With the increasing popularity of mixed martial arts and Brazillian ju jutsu (BJJ), thanks to the prevalence of UFC and other televised tournament fighting, the average karate practitioner can no longer assume their attacker to be ignorant of fighting techniques.
The average sports fanatic with some athletic ability will have the functional knowledge to apply an arm bar, choke or double leg throw without ever setting foot in a dojo by simply getting a little surly with their friends and typing in: “how to do an arm bar” into YouTube and applying techniques; something our karate forefathers never had the opportunity to do or deal with.
I make this point in order to address the common idea that the majority of karate practitioners rarely practice going to the ground—not just a common theme in the popular fighting arts today, but a common theme in fighting, period!
Now, more than ever, knowledge of ground technique is essential to the self-defence repertoire since being dragged to the ground is a common situation in which to find oneself.
At Sensei Paul Lopresti’s Aiki Kenpo Jujutsu (AKJJ) seminar in Georgetown, Ontario—hosted by Sensei Helen and Sensei Brian Sakamoto, June 2013—we addressed different situations and ways of transitioning to submissions on the ground. Sensei Paul is not only a fantastic grappler with a Renshi and 5th Dan in AKJJ, a Yudansha in Koryu Uchinadi and a MMA Coach, he also has a keen understanding of Shoto Kan kata, as it was the style he originally started at seven years old.
Throughout the seminar, Sensei Paul spun connections between the body mechanics of techniques we would do while standing, like within a kata, and applied these same movements to the ground, opening the group’s eyes to what I have come to call the “Web”: an interconnection of solo movements to their applications and the free flow of seamlessly connecting one application to the next.
Using the idea of the web in connection with biomechanics, I will explore how striking and ne-waza come together within this seminar with particular attention to the bottom position.
Coming from a Shoto Kan background myself, I find one of the most hated stances is kokutsu dachi (back stance). On many occasions I remember having to sit in my kokutsu dachi for extended periods of time with legs burning and knees shaking. Not only is it extremely uncomfortable, but it is extremely impractical in its usual application.
However, Sensei Paul revealed the back stance’s true colours. A simple grappling exercise starting from the knee on belly position; in this position while facing the opponent, your closest knee cuts across the opponent’s hips, with minimal weight on your foot. The other foot is in line with the opponents head, but not directly beside it.
Through the following visual one can see the physical similarity between the formally known kokutsu dachi and the knee on belly position:
- All the weight is positioned on the back leg
- The heels are lined up in the “L” position
- Other leg is out for support
In Shoto Kan, kokutsu is usually practiced for the sake of making the leg stronger or when one gets pushed back, but just like the spider spits its web, it reaches much further than we imagine when the same mechanical position is applied to grappling. If the opponent were to struggle against this position one would notice the stance of the top person would obviously change to maintain the knee on the opponent’s belly. The position then changes, shifting between front stance and back stance to adapt to the opponents movements.
Hence, both classical Shoto Kan stances, usually annoying and impractical whilst learning kata, have a far more extensive application than creating power for oi-tsuki and stepping back to evade an individual’s attack.
Throughout the seminar, Sensei Paul continuously spun new connections between classical forms and ground techniques leaving us all captured in his web.
Stay tuned next week for more insight from Renshi Paul Lopresti.