Interest in the original Karate techniques, as recorded within the katas, is definitely on the increase. It seems that more and more people are no longer content to practice Karate as a basic kick/punch system and wish to practice all aspects of the art. In order to extract these oft- neglected aspects from the katas it is vital to have a good understanding of the principles upon which the katas are based. In this article I would like to briefly discuss the principles associated with ‘Entrance Techniques’ as I feel that this vitally important aspect of Bunkai-Jutsu (combat applications of the katas) and Tegumi (Karate Grappling) is largely ignored.
We must understand that the katas were designed by fighters for fighters, and hence they often take a basic knowledge of combat for granted.
Two fundamental combative principles that must always be observed are the importance of keeping everything as simple as possible, and the importance of seizing and maintaining the initiative.
First we will look at the importance of keeping it simple. As you all know, when fighting, your adrenal reaction will reduce your body’s ability to utilise fine-motor skills. Hence, it is extremely unlikely that you will be able to apply any overly complex movements. Secondly, you should always keep your number of initial responses to an absolute minimum. If you have learnt many different responses to a given situation, by the time you have decided which one to use, the situation will have changed, hence that technique will no longer be appropriate.
In the moments before the altercation, we should utilise a well-practised preemptive strike (see Geoff Thompson’s excellent book 3 Second
Fighter). If we are already past that point, and engaged in grappling, we should still keep our initial grappling techniques as simple, and as few in number, as possible. This way we will respond quickly and effectively with the minimum of hesitation. So it makes sense that, when formulating Karate, its founders would have constructed a set of Tegumi techniques to be used the instant the fight hits grappling range. And they did. 5 4 Martial Arts Illustrated
Another error that must be avoided when studying Bunkai is the tendency to interpret and express the kata in a way that is overly defensive.
When fighting it is important to seize and then maintain the initiative. You should aim to fight at your pace and on your terms, rather than let the opponent dictate the fight. It is quite common to hear statements such as, ‘If the wrist, then you’re gonna get it.’ Remember that the katas take into account instinctive responses from the opponent (not to be confused with ‘trained’ responses, but that’s another article.). The principles associated with ‘one blow, one kill’ run right the way through Karate, with the aim always being to end the fight as quickly as opponent seizes your wrist, you can respond with this bit of the kata.’ Why has the opponent seized your wrist in the first place? It is hardly the most savage of attacks. Do you just stand there so the opponent can do as they please? ‘Wait ‘till you grab my wrist, then you’re gonna get it.’ Remember that the katas take into account instinctive responses from the opponent (not to be confused with ‘trained’ responses, but that’s another article.). The principles associated with ‘one blow, one kill’ run right the way through Karate, with the aim always being to end the fight as quickly as possible. One quick and sure way to end a fight in grappling range is to seize the opponent’s testicles. The groin is an area that most men will instinctively protect. Whilst attempting to grab the groin there is a strong chance that the opponent will attempt to check the attack. If you are successful in seizing the opponent’s groin, then the fight is yours. If you are not successful, then the opponent may well secure a firm grip grip on your wrist in order to prevent any further low attacks.
And this is where the ‘the opponent has seized your wrist’ techniques come in. The opponent seizes your wrist because they are forced to. If they do, you apply the kata’s techniques to disable the opponent and free your arm. These ‘Entrance Techniques’, such as the groin grab, are often not shown by the kata. The main reason is because they are so obvious.
Fighting in this way, it is you who constantly has the initiative, not the opponent.
Incidentally, many of the joint manipulation techniques that flow on from a wrist grab are referred to as ‘Tuite’. A literal translation of the word ‘Tuite’ is ‘releasing hands’. This makes sense as they are techniques used to ‘release your hands’ from the grip of the opponent after attempting an entrance technique. The term ‘Tuite’ is also used in reference to the manipulation of
Pressure Points to ‘release’ joints.
All three entrance techniques are extremely easy to apply and that is why the katas favour them. As soon as we begin to grapple, the first thing we attempt is one of the three entrance techniques. This will reduce the options available to us and ensures quick and decisive action. If the opponent counters, we are then in a position to unitise the numerous kata techniques for dealing with a trapped hand.
Original Karate is a very brutal system. Today, we may well face legal consequences as a result of our actions. Be sure to only apply the techniques described above if the situation justifies them. The
Shaolin maxim, ‘Hurt rather than be hurt, maim rather than be maimed and kill rather than be killed’ should be observed. Never use more force than is justifiable.
Entrance techniques are an extremely important part of the combative side of Karate. If you wish to fully understand your katas, you need to understand that they were designed for fighters by fighters. Be aware of what they show and what they don’t, and why what they don’t show can often be more important. One final thought, if there are entrance techniques, then there must be ‘exit techniques’. And there are. But that’s another story.