Friday, July 15, 2011

There is no First Strike in Karate – the Training

Karate Ni Sente Nashi is a very famous Okinawan saying, “There is no first strike in Karate”. It has been discussed many times such as at the following .pdf: Karate Ni Sente Nashi A discussion by Mark J. Tankos http://seinenkai.com/articles/tankosich/sentenashi.pdf

I think I’ve hit on something interesting in the 1933 “Karate Kenpo” by Mutsu Mizuho.

(please refer to footnote 1). The last half of this incredible book describes Kumite or the use of karate technique. Mutsu organized the technique studies by type not kata, and I’ve just realized he started with a practical method of using Karate Ni Sente Nashi.

My analysis is solely based on visual inspection of the drawings, with the help of Joe-san Swift’s brief explanations. It might not be what Mutsu intended but I think it has great value.

Mutsu had been a student of Funakoshi Ginchin and Karate Ni Sente Nashi must have been an important concept of Funakoshi Sensei. What I’m now realizing was the order Mutsu described how to use Karate technique is a practical method of training based on the concept.

Joe Swift’s article describes the first section of the Kumite as reactive defense, and the second section of the Kumite as preemptive striking (building on the reactive defense). In both cases the attacker moves first maintaining the principle of Karate No Sente Nashi. (Not that I suggest this is the only or best course of action in an attack, instead it is a method of training that can be used to hold to the principle if that is the choice.)

Here are the technique practices described by Mutsu.

Reactive Defense, or the art of not being there when attacked using 5 training principles.

1. Attacker leads with a left lunge punch to the head and then follows with a right front kick

a. Defender steps back with the right foot, away from the punch.

b. Defender steps back with the left foot, away from the kick.

2. Attacker leads with a left lunge punch to the head and then follows with a right front kick

a. Defender leans slightly back moving the head just beyond the punch.

b. Defender skips slightly back moving the body just beyond the kick.

3. Attacker leads with a left lunge punch to the head

a. Defender steps forward with the left, slipping inside the strike and striking upward into the attacker’s chest with a reverse punch.

4. Attacker leads with a left lunge punch to the head

a. Defender steps forward with the left, slipping inside the strike and striking to the solar plexus with a left lead punch

5. Attacker steps with the right and throws a left reverse punch to the head

a. Defender steps right foot forward slipping the attackers punch to the outside

b. (Alternate) Defender steps left foot forward slipping the attackers punch to the outside.

Preemptive Striking building upon the principles of Reactive Defense or the art of Counter Striking against the attack.


1. Attacker leads with a left lunge punch to the head

a. Step back with your right foot and lean your head away from the strike

b. (Alternate) Step in with your left foot and strike their head with your left hand


2. Attacker steps with their left and throws a right reverse punch to the head

a. Step in with your left, and slightly rotate your body counter-clockwise and slip inside of their punch

b. (Alternate) Step in with your left and slightly rotate your body clockwise and slip inside of their punch and strike their solar plexus with a short left lead punch

c. (Alternate) Step in with your left, and slightly rotate your body counter-clockwise and slip inside of their punch and strike their solar plexus with a right reverse punch

d. (Alternate) Step in with your left and strike their head with a right reverse punch

e. (Alternate- drawing not shown) Step in with your left, and slightly rotate your body clockwise and slip inside of their punch and strike their solar plexus with a right uppercut

3. Attacker steps with their left and throws a right reverse punch to the head

a. Lunge forward with the left foot and left lunge punch their solar plexus

b. Lunge forward with the left foot and right reverse punch their solar plexus

IMO the difference between techniques 2 and 3 is that the 3rd section is done without slipping

Rotation of the body and though the attacker begins their strike the lunge gets the defender there first.

4. Attacker steps with their left and throws a left lead punch to the head

a. Step forward with the right foot slipping inside of the punch and beginning a right lead punch to the solar plexus

b. (Alternate) Step forward with the right foot slipping inside of the punch and throw a right roundhouse punch under and around the striking arm to hit their head

c. (Alternate) Step forward with the right foot slipping inside of the punch and throw a right uppercut to their solar plexus

5. Attacker steps with their left and throws a left lead punch to the head

a. Step back with your right, rotate your body clockwise and slip their punch on the outside

b. (Alternate) Step back with your right, rotate your body clockwise and slip their punch on the outside as you left uppercut into their armpit

c. (Alternate) Step back with your right, rotate your body clockwise and slip their punch on the outside as you left uppercut into their face on the inside of their strike

d. (Alternate) Step back with your right, rotate your body clockwise and slip their punch on the outside as you left lunge punch into their face on the inside of their strike

6. Attacker steps with their left and throws a left lead punch to the head

a. Lunge forward with your left as you drop your right knee to drop your center and left lead punch to their solar plexus

b. (Alternate) Lunge forward with your left and throw your right punch to their head sliding the punch on top of their striking arm

c. (Alternate- drawing not shown) Lunge forward with your left as you drop your right knee to drop your center and right reverse punch their solar plexus

7. Attacker steps with their left and throws a left lead punch to the head

a. Lunge forward with your left as you drop your right knee to drop your center slipping inside their strike

b. (Alternate) Step forward with your left foot and strike their head with your left hand

8. Attacker steps with their left and throws a right reverse punch to the head

a. Lunge forward with your left, rotate your upper body clockwise and slip their strike

b. (Alternate) Lunge forward with your left, rotate your upper body clockwise and strike their solar plexus with a left uppercut

9. Attacker steps with their left and throws a right reverse punch to the head

a. Step back with your right and lean your upper body away from their strike

b. (Alternate) Step back with your right and strike their head with a left lead punch

c. (Alternate) Step back with your right and strike their solar plexus with a left reverse punch

10. Attacker steps with their left and throws a left lead punch to the head

a. Step forward with the left foot slipping outside of their strike

b. (Alternate) Slide the right foot over and rotate counter-clockwise, outside of their strike, and throw a right hook punch to the rear of their head

c. (Alternate) Slide the right foot over and rotate counter-clockwise, outside of their strike, and throw a right reverse punch to their back (likely a kidney punch)

11. Attacker steps with their left and throws a right reverse punch to the head

a. Slide the right foot clockwise and rotate your body to slip outside their strike

b. (Alternate) slide your right foot back and strike to their head with a reverse punch

12. Attacker steps with their left and throws a right reverse punch to the head

a. Step forward with you left foot so your head slips outside their strike and execute a left reverse punch to their solar plexus (under their striking arm)

b. (Alternate) Step forward with you left foot so your head slips outside their strike and execute a right reverse punch to their head

c. (Alternate) Step forward with you left foot so your head slips outside their strike and execute a left uppercut to their jaw (under their striking arm)

The reason I feel these technique studies are an example of Karate Ni Sente Nashi is that the first example in each series represents evasion without further response, the option of just evading the attack. Karate was not developed and taught on Okinawa because of a day to day possibility of threatening adversaries, Okinawa was a rather quiet place. There are situations where one is attacked, say at a party where the opponent is worse for wear that do not require destroying the attacker. The moral use of karate is to always be able to respond appropriately.

It behooves us to incorporate those skills, evasion with no response, into our training to give each student the option of doing more than just breaking that attack. Logically I believe this is what Okinawa intended with Karate Ni Sente Nashi.

I hope this introduction study to Mutsu Mizuho’s “Karate Kempo” builds your own appetite for the day this is available in English. I’ve only described the beginning of a technique usage study of great depth and variety. Much more existed than just strike and kick in his 1933 analysis of karate usage.

If anything Mutsu’s efforts show how the logical analysis of karate technique potential may help develop the highest understanding of our arts.

This study is not just related to Mutsu’s Itosu-Funakoshi lineage. It describes the potential of all Okinawan Karate-ka, even with their technique differences. Goju Ryu, Isshin Ryu, Shorin Ryu, Tou’on Ryu, Uechi-Ryu and more all can draw study from his efforts.

I find a special affinity as an Isshinryu stylist because this study directly shows applications to the first four techniques studied by every Isshinryu karate-ka.

Acknowledgement: The friendship and sharing of Charles Joe-san Swift has been instrumental in my developing the appreciation of Mutsu’s “Karate Kempo”. Thanks Joe-san!

Footnotes:

The article “Mutsu Mizuho’s ‘Karate Kenpo’ by Charles Joseph Swift at http://museum.hikari.us/

3 comments:

Victor Smith said...

posted by Ed Bouffard on CyberDojo with his permission

It's always been interesting to me that the widely held interpretation of "Karate Ni Sente Nashi" is taken to mean "There is No First Strike in Karate" or "There is No First Attack in Karate". When you take a closer look at this philosophical imperative, it reveals itself to be something considerably more subtle.

The crux of this imperative revolves around the interpretation of the word "Sente". Literally, "Sente" means "first hand". The best way I can illustrate the subtle complexities involving the interpretation of this word is to use the board game of "GO". If you are unfamiliar with "GO", let me give you a brief
overview.

Go is played on a square board with a set of lens shaped black and white discs called stones. While a full sized board has nineteen vertical and horizontal lines, boards can be as little as 9x9; it makes no difference the size as the rules are the same. The object of Go is to gain control of territory and is
accomplished by the placement of stones at the intersection of a vertical and a horizontal line. By joining the stones to surround vacant intersections on the board, territory is controlled. A player can place a stone (one per turn) anywhere on the board that is not already occupied by another (restrictions apply); this forms the basis of play.

"Sente" means you have the opportunity to play anywhere you like (the initiative), while not responding to your opponents move. Sente involves taking the initiative in play that forces your opponent to respond in order not be put at a disadvantage. To gain and maintain sente is desirable because the opponent is kept busy and cannot easily assume the initiative themselves. Of course it is impossible to keep sente throughout the game, rather sente changes frequently because a player may consider a certain threat of an opponent less important than an attack they can make themselves. There are also different aspects to sente. 'Having sente' means that you have the opportunity to play anywhere. 'Taking sente' means that rather than responding to your opponents move, you play where you like to play. Generally, a move is a response if it is defensive, passive, or forced in some way.

In his book "Karate-do Kyohan" Funakoshi Gichin wrote, "When there are no avenues of escape or one is caught even before any attempt to escape can be made, then for the first time the use of self-defense techniques should be considered. Even at times like these, do not show any intention of attacking,
but first let the attacker become careless. At that time attack him concentrating ones whole strength in one blow to a vital point and in the moment of surprise, escape and seek shelter and help."

When Funakoshi's viewpoint is examined in light of what "sente" means, and it's subtle application, his strategy of a pre-emptive strike is entirely consistent with the intent of 'karate ni sente nashi'. Funakoshi was simply stating that if there is no 'out' which can be pursued to avoid an attack, then one should initiate a pre-emptive strike in self defense.

As you noted in your blog, Mutsu Mizuho was a student of Funakoshi. It is therefore hardly surprising that in his own book, "Karate Kenpo", he would explore various bunkai waza with his teachers admonition firmly in mind.

Littletree said...

A very interesting article with some basic principles demonstrated in the techniques described. I particularly like the comment 'to give each student the option of doing more than just breaking that attack' This is important in today's society, if all we do is train the 'Hit them hard' attitude we are not instilling any social responsibility. There are many good examples of not using the full power available to you, my favourite is a quote from a famous boxing trainer (sorry can't remember his name) 'Always leave your opponent's respect intact' This was also important in Japanese society where 'face' is everything and must be maintained. I shall be using some of these simple drills in my kids classes!

Victor Smith said...

Jim Keenan has contributed the following explanation It is insightful.

Jim Keenan I think "sente" may be better understood by knowing how the term shows up in the game of Go. The Go Wiki says

"Sente describes a move or a sequence of moves that must be answered by the opponent in order to avoid heavy losses."

In other words, it's an assertive gesture which is likely to force a response from the other player.

This is how we use this saying in karate: Don't put someone else in the position where they're forced to fight you. Essentially, it means don't provoke fights. It does not mean "don't strike first" if there is no escape and you judge the perceived threat conditions require it.