One of the most commonly cited reasons for starting a martial art is “self defense.” It makes sense. Martial arts are designed for personal protection.
But what is self defense, really? Is it the flurry of punches and kicks we see during sparring matches? Is it grappling and ground-and-pound? Sure, on occasion. But when it comes to real self defense, there are more dimensions than just technique.
In karate there is a saying – ‘Karate ni Sente Nashi’, which translates to ‘there is no first attack in karate’. This is one of those great sayings that has a few levels of interpretation. On the surface, it simply means “do not physically strike first”. Wait until your opponent has begun his technique, and counter or preempt it with a technique of your own.
Legendary Karateka Funakoshi Gichin – Creator of the phrasing “Karate Ni Sente Nashi”
Upon deeper investigation, Karate Ni Sente Nashi can be seen as a preempt of intent. Martial arts training helps practitioners become in-tune with factors like body language and severity of threat. The esoterically inclined will suggest that it allows you to connect your martial spirit to your opponents. However you’d like to explain it, Karate Ni Sente Nashi dictates that if your opponent has projected his will to harm you, you may take adequate steps to disable that harm.
Of course…this wouldn’t be a classic saying if it stopped there, right? Karate Ni Sente Nashi can also mean that you should do what you can to prepare for an encounter, and devise ways to avoid using karate long before the encounter occurs. This way, no strike is necessary.
The final interpretation brings me to my main point for this post – what can we do to prepare for encounters long before they happen?
Safety Before Street Justice
We all love to imagine ourselves taking out a gang of street toughs, who eventually learn the mistakes of their ways and help us break into a drug barons home in order to rescue our forlorned girlfriend (No wait…that was Crocodile Dundee II). Nevertheless, “street justice” is a dream our egos like to indulge. Every now and then we have to keep that stuff in check and think about what we can do to escape dangerous situations safely, instead of daringly.
Here is a perfect example – one serious threat in the real world is muggers. Muggings happen all the time, especially in the city. Instead of trying to kick a gun out of your attacker’s hand, have you considered giving up your wallet?
I know what your thinking – it doesn’t take 30 years of training to give up a wallet. But what if you planned ahead, and organized your important cards and bills so that they weren’t in the wallet? You’d just be giving up a bunch of business cards and coupons to Applebees.
My personal preference is the wallet/magnetic clip combination –
In case your worried about the magnetic strip ruining your cards, don’t be. The Mythbusters proved that it would take a far greater field of magnetism than we encounter in every day life to strip a card.
I have absolutely no qualms about giving up my wallet. And trust me, in the neighborhood I work in, I might have to one day. Something tells me a few readers out there know how I feel.
Women who carry purses can utilize the same concept by only carrying what they absolutely need if they are going into a risky situation (or even on a day to day basis if they can make that change in lifestyle).
There are other checks you can make. What kind of shoes do you wear? Flipflops won’t help you in a bar scuffle.
What kind of jewelry do you sport? Nose rings are a passport to pain.
Ultimately, we are all vulnerable – especially if we are facing a seasoned and intelligent attacker. But don’t be afraid to analyze your daily habits and tighten up any obvious flaws you might see. Karate Ni Sente Nashi may seem like a real hassle, but it’s for our own good in the long run, and it’s one of the keys to training the way our progenitors trained.
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***Special Thanks to my visitors from BlackBeltMama.com. For those of you who aren’t familiar with BBM’s site, I recommend checking it out right away. She is a friend of mine (and I teach her some karate from time to time), but she is also my blogging Sempai! Many bloggers look up to her (including myself), and you’ll see why once you read some of her entertaining commentary on life and the martial arts.***
On to the topic at hand…
It is said that once you study a martial art long enough, you begin to understand all martial arts. I thoroughly believe in that. Over the past few years, one of my goals has been to identify connections between what I’m doing and what other people are doing.
Even though I’ve had this mindset for awhile, I’m still shocked when I realize a new connection, and wonder how I hadn’t seen it earlier.
Silat – Malaysian Art of Self Defense
I’m a fan of the show Human Weapon, but haven’t had the chance to see all the episodes yet. I finally sat down today and watched the episode about Silat.
Silat is a Malaysian born martial art that has roots that go back as far as the 7th century. In the cluster of Asian countries that have significant martial arts backgrounds, Malaysia is tucked in quite nicely. Have a peek at this map –
You’ll notice China, Korea, Japan, India, and Okinawa all hanging out in the same vacinity. You’d better believe that trading routes were open between these countries, and it wasn’t only material goods being exchanged. China, as the dominant force for a very long stretch of time, is a common thread to which almost all Asian arts can trace roots. Take that shared background, combine it with cultural contact through trading and war, and what you’ve got is a lot of styles that share ideas.
Silat and Karate
My empty hand training is in Okinawa Kenpo Karate, which is why I use that style as a reference point when looking at other arts. But I wonder, when you read some of the similarities I found, will you notice them in your art as well?
Here are some things I saw:
1. Movement to the Outside. When slipping a punch or kick, Silat combatants love to move to the ‘dead side’, or outside of their opponents. This is a critical concept in Okinawa Kenpo as it removes many of your opponent’s weapons from effective range.
2. Quick,Circular Block/Counter Combinations. No doubt from Chinese influence, both Silat and Karate try to shorten the time needed to respond to an attack by using circular block/counter combinations. These can often be found in karate kata as ‘rolling backfist’ style techniques. Practitioners of Nai Hanchi Kata should be pretty familiar with this rhythm of attack.
3. Balanced Stances. I noticed something that strongly resembled shiko dachi. While both Karate and Silat utilize these stances, they don’t rely on them during quick techniques; only as tools to add power and balance when appropriate.
4. Vital Point Striking. By vital point striking I mean targeting those areas of the body which are naturally weak. A ridge hand strike to the throat or claw to the eye can be much more effective than a straight punch blindly aimed at the chest region.
5. Bunkai. Bunkai is analysis and application of techniques in a kata…and something neat happened while I watched the Silat practitioners show their self defense tactics – I was able to slip each combination into my own kata with very little stretch of the imagination. There were series of strikes and targets that I immediately equated with particular sequences in Karate kata. Not that it took any special skill on my part to do so, it was just a matter of keeping an open mind.
If you get a chance, go back and check out that episode. I think I’ll watch it again in the near future to try and pick out even more connections.
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Welcome to the Japanese Sword Game! Exciting, right? I was thinking about going into a detailed explanation regarding the differences between various sword arts, but this is the age of web 2.0. We should get a little interaction going here. So, instead, I’m going to describe to you a scenario (pictures will be provided), and you try to figure out which of the multiple choice answers is the correct art (answer key will be provided at the end).
Since I’m your host today, please consider me this guy –
(Grand Host of Iron Chef – Takeshi Kaga. He Rules.)
The first art presented is considered a sport. In fact, it’s one of the most popular pastimes in Japan with about 7 million participants. The action is fast and furious, and yet very much like a chess match.
Players of this sport don very recognizable helmets and body armor to protect themselves from the bamboo strikes of their opponents. In very spirited matches, the players can be found screaming at each other in an effort to unbalance or disturb.
This sport runs many tournaments and competitions, but still manages to maintain a high level of traditionalism.
Name that art!
This next art is not for the feint of heart. Bamboo is rarely found in play here; instead, participants use wooden swords called bokken, or metal swords. Beginners tend to use unsharpened blades called iaito, while experts will use razor sharp blades called shinken.
Cuts, strikes, blocks, and all other manner of technique will be found in use here. There are no designated hit zones and no rules (except to win, of course). Despite its combative nature, this art still makes time for the building of mind and spirit, with the intent of overcoming one’s opponent and one’s own weakness.
Name that art!
The third art in question is more serene than the first two…at least, on the surface. Often performed from a kneeling position, this is the method of drawing a sword. Few people realize that the act of drawing a japanese katana is an art all by itself.
Unlike other sword practices, this ‘way’ is used for perfection of character moreso than combative effectiveness. That being said, the techniques used are still quite effective, and in some Ryu, maintain a high level of aggressiveness.
Meditative, empowering, and woefully difficult, this art makes you think twice about hurrying (lest you lose a finger).
Name that art!
What would this be –
***ANSWER KEY***ANSWER KEY***ANSWER KEY***
Question 1 – b.) KENDO. That’s right, this is the sport of kendo. Popular, aggressive, and exasperating.
Question 2 – a.) KENJUTSU. Kenjutsu makes up a bulk of what we see in swordplay, but is hardly the only art involved.
Question 3 – c.) IAIDO. It seems so easy…until you try to kneel with grace and poise in a hakama for the first time. Then there’s the sword to deal with…
Question 4 – NONE. Actually, that’s not true. It’s sort of a trick question – one practitioner is doing kenjutsu (the drawn sword) while the other does iaido (the sheathed sword). Did I trick you? Probably not, but maybe I kept you on your toes.
How did you do? Let me know in the comments below and thanks for playing!
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