Tuesday, 16 February 2010
Kata and ground fighting
In a karate context the words kata and ground fighting don’t sound as if they should go together. All single person kata are performed standing up after all. But many of these kata are very old, particularly the ones of Okinawan origin, derived at a time when karate was more comprehensive than just a striking art – so techniques for dealing with an opponent on the ground are probably in there somewhere! Of course, many techniques that are done standing up can also be applied on the ground, for example elbow strikes, locks, chokes, escapes from strangles etc. As sensei said, it’s just a case of thinking outside the box!
With this in mind, we set too on a bit of ground fighting last night in the karate class. Though ground fighting is not part of many karate systems, it was introduced to our system last autumn when we switched from the SKU to the SSK. It is tested for at 1st dan level but practised right from the early kyu grades.
As well as learning the basic jujitsu ground fighting techniques using the ‘mount’ and ‘guard’ positions we are encouraged to think of kata applications that can be applied on the ground. A fairly obvious one is the matsukaze choke, which is found in the kata (you guessed it!) – Matsukaze. There is a fairly clear cut move in the kata where the arms are crossed out in front of you at neck level with open hands, the hands made into fists to simulate a grab (of the collar) and then pulled back quickly to simulate the choke. Mounted over the opponent on the ground, this choke was frighteningly easy to apply!
Other techniques where we could see a kata application included applying a cross body arm bar ( the hand is held and restrained using a technique seen in Jiin) and practising a defence against a kick to the head on the ground the opponent is taken down using a classic technique from the kata Niseishi.
However, we didn’t spend the whole time thinking about karate kata whilst practising what is essentially jujitsu! We were mainly thinking about how to shift your weight in order to roll your opponent off you, how to use your feet and legs to turn the opponent over, how to apply locks and chokes – it was all fairly pragmatic stuff. As a karateka though, it is important to be constantly thinking about the relationship between kata and self-defence techniques, otherwise the kata are meaningless.
It is difficult to see the bunkai in the kata when you are a student and though relating self-defence techniques back to the kata may seem the wrong way round to do things, it is through this ‘pattern matching’ process that the student starts to see relationships between kata and technique. Eventually, through experience, it is hoped that the student will learn to see the technique in the kata rather than merely the kata in the technique.
Overall I enjoy the ground fighting we are learning. What I realised is that you need to have a reasonable amount of flexibility in the hips and legs as you need to be able to swing your leg over the opponents head to get it behind them and you need to be able to use momentum to shift your weight or shift your opponents weight. This is not so easy when you are little and your opponent is bigger!
Ground fighting reminds me of grappling with my brother on the lounge carpet when we were kids - perhaps that's why I like it, I'm still a big kid at heart!
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