Recently, someone on the Google+ Shotokan Karate Community asked “How effective is Shotokan in real street defense?”. I felt that it would be better to answer that question here so that I could share it my readers on this blog and also share it with my fellow Karate students on Google+.
What I have found, is working at perfecting a few simple movements is the key to self defense. A powerful, well placed punch or kick can end a real fight fast.
All of the other moves that we learn in the dojo are fun and good to learn but I have spent most of my time working on a few simple techniques. These techniques need to be automatic and if you have to think about what you are going to do to defend yourself, chances are you are going to loose.
I put a lot of value in one-step sparring because it focuses on basic blocks and counter attacks that I can apply in many face to face situations. I also spend a lot of time working my draw hand for attacks that come from behind because broken ribs or taking the breath away from someone gives you an advantage.
To me, getting out of the way and countering with one stopping attack is what I have strived to learn. The concept of ikken hissatsu, which I modified the meaning of to, one strike to stop them instead of one strike one kill, is something that I took to heart when I started training and it is still my primary focus.
Now, if you add weapons to the equation, my simple advice to you is run and run fast while screaming. We learn Karate (empty hand) because someone took our weapon, we broke it or we lost it and all we have left are our hands. This idea of not having a weapon because of the above reasons is something that Sensei Cieplik shared with me many years ago and he even told us that he didn’t pass one of his exams because he didn’t use a chair to stop one of his attackers at this exam.
Another thing that many Karate students forget in a real life situation is it is ok to pick up a pipe, stick, garbage can lid, a rock or anything else that you can use as a weapon if you are face to face with someone who is trying to hurt or kill you. There is no honor in someone at your funeral saying that so and so Karate master got in a couple good punches before he was beaten to death by someone stealing his wallet. Many of the katas that we train in Shotokan can also be done while holding weapons such as a stick, pipe or even an umbrella so grab a stick and give your katas or basic movements a try while holding something in your hands.
I know that quoting the Karate Kid movies might upset some but we learn and train Karate so that we don’t have to fight. We should train Karate with the idea of never having to use our skills but if we do, we use the minimum amount of force to get us out of the situation with as little harm to us as possible.
Fast, efficient, simple movements should be the goal for self defense whenever possible and that is that way I train.
Please let me know your thoughts and if you train in a similar way or have other advise that you want to share with us.