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Seize, Control, Strike

I was speaking to two of my friends and seniors, Sensei Pat Nakata (Chibana Shorin-Ryu) and Stan Henning (Hsing-I). I spoke to them separately, but they both addressed the same subject.

In a nutshell, they said that martial arts involves seizing, controlling and striking. When someone punches, you block (or parry, deflect, etc.), seize him (by his attacking arm or elsewhere), establish control, and then strike him. This sounds like a long process, but actually can take place very quickly. To a novice observer, the three things would likely blur together as a single action.

In sport Karate, there is usually little attention paid to seizing and controlling. The competitors typically exchange strikes -- the first to land a clean point wins.

But it is hard to properly strike a fast moving opponent. If you strike to his face, he might dodge out of the way and counter. If instead, you grab him by the hair and twist his neck to the side, it will be very difficult for him to avoid your strike. And if you pull him toward you when you strike, then the power of your punch is greatly increased.

Of course, there are many ways to seize and control an attacker. One time, Nakata Sensei grabbed me by my ear and the side of my neck and pulled me in toward his side. I definitely was controlled and there was practically no way I could avoid a strike. At the same time, the was no way that I could punch or kick, or even grapple (unless I wanted to lose my ear or sustain a broken neck).

In our Shorin-Ryu kata, whenever the hands are brought together on the side, one on top of the other (we used to call this a "clam" position), this meant that we were controlling the attacker by applying a joint lock (on the arm, shoulder, or neck, for example). I noticed that this clam position was more popular in the 1960s and earlier but is often not taught today. You can still see the position in the Naihanchi series of kata.

I found it interesting that Nakata Sensei and Mr. Henning would share the same strategy (seize, control, strike) despite practicing different martial arts. Given the influence of Chinese martial arts on Okinawan Karate, perhaps this should not be surprising.

What is surprising is that the seizing and control aspects are not always taught in modern Karate. An exception to this is Goju-Ryu (and related arts), a style of Okinawan Karate with more recent Chinese ties. And, of course, seizing and controlling continues to be taught in older forms of Okinawan Karate.


Charles C. Goodin