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Not Stepping Back 2

I wish to address Sensei Pat Nakata's Guest Post, Not Stepping Back. I believe that his post got many people to think about their karate techniques. I agree that it is best to move forward into the attacker, rather than step away. Modern self defense techniques often begin with a step back. This can be explained in different ways -- yielding to a powerful attack, creating a space for a counter, giving the attacker a chance to change his mind --but it differs from the "traditional" approach.

In my opinion, once the engagement begins, the traditional approach is to quickly enter and destroy the attacker. It is self defense only until a certain line is crossed -- then the defense becomes very aggressive. You almost want to move through the attacker.

But my point is a little different. With multiple attackers and surprise attacks, we cannot always move forward. The attackers may be all around us or we may be caught by surprise from the rear or sides. We do not always have the time to face the attacker.

Thus, we have to move "forward" with whatever part of our body is facing the attacker. We might attack to the back with reverse elbow strikes or back kicks. We might attack to the side with Naihanchi type movements. We might move to the various diagonals.

We have to be able to move freely in any direction, and to execute defensive and attacking techniques freely in any direction. Again, once the line is crossed, defense includes attacking, whether is it pure attacking or counterattacking.

We also should be able to move vertically, particularly to and from the ground. This is often neglected in modern Karate training but was an integral part of the old Karate (Tudi) in Okinawa.

There is also an occasion when we might move back -- when we run away. When you read the colorful exploits of figures such as Choki Motobu, you find that even though he was a tough fighter, he often ran away, particularly from mobs. He seemed to be very good at hiding in trees and on roofs. Sometimes it is necessary to stand and fight. Sometimes it may be wiser to run away and fight another day.

One of my Sensei was the victim of gangs as a child. He could not defeat a gang by himself, so he would run away and wait for opportunities to confront the gang members one on one. That was his strategy. If he stood his ground, he would certainly lose. By running away, he could defeat the gang one at a time.

So I agree that we should not step back. We should move into the attacker, whatever direction he may be. We must be able to execute techniques freely in all directions.

To do that, we need to learn to use our whole bodies to generate power. But that is a different subject.


Charles C. Goodin