Grappling in karate kata

I think we all accept that karate kata contain some grappling methods, be they grabs, locks or throws. Otherwise the kata would not contain any subtle hand techniques - they would consist purely of punches and kicks with a few blocks thrown in. I am of the view that, like punches and kicks etc., the grappling techniques in kata are based on sound biomechanical principles. I also think that they are far more complex than many instructors currently understand. This may account for why some books say that grappling applications of karate kata are "crude" by comparison with, say, jujustsu. I have seen some very dubious applications accepted as mainstream, applications that are very crude to boot. On the other hand I have seen very effective and advanced grappling applications of the same movement that are far more appropriate.

The essential problem many people have with karate grappling applications is that these techniques are mostly performed by practitioners while standing up. In my view there is no reason that these techniques will not work on the ground. An application from a kata (eg. the gyaku shuto in geki sai) might be used to lock an opponent's arm while standing, but it works just as well on the ground.

I think there are only so many ways a human can move. I have yet to see a technique in grappling that does not fit, biomechanically, with movements in the kata. Call it revisonism if you will, but I call it understanding the principles in the kata. This is the road I choose to take. I choose to use my kata to understand how the body moves and why something works in one way and not in another. Perhaps the original kata creators did not envisage an "ura kote gaeshi" arising from the opening move of Seiyunchin, however what they did do was utilise the optimum angle for applying force to the opponent from a particular position. The ura kote gaeshi might be just one of many techniques that one can execute in that situation.

So by all means, look at other arts and learn from them. But go back to your kata. My experience is that they will give you a framework to "attach" all your knowledge in a way that is systematic within your own learning framework. Abandoning your kata or disparaging them means that you will be jumping horses mid race. More importantly, you will be rejecting the effectiveness of techniques that you use based on someone else's say - so (propoganda)? Let's not forget - in the end, fighting is fighting. There are only so many ways to skin a cat. The more I look the more convinced I am that effective martial arts all comes down to the same thing. The differences are merely cosmetic or a matter of emphasis. As the late Shihan Jan de Jong said to me about Brazilian Jujitsu: "It is all jujutsu. There is nothing new."

Copyright © 2008 Dejan Djurdjevic