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Throwing Techniques

Some people think that Karate involves punching, striking, blocks, and kicks, while Judo and Aikido involve throws and joint locks. This may be true of the modern versions of these arts. However, the old form of Karate was a complete art encompassing all of the above techniques.

Throws present a particular problem in Karate. Of course, before one can learn to throw, one must first learn to fall and roll. This takes time and mats are required for safety.

Aside from this practical consideration, there is a general bias in Karate toward fast techniques. It is generally preferrable to strike or kick rather than throw because this minimizes the contact time with the attacker. The longer the contact, the greater the possibility that the attacker can injure you, pull a knife or other weapon, or that another attacker can appear. This last reason is always a concern. We are always on the outlook for additional attackers and do not want to be tied up with one attacker giving another the opportunity to attack us... maybe hit us in the back of the head with a brick!

But throws do have an important place in Karate. The type of throw, however, differs from modern Judo in one important respect -- in modern Judo, the throws are designed for the partner's safety. Old time Karate throws were far less kind to the attacker. After all, it makes no sense at all to throw an attacker to the ground if he can just get up and continue the attack.

Karate throws are useful in certain situation. A "safe" throw can be used to give the attacker a chance to calm down or possibly to present an opportunity for the defender to escape. An attacker can also be thrown into another attacker. Using one attacker as a shield or obstruction is a good use of a throw. This can often be seen in the Pinan kata. A throw can also be used to throw the attacker into an object, such as a wall, corner of a wall, fire hydrant, or other object.

Finally, a throw can also change into a joint lock, joint dislocation, bone break, choke, etc. Many common throws are the "safe" version of a much more dangerous techniques.

There is another reason to practice throws -- the attacker might try to throw or grab you. If you have ever tried to throw a skilled Judo expert, you know that it is next to impossible. A Judo expert can reverse almost any throw or joint lock you attempt. This is a good reason to practice throwing techniques.

To be honest, most Karate students are terrible at throws (and falling)... unless they also practiced Judo, Aikido, Ju Jitsu, or wrestling. High kicks in kumite make little sense if throws, sweeps, and trips, are allowed (not to mention kicks to the groin or knees).

Kenpo students do incorporate throws and joint locks in their techniques. When I practiced Kenpo, we often ended a technique with a throw or joint lock. I mentioned that we "ended" the technique because we usually kicked and punched the attacker first, only afterwards did we throw. This is one of the rules I always mention in my dojo:

"Whack the attacker first, then throw. Never start off with a throw."
But once we did throw in Kenpo, we also kicked and punched the attacker on the ground. Sometimes we also applied locking techniques. We always kicked the attacker once he was down.

Throws are an important part of Karate. Because modern Karate generally lacked throws, many modern students supplied the missing material with Judo or Aikido techniques. This is kind of like the frog DNA used to make dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. The dinosaurs looked authentic but were not quite right.

Old style Karate throws were just as brutal as striking techniques. They were designed for speed and made so that the attacker could not get back up and continue the fight.

There is another reason that throws are lacking in modern Karate. Old Karate techniques were executed at a very close distance. The engagement distance tends to be greater in modern Karate. I always say that the engagement distance in our form of Karate is where your elbow can touch the attacker. At this distance, it is very easy to switch to throwing, sweeping, tripping, joint locking, and similar technques. Just about every elbow strike or block presents an opportunity for such a technique.

See Throwing Without A Gi.


Charles C. Goodin