Do Not Fall

Shoshin Nagamine founder of the predecessor style of Yamabayshi Ryu, was a long-time public official and one time Chief of Police. He was a San dan, third-degree black belt, in judo. Judo by his time had replaced jiu jitsu as the subject control and arrest technique system taught throughout Japan to all police cadets and officers. As shown on my Go dan, fifth-degree black belt diploma – he called his own dojo “Kodokan” – the term for lecture hall – also the name used for the Japanese national training center for judo.  

Judo had a high importance and status in Japan. Sensei Nagamine was well-versed in its methods of going to the ground and what to do when you go there. He also advised his students in the practice of karate never to fall, never to go to the ground. He advised karate practitioners to learn how to avoid being taken off their feet. 

In law enforcement, when arrest is the goal, the ground may be a necessary piece of the puzzle. Under other circumstances, it is not an advantageous place to be. You encounter pavement, steps, broken glass, needles, rocks and garbage, etc. You lose the use of personal weapons, lose defensive options, and are vulnerable to getting your head smashed by your attacker’s friends. We train to stay on our feet. Our kata, and other training methods, are devised to train us in this way.

All the kata of Yamabayashi Ryu teach a lot of grappling and throwing, and go in detail into tactics which can be used to defeat an opponent who is going hands on. We strike and counter strike, but there is much more to what we are trained to do, because there is much more needed for effective personal defense.

There are seven down block combinations in first kata, the kata Sensei Nagamine created. With the possible exception of the first move, none can be understood as blocking a low attack. That is because they involve a turn to the rear. A good way to make these moves actually work with correct timing and distance is countering a grab by trapping and throwing, and then following up with a punch. 

The kiai move, not one of the seven down block combinations, is also an anti-grappling or anti-throwing technique. It follows a high block with a small step, by the left foot, to the left. This makes sense as a counter to a throw: Your opponent punches to your face, you high block, he immediately drops his same elbow to your chest, pushing forward into you as he steps his foot behind your left to sweep and throw you backwards. You do th emove as shown in the kata: sidestep with your left foot, pushing your knee against his knee. Then you rotate your body toward him applying pressure to his knee with yours, using the natural leverage of your position, to spin him easily, for a back punch with your kiai technique. 

The second to third count: If your arm is grabbed when punching you could roll out or you could go to the ground or you could do what we learn to do: drop your center, trap the opponent’s grabbing arm, pull him against you and throw him over your hip. If there is too much resistance to do it, that is if you were too slow to disrupt his balance, then you could follow up with other options. But, in first kata, making this work is what is being taught. The follow up finishing technique after the 180 degree turn and throw, is a chest height punch. (At the height of your chest, as shown in the kata. What the target is on the body of the opponent is not specified.)

In Pinan Nidan this sequence appears again, identically, but it is followed up differently. Here is it followed by another attempted grab and counter, which an opponent could apply if he was able to grab your punch after you executed the throw and counter combination described above from first kata. With your right-hand punch grabbed you could go to the ground, or you could roll out or leap over to release the pressure applied to your grabbed arm. But you could also do what we train to do: drop into cat stance, pull the attacker off balance toward you, break the attacker’s wrist grab with a wrist strike and as he is falling toward you, immediately reverse direction and counter attack with a punch. Which is what is in the kata. High speed reversal and full-body coordination are required to pull this off. That is why we train in the use of the waist to reverse direction, from day one. And as a result we do not need to roll out, leap, or go to the ground as we might with a judo orientation. 

There are many good modes of self-defense and combatives. We stay on our feet and fight, as recommended by Chief of Police, judo San dan, and 10th degree, life time karate practitioner, Nagamine Shoshin.

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Post by Jeffrey Brooks Copyright© 2022 Mountain Karate Dojo, LLC, Yamabayashi Ryu Honbu, in Saluda, NC

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