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Guest Post: Seize and Control

This Guest Post is by my friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata. Nakata Sensei is the head of the Okinawa Shorin-Ryu Karate Association in Hawaii. He was a student of Chosin (Choshin) Chibana in Shorin-Ryu, and also studied Ryukyu Kobudo under Sensei Fumio Nagaishi. When he was a young man, he studied Wado-Ryu Karate under Sensei Walter Nishioka.

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Seize and Control

Chibana Chosin Sensei often told me that the real fighting practice in Karate is in the Kata. This teaching is not unique to Chibana Sensei. In fact, it is universal for most Karate. In all of the traditional Karate Katas that I have seen, most of the techniques integrated 'seize and control'. This 'seize and control' within the techniques seem to have been lost, because of two main reasons:
  1. Most Karate teachers (including Chibana Sensei) taught that the a strong punch, kick, strike, and block were of utmost importance. Smashing techniques were in many cases reduced to striking techniques, thus losing the 'seize and control' that made them more brutal and combat effective.
  2. In tournament competition, grabbing and pulling (especially while executing a punch, strike, or kick) is prohibited, because of safety concerns. When Charles Goodin Sensei was looking at a tournament brochure on the illegal or 'outlawed' techniques, he commented that these were the effective techniques that one would use in a real self-defense situation.
Chibana Sensei constantly appeared to redo his grip before executing his Kata movements, but this gripping was in actuality the seizing of the opponent. Many of the old teachers did not show the seizing of the opponent, but in the explanation of the technique (bunkai) they revealed seizing as part of the technique and transition. In most cases the seizing is executed with the [striking] hand, after which [it is used to pull] into the following attack (kick, punch, strike, smash). This hand that seizes, pulls, or opens the opponent is called the 'shigoto no te' or the working hand, which is the essential part in delivering a decisive technique. Some techniques are executed to stun the opponent followed with a seizing technique. Other times a seizing technique is executed as part of a block ('uke').

Seizing an opponent is normally establishing control. To be victorious in an encounter, one must be in control, especially if there is multiple opponents. As the great swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi, points out in his 'Book of Five Rings', "one should move directly into the opponent. One does not make adjustments to the opponent, but lets the opponent make the adjustment to you. When the opponent does adjust, destroy him (cut him down)". Establishing control is one of the main fighting strategies in Martial Arts. This control is in the Kata (Classical Kata). Again, as Miyamoto Musashi said quite often in his book, "you must study this well".

Study well this 'seize and control'.

Pat Nakata