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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Prof. Guilherme Fauque said...

What means "think outside the box!"?

Sorry... my english sometimes let me down...

Prof. Guilherme Fauque said...

Ground techniques is not of my style too. You know, in the shorinji Kempo we have projections techniques, and so on, but we don't have techniques on the ground.

But, here is a very common brazilian jiu-jitsu, of course, I live in Brazil - lol. Then we have been studing ground techniques, but just out of the academy, maybe my sensei are not thinking outside the box... lol

Sue C said...

Hi Guilherme, Thinking outside the box means: 'Think creatively, unimpeded by orthodox or conventional constraints.' Here's a link to its definition and origin: http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/think-outside-the-box.html

I expect as a lecturer of philosophy you think outside the box all the time at work! Anyway your English is brilliant - better than my Portuguese, thank goodness for the google translator tool or I wouldn't be able to read a word of your blog...lol

Anonymous said...

Knowing that kata is kata, standing or on the ground, is a great boon that many are unaware of. But indeed, application in Nei-waza, or ground fighting, is prey to the same oyo interpretation as standing kata. To "think outside the box" - or in other words, to "make-up" application based on one's own interpretation of the kata movements, is flawed - whereas bunkai based on the principals of the Kata being used are "watertight" and cannot fail.

Sue C said...

Hi Anon, I agree with you that if we follow the principles of kata we won't go wrong in our interpretation. I actually believe that kata teaches us principles rather than specific techniques anyway. However, I don't think thinking outside the box means 'to make it up' - it merely means to look at the problem from a different perspective in order to throw new light on it, this may allow you to arrive at an answer when looking at it in the usual way doesn't - that's not the same as making it up!


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