We hear a name or a label of an activity and then through our own experiences and perception we form an opinion. I wonder what a lot of people, both with training in karate and with no training in karate, conjure up in their mind when they hear the word Karate. Here is an interesting observation from a Japanese Instructor, Mitani Kazua, who has trained for 5 decades plus. He is a student of Kinjo Hiroshi who is very famous with those in the ‘know’ in Japan.
When We Hear the Word- Karate!
Authored by Kazuya Mitani; Translated by Joe Swift; Edited by Bob McMahon
When we hear the word karate, we are apt to fall into the illusion that we are to be carrying out punches and kicks. However, kumite (striking at each other) leads into toride (grappling) and concludes with nage (throwing). If the opponent comes and grabs our body, there is no need for kumite. If he grabs our arm, we perform a chudan-uke (mid level block) into a toride technique. If he grabs our shoulder we perform a jodan-uke (high block) into a toride technique. A grab is slower than a punch so it is easy to grasp his arm.
Leaving the mental aspect aside for a while, even the technical goal of karate is not to blast people into oblivion with punches and kicks. The kata (fixed exercise routines) show us this. Without understanding the kuden (oral transmissions) and only interpreting kata in one’s own way, one will never come to understand karate. The precepts of Itosu state this clearly:
“Attack, receive, release and grappling all have many oral transmissions associated with their use.”
I often see those who throw their opponent with a Judo or Aikido technique and then finish him off with a punch; but this is actually backwards. We can do little more than call this ‘karate for one’s own personal satisfaction’. It is not that easy to throw a person, and as an entry, we have kumite and toride. This is also clearly stated in the precepts of Itosu:
“Swear to not harm people with your fists and feet.”
Makiwara (target- maybe wood, punching bag or a partner) practice centers on kumite and toride, but that does not make it wrong to practice throwing as well. Matsumura Sokon Sensei developed this from an old Jigen- Ryu Kenjutsu training method.
“One must practice the outer art of karate many times, as well as study how they are used.”…. “If one were to spend 1-2 hours a day at the makiwara…”
In other words, it is necessary to practice kata many times, but it is more important to practice the techniques in the kata at the makiwara for 1-2 hours a day. Isn’t mainland Japanese karate amiss in this aspect? I will go into more detail on this elsewhere, but the purpose of karate training is to gain the power to throw an opponent. Without understanding what karate is, this point is not easy to grasp.