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Go Shin Jitsu

Go shin jitsu means self defense. When I practiced Kenpo, I remember that the complete name of the art was Go Shin Jutsu Kenpo Karate.

Today, some Karate instructors will specifically teach go shin jitsu -- self defense techniques.

This makes me wonder. Isn't Karate by its very nature go shin jitsu? Karate is an art of self defense.

But in many modern forms of Karate, the emphasis is on kata and kumite. Kata is form and kumite is sparring. Unfortunately, many forms of kata lack "fight" and many forms of "kumite" lack practical application because of limiting rules. Thus, go shin jitsu has to be taught as a separate subject.

But kata should be full of "fight" and pairing off techniques should have practical application. Everything we do in Karate should have an identifiable go shin jitsu element. We learn kata based on self defense techniques. We kumite to practice self defense. We learn body dynamics to enable us to use our self defense techniques more effectively. Go shin jitsu is not a separate element -- it is the fundamental building block of Karate.

The same is not true, for example, in Judo. Judo is a sport and governed by rules to determine who wins and to protect the participants. In Judo, it makes sense to teach go shin jitsu separately. Judo does have practical self defense applications, but they differ from the sport elements. After all, throwing an attacker is of little use if he just gets up and continues the fight.

This is not so in Karate, at least with respect to old style Karate in which everything we do is go shin jitsu.


Charles C. Goodin