Karate: can you comment?

Hey, guys. Got a pretty good karate thread going on the UG of all places. Forum member Invincible said you guys here would be able to offer some good perspective. Since I can't just transfer the whole thread here, can I post a link? I'm hoping t'all might have something to say.


My 2 cents:

1) "So I think not everyone has a clear picture of what karate really is."

I disagree. I think EVERYONE has a clear picture of karate.

Problems arise when

a) people think their picture is "clearer" than the other's person's picture

b) people mistake that picture for actual fighting

2) "But one thing I've been thinking about is how karate views striking arts differently."

How does karate view the strikings arts differently?

2a) "But to really get the most out of karate punching, you have to put in years, patient years. This is popularly misunderstood."

The problem here is that a boxer with less than a year's worth of training can outpunch and perhaps KO a karateka who has 20 years of training. This is a huge problem if you're looking to use your time efficiently.

2b) "I think now it's because that is the state you want your hands in to generate power blocks, lower blocks and the kinds of close power punches and kicks used in the art."

Again, the problem here is that, in exchange for the type of "power blocking" utilized for karate, they leave the head wide open to strikes. Is it no wonder that most karate tournaments do not allow punches to the face?

2c) "I think that context is that when it evolved, most people would bring a weapon to a fight and/or grapple with a weapon. Perhaps this impacted how karate is?"

This can be said of practically every martial art.

What makes a martial arts system effective or relevant is how well it addresses its CURRENT context (environment and various types of possible opponents) as opposed to its IDEAL context (in a dojo against similarly trained opponents).

"When you do these kata, you develop a series of tools, of INSTINCTIVE reactions. Someone throws something at you and you instinctively block-counter-etc. That's not something that can possibly happen overnight. Takes years."

Unfortunately, no matter how many years a practitioner puts into developing a particular technique, thereby attempting to make it instinctive, it still remains a CONDITIONED response.

Scientific studies have shown that gross-motor instinctive responses will ALWAYS override an conditioned response.

In other words, no matter how many years you train a "fan block", when fight/flight kicks in, you'll still cover up your head by wrapping your arms over it.

This is why many of the most effective techniques used in MMA closely mimics gross-motor instinctive responses. The famous "Crazy Monkey" technique is a PRIME example of this type of instinctive technique that was refined to take advantage of the "flinch response", a hard-wired response that was billions of years in the making.

Lot's of good things aren't instinctual. Furthermore, instinct might dictate that we turn prone on the ground and drop our hands while punching. Let's not mistake the value of instinct relative to careful conditioning.

I've known some Karate men who were good fighters. They were not point fighters or McDojo warriors. Karate in some parts of the world is actually pretty different. Some of the europeans are good stand-up fighters. Also, kyukushinkai players have a reputation for being good fighters.

Let's keep in mind that styles don't exist, only individuals.


I used to think it was all about the application in kata. But nowadays I
think it is more about how they train for power. And I think it is a
different thing from weight lifting. Not that weights are bad. This is
just different, in the same way that yoga is different.

I think it's like if you took yoga, and instead of training with the intent
to be all nice and granola, you trained it with the intent of hurting


Check out these Uechi Ryu karate guys from Okinawa.

"Furthermore, instinct might dictate that we turn prone on the ground and drop our hands while punching."

Not sure what you mean here.

"Let's not mistake the value of instinct relative to careful conditioning."

I'm of the opinion that "careful conditioning" takes advantage of instinctive responses (the flinch response) by refining it.

It's important to remember that scientific studies have shown that the instinctive response, under fight/flight conditions, takes over any conditioned response, regardless of how long that conditioned response had been trained. Which is why we often see clinching/grabbing/looping punches when athletes become fatigued in a match.

It IS important to see the relationship, this is true, but it is also important to work with this fact that his backed up by science.

"Some of the europeans are good stand-up fighters. Also, kyukushinkai players have a reputation for being good fighters."

I believe most of these good fighters (particularly the kyokushinkai school) supplement their training in muay thai and boxing.

Holy shit at that vid! That is excellent!

Guys, I hope you're making some of these comments at the UG thread. Thanks so much for your feedback.

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While we may revert to more instinctual movements at times of high stress/fatigue, it has been the trend of martial art to avoid this or at least push back the limit. This was one of the reasons sparta thrived militarily, because they had the discipline not to revert to primitive modes of fighting and maintain the phalanx and thus the tactical advantage.

To elucidate my last post, it may be instinctual to turn stomach down (prone) when being punched by someone who has you mounted. That doesn't mean that we should consider this a good approach since it comes natural. I would like to know what scientific studies you are refering to and how they operationalize instinctual movements. I personally think that a fighter who goes primitive is vulnerable to a tactical response. Instinct, if it exists at all in this context which I contend is debateable, is pre-programmed by definition. There's no specific adaptation to the situation, so its appropriateness is probably not of a high calibre.


I can comment.

But I don't think I want to.


18 years, Kenpo Karate


Let me find the book. The studies were referred to in a judo book that I have. I have to find it first. I'll post it when I find it. :)

I think the phalanx is an interesting example, but I'm speaking primarily of individual tactics as opposed to squad tactics. In squad units, discipline can be maintained through punishment reinforced through social conditioning (i.e. if you don't maintain the phalanx, we'll shove that pike up your you know what). Not saying that this is the case, but let's keep the discussion to individual responses, shall we? :)

What you're saying about the prone position is correct: it's not the best tactic.

However, we still see this same move done time and again, even though we ALL know it's the wrong thing to do. Even the legendary Royce Gracie did this against Matt Hughes. Yet another example of the instinctive response taking over during a high level of fight/flight. Even Royce Gracie, someone who has trained AGAINST this instinct all his life, could not resist this instinct when push came to shove.

Not saying that the instinctive response is the CORRECT response; what I"m saying is that the instinctive response is the STRONGEST response. I believe that martial arts that fashion their techniques around these instinctive responses have the best success rate under high-pressure situations.

Again, I'll find that judo book for you. We're renovating the condo, so stuff has been pushed all over the place. :)

Group tactics or single, a breakdown of discipline is what I'm getting at. A lot of fights are lost due to someone simply not performing as he trained. On the other hand, fighters with the audacity to perform in a way congruent to how they reason they should in order to win do better. They fight the urge to drop their hands, show their backs or run in to punch (as was the case on the re-run of TUF last night.) I'm sure it is very instinctive to rush in on someone who shows weakness to "go in for the kill," but running foward with your hands down was probably not part of the program. It is the gross variance of so-called instinctual movement that makes it less useful than well conditioned logical tactics that have been trained to the point of near-replacement of instinct. Once when I was 17 I accidentally finger jabbed Michael Meyers at a haunted house. This was not a gross motor response, but a pretty good bil gee. The fight of fight or flight can be refined. My point is that we do not have to submit to primitive tactics eventhough we may move towards them with higher levels of stress. I think that martial arts training's goal is to continually push that point farther back. In the example of the flinch, I hope I can make people flinch when I spar. It helps set up PIA, broken rhythm, HIA (high outside reference from a flinch), etc.


I think you and I are talking about the same thing.

Your idea of "pushing back" instinct and my idea of "refining" instinct are not too far apart.

However, I'm not disagreeing with you that purely instinctive responses are often NOT the correct response. Rushing in, hands down, although instinctive, is tactically incorrect under many circumstances.

What I'm simply saying is that the notion of completely pushing back this instinct using discipline and conditioning has been proven to be highly ineffective under extreme fight/flight (again, I promise you I'll find that study). REFINING this instinct seems to be the simplest and most effective method of training a technique into a trainee (like the aforementioned CM).

Which brings me back to karate: why do we not see the fan block in MMA? Why do we not see the downward block? The upward block? The hand chambered to the hip? The famous karate chop?

Heck, for that matter, why don't we see compound traps, crane beaks, and dim mak in MMA?

Why? Because these techniques do not mimic any instinctive flinch responses of attack (rushing someone to grab them) or defense (using our arms and hands to cover up).

You or Ogammi Otto may very well argue that after YEARS of refining these techniques, you'll have a very powerful upward block/crane beak/compound trap combination. This is true! However....

The problem with this is two-fold:

1) Like I mentioned in my first post, a boxer with 6 MONTHS of training will most likely still KO you.

2) We have yet to see this combination occur in high stress scenarios like MMA.

I hear you on the importance of training, but I believe that training that strays away from these instinctive responses can become problematic in terms of functionality under extreme fight/flight, and may become doomed to the type of "ornamentation" that Bruce Lee once described.