Martial artists excel in body dynamics beyond an “ordinary” person for several reasons. Karate-ka (karate students) study hand to hand combat in the same essence as a college student studies any degree major. Through years of study, a history student may be considered “advanced” in their knowledge of history; and an “ordinary” person could not begin to compare the world’s timeline with the history student. In karate, there is the same principle with a different field of expertise. Karate-ka becomes one with their mind, body, and spirit allowing them to use any part of their body as a “useful” weapon. This happens through endless hours of training and practicing hand to hand combat techniques.
Throughout years of teaching passed down from the old master’s of karate, students have learned the dynamic body science of karate-do. M. Nakayama (1977) states:
“If karate is practiced solely as a fighting technique, this cause for regret. The fundamental techniques have been developed and perfected through long years of study and practice, but to make effective use of these techniques, the spiritual aspect of this art of self-defense must be recognized and must play the predominate role” (p. 9).
Because karate-ka inherits these teachings, they are no longer ordinary, but extraordinary. An “ordinary” person will not comprehend the importance of “correct form” while action occurs throughout a technique. M. Nakayama (1977) states “Prerequisites of correct form are good balance, a high degree of stability and the order of movements of each part of the body, since movements are made in quick succession in short period of time” (p. 48).
Basic principles of executing a technique, for example, block, strike or kick, are the order of action from start to finish. This is a vital part of generating the maximum amount of power the individual can generate. Understanding the source of power for the different techniques is essential, for example, the hips. An ordinary person would not think that hips would physically start the action. Rather, they may think the shoulders or upper body presents the first actions. An ordinary person, John Longendyke, Jr (2007, July 6th) explains that “his” body action for a punch would rotate backward first within the shoulders, then drive forward with his upper body into the target. Nakayama (1978) states that there is explosive hidden power in techniques; for punching, the upper body works in conjunction with the hips, not separate. Although, the first physical action starts with the action of the hips, following quickly by the upper body without “backward” or “loading” action.
Edmond Otis and Randall G. Hassell (2002) state “A hand that is tightly clenched is called a fist. A hand that remains forever tightly clenched is called deformed. A balance between hard and soft determines usefulness” (p. 27). The proper production of a fist is a common error within most people. The first action of an “ordinary” person is to close their fist, tighten their entire body, and then pull back to swing for the fence. Karate-ka practice relaxation throughout the entire technique, until the moment of impact; creating smooth and fast fluidity of the body action. Otis and Hassell (2002) also state “Always move from the center of your body, where your major strength lies” (p. 34). Once again, this key fact comes into the “simple” act of executing a technique. As most people lean their head forward into the punch, karate-ka keeps their head over the hips; this allows the body to stay connected from the ground up.
Hard and Soft Blocking Techniques
Edmond Otis and Randall G. Hassell (2002) states “hard blocks are the blocks you use in these situations; you are caught by surprise, you can’t move to get out of the way and the attack is very strong and well-timed.” Hard blocks are precise and sharp. This type of block creates a direct impact to the limb that is striking to move the limb out of the way. Edmond Otis and Randall G. Hassell (2002) later state “soft blocks are smooth and flowing, often deflecting an opponent’s attack without them knowing it has missed, until it is too late” (p. 132). Generally, soft blocks are used in a more advanced skill level; performing soft blocks takes comfortability and confidence.
Nick Debouno (2007, July 25th), states “I am not sure what I would do if someone tried to punch me, hopefully, move out of the way. I do not know the difference between a hard and soft block, and what they could do for me in a fight.” See graph below for the conducted experiment. The experiment was conducted for the following reasons. First, to see if an “ordinary person”, Nick Debouno, could block a punch thrown by surprise. Second, to see if a hard or soft block was performed. Third, to see if Nick was hit by the second attack. And fourth, to see if his block allowed him to counter strike the initial attack.
Successful blocks made by surprise attack Hard or Soft block Hit by second attack Counter attack made
Attack #1 No None Yes None
Attack #2 Yes Hard Yes None
Attack #3 Yes Hard No None
Attack #4 No None Yes None
Attack #5 No None Yes Yes (irritation)
Attack #6 Yes Soft No Yes
Attack #7 No None Yes None
Attack #8 No None Yes None
Attack #9 No None Yes None
Attack #10 No None Yes None
Hard and Soft blocks contribute to one’s safety. As show in Attack #2 and #3, the two successful “Hard blocks” lead Nick to protect himself against the initial attack. Attack #2, Nick was hit by the second and following attack. Attack #3, Nick was able to protect himself against the primary and secondary attack. Attack #6 was a successful “soft block”. These actions lead Nick to counter correctly, not just out of irritation.
The graph below is the same experiment held with Sam Jones (2007, July 24th), a three-year practitioner of Shotokan Karate.
Successful blocks made by surprise attack Hard or Soft block Hit by second attack Counter attack made
Attack #1 Yes Hard No Yes
Attack #2 Yes Soft No Yes
Attack #3 No None Yes Yes
Attack #4 Yes Soft No Yes
Attack #5 Yes Hard No Yes
Attack #6 No None Yes No
Attack #7 Yes Soft No Yes
Attack #8 Yes Soft No Yes
Attack #9 Yes Hard Yes None
Attack #10 Yes Hard No Yes
As this graph displays, every “soft block” was followed by a successful counter-attack. This allowed Sam Jones not to be struck by the second attack. Attack #3 and #6 were the only two attacks that penetrated 100% successfully. As a note: Neither participant was harmed during this experiment.
Snapping and Locking Techniques
Each area of the human body is made of a different structure; hard and soft, large and small. Snapping and locking techniques are designed to penetrate different areas of the human body. For example, snapping techniques were designed for smaller and hard surfaces; locking techniques were designed for larger, soft surfaces. Edmond Otis and Randall G. Hassell (2002) comment on snapping techniques, “As a general rule snap strikes are sharper and faster. This means that the moment of contact is very short and doesn’t leave a lot of time for the momentum of the technique, or the force, to transfer to the target.” As a reflection or counterpart to snapping techniques, locking techniques are used to strike ribs and solar plexus. Otis and Hassell later say:
“Locking or sticking strikes, on the other hand, is heavier. They take a little more time to apply because you need to commit more of your body weight to the technique. It simply takes more time for all the energy in these techniques to leave your body and go into something (or someone) else.”
This is evident that the ordinary person would not know the difference between these two types of techniques, or which areas would require a snapping or locking technique. Nick Debouno (2007, July 25th) says, when asked if he would strike different depending on the area of the body he was hitting:
“I don’t see a difference, I would hit my attacker the same, whether it is to the body or face, punching is punching and kicking is kicking. I understand the head is harder than the body; that is why the head is more sensitive to impact, because of the direct contact to the bones and nerves. I feel that driving my punch or kick through the target would create more damage to a harder surface than a softer surface.”
Timing and Distance
Edmond Otis (2002) says “Karate is always about timing and distance. It is always about our relationship to our opponent. My view is that ultimately karate is about striving to be at our best, our most focused, our most balanced, our most dynamic – precisely at the moment our opponent is at their weakest.” Proper timing and distance relate to the impact delivered to our opponent. If timing is too early for an attack, our opponent will have the time he or she needs to evade or block. If timing is too late for an attack, well it is too late. If our distance is too short, we do not reach our opponent with the technique. If our distance is too close our technique will be shortened and not fully dynamic. Timing and distance coincide with each other, working as one action; we can not have one without the other.
Timing is the relationship between our opponent’s movement and the moment we will strike. Our objective is to strike when the attacker is at their weakest. Striking an opponent happens at three different levels of timing. One, after the attack, occurs; meaning the attacker will attempt a strike, the defendant will then time his or her dcounter-attack after the attacking actions are complete. Two, during the attack; meaning the defendant will counter attacker during the attacker’s action. Three; before the attack; meaning the defendant will strike the moment the attacker moves slightly, thus preventing an initial attack.
Distance is the spatial relationship between two bodies. The range of any individual depends on how close or far they are from the other body. Proper distance varies per individual and pending on what type of technique is being used. This will allow proper room and distance to complete “said” technique. Nick Debouno (2007, July 25th), an “ordinary person” explained that if he was engaged in a “self-defense” situation, “I would much more comfortable being far away from the attacker; if I needed to punch him, I would move in close and swing.” Later Nick Debouno explains, “while I am punching, I would not wait for my attacker to move into me, I would move towards them; my elbow would be bent enough to drive through the face of my attacker!” This is an example of improper timing and distance; once again, martial artists will strike when their opponents are at their weakest. This means, strike while our opponents have either completed their action, during their action or just before their action.
Through experiments and interviews with “ordinary” people, it is found that they do not have the knowledge or physical skill set to excel in body dynamics. Punching, blocking, timing, and distance was found to be incorrect. Karate experts such as Nakayama, Otis, and Hassell have pointed the key elements and the essentials of these specific areas. This has been found by their expertise and countless hours of training, proving that martial artists excel in body dynamics in the context of self-defense. Subsequently, an ordinary person would be hurt or would hurt themselves if ever engaged in combat. Theoretically, an ordinary human being would injure themselves as a result of not having proper technique during their own attack, by not blocking properly or by not having the proper reaction, timing, and distance. In contrast, martial artist understands the basics of punching, blocking and proper reaction, timing, and distance. Martial artist use their own body as a weapon without self-injury.