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Control and Power

In Karate, we usually concentrate on learning to generate power. We talk about one inch punches and devastating striking power.

But of equal, if not greater importance, is developing control -- the ability to accurately control where and how hard we hit. From a self defense perspective, we have to be able to use the level of power that is appropriate for the situation. Defending against a knife weilding attacker is different than defending against an unruly child, and the power we would use would differ accordingly.

It is especially important for us to develop control in the context of our dojo training. We must be careful not to injure our training partners. Otherwise, we would soon run out of partners. An uke is defenseless and must rely on the nage's control.

Therefore, it is important to practice control. Examples of this include striking pieces of paper and cloth. In one school I attended, we would attach a sheet of paper to the wall with a single piece of tape at the top. We would practice striking the paper to make it fly off the wall. Of course, you have to be very careful. We would often hit the wall and hurt our knuckles.

I also used to practice kicking clothes pins. I would put a couple of dozen clothes pins on the line, and go down the line kicking each one. At one point, I could pretty accurately kick a person's ear lobes... really.

With proper control training, it is possible to control the depth of a strike: to hit the skin, flesh, or even the bones. We used to say that we should practice hitting people lightly and practice hitting the makiwara and heavy bag hard.

When we are the sensei, out students might be reluctant to complain when we hit them a bit too hard. It is especially important for instructors and assistants to be aware of how hard and where they strike students and to exercise great care. The students will learn by their example.

A good Karate person has power but all great Karate people have control.

Because it is difficult, if not impossible, to gauge the control of visitors, I usually will not allow them to make contact in my dojo.


Charles C. Goodin