Back in the mid-1970′s, my instructor, Dick Willett, urged me to go to open karate tournaments to supplement my fighting skill set. You see at open tourneys, they allowed full contact to the body and kiss contact to the head (in Brown and Black Belt levels). It was more realistic back then since groin shots were also open. That meant that a karateka could not stand in a open boxing stance that would be unrealistic in a real fight – but rather had to be aware that they were vulnerable to attacks low, mid-level and high.
I started sparring in the school in the white belt divisions (orange, purple, blue, and green) as a blue belt. The cool thing was there were no head shots – so one had to become good at body strikes (a valuable learning tool). I then went to tourneys in white, brown and eventually black belt levels. I was also bouncing at a local bar when I turned 21 (brown belt level for me). This was way before I learned boxing, kick boxing, or dabbled in BJJ – but I had wrestled in jr. high school.
So meandering to the premise of this article, I thought that the school sparring, and later tournament sparring put me in a good position for the many real fights I encountered working two years as a bouncer. At that time tournament point sparring (continuous sparring was only done at schools – not at open tournaments yet) put me in a perfect position to transition to a real fight for reasons that I will go into in this article, but alas I fear that karate tournaments of today, this is no longer the case.
I am not picking on any one organization but here are the rules for the World Karate Federation Tournaments.
How do I really feel? Ok – maybe “robbed” is a little strong because you can search out good fighters and promote events but you have no idea if the fighters are gonna dance around and seek to win by a decision. I understand that but twice in the last year I have bought a UFC PPV event and was disappointed. Let me back up a bit for my perspective but first watch how this event was promoted.
You would not believe how often white belts (white, orange, purple, blue, green) ask me what would I do if or if I thought I could really defend myself if questions. I also see this type of question on other blogs and websites. I’ve even seen it stated that becoming a black belt does not equate to fighting ability. I’ve diligently read those points of view and found it is nothing new. Students and even some upper belts that have never been in a real fight wonder if what they know really works!
I’ve never considered this question after I started taking lessons at Tracy’s Karate so many years ago. You see I had tried some Japanese/Okinawan karate and Samoan Kung Fu/Karate (Lima Lama) and had those kind of questions before. Although I had not been in many real fights since Jr. High School – I had been sparring and going to tournaments. I was able to kick and punch ok but I was not consistent in winning those matches.
I did not really know how to fight (probably not the styles but the instructors). I will continue this story later but after going to Tracy’s Karate (now Dick Willett’s American Kenpo Karate Association), I’ve never looked back. Fighting is easy because Dick taught me what I was trying to accomplish while I was fighting. No instructor had ever done that before.
In this post I will address the question, absurd as it is, “So now you know karate; can you fight?” But first here is John Graden, a JLFS Master about building confidence.
Kind of an interesting title, “What is Karate…” for this article. I used to be the guy that sold dreams to people wanting to learn karate. To most Americans in the 1970′s and 1980′s, karate was a mysterious way of fighting. Perhaps they had seen movies and TV shows how a smaller man/woman/child could best a bigger, stronger opponent. So when people waked in to my studio I would tell them what was possible for them or their children.
The thing is there was no single idea of what karate was to people. Many wanted self defense at first but then sought to attain, rank, trophy in sport kumite and kata. Some wanted to learn some good street fighting techniques (most for self defense). The thing is as a salesman – I changed my presentation to suit each person individually. I told them whatever reasonable goal they had for karate – I would help them achieve that as well as teach then the Kenpo Karate system of self defense.
Before I give you my answer of what I think karate is, watch this catchy karate rap video of the period for a good idea of what people thought of karate back in the day.
One of the questions you get as a karate instructor is does this really work? It is a strange question because you spend a lot of time teaching a student the basics, how to kick, punch, stay out of striking range until they are ready to strike and then they pounce! What do you mean does this really work? I should say it is a strange question to me because I have had the experience of it really working.
A bit of back ground is in order. As a fledgling karate student (before much formal training) I use to break boards, read books, watch TV shows and movies and tried all of the stuff… most of it worked but I had no idea of how to pull it off in a confrontation. I got lucky a lot – stuff that should not have worked – did because I was a young – fast – strong buck.
So the question is more how one teaches the techniques and if taught correctly – can the students pull it off. Here is a funny satire on self-defense moves that in my opinion should not work (at least the way they are demonstrated). Enjoy this and will dive into this subject.
I have been doing karate for years and have not really thought about this from a beginning students perspective recently. I had a buddy ask me my take on teaching students how to kick the groin as beginners can miss the mark at first. Also (understandably) guys do not want to volunteer their family jewels as target practice!
Ok – one of the first kicks a student learns is the front snap kick in most styles. You bring the knee up, snap the kick out (kicking with the ball of the foot or instep), bring the kick back and land it. This method fast becomes second nature but before a student learns actual sparring (if they style they are learning does that), how is a student to know their kick is going to be a real ball buster? That is the question I’ll deal with in this post.
First for some comic relief Master Ken is going to demonstrate some ways to create more sopranos in the choir.
I want to learn karate so I can protected myself against “any” attack! How often do you hear people saying that they can protect themselves because they know how to fight? I’ve heard it all of my life and bought into it sometimes. For instance if you have muscles – no one will want to fight you on the beach because you are not an easy mark (assuming muscles equate to fighting ability). Or you are a prize fighter superstar and become a jerk in a bar… thinking no one “can” get the best of you.
This over or sometimes no confidence is common among karate students. Students take lessons to learn how to protect themselves after all. In this post I’ll go over what karate can and cannot do for you as part of your self-defense strategy.
Once when I was working restaurant for a living (a long time ago), one of the cooks wanted to know how to win a fight with a karate guy. I was honest with him and told him his he had better sucker punch first and hard because if he did not get a fast advantage – he was going to pay dearly. More this story later but please read on if you want to hear my thoughts about karate protecting you from an assassin’s attack.