Will Karate Work? How To Come Out On Top!

Posted by: John W. Zimmer
Under: karate
25 May 2008

For many of you that have taken karate lessons and learned how to do all of the basics, you may still be wondering; Will it really work? And, How can I make karate work for me? I have read a wikipedia article (one should not rely on wikipedia as authoritative as it can be edited by anyone) on Model Mugging where a gentleman decided to focus on self-defense instead of traditional karate because it did not work for many women (in his judgement).


Karate lessons will give you all of the tools you need to fight back but it will not fight back for you… meaning you will have to get over the feeling of, “Is this really happening to me” and come up with a quick plan. Part of a karate education is supposed to be exposure to fighting and getting some self-confidence to find some moves that work for YOU! If you are just focused on getting the pretty belt or the recognition that comes with a black-belt… you are probably wasting your money.


I will try to relate some of the moves that give me confidence in almost any situation…. moves that I cannot use in sport karate or full-contact karate for the most part. I will try and relate what it is like to be in a real fight for your life as I have been in plenty (all fights after high-school are really (and should be) fights of last resort), and I will try and put it all together for you. And yes – I think anyone can be trained to fight in a self-defense situation. My most favorite move is the counter-punch or lunge punch. Here is a quick video demonstrating this very simplisticly (there is a lot more to it if you want to be successful).


[kml_flashembed movie="http://youtube.com/v/0nJsti-ZzXI" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]




This video shows the very basic parts of a counter-punch. The counter or reverse punch is generally used when someone encroaches on your critical distance. The parts of the counter punch are the same as my post described in the Inverted Counter punch post. I have stopped plenty of people, both in sparring (practice bouts) and on the street with the counter punch but my signature move is the lunge punch.


I looked around for a video of a good lunge-punch but I did not see any. I saw plenty of step-punches called lunge punches that would not work - on youtube. A lunge punch thrown Lewis (Joe Lewis)style entails isolating the body while the punch starts with initial movement. After the punch is extended several inches to a foot, the rest of the body follows the punch, including the rear foot. You get the twisting motion in the video but you also get the full weight of the body when the punch impact your opponent! After the punch lands, your body catches up with your punch and you recover your balance.


What you may be thinking? How wise is it to lunge at your attacker, leaving yourself off-balance in his critical distance? I too agree with this logic but want to point out that you do have to cover while you are throwing the punch and then follow up with more strikes while you are inside the distance!


The advantage of a lunge punch is it will connect! If a practitioner of karate truly understands initial movement, critical distance, and how to do a lunge punch (jab, flip or side kick) - he or she can hit their attacker at will before the opponent can block or get out of the way. I use to laugh at fighting scenes during movies where a couple of leading men where in this fight of their lives, standing toe to toe! In my mind, if either of them knew how to fight, the first one to strike properly (using initial movement), would always win the fight!



Ok now I will discuss strategy a little bit... I mentioned that one could not really do some of the moves in sport or full contact karate? Yes because while the lunge punch works well in sport karate, if you hinder a punch with gloves on, you end up taking away a lot of the force (not to mention that you probably have a truly worthy opponent that can take a punch). I would not throw lunging moves on a jui jitsu guy unless I was sure it was a game changing move. Too much risk. There is also the follow up move I like with the lunch punch (that I practice on my bag) - the elbow. 



The lunge punch, elbow combination would devastate most attackers because not many people guard their bread-basket (solar plexus), and then follow up with the elbow to whatever is open (like the ribs, or head). Both strikes are extremely hard (meaning either one can stop the fight). I have "knocked out" plenty of guys in starring (where they could not continue) and on the street with just the lunge punch to the bread-basket (like I said, it was my signature move). Most guys (including black-belts) are head hunters. The body punches they throw are half-hearted to try and set up a good shot to the head! My bread and butter when I was fighting was the solar-plexus!


Ok - so far I have given one move that I think would work well (based on my training and practice of initial movement, critical distance and my favorite move), the lunch punch, elbow combination. Another move you cannot really practice is a half-fist to the throat! There are advantages to using a half-fist for a throat strike instead of a fist... it fits better and the knuckles extend farther than a fist. The throat does not need as much force to do a lot of damage and after getting a hard strike to the throat - you can follow up with almost anything!




Half Fist Strike






I like to throw my half-fist to the throat as a left jab (with initial movement) and follow up with a right elbow to the ribs. These are truly devastating moves that cannot be practiced on sparring partners (but punching bags are ideal)!


To round up some of my favorite self-defense moves, I like to snap kick to the shins, knee caps and nuts. I like to side kick to the knees and legs with the heel instead of the side of the foot (this takes some practice as I have to offset my aim to get it right). If you learn to side-kick this way, your kick will become bone breakers instead of charlie-horse providers because you have concentrated several inches of impact (the side of your foot) into one square inch (just the heel providing your aim is right). I like head butts, eye strikes, eye gouges, and any other move we are taught not to use in the ring.




I would like to echo the sentiments of Charles C. Goodin (author of, "Karate Thoughts Blog")in his post entitled, MMA Fouls, where he compares the MMA fouls as good means for karate practitioners to use as self-defense! I like his logic, and I think if it works on the 600 pound gorilla - it will probably work for the proverbial 90 pound weakling, you know the ordinary folks that karate was created to help!



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One Response to “Will Karate Work? How To Come Out On Top!”

  1. Martial Arts News 5.27.08 « Striking Thoughts Says:

    […] My Self-Defense Blog discusses how to make karate training work in a self-defense situation. For many of you that have taken karate lessons and learned how to do all of the basics, you may still be wondering; Will it really work? […]