“After UFC 103, Vitor Belfort gave credit to karate (and Jesus– a natural pairing) for his immaculate victory over former UFC champ, Rich Franklin. No surprise there, since “The Phenom” has been training in karate for years and has close ties with Lyoto Machida, the mixed martial arts Messiah of karate.” – Dom Velando
A couple of months ago I wrote a post about Lyoto Machida, wherein I explained my fanhood for him, and how it wasn’t just me – Machida’s popularity has been consistently growing over the past 8-9 months. One of the main reasons why is Machida’s karate-inspired fighting style. His traditional background (along with a black belt in BJJ) is making big waves throughout the MMA community. How could it not – the guy has yet to lose a round.
These days it seems that karate is branching out, and the latest person to do the branching is Vitor Belfort. Belfort is a recently returned UFC fighter who has been studying karate for years. Many analysts are remarking at Belfort’s excellent control of distance and timing, and how he seems to have a natural sense of space. People are also commenting on the speed and directness of his counterattacks after making other fighters waffle and miss.
This may all sound familiar to UFC fans because those are the exact qualities that are granting Machida so much success.
To watch the Belfort fight (it only lasts one round), click here or below:
Due to his impressive win, Belfort is slated to fight Anderson Silva, aka, the guy so good that he makes champions look like raw beginners. Although UFC fans are pining for a Machida-v-Silva matchup, it looks like Belfort is going to have to do instead (both Machida and Silva have declared friendship with one another and a strong desire not to fight).
The most interesting thing to come out of these recent events is a raised eyebrow about karate from MMA fans and fighters. We’ve all been so overexposed by crappy, watered-down karate that seeing good karate in action is both intriguing and confusing. Fighters like Machida and Belfort are also doing karateka a service because they are showing the value of arts like BJJ, and how it isn’t a sin to be well-rounded and open to outside concepts.
Very interesting developments! Pay attention everyone because these are the things that slowly shape the martial arts realm right underneath our noses.
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A little while ago I wrote an article for issue 5 of Jissen Magazine. In it I gave a brief overview of the main tools a classical karateka has at his/her disposal. I’d like to dip a bit deeper into one of those tools today.
Most of us equate karate with the hard blocks and strikes that have made the style famous (was it very fashionable to break boards and bricks before karate came along? I don’t know, but I doubt it). Unfortunately, this preoccupation with percussive power has left some of the lesser known but equally important aspects of the art behind. One of those aspects is tuite.
What is Tuite?
Tuite basically means grabbing/gripping hand. In karate, it is the art of joint manipulation and grappling. While karate does place a strong emphasis on striking, it is also understood that combative situations often involve ‘entanglements’ wherein it would be necessary to manipulate your opponent, causing them pain, dysfunction, and loss of balance.
To become proficient at tuite, students analyze how the joints work in the body.
The thing about joints is that they only like to work in certain ways and directions. The elbow can bend inward, but gets grumpy if you overextend it. The wrist can swing in a circular fashion, but reacts very painfully if you press it in a backward 45-degree angle (as seen in the picture above). Knowledge of these joint manipulations and off-balancing factors are very advantageous when a fight closes range.
Is Tuite Its Own Art?
Sometimes when people hear about tuite they wonder if it is its own art. After all, one could spend a good portion of their life improving their ability to manipulate joints. That being said, tuite is meant to be part of a continuum in the karate lexicon.
At its best, karate has aspects of combat for all ranges and situations. It has the omni-useful percussive strike. It has tuite that compliments striking by adding the ability to cause disabling pain and throws to an opponent. It also has a concept called tegumi which is a form of grappling. And finally there is kyusho, vital point striking. (I’ll talk more about these other concepts at a later time). When meshed together and practiced fluidly, practitioners are meant to be competent and natural in any situation.
How Does One Train in Tuite?
Over the years different ryu-ha (or karate styles) have developed different means of training tuite. One of my favorites comes from the GojuRyu and is a drill called kakie. Here is a sample:
In kakie the goal is to feel the directional energy of your training partner and sense moments of weakness. You then train your body to react to those moments with effective technique (trying to make technique more instinctual and less thought-processed).
Other methods of developing kakie include kata and bunkai training. Kata shows the body how to move and distribute weight while bunkai gives you an actual training partner to explore with.
Another way to drill tuite is through simple ippon and sanbon kumite (or one/three step sparring drills) wherein an attacker aggresses and the defender blocks, counters, or applies a tuite joint lock.
Where Have I Seen This Before?
Kung Fu, aikido, tai chi, jujutsu, even judo people may be having smacks of recognition here. Tuite technique is very similar both in intent and execution to these other arts. Kakie, as shown above, is like an aggressive version of push hands, seen in Tai Chi Chuan.
One of the most important concepts in aikido is redirecting momentum and applying technique that flows with the opponent (much like in tuite).
Jujutsu utilizes a lot of pain inducing techniques combined with trips, throws, and kuzushi (off balancing), which we see in tuite as well.
Some people wonder why I’m such a fan of other traditional arts – it’s because I see the level of excellence they’ve achieved at something my own art places importance on. If I can improve my tuite skills by paying attention to aikido (etc), I will do so.
When analyzing these classical aspects of karate from Okinawa, it’s important to remember some of the chinese influences that came to the island. The hardy Okinawans took the genius aspects of chinese arts and combined it with indigenous ideas and concepts they absorbed from other countries. The results are dynamic. The results are tuite!
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While doing research for my previous article (you’ll notice the term sweat appearing in both of these posts), I ran across an awesome youtube video. Someone set a montage of clips from Bruce Lee movies to the tune of ‘don’t sweat the technique’ by Eric B. and Rakim. It makes for a very enjoyable watch.
It’s easy to forget what made Bruce Lee so dynamic and dominant. Check out a little bit of this video and you’ll remember:
For anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of seeing a Bruce Lee movie, I recommend them highly. Here is a helpful hand in locating them:
Enter the Dragon (The most famous film. A martial arts epic!)
Return of the Dragon (Actually filmed before Enter the Dragon but renamed in America to capitalize off the success of Enter. Still Awesome)
Chinese Connection (Some consider this movie to have the best plot and message)
Fists of Fury (Bruce Lee’s breakout film)
Game of Death (This one is barely a movie, but still has good fight sequences)
Bruce Lee always preached fluidity and economy of motion. Certainly he didn’t sweat the technique, which is one reason why he was so great!
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For those of you who have seen the movies, help the newbies with your recommendations in the comments below!
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