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shoshinkanuk
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Is 'true' groundwork technique contained in karate kata?

Just following on from another thread, I would like us to discuss this subject.

Another forum member mentioned that the Kosa Dachi resembles juji-gatame or a sangaku-jime, and as a general principle I absolutly agree.

However the classical kata do not assume the on your back position and then show the technique, so I do not feel that 'true' ground work is contained within classical karate kata personally. If you look at Kusanku, Chinto, Gojushiho, Pinan Godan there are clear examples of going to one knee for sure (in our Kusanku we do drop down chest to floor as well), but never going to ground on your back?

True groundwork IMO relys on a different root and plane of force (ie the ground on your back, side or front) to Kosa Dachi standing position - outside of general principle's, commonalities this makes a BIG difference in technique execution.

I know we have discussed this and similair topics before but lets look at it again as a group, be interesting to see peoples view and experience.

Jon Sloan
Jon Sloan's picture

:)

I was wondering if my comment would spark this kind of discussion. It'll be good to see how it develops.

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

Hi Jon, yes thanks for providing me with the topic!

It has been discussed before from memory, but is worth re-visiting me thinks.

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

I agree fully Jim.

Quote:
If you look at Kusanku, Chinto, Gojushiho, Pinan Godan there are clear examples of going to one knee for sure (in our Kusanku we do drop down chest to floor as well), but never going to ground on your back?

It seems to me you don't see alot of committed submissions on the ground in historical martial arts other than those connected to some form of combat sport. Not to say it isn't vital to learn some groundwork..I think it is. I'm just not convinced that hunting around for submissions on the ground was a big matter of concern in most traditional arts. For martial arts from a civilian or military background, it seems like juji gatame etc. would be very low percentage, fairly risky endeavors in those environments, I don't see why they would feature prominently.

I think groundfighting (enough to survive and get up anyway) is an important part of rounding my own training, but I don't buy alot of the stuff out there like "Naihanchin groundfighting set" etc.

Seems like the movements in Karate kata play an important role in actually teaching you how to do techniques, this isn't so if you try to view them as newaza, a standing kosa dachi teaches you virtually nothing about how to apply juji gatame. In fact, to have solo movements that reinforce the body mechanics needed for newaza you have to do the movements of Jujutsu/Judo/whatever grappling art, such as  baxck and front rolling, kneewalking, sutemi, side falls etc. All that stuff is not just ukemi..you could consider it the 'kata' for the kind of body mechanics needed for grappling arts..and it is conscpiciously  absent from Karate kata, which leads me to believe almost nothing in Karate kata is meant to indicate ground grappling for position/submissions.

Gavin Mulholland
Gavin Mulholland's picture

Almost everything within the kata is an indicator to explore and work on certain aspects/techniques/principles. Some things in kata can be completely transposed from the kata to the fight - but not many. 

Almost everything - all of the blocks, punches, kicks etc. - will end up looking very different from the kata when actually applied under duress and I don’t see this as any different.

It’s very hard to represent a ground-fighting technique in a kata for one so they have to be suggested and implied. It is then down to you to work out how to perform the techniques properly in as many situations and environments as you are likely to find yourself.  

As for submissions, they are only breaks or chokes that you haven't taken to the full potential.

A year or so ago a student of mine who had moved out to the states got mugged one night. The guy came up, said something to distract him, then hit him in the face with a brick. As he fell my guy managed to haul the attacker down with him. They did end up rolling around, there was a weapon involved and my guy ended up breaking his attacker's arm. He then called the police while still sitting on the bad guy. "I'll be the one on top" he told the cops just to make sure they didn't shoot him when they arrived.

Now of course you can talk about the dangers of going to the floor, but we are already converted. In this instance he had no choice and what he used, by his own admission, was the stuff we pulled out of Seiunchin kata.

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

If you don't mind me asking Gavin, what from seiunchin kata?

The problem I have is not that the stuff can't be used on the ground, it's that the structure in the kata shows nothing of how to use it on the ground, you have to have some knowledge of positional grappling first. I guess we could infer that the creators had this knowledge due to tegumi or schoolyard wrasslin' or whatever, and that seems reasonable and likely.

However, in this day and age plenty of people doing Karate do not have that knowledge, so I would say that for many it's best to pursue groundfighting as 'supplemental' training before there is even any real possibility of utilizing 'ground technique' from kata. You have to know the positional grappling first to be able to apply the ground stuff, you can't reverse engineer kata and gain knowledge of positional grappling on the ground from it..so it seems to me. That leads me to believe that the intent of the kata is not really to provide options for groundfighting, but rather than advanced practitioners with experience of groundfighting can make the principles transfer..because they know how to operate on the ground.

Maybe a silly disctinction I don't know.

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

yes stop being silly Zach...............................LOL

Good points Gavin, im in no way suggesting that the classical kata do not contain stuff that cannot be 'used' in a true groundfight way, just they wern't built for that IMO.

Show me a Senior Okinawan/Japanese karateka from one of the major Ryu working anything, absolutly anything like 'true' groundfighting - from a strategic or technical perspective? It's very, very rare at best.

Of course theres many reasons why the information in terms of training methods may have changed or been lost - im sure you see my point.

Gavin Mulholland
Gavin Mulholland's picture

Zach. I see where you are coming from but think we have very different opinions of what kata is. I think what you would call 'supplemental' training, I would consider training the kata. It sounds to me like you are hoping to find the actual techniques in the kata itself, rather than looking at it as a guide to study.

Shoshin, of course i see your point - you always make a lot of sense. I have seen many senior practitioners performing grappling and the fact that most of them were not actually very good at it does not in any way negate its presense.

Personally, as the kata are the only reliable record we actually have, I choose to have them guide my training and understanding and this to me is how they make sense.

I believe this was the intention of the founders but accept most disagree. I'm ok with that.

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

No, I see that there is a broader level of strategy in kata, as well as individual tactics..i'm just skpetical that reading any real groundwork into that strategy is really "working with the kata" in any kind of historical sense...it seems to me more like practitioners taking material they know like the back of their hand into another arena entirely with positional grappling. On an individual level sure, kata is whatever we want it to be. However I figure Jim is asking the question looking for what we think the creators might have meant objectively.

To use the study guide analogy, I thought the question was in terms of what's in the actual guide, not neccessarily where the study itself takes us.

michael rosenbaum
michael rosenbaum's picture

Gavin Mulholland wrote:
I think what you would call 'supplemental' training, I would consider training the kata. It sounds to me like you are hoping to find the actual techniques in the kata itself, rather than looking at it as a guide to study

I have to agree.  All to often we look at kata from a literal sense of things, instead of an open ended one as usually is the case where cultures and their art forms are concerned.  For instance, where I live Bluegrass music is closely associated with the region and many outsiders believe that all muscians who live in East Tennessee only play Bluegrass, or country. Now, while there are a lot of outstanding Bluegrass and country musicans who come from where I live, these same muscians also play rock, jazz, blues and even rap.  Where the Okinawans and their kata are concerned we usually associate karate-striking arts- as their only fighting skills.  The truth be known is that wrestling was a big part of Okinawan culture and many of the early karate pioneers did practice it. Motobu for one, Funakoshi is another. Therefore grappling would have been included in kata practice, however, where we will only practice the striking part of the bunkai they would have probably had the attitude that "Yes, and by the way, you can also work this off it." In other words it would have been common knowledge to them, due to the culture and the way the Okinawans practiced their fighting arts. As opposed to us and our on going efforts to 'unlock' the secrets of kata.

Just my 2 cents.

Mike

Andrew Carr-Locke
Andrew Carr-Locke's picture

So here is where we can look to  MMA for an answer....

I believe that 'True Groundwork' can be contained in the Kata, if as far as we need to- we evaluate what we mean by true groundwork. This is where the similarities come in between MMA and fighting. 

In an MMA bout, the way to gain success is by striking  and being  superior, or bringing the fight close quarters and begin superior, or taking the fight to the ground where you are on top (again superior position) and finishing it from there. The professional fighters I know that activily compete in MMA, none of them train to go in the cage and pull guard or lie down on their backs. They do train these techniques at high level in case someone else puts them down, but their aim is always get top and finish, or stand and finish. And this is where I think the objectives are similar in a fight. If you do end up going to ground, you make sure your on top for a quick finish. Positions that can be easily disengaged from such as 'Knee on belly' and even better, you are standing and your opponent is not.

This IMO, is the 'True Groundwork' of fighting, and that is what is contained in the Kata. Because fighting is such a dominant, aggressive, and forward momentum concept, I believe that the Kata highlights this and gives your groundgame only the forward aggressive and dominant structure. Taking only the 5 heain kata, they are chocked full of standing techniques, takedown and throwing techniques, and ground techniques where you are on top for the finish. Guard and fighting off your back- while necessary, is not really street friendly. More of a back-up in case your plan fails, or you don't have a choice.

My 2 cents...anyone else? 

michael rosenbaum
michael rosenbaum's picture

Andrew,

I feel MMA has a lot to offer TMA, however, I also believe we need to be carefull about mixing strategies.  Where ground grappling is a prefered method in MMA, from a self-defense prospective (i.e. karate) it would probably be one of the last things you want to do.  That being said I do feel grappling should never be omitted from one's training. This might be of interest to some where grappling is concerned.  Its from my e-book, the one Iain published a couple of years ago:

"The modern comparison between MMA and karate is a longstanding deliberation that has existed for almost a century.  When first introduced to Japan, karate was almost immediately compared to Judo, Sumo and western boxing, and, ironically, many who believed karate the superior fighting art, were westerners. E.J. Harrison acknowledged karate’s preeminence as follows: “First then as to the name itself: ‘Kara’ means empty and ‘te’ means hand, i.e. to combat with empty hands, without lethal weapons.  In this respect then karate resembles both jujutsu and judo.  But as a purely ‘fighting art’, designed to dispose of an enemy in the shortest possible time with no means barred, I think we must admit that it transcends them both in its deadly efficacy. And why this should be so will appear from the fact that a single karate technique, if executed in earnest, is capable of inflicting fatal injury upon its victim more surely and speedily than either jujutsu or judo” (Harrison, The Fighting Spirit of Japan, 74).

Harrison’s glowing appraisal of karate provides valuable insight into much more than victories won or lost in the full contact arena. Instead, his acknowledgment of karate’s resemblance to judo and jujutsu indicates that early karate practitioners possessed both standup and ground grappling skills, a detail often ignored in many dojos today.

In the modern vernacular traditionalists state “I study karate, therefore I am a fighter,” a phraseology contrasting the views of men such as Choki Motobu who probably would have said, “I am a fighter, and for that reason karate exists”.   Early karate evolved from a spirit of eclecticism that allowed each fighter to give rise to their own system. Moreover when one considers the close association between karate and Tegumi, then it should come as no surprise that many Okinawan karate-ka were evenly skilled in both stand up and ground fighting. Hence they could brawl both equally well in and out of the arena.  Therefore, it was circumstance which governed how they fought, not style. In rule dominated combat the Okinawan karate-ka performed at a different level of intensity, than they would have during mortal combat. Likewise, the versatility of the Okinawan martial traditions allowed Okinawan fighters to function equally well, both in and out of the arena. 

Ironically, it was the adaptability of early karate fighters, like Choki Motobu, which helped contribute to the modern distortion of karate’s identity. Then, as is the case today with comparisons of diverse fighting arts,  the rules of engagement governing the particular types of combat were ignored while the different fighting arts were all lumped into one category, based on commonalities found among them. This is despite judo, boxing and karate having evolved in different cultures and for different types of combat. Hence it was not the victorious fighter who gained the most notoriety, but his style of fighting. This led to the belief that it was the style of karate which produced the fighter, instead of the fighter giving rise to the particular brand of fighting."

Mike 

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

Guys, all your points are totally sensible, and in terms of training I totally agree with them, in addition you guys have some great tidbits of knowledge in your posts, so I always take notes. It seems like we are veering away from the subject a little bit though.

The question of the thread  was whether or not there is groundwork proper in kata, not whether there should be groundwork in our training. I imagine pretty much everyone agrees that we should experience some groundwork, and integrate it into our training, including being able to 'express' the same principles on the ground.There's probably some consensus that Karate pioineers knew groundwork on some level too, it just seems as though Jim's original post was asking about concepts like the idea that a kosa-dachi indicates Juji gatame on the ground etc, that's a pretty different animal than just applying your Karate on the ground.

I don't believe there is any perfect "right answer" for kata by any means, but there are things that seem more and less likely and optimal for certain movements, and to me the ground explanations of standing movements (such as the kosa-dachi juji gatame thing, naihanchin stepping being guardwork etc.) are really far fetched.

michael rosenbaum
michael rosenbaum's picture

Zach Zinn wrote:

The question of the thread  was whether or not there is groundwork proper in kata, not whether there should be groundwork in our training. I imagine pretty much everyone agrees that we should experience some groundwork, and integrate it into our training, including being able to 'express' the same principles on the ground.There's probably some consensus that Karate pioineers knew groundwork on some level too, it just seems as though Jim's original post was asking about concepts like the idea that a kosa-dachi indicates Juji gatame on the ground etc, that's a pretty different animal than just applying your Karate on the ground.

I don't believe there is any perfect "right answer" for kata by any means, but there are things that seem more and less likely and optimal for certain movements, and to me the ground explanations of standing movements (such as the kosa-dachi juji gatame thing, naihanchin stepping being guardwork etc.) are really far fetched.

Zach,

I can't answer for all the styles of karate, only Isshinryu since its the style I'm most familar with. With Isshinryu, as is practiced now and in the spirit of your above statement, I'd have to say no. There are no formal ground-grappling (MMA-Judo-Tegumi) techniques to be found. However, they can be adapted/added to the techniques found within the kata, as I pointed out earlier. In relation to nahanchi being a ground grappling kata...no. That's probably someone's desire for the kata to be used on the ground, via MMA influences. However, I think it should be kept in mind that kata is a process, a guide, and just because something is not included in it, doesn't mean it's not part of kata training.  For instance kakie. It's not found within the formal bows of kata, but it sure does play a vital role in kata training. Likewise, kata and karate can be used interchangeablely. hence what applies to karate training also applies to kata. So, if you add grappling into your karate training, it can be added into your kata.

I hope I stayed on thread...:)

Mike

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

Sorry heh, didn't mean to sound obnoxious about the thread.

Anyway, I get where you are going...

But I think this is one of those things that make people who are kata doubters say "yeah whatever"..if I can go learn something, then turn around and 'find it' in kata, what use is kata really when done this way? I'm learning how to juggle right now, I noticed there's a movement in seisan that resembles juggling, is it now a juggling kata? If we view kata as a book or guide of some sort, words in a book might have  a  wide range of interpretation, but the number of reasonable interpretations is finite, and there would be plenty of interpretations that would be stretching things.

Trust me I fully agree about kata being a personal thing, a study guide, all of that stuff, it just seems like on  a base level kata is supposed to tell us stuff, rather than trying to superimpose stuff over kata that already contain a whole of really great stuff without juji gatame.

michael rosenbaum
michael rosenbaum's picture

Zach,

I understand and fully realize that there are many add on bunkai, but there's nothing wrong with that so long as they're within reasonable boundries. Usually within 20-50 years the original meaning has become lost, vague or else overshadowed by other bunkai. At least that's been my findings. The next time you have class try this on to see what I mean. Take one student aside and show them a movement and its bunkai. Then have them pass it one to someone else, and so on and so forth until you've gone through ten people.  After the tenth person see what your original movement looks like, or its bunkai.

Have a good weekend!

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

Thank you for all the responses - sorry food poisoning has meant I have been in bed for a while, ouch!

Theres  alot of good points raised, personally I think 'real ground fighting' influence has come into karate from Judo and JuJutsu, over many years. If we think of how many Japanese and Okinawan youths historically would have trained in those arts growing up?

Perhaps The more recent MMA/BJJ craze has simply encouraged many of us to look in this direction.

Keep in mind im talking about strategic, specific groundfighting - not a bit of positional awarenss and the odd submission that can be 'seen' in kata.

I of course have researched Tegumi, and it's modern development of Okinawan Sumo (only to a degree mind) I personally can't see how those arts were significant in the make up of the classical kata or indeed the training methods of karate, or even the 2 man work passed on. And even so Okinawan Sumo does not have anything like the kind of groundwork im refering to.

I believe Tegumi may have had but I have no evidence outside of rough and tumble matches described, where pretty much anything went until someone got hurt.

I look forward to more views and experience on this subject.

Stuart Ashen
Stuart Ashen's picture

Just a thought, but I heard somewhere that Goju kata use Shikadatchi to sometimes represent groundwork. Perhaps trying these moves as representing the mount would be a place to start. I am sure Gavin might have a view on this.

Gavin, is this correct?

Stu.

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

I find that idea a bit far fetched.  It's fun and beneficial to explore kata that way, but in no way do I think the kata creators intended shikodachi as a representation of the mount. I fully think it's valuable practice to explore things this way, but I make a distinction between the practice, and the idea that there is some historical precedent for shikodachi representing the mount..I haven't seen any.

One thing to ponder with this idea, why would an art which is supposedly about quick and dirty self defense feature a kata where almost the entire thing (such as seuinchin) is tactics from the mount? What purpose would detailed mount work like this serve for a self-protection art? Really waht this shows is the utility of the simple movements in kata, you can 'make' them be a lot of different things, but again, it seems like it's important to ask what the intended lessons are there, as well as finding our own stuff.

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

Stuart Ashen wrote:

Just a thought, but I heard somewhere that Goju kata use Shikadatchi to sometimes represent groundwork. Perhaps trying these moves as representing the mount would be a place to start. I am sure Gavin might have a view on this.

Gavin, is this correct?

Stu.

Hi Stu,

Your example is a good one and one I could actually say - hey it's near enough and is useful to work with, but like Zach im not at all convinced the shiko dachi was meant for this purpose, the mount in my limited experience uses different mechanics but it 'looks' similair.

Gavin Mulholland
Gavin Mulholland's picture

Perhaps not quite that literal Stu. But not that far off either. I'd definitely look at it.

In Goju, Shiko dachi is basically used to either pick something up, or drag something down so when you see multiple punches being thrown from a static stance like this you have to question what is going on. I'm never going to buy that as a static standup technique; nor am I willing to accept that the founder was so naive as to want to record such a technique for others to find and unpack.

Goju retained far more of its grappling than a lot of other styles and so, if a move makes no sense standing (like the example above), it makes sense to look to grappling or even groundwork - probably in that order. Shiko dachi is often an indicator to look elsewhere for the meaning of a move.