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Grappling -- Not Just Throws

We often talk about "grappling" so I thought I would look up the definition online at one of my favorite websites, dictionary.com:

"grap·ple /ˈgræpəl/ *** verb, -pled, -pling, noun
–verb (used without object)
1. to hold or make fast to something, as with a grapple.
2. to use a grapple.
3. to seize another, or each other, in a firm grip, as in wrestling; clinch.
4. to engage in a struggle or close encounter (usually fol. by with): He was grappling with a boy twice his size.
5. to try to overcome or deal (usually fol. by with): to grapple with a problem.
–verb (used with object)
6. to seize, hold, or fasten with or as with a grapple.
7. to seize in a grip, take hold of: The thug grappled him around the neck.
8. a hook or an iron instrument by which one thing, as a ship, fastens onto another; grapnel.
9. a seizing or gripping.
10. a grip or close hold in wrestling or hand-to-hand fighting.
11. a close, hand-to-hand fight.
[Origin: 1520–30; appar. a freq. of OE gegrǣppian to seize; associated with grapnel]"
In the context of self-defense, grappling essentially is seizing. We tend to think that such seizing is followed by a throw, but this is not necessarily so. In sports, such as wrestling, you typically have to pin your opponent. In Judo, you either have to execute a clean throw or pin your opponent.

But in self-defense, seizing can be the beginning of many things. You could seize and throw. You could seize and push or pull. You could seize and execute a locking technique. You could seize and choke. And, very importantly in Karate, you can do all or any of the above, plus you can seize and strike, poke, tear, rip, stomp, dislocate joints, break bones, poke vulnerable areas, etc. And you could always seize something... like the testicles. A handful of testicles will usually get an attacker's undivided attention (and there are other body parts you could seize with equal or even greater effect).

The point is that grappling -- seizing -- is not simply a matter of grabbing and throwing. In fact, in my experience, the strongest strikes are done when you have already seized and put your attacker into a weak position.

For example, if someone punches at you, you could block or avoid the punch and counter by punching him on the nose (just an example). That might work.

Or you could block the punch in a way that also rakes the attacker's eyes, reach around behind his head or neck with the same hand, and then punch him on the nose with your other hand. Your punch will be much stronger because you had seized and controlled him, and made it harder for him to avoid or slip your punch.

This is just a very simple example. You could have seized and put the attacker into a much weaker and more vulnerable position -- one in which, for example, he was bent over backwards (or otherwise twisted) with his neck exposed. This could be combined with dislocation or breaking techniques.

My point is that grappling is integrated with striking. They are not two things -- they work seamlessly together. Grappling, striking. Striking, grappling. One thing not two.

And again, the ultimate aim of grappling (seizing) is not necessarily to throw the attacker. If a throw is used, it makes no sense to simply throw the attacker in way that allows him to get back up. In the self-defense context, a throw should do considerable damage -- which is not that difficult a thing to do. If you have practiced any grappling arts, it actually is harder to throw someone safely -- you have to modify throws so that your partner will land nicely on his back rather than on his face, for example.

In addition, once seized, the attacker can be thrown into, onto, and/or through things (hard or sharp things, for example), or thrown off things (like a wall). The ground is just one place an attacker can be throw. An attacker can also be thrown into other attackers.

It also takes more time and energy, at least sometimes, to seize and throw an attacker to the ground than it does to seize and execute other types of techniques. It all depends.

When you put your hands together in the starting position for Naihanchi (and all kata for that matter, in my opinion), you may have already seized the attacker. A little flip of the wrist and turn of the body, and the next technique of the kata can be so much more effective.

I think that we have to broaden our idea about what grappling is. Mixed martial arts shows a great deal, but there are usually at least some rules even in MMA (thank goodness). Can you imagine what would happen if those extremely tough, extremely well trained, and extremely strong guys were allowed to strike and grapple (seizing in the broadest sense) without any rules at all? It would be... well it would be the old form of Karate (Tudi).

Some of you might be thinking, "this post does not sound like a Shorin-Ryu instructor." I think that it does -- at least the Shorin-Ryu with which I am familiar. And I have to confess that I studied and taught Kenpo Karate first (back in the 1970s when I was in high school and college). I am sure that this has positively influenced my views about the techniques we use in Shorin-Ryu. (Did you know that snap, crackle and pop are more than just sounds that a certain cereal makes?)

To all my Kenpo Karate (and related arts) friends our there -- Aloha, best wishes, and my respect from Hawaii!

OK, I have to add this explanation when I write about Kenpo Karate. My last name is Goodin, not Godin, and I am not related to the late Professor Walter Godin (athough I did have an uncle Walter in Florida, but his last name was completely different because he was my uncle's wife's brother). And my good friend, Professor Feliciano "Kimo" Ferreira, was one of Professor Godin's senior students. And the style of Kenpo Karate I studied did come from Palama, where Professor Godin also trained. I learned under the Professor Marino Tiwanak line (under Florentino S. Pancipanci at Hickam Air Force Base, and then under Edward Wallace and his daughter Julie at the old Moanalua quonest hut). I taught Kenpo Karate at Hickam Air Force Base, Foster Village, and Evanston, Illinois (there I was actually teaching a combination of Kenpo Karate and Shorin-Ryu). What a small world!

And if you can believe it, when I was in high school teaching at Hickam, I called my school "Goodin's Kenpo Karate" because I did not know about Professor Godin. How naive I was!


Charles C. Goodin