Kaijin MMA is a mixed martial arts school in Scott's Valley, Ca. where I've spent most of my martial arts training for the past 5 years. Although still very active in traditional karate at Sanford's Martial Arts in Santa Cruz, Ca., outside of the dojo, my traditional karate has deviated quite a bit. Kaijin MMA primarily focuses on Gi and NoGi jiujitsu, boxing and kick boxing, and practice of these martial arts heavily influenced my reinterpretation of traditional karate. As I learned other martial arts (and other styles of karate, for that matter), I began to see that many of these techniques - although oriented in sport - were vividly apparent in traditional karate kata.
"You fight the way you train."
This cannot be more apparent when you see karateka attempt sparring when they've only practiced kata, or the look of confusion and panic when somebody (who may know Brazillian Jiujitsu and how to wrestle) grabs them and drags them to the ground. As an instructor, I've seen youth students, who drill techniques with their hikite hand on their hip, don't know how to protect their face because they've never learned boxing. I've met karate brown (and even black belts) who have never sparred, hit another person or been hit themselves, simply because their style claims you don't need to spar to be a proficient martial artist. Kaijin-Ryu takes what works and incorporates it into a karate system; it is an ever-evolving style that flexes, bends and molds as new ideas come in and old ideas are thrown out. We practice stand-up striking, striking on the ground, throwing (as in Judo) and wrestling. We have no ego about our style - we only want what works while still maintaining the essence of true karate. While I completely understand and appreciate practicing martial arts from a health and fitness standpoint, or to study another culture's art, our style is specifically for fighting/self-defense. Therefore, kihon waza is practiced only in practical form and we do not practice kata in the traditional sense. Kaicho Jon Bluming, founder of Kyokushin Budokai All Round Fighting, once said, "In the Budokai we teach no kata, only fighting."
Throwing, Grappling and Wrestling in Karate
Karate has always taught throwing, grappling, wrestling, and ground fighting. Throwing, trips, and sweeps are all very apparent in traditional kata. Wrestling techniques, such as double leg takedowns (as listed under one of the 9 throws of Gichin Funakoshi - founder of Shotokan Karate) is in the Bassai/Passai Dai kata. However, what truly makes the throwing techniques in karate so effective, is the use of blocking, striking and redirecting to set up throws. With a grounded opponent, it makes escape from violent engagement much more effective. Therefore, teaching karate without throwing is leaving out a critical element of the martial art.
In our style, we teach 9 throws:
We teach 2 wrestling techniques:
We also teach various grappling applications, such as grappling against a wall, standing chokes/strangulations, various escapes and get-ups.
Physical Fitness, Strength and Physical Prowess
I have often heard instructors say "You don't need to use strength..." which is a misconception. In actual combat, strength and power is a must. Physical fitness and endurance is a must. Even when self-defense is boiled down to the most basic technique - running away - one needs strength, dexterity and speed. Karateka must do strength and conditioning training, to include explosive movements and V02 Max endurance training. This doesn't mean lift weights like a bodybuilder or powerlifter, or engage in long distance running (both can actually hinder your martial arts practice if done at the extreme levels), but one should be physically fit, retain a reasonable body weight, and be able to explode with power.
Martial arts prevails in utilizing techniques that make one's strength and endurance efficient. So, while being at the best physical condition possible, we train and drill technique to maximize that physicality. However, if you are physically weak and/or have poor cardiovascular endurance, technique will only go so far. I am quite surprised to hear advance belts breathing heavy after 20 jumping jacks, or complaining about debilitating soreness after body weight squats.
We must also understand that larger, more powerful, more physically capable people have an immense advantage in combat, even with little, to no, training. The ability of a physically powerful person to wrestle you to the ground should never be underestimated. Often, in karate, there is a false sense of security in this regard. Know your physical strengths, weaknesses and limitations, and train accordingly. If you are physically small, train with larger, stronger people. If you are big and strong, train with those who will push your cardio. All physical attributes have strengths and weaknesses.
Stamina and endurance plays a significant part in one's mental state. While martial artists often tout "strong mind" and "mind over matter" - much of this, for most people - goes out the door when one reaches physical limitations, such as "gassing out".
Train to be as physically powerful as your body will allow. Some people are simply naturally gifted, or gain physical strength from martial arts - such as wrestling - that acts as a proxy for weight training. However, for most (especially those in the striking arts), this will require resistance and strength training, V02 Max training and consistent proper diet to maintain a reasonable body weight.
Mental State and Emotional Control
I will not reiterate what most martial arts already tout regarding a strong mental state: this has been written and spoken about countless times across all martial arts schools and gyms and - for the most part - are congruent. However, the following are personal statements - that have helped in my journey through budo and professionally - regarding one's mental state and emotional control: