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A practical karate combination and 3 ways to drill it

This video covers a practical karate combination and gives three ways to drill it. The combination encapsulates a number of practical karate concepts. These include: Maintaining the advantage; The use of the non-striking hand to locate the target during the chaos of conflict; Utilising predictable response i.e. flowing with the enemy’s response to strikes; Taking away the enemy’s ability of give effective chase; etc.

We drilled the combination in three ways:

1 – With a partner, utilising control, in order to get the right placement and flow.

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Pinan / Heian Shodan and Nidan Variation Drills

This video shows a Pinan / Heian bunkai combination that we recently worked in the dojo. It’s vital to understand that the kata is always showing techniques and drills as an illustration of concept. To realise the full value of kata, we need to look beyond the example given to the principles upon which the example rests. As one part of this, we should also look at how the kata examples can be varied and combined inline with the underlying principles. That’s what we are doing in this video.

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The TRUE role of Hiki-Te

This video addresses the role of the hand on the hip within kata. Historically, tactically and biomechanically, the role should be very clear, but sadly dogma persists around the issue. Bottomline, we should never have an EMPTY hand on the hip and such a motion will do NOTHING to increase power.

The video covers:

1) Why the role of hiki-te is misunderstood.

2) What hiki-te is really for.

3) Why the “power generation” argument is false.

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Seipai Pad Drill and Bunkai Flow Drill (video)

In this video we cover a pad drill for the first half of Seipai kata. This impact drill mirrors a two-person bunkai flow drill; that the video also shows. These drills should not be isolated from the wider training matrix of which they are part. That training matrix also includes drilling individual techniques, alternate combinations, variations in line with underlying principles, and the free-flowing applications in both semi-live and live drills. It is obviously not possible to show the entirety of such a training matrix in one short video.

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Low Blows Pad Drill (video)

This video shows a restricted striking drill. Reality demands that we are able to hit from all positions; good and bad. In the drill we are looking at striking the groin and inner thigh from a folded position where the enemy is putting pressure on the back of the neck. In such a scenario, we have to hit the only targets we have, from the position we are in; neither of which are ideal. This needs to be practised such that it is instinctual. Training from ideal positions all the time (as so many do) can cause catastrophic hesitations ands missed opportunities.

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Sochin Drills (video)

This video looks at some drills for the first half of Sochin kata (Shotokan version). The clip starts by looking at the kata’s illustrations of principle (i.e. example techniques). We then move on to drill the skill of moving past the limbs by applying those principles in a more free-flowing way. It’s important to understand that what is shown at that point is a drill for clearing the enemy’s limbs out of the way of the target. We therefore isolate that skill and extend the time practicing it. This is not meant to be a realistic recreation of combat.

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Thoughts on Fighting Dirty

This video is an extract from a recent seminar in Germany. In it, I discuss the role and limitations of “fighting dirty”. If you want a more detailed discussion on this topic, this podcast will be of interest:

The footage comes from a seminar covering the bunkai of Wanshu / Empi. Footage of the full seminar can be found in the “iain abernethy” app.

All the best,


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Fundamentals are Fundamental!

In this video I discuss a problem I see forming on the fringes of the practical karate community. While the community continues to go from strength to strength, with more and more people adopting a practical approach, we have to guard against overlooking the need for high-quality technique. I don’t see this as a huge problem at the moment, but I see enough of it to warrant making this video.

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Some Old School Karate Throws

In this video we look at some “old school” karate throws. These throws were included in karate texts during the 1920s and 30s (along with many others):

“Topple a Folding Screen” – Funakoshi, 1935

“Half Wheel” – Funakoshi, 1935

“Throat Press” – Funakoshi, 1925

“Stomping Throw” – Itoman, 1934

“Leg Pick” – Itoman, 1934; Mabuni, 1938

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Unsu Bunkai: Turning Sequence (Heito to Gakuzuki)

This video looks at the one-legged turning sequence in Unsu kata that starts with a ridge-hand and ends with a reverse-punch. The karate of the past had a significant throwing component. Because many modern karateka don’t appreciate that throwing is a part of their art, many throwing actions in kata are misinterpreted. This sequence is a good example of that. What is clearly a throw, gets misunderstood as turning “block”, delivered on one leg, with the hands on the hip for no apparent reason!

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