One of the shortcomings of what is often (incorrectly) called traditional karate is its focus on kicking and punching. Speaking historically this so-called traditional karate is only about 100 years old where as its primogeniture is much older and involved far more that the basic tools of kicking and Punching. Indeed as researchers such as Patrick McCarthy, Joe Swift and Mario McKenna have repeatedly demonstrated karate may be more fully understood as a close-range, standing based grappling system. Below I list some of the key points often missing from the so-called traditional or modern dojo.
1. Tegumi - Grappling and Throws:
Tegumi, a precursor to karate practiced in Okinawa, prominently featured grappling and throwing techniques. Practitioners engaged in combat within close quarters, employing techniques such as hip throws and shoulder throws. These techniques underscored the utilization of the entire body to leverage and unbalance opponents.
2. Gouging Techniques:
Certain traditional karate forms incorporated techniques aimed at targeting vulnerable anatomical points on an opponent's body, such as eye gouges, throat strikes, and strikes to pressure points. These methods were devised to rapidly incapacitate adversaries by exploiting physiological weaknesses.
3. Choking and Strangulation Techniques:
In select kata and self-defense applications within karate, practitioners acquired proficiency in techniques involving the use of hands or arms to constrict an opponent's throat or disrupt blood circulation. Mastery of these techniques necessitated meticulous control, frequently incorporating body positioning and leverage to maximize efficacy.
4. Joint Locks and Restraining Techniques:
Traditional Okinawan karate, particularly in its early manifestations, encompassed joint locks and restraining techniques. These were deployed for the purpose of control and immobilization of opponents. For instance, wrist locks, arm bars, and shoulder locks constituted integral components of the martial art's arsenal.
5. Naihanchi/Tekki Kata:
The Naihanchi kata, sometimes referred to as Tekki in certain styles, serves as an exemplar of forms that accentuate close-quarter combat. Within these kata, practitioners execute movements that incorporate simultaneous striking, blocking, and grappling-like techniques. These motions frequently entail the coordinated use of the entire body to exert control and manipulation over adversaries in close proximity.
6. Use of Stances:
Stances in karate, such as the horse stance and cat stance, were formulated not solely for striking purposes but also to engender stability and equilibrium during grappling and throwing techniques. The correct application of stances facilitated the generation of force and the proficient execution of throws. As Funakoshi famously said there are no stances in karate - but rather there are ways of moving in and out of position (often referred to as Tenshin in the Okinawan dialect).
As we look within the novels of karate we call kata we can find specific historical instances which illuminate the comprehensive nature of karate, encompassing techniques like throws, gouging, strangulation, and joint locks alongside its striking methodologies. These facets underscore the Okinawa and by extension Japanese martial art's holistic approach, emphasizing the utilization of the entire body for both offensive and defensive maneuvers.
Okinawan and Japanese Budo
James M. Hatch
International Educator who happens to be passionate about Chito Ryu Karate. Born in Ireland, educated in Canada, matured in Japan