Shotokan for self defence.

K-man

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In an earlier thread a member who claims to be 'highly ranked' in Shotokan was rubbishing it as being pretty much useless for 'real' fighting. My view has been that Shotokan, like most Japanese karate, has moved away from its roots in to a more competition based style of karate but here is an opinion that I came across that gives an alternate opinion.

You’re alone on a city street at night, the prey of an attacker determined to do you in. Without a hint of fear, he approaches you, demanding your money and threatening your life. Will you surrender and add your name to his list of victims? Or will you maintain control, fight back and turn the situation to your advantage?

Grapplers,Thai boxers and mixed-martial arts enthusiasts claim their techniques can help you escape such deadly confrontations — and they’re right. But they’re not your only options. Traditional arts such as shotokan karate can help you repel an attacker just as effectively.

For Street Self-Defense There Is No Better Martial Art Than Shotokan Karate 8211 - Black Belt
We have had numerous discussions on the value of kata, or forms, and again, our 'highly ranked' Shotokan practitioner is dismissive of any value of the kata.

The author of this article has a different view ...

Unfortunately, Rielly sees too many instructors teach self-defense but neglect the basics in favor of free sparring. “This is a mistake,” he warns. “The ability to free-spar or fight well is the result of training and should not be the primary means of training.”

Accordingly, shotokan students learn most of their self-defense moves through forms training. This approach doesn’t make sense to some people — especially beginners — but all shotokan forms are chock-full of self-defense applications.
Hmm! Those of you who have been around MT for some time might recall my comments on advanced beginners.
 

drop bear

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Ok so we have one opinion for and one opinion against. And my opinion is i haven't seen any evidence that Shotokan or their training methods work in self defence.

so i suppose both opinions are equally valid at this point.
 

tshadowchaser

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the only way to truly see if any system works as a good self defense is to be with someone who studies it when they need to use it. One can hear of someone segueing "X" in a situation and hear it worked or did not but then that is only hearsay.
From what I have seen of old timers using Shotokan I have no doubt they would have been able to use it in the street.
I will not get into the forms is better or worse than whatever discussion at this time
 

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System, style, school, blah, blah, blah (yes, I'm being a jerk) it's the practitioner more than anything else.

I don't know a lot about Shotokan. I don't know how it is overseas or how it is in other parts of the United States. All I can tell you is I fought some Shotokan guys in competition in the seventies and eighties, (maybe a couple dozen) both here in New England, some in New York and Florida. I beat some and I lost to some. But every one of them hurt like the dickens. The way I always described them was "They like to punch a hole through your body so they can give the finger to the guy behind you."
Maybe it's different now, I really don't know.

I have no affiliation with Shotokan, no friends who train in that style. Just memories of ice packs and cracked ribs. Even the ones I beat.
 

Tony Dismukes

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I have nothing against Shotokan and I am quite certain there are plenty of Shotokan practitioners who are very good at fighting and at self-defense. That said, the article was pretty weak sauce in the classic Black Belt Magazine style. Lots of assertions puffing a given style, attributed to whatever instructor is being profiled, without much in the way of evidence or critical thought. I could go through and kibitz line by line, but there's not much point. It's just the magazine's house style.
 

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I don't know that self defense is the primary motivator behind the development and practice of shotokan. First I'd consider who made the art and why? Wasn't it gichin funakoshi? Was he a known fighter? Did he have a reputation as a fighter like many other old school teachers did? Somewhere along they way I've gotten the impression that he wanted to spread karate, but I could be wrong. Shotokan seems to be about personal development and strengthening ones self, not a bad thing but not specifically self defense either.

It seems like a lot of traditional arts were meant to defeat the untrained, and since martial arts were less popular and more secretive in days past its seems likely that most people had no formal training and perhaps any training would trump no skill. Now cultures are more diverse fighting and martial arts is more commonplace and perhaps different sizes and builds are more common? A self defense system should equip you to deal with bigger stronger or even skilled opponents.

Kata, like we see in shotokan may have benefits but it is the longer rode to fighting ability and self defense. I'm not entirely sold on RBSD but self defense is the goal of these systems, they keep it relatively simple and largely leave out the classical and cultural details. Training time is valuable kata may have had its place in older times when people had less to do but now it seems like more of a cultural keepsake which when trained properly can also provide some self defense benefit.
 
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I have nothing against Shotokan and I am quite certain there are plenty of Shotokan practitioners who are very good at fighting and at self-defense. That said, the article was pretty weak sauce in the classic Black Belt Magazine style. Lots of assertions puffing a given style, attributed to whatever instructor is being profiled, without much in the way of evidence or critical thought. I could go through and kibitz line by line, but there's not much point. It's just the magazine's house style.
I'm not putting in a plug for Shotokan. What I am pointing out is the fact that these guys are saying that the SD part of the system is in the bunkai, not in the sport side.
 

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the only way to truly see if any system works as a good self defense is to be with someone who studies it when they need to use it. One can hear of someone segueing "X" in a situation and hear it worked or did not but then that is only hearsay.
From what I have seen of old timers using Shotokan I have no doubt they would have been able to use it in the street.
I will not get into the forms is better or worse than whatever discussion at this time

yeah that was kind of what i was thinking. We are having a "Are martians blue or green" conversation here.
 

drop bear

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I have nothing against Shotokan and I am quite certain there are plenty of Shotokan practitioners who are very good at fighting and at self-defense. That said, the article was pretty weak sauce in the classic Black Belt Magazine style. Lots of assertions puffing a given style, attributed to whatever instructor is being profiled, without much in the way of evidence or critical thought. I could go through and kibitz line by line, but there's not much point. It's just the magazine's house style.

I was having a think about this and kata cant be the end result. And is sounds like people think it is. So ok lets just say there is a ton of great self defence moves in kata. If you cant take that move and pull it off then kata becomes a pointless exercise. It would be like saying there are great self defence moves on youtube. But at some point you have to be less of a youtube expert and more of a make this move work for yourself expert.
 

drop bear

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I don't know that self defense is the primary motivator behind the development and practice of shotokan. First I'd consider who made the art and why? Wasn't it gichin funakoshi? Was he a known fighter? Did he have a reputation as a fighter like many other old school teachers did? Somewhere along they way I've gotten the impression that he wanted to spread karate, but I could be wrong. Shotokan seems to be about personal development and strengthening ones self, not a bad thing but not specifically self defense either.

It seems like a lot of traditional arts were meant to defeat the untrained, and since martial arts were less popular and more secretive in days past its seems likely that most people had no formal training and perhaps any training would trump no skill. Now cultures are more diverse fighting and martial arts is more commonplace and perhaps different sizes and builds are more common? A self defense system should equip you to deal with bigger stronger or even skilled opponents.

Kata, like we see in shotokan may have benefits but it is the longer rode to fighting ability and self defense. I'm not entirely sold on RBSD but self defense is the goal of these systems, they keep it relatively simple and largely leave out the classical and cultural details. Training time is valuable kata may have had its place in older times when people had less to do but now it seems like more of a cultural keepsake which when trained properly can also provide some self defense benefit.

Ok the best argument for kata has been from one of our karate guys. The idea is you train the moovements yo
 

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Bugger. Phone buttons again. Ok so you train the movements you would use in fighting under positional stress. So deeper stances exaggerated punches and kicks. So that when you fight your body is a bit conditioned to do what you want by training it to do a bit more than you need. Like resistance bands or underwater training.
 

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I'm not putting in a plug for Shotokan. What I am pointing out is the fact that these guys are saying that the SD part of the system is in the bunkai, not in the sport side.

Then you have a serious disconnect between the art and the sport. And you cant really do that and get benefit from both. One has to progress the other.
 
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Bugger. Phone buttons again. Ok so you train the movements you would use in fighting under positional stress. So deeper stances exaggerated punches and kicks. So that when you fight your body is a bit conditioned to do what you want by training it to do a bit more than you need. Like resistance bands or underwater training.
So without any karate experience you are now an expert on karate stances and kata. Well, the only time we use a long stance is in a takedown. Because the kata is all grappling there are few if any kicks and there are no exaggerated punches. Best stick to your MMA. I'm out of here. This was meant to be a conversation with those who practise karate.
 

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So without any karate experience you are now an expert on karate stances and kata. Well, the only time we use a long stance is in a takedown. Because the kata is all grappling there are few if any kicks and there are no exaggerated punches. Best stick to your MMA. I'm out of here. This was meant to be a conversation with those who practise karate.

For self defence.

Can you talk me through the non exaggerated poses used here?
 

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I am just wondering after k-man posted. I too am not qualified to comment on the OP. Just wondering if with the Martial Arts these, and including the OP in this, days has had a fundamental shift in philosophy. Ie, keeping roots, but like a flower, is now in a new season. For the last decade or so, sports has been a social community drive that has become political through the obesity issue, at least in the UK anyway with the likes of Sky Sports Living for Sport Perhaps there has been a subtle shift that newbies like myself would not notice. SD is I guess is big business these days, why not sport to that too.
 
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For self defence.

Can you talk me through the non exaggerated poses used here?
Not being a Shotokan practitioner I have no idea of what it is about. As you are obviously more informed about kata than most of us perhaps you could give us your opinion.

But first a question. What has kihon kata got to do with what I posted? If you were really interested why did you not post some advanced bunkai demonstrating a real situation so we could actually discuss the value of the technique? You do understand kihon?

Here is some simple bunkai that gives a basic understanding of the techniques in the kata.
Now to my understanding, the Heian series of kata were instructional kata, not necessarily designed as a fighting system. The bunkai shown here is not realistic in that it is choreographed but that doesn't take away from its primary purpose, giving a simple explanation of the kata, but again kihon.

So, are there realistic applications with the kata that you posted? Certainly.

And another, this time talking about the angles shown in the kata and you can see the long stances being used in the take downs.
 

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So without any karate experience you are now an expert on karate stances and kata. .

I don't think drop bear was claiming to be an expert in either. He was repeating an explanation from a karate practitioner and saying that he finds it a plausible justification for how kata are performed.

I've heard the same explanation before from some karate and kung fu exponents. (It's one of many, sometimes contradictory, explanations from different practitioners.) Since you're a karate practitioner, what's your opinion? Do you think there is any validity to it?
 

Tony Dismukes

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Not being a Shotokan practitioner I have no idea of what it is about. As you are obviously more informed about kata than most of us perhaps you could give us your opinion.

But first a question. What has kihon kata got to do with what I posted? If you were really interested why did you not post some advanced bunkai demonstrating a real situation so we could actually discuss the value of the technique? You do understand kihon?

Here is some simple bunkai that gives a basic understanding of the techniques in the kata.
Now to my understanding, the Heian series of kata were instructional kata, not necessarily designed as a fighting system. The bunkai shown here is not realistic in that it is choreographed but that doesn't take away from its primary purpose, giving a simple explanation of the kata, but again kihon.

So, are there realistic applications with the kata that you posted? Certainly.

And another, this time talking about the angles shown in the kata and you can see the long stances being used in the take downs.

I have a lot respect for Abernathy. I don't know whether the bunkai he shows are the ones intended by the creators of the forms, but If do think that he understands combative reality well enough that his explanations are at least plausible.

That first video, on the other hand ... whoever came up with that bunkai clearly did not understand combative reality. The first application demonstrated is particularly laughable.

I'm not a kata practitioner, but if I were I would want to know what the correct intended application was, because it affects the body dynamics. The muscle sequencing and alignment of force needed to effectively hit someone with a forearm smash, grab their chin, and spin them to the ground is not the same as is needed for blocking a kick. If I'm practicing for one but thinking I'm doing the other, I won't develop the skill to do either correctly. (That's not me claiming to be a kata expert - it's me claiming I know what it takes for me to learn physical skills.)
 
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I don't think drop bear was claiming to be an expert in either. He was repeating an explanation from a karate practitioner and saying that he finds it a plausible justification for how kata are performed.

I've heard the same explanation before from some karate and kung fu exponents. (It's one of many, sometimes contradictory, explanations from different practitioners.) Since you're a karate practitioner, what's your opinion? Do you think there is any validity to it?
Tony these guys have been rubbishing kata and most karate since day one. I have posted explanation after explanation as to why things aren't always what they seem. Within all karate there is a huge misunderstanding of kata. It was in many ways designed that way so it could be practised without people knowing exactly what you were training. When someone takes time to explain something like has been done here and the information is ignored in this way, it is both insulting and annoying.

So my opinion? Without the kata you do not have different styles of karate. The kata are the fighting systems that make each style unique. All the information you require to defend yourself is contained within the kata, so yes, Shotokan most definitely can be used for self defence. The problem is that most instructors have never been shown how to interpret the kata.

I have a lot respect for Abernathy. I don't know whether the bunkai he shows are the ones intended by the creators of the forms, but If do think that he understands combative reality well enough that his explanations are at least plausible.
I think the bunkai he demonstrates would almost certainly be different to that of the creator of the forms. That is not because of lack of understanding but more to do with the physical attributes of the person performing the kata. That was why in the early days the masters selected one or two kata to teach their students, not the plethora we see today. That combined with the fact that each of the moves portrayed have multiple applications. I don't believe there was ever a set bunkai passed down, in karate. The student was instructed in the basics, including the sequence of the kata (kihon) then told to go and explore the kata (advanced). You could say that kata is a mnemonic. It helps you remember the sequences.

I teach a lot of the same sequences to my Krav guys. They just don't learn the kata. They are entering, controlling and destroying their opponent the same as we do with the bunkai. Kata is simply a different method of teaching the same thing.

That first video, on the other hand ... whoever came up with that bunkai clearly did not understand combative reality. The first application demonstrated is particularly laughable.
Not true. Again, this is kihon or a basic explanation. If you understand karate you would see it perhaps as a training tool or perhaps as a bunkai for competition. How do you explain the solar system to a four or five year old? I would be sure you would use simple terms and maybe even a fairytale. Certainly it would be a different explanation to that offered to university students. Kata is the same. It can be taught to children with a basic explanation. The deeper understanding comes with experience.

I'm not a kata practitioner, but if I were I would want to know what the correct intended application was, because it affects the body dynamics. The muscle sequencing and alignment of force needed to effectively hit someone with a forearm smash, grab their chin, and spin them to the ground is not the same as is needed for blocking a kick. If I'm practicing for one but thinking I'm doing the other, I won't develop the skill to do either correctly. (That's not me claiming to be a kata expert - it's me claiming I know what it takes for me to learn physical skills.)
You are exactly right and that is the way I teach kata. I don't teach blocks at all, so none of my explanations refer to blocks. Kata is not for multiple opponents so I never teach that you are turning to face a new attack. All the movements are in relation to the position of your opponent so on turning we are looking at angles. Kata is all about grappling, so the kata is performed with that in mind.
 

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Tony these guys have been rubbishing kata and most karate since day one.

Perhaps, but the quote in question was not rubbishing kata. It was offering a justification for kata. Furthermore, it was a justification that originated from a karateka.

I have posted explanation after explanation as to why things aren't always what they seem. Within all karate there is a huge misunderstanding of kata. It was in many ways designed that way so it could be practised without people knowing exactly what you were training. When someone takes time to explain something like has been done here and the information is ignored in this way, it is both insulting and annoying.

You have offered explanations for how kata works. Some other karateka (including drop bear's friend from his gym) have offered different explanations. Perhaps your explanation is the correct one. (Or perhaps there are more than one "correct" explanation, depending on the situation.) Is it necessarily insulting if drop bear doesn't automatically trust your explanation over the one his friend gave? Would it be insulting to his friend if he accepted yours instead?

Not true. Again, this is kihon or a basic explanation. If you understand karate you would see it perhaps as a training tool or perhaps as a bunkai for competition. How do you explain the solar system to a four or five year old? I would be sure you would use simple terms and maybe even a fairytale. Certainly it would be a different explanation to that offered to university students. Kata is the same. It can be taught to children with a basic explanation. The deeper understanding comes with experience

I'll have to disagree on that one. I can understand offering beginners a simplified explanation that leaves out a lot of the advanced subtleties, complexities, and "what-ifs". I can't support offering beginners an explanation that is flat out wrong on multiple levels and demonstrates deep ignorance of combative reality.
 
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