer some practical self defense applications classes once a week and that, along with as silly as some of the traditionalists thought about it, some books by Bruce Tegner that showed some basic self defense applications, at least gave me some background of something practical. I know they will say that I didn't really stick with it so I don't really understand it but I think a lot of them made a big mistake to not attend the self defense applications class. I think some of them didn't like those classes because they weren't high impact and didn't allow themselves to push themselves hard enough which is what always said it was all about. Sadly that particular class, a lot of the time, wasn't that well attended. But as far as the bunke of the Kata was concerned, I don't think a lot of them knew that much about it. Interesting that they used to say that Master Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan, would spend years just doing, for example, the Tekki Katas. They led us to believe that he just did millions of repetitions but I think he was actually working on the Bunke applications doing that time and not just blindly doing he Katas but this somehow got lost along the way over the years.
  • Kent
    I also did some cross training with boxers and although I never competed as a boxer, I have done some full contact sparring and that gave me an awareness of what it is like to hit someone and get hit and that really opened up (or maybe closed them if I got hit really good!) my eyes. As I said, my sensei did have some practical self defense classes that he taught but his background wasn't totally Shotokan as even though, as I remember it, he was a Sandan in Shotokan, he had earned a brown belt in Kenpo prior to switching to Shotokan and that school has more applications than some of the traditional Japanese styles. He also had the Bruce Tegner books in his bookcase at the dojo and although he didn't specifically say that some of the techinques in the self defense class came from them, looking back, I think at least some of them did. But again the hard core traditionalists would say that I don't have an understanding of the art as I never even earned shodan but I think it was good for me as I am not indoctrinated that there is no other way than how "our dojos" do things. I really don't train these days as I am 51 years old now and overweight but they would probably think, even while they were being polite to me, that I have a weak mentality, but my life is my life and what likely would help me if I have to defend myself, especially now, is some of the practical applications I learned that weren't stressed by some of the traditionalists. Interesting that the man who took over the dojo where I originally trained, where in recent years I was taking some private lessons to help with weight loss, told me that he used to go take lessons from other styles but he wouldn't tell the other black belts from our assoiciation as they would frown upon what he was doing. But I am glad that my senseis had open minds about things.
  • Fraser
    The basic rules of the gentleman's art of boxing where laid down in 1743. Noble patronage came with the Marguis of Queensberry rules. At has been on the school curriclum for over a century At a boxing dojo they are called gyms the sensei called coaches recon it takes about 6 months to get reasonable Hick's law only dealing with 2 limbs I expect. Karate twice as many limbs at least a year if you are an optamist. Boxing kabudo they are called knuckle dusters which turn a sport to something more brutal.In the UK the same law the bans the sale of Japanese swords also bans the sale of knuckle dusters. Hence the phrase "the gloves are off" Jack Dempsy a boxer in the fifties has many interesting concepts in his book availible in PDF. Since boxer don't wear white pyjamas it is much clearer to see what they are doing. The only belts are if you win something. In many boxing gyms they are very respectful towards Karate. If Karate is the art on inteligent people why do we show so much disrespect to someone else's sport and to each other?
  • Igors, Sensei
    I taught Karate for 25 years (15 of them Kyokushinkai Karate)and found that better defense against street attack is - to attack fast an furious. If you waited for attack to you, you lost, especially if attackers are more than two, if attackers are thefts, who are experienced in street attack. And about karate. People must remember There are many different styles of Karate, especially many who used so named "point sparring". That's is reality that man trained in in point sparring or learned maybe 10 self-defense street situations been beaten on the street. This blame rests only on Dojo instructor because this instructor didn't teach his student full contact fight, didn't to fight as furious wind, to fight with anger and be cold. Osu!
  • its true and i respect karate alot since iv once train in a club
  • Jack Brown
    I can't remember the last time I had so much fun reading a blog. Kudos!
  • Lecé
    I think the only problem is how you train, whatever MA or sport you train. In our dojo we spar full contact , just kicking lightly in the dangerous spots, like the nose and face ( those you have to take care) or the groin and knees. With a litle of control you can fight very realistically in the dojo, and when you practice techniques you have to do so at least with a kind of passive resistance¡ You cant train making it easy to your partner. Specialy, the white belts have to start softer, as they lack control. But if you are a black belt you should me able to control an oponent with a lower level without hurting him ( at least what I consider a black belt). And you should be able to fight your partners without rules without hurting each other drasticaly. If you want to go a litle further, you gear up with a helmet and a groin protector and you get completely loosed. But is not so confortable. Of course sometimes you catch a punch in the face or a kick on the groin...not big deal ( if you are not at noncontrol mode) and makes you more aware. Other thing is to train with anybody and from any discipline. Boxing, judo, wing chun, Muay Thai...it opens your mind and helps to unify all styles, because finaly you see that everything is the same. Frankly I dont think you can compare an street attack with no technique to a trained person. I´ve been hearing that for many years and I can assure you its not true. The test when someone gives me that, is to gear up, with some protections and tell him to show me that windmill technique...that never works unless the two oponents are people with no technique at all. Hey just watch Bob Sapp getting kicked so many times...his technique is lame, even with rules and being so huge, he always lost to good fighters like Cro cop. And i am talking about someone who has fighting notions and the body of the hulk. Of course it can work, a fight depends of zillions of variables,.My advice is: fight in the dojo, fight your partners, take precautions, but do it for real. Use protections and do it with friends and people you know are decent, so there cant be hatred or angry feelings. Whenever something worked on you or for you analyze it with your partner and try to practice it as an ippon kumite...most of the times you will find that those separated techniques fit in the kata. TRain for real. Mcarthy´s sensei work or Masaji Taira´s sensei work are a true inspiration, check em, you wont be disappointed. Our sensei is from okinawa, and he says that the problem is that people dont train like they trained when he was young. He says people can´t take such a training. They sparred full contact without protective gear, and get into fights with the americans from the base . He says that was the way that you had to check if your karate worked. When he came to spain 30 years ago he taught like that, people didnt last more than 2 classes, thinking he was mad. So that´s another thing, not everyone in your dojo is gonna be willing to train so hard if just because you are. You have to know your dojo and know who is who and what you can do with one another.
  • Rob
    Top 10 Street Attacks: Push to the chest, ...etc A sample defence to each of these would be a good article in the future . . . maybe using kata bunkai and the style of some of your other bunkai articles? Thanks for the article, I'm going to give some thought to the top 10 street attacks. Geoff Thompson has some interesting writings about the timeline of a street fight and human nature to help you pre-empt it before it gets to the stage of "grabbed his lapel and kneed him in the groin" http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1840242795?ie=UTF8&tag=reawadkaikar-21&linkCode=as2&camp=1634&creative=19450&creativeASIN=1840242795 Some of his ideas on 'pre fight' managment can be seen here: http://www.geoffthompson.com/detailArticles.asp?id=154 You may not agree with his thoughts on martial arts, but I don't think his knowledge of street fighting can be doubted.
  • Aleks
    Cool post! My answer for the defense for the knee kick to the groin... don't let them get that close! OR if you have no choice, angle your body/stance to one side instead of standing square on. (at least you'll have more reaction time and be more mobile) After you've been kicked chances are you can't do anything, no matter what martial art you train :-)
  • Madelyn Waligora
    I think i just had a light bulb appear over my head thanks to your blog. lol good job.
  • Boban Alempijevic
    I read the article, speeed through all comments so I would not see what people have written only to put in a penny of my, not thoughts, not feelings, but what I have seen in my sensei the last few months ( bear in mind, Since I started to train Karate again after 13 years of no training ( YESS, I have been ultimatly stoopid) I have trained for 8 months in a row, 3 times a week with sensei, and every night at home... it is my life, sue me!) My sensei is not 50 yet, he started his training at age of 13. The village he is from in Finland was at his youth time just like any other place, young people got drunk and went into fight every weekend. Something tells me he was the same, atleast after listening to some of the stories he seems to pop out more and more recently. When I took my brown belt ( DAM I DO NOT DESERVE THAT LEVEL YETT.... :( ) He sayed something that got my eyes to tear since it has been my dream ever since I stopped training to actually find my way back to a path of a warior. YES, you heard me right! Since you came to train with us something inside me has gotten me to smile. I have for a very long time not seen that what I see in you and it is my hope and wish that you do not stop trainign with us. Its pure spirit. Spirit and readiness to go straight in with full willpower and speed no matter the situation. That taken out of the context will not say anythign about this article. In February we finally got to be part of Funakoshi Shotokan Karate Assosication and something happened to our sensei and our training. I Have not seen him this happy and this brutal in our training. Basic techniques, trained over and over again, from all kind of different points of wiews and applications in fights ( and I meen real fighting situation where we are showned how to apply them to defend and cripple our opponent.) Some people seem to have faded away from the trainign due to this ( or most likely some other reasons in there own heads ), but most of us seem to have been getting more energy, more will to actually come to training and train hard, and hard it has gotten. It seems like we are drilled so hard applying techniques from kata that we should be able to do it in our sleap ( if only more then few of us actually continued training outside the Dojo as well then we would all feel what I feel). Karate was a sport for me as a kid, a way of learnign how to defend myself against the bullies. now I am 184cm tall, 95Kg ( mostly muscles after a lot of fat burning karate sessions :D ) and I live for karate. When it is trained in a more old fashioned way, drilling your brain and your muscle memory to react without thinking, to drop your thoughts away, or as Sifu yan lei ( Shaolin master from London ) says: The mind is a driver of the body, thoughts does not have anything to do there, just through them away and simple do like Nike says: Just do it! Thank you Jesse, this article got me to smile and cry, I thought we where so few out there that felt the same, aparently I was wrong. In real life situation you usually do NOT have the time to think, and you HAVE to be aware of your surroundings, and be prepared to do what is needed to be done, no thinking, just reacting, and doing it fast but with moral, ethics and a mind prepared to defend not kill!
  • Robbie Laffitte
    Very cool, some good points! I appreciate you making this article online, the rest of the site is also high quality. Have a good.
  • RH Gutierrez
    Great article! I hear a lot of "Kata is a dance" but then there is not a "Karate" fracture" only a Boxer's fracture when the broken 5th metacarpal (the little finger knuckle bone) One problem that happens when people look at kata is that it does not look like movies or sport and they do not know the Human body or clinical medicine. Many don't look at the old maxims like "there is no 1st attack in karate" or that "one strike should end a fight" The intent is not for a game but self-defense. The only way to practice the moves that are used in the worst case can only be practiced in kata and knowledge of the body and injury might help in determing how to use them best
  • I love this post, and I'm definitely sharing it with my students. One question, do you have a link to the British police study of common attacks?
  • C.
    This article represents what is recently obsessing me. I am a karate brown belt and i'm pretty sure i CANNOT defend myself . It drives me crazy. What should we do, how do we change that?
  • Antonis
    Once again the same old question... Which karate is a real karate and what kind of martial art is more effective? Or will I be able in a couple of months to defend myself agains 2-3 attackers? My personal answer to all these questions... The best martial art you can learn in 3 months, that will give you some good chances of saving yourself is... RUNNING! So you d better start training sprints! There is no such a technique that works on its own or so fast. In military or law enforcement schools we can surely see various self deffence systems (like Krav Manga, hand to hand combat, Taiho jitsu) to work great and to be very effective in a very short time. But... What is actually your
  • Antonis
    (continue from my previous post) physical condition, your stamina and how much pain can an ordinary western man's coach-potato-fat-@$$ take compared to a Marin Corp or a Mossad agent. What I am trying to say is that people should not be fooled by fake or too-promising YouTube videos, or/ and marketing, as, in fact, it does not really matter what style you train, but how hard you train and how "ready" you are to get involved in a real-life situation. We must always remember this "real life is not as it appear in Hollywood movies" and "no, you are not Daniel-San and you will not be able to compete against State Champion with just a 3-month training under Mr Miyagi" :D Nevertheless, I think Karate is one of these martial arts that, when trained under th right environment, along with a strong punch,should firstly and ultimately provide the practitioner with the ability to think clearly in order to find the most optimal solution to bypass a dangerous incident. Like Master Anko Itoshou had mentioned in his #1 of his "Ten Lessons" (see Jesse's article) ". Karate does not only endeavor to discipline one’s physique; if and when necessity arises whereby one has to fight, Karate provides the fortitude in which to risk one’s own life in support of that effort. Karate is not meant to be employed against an adversary, but rather as a means to avoid the use of one’s hands and feet in the event of a potentially dangerous encounter". In other words the use of techniques should be the last solution and karate is preparing karatekas to take the appropriate decisions much before they have to use violence.
  • Jack M
    My sensei is only a third dan, but he has been in a lot of fights and it shows (not scars, knowledge). a common theme is that we never practice anything that isn't realistic and effective, often the kata bunkai on the curriculum are discarded and replaced with a better one. we have a good balance I think between form and realism (often at gradings we perform bunkai twice: once slowly for good form, once at at full 'blink and you'll lose teeth' speed)
  • So your'e a weirdo with a blog ?
  • lloyd
    In todays world if I were seriously worried about being attacked by a number of thugs I'd by a revolver and conceal it. In this scenario there would have been 3 rapid shots to the head(s) heard late one night. Why spend 5 to 10 years doing karate to be only half decent in a fight? Buy a gun instead. But I think people take up karate for other reasons.
  • Ramil
    As an instructor, this article reminded me of proverbially offering chicken salad instead of chicken sh*t.
  • Dean
    Hi Jesse-san, can I ask how you feel about Kyokushin Karate for street defence, particularly if the dojo training frequently involves bare-knuckle, full contact sparring? I trained in the Goju style for 4 years, however when I found myself in a threatening situation, I completely froze up due to fear of being hurt, which I think was a direct correlation to my Goju style, which involved only light sparring with minimal (if any) contact. Hence why I am now considering joining a Kyokushin dojo.
  • Geoff
    People have a tendency to over-analyse this stuff to death. I know very little about self defence, but I know a bit about fighting (and only a bit), courtesy of twenty years of Kyokyshin and competing in full contact tournaments. Here's the secret - the closer your sparring/fighting is to the real thing, the more prepared you are going to be for the real thing. If you honestly think years of studying kata means you are going to able to measure up in a full contact environment (be it a Kyukushin tournmant, a Thai boxing match or a street-fight, please go ahead and try it - then post the video on youtube along with all the other guys getting walloped by people who actually know how to throw and take a punch. There is a reason why the muay thai guys cleaned up in the early days of KI - it wasn't because they were technically better, but because they trained by fighting, with contact. There is nothing wrong with training in a non-contact martial art (yes, I like kata), so long as you don't think its preparing for a contact situation, just as there is nothing wrong with touch football, so long as you don't expect to be able to walk out against the Dallas Cowboys. Sure, any form of full contact is going to have limits placed on it for the sale of safety, as with gloves for boxers and the no-head punch rule in Kyukushin, and you may need to supplement your training to prepare for real world situatins, but at the end of the day, you will learn what it feels like to take and deliver blows, and that will be worth more than all the hand and foot waving in the world,
  • 123
    carry a baton, its saved my life when 3 guys approached me, my gf and my friend and his gf, 1 of them had knife in pocket, before he took it out comepletly he got hit and his friend emedietly after, plan ahead, dont finish on 1 guy, hit 2 guys so you are left with just one
  • So I am an old guy with many years of karate and boxing training. They both help. But, in my opinion, the reason I have been through many dangerous times and am still here to type this is: Mindful training, and awareness in daily life. Ask your friend when he was first aware that he was in the presence of bad guys. Could he have seen it coming earlier? Could he have avoided the whole thing, or punched a better target if fighting was his only alternative? Thanks for the interesting thread. /

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