The Dojo of Karate


An Exploration Of Martial Arts Technique

Students often lament that others seem to possess more skill than they seem able to master. Whether throwing in judo, striking in karate, or performing any move in another discipline, this complaint is usually based on a misconception of technique. In some cases, a move is delivered flawlessly, but lacks follow through. In other cases, a move is performed sloppily, but seems effective based solely on its power. Most pupils fail to understand the key factors that influence a routine's effectiveness.

Below, I'll explain martial arts technique in the context of its design. I'll clarify why many routines fail even when they are delivered properly. We'll also take a look at why focusing on the "right" or "wrong" way to complete a given move obfuscates the true goal. Lastly, I'll compare martial arts to a game of pool. You'll discover that the use of technique and strategy is remarkably similar between them.

The Reason Fighting Methods Fail

Most fighting styles employ movements that are inextricably linked to one another. In other words, a routine is often a string of individual steps that contribute to its overall effectiveness. If you were to remove one of those steps, the procedure can easily fail to deliver the expected results.

For example, consider a judo throw. The throw itself is most effective when your opponent is off-balance. As long as his weight is positioned properly, he has momentum, and your body is planted firmly, the throw happens easily. Were you to remove one of those factors, the throw would be much more difficult to perform.

This is the reason many martial arts techniques fail. One of the steps is either missing or has been performed incorrectly.

Forget What Is "Right" Or "Wrong"

One of the most perplexing trends in many dojos and studios is the claim that other schools are teaching students to perform certain moves the "wrong" way. In truth, the same routines can often be performed effectively in a variety of ways. This debate perpetuates (and in some cases, exacerbates) the confusion many pupils harbor about their abilities. Oftentimes, they'll learn to perform a martial arts technique the "right" way, yet fail to overcome an opponent.

The only reasonable barometer of success for a given routine is whether that routine is effective. It makes little sense to claim a movement is performed the "right" or "wrong" way if it fails to deliver the expected results.

Why Martial Arts Is Similar To Pool

Think back to the last time you observed a professional pool tournament. The breaking player tries to prevent his opponent from taking a shot. The only way he can accomplish that is to make sure he sinks his intended target. That requires setting up each shot. If the breaking player is unable to sink his target, he will place the cue ball behind an obstacle.

The strategy used by professional pool players is similar to that used to ensure a martial arts technique is delivered effectively. For example, in a tournament, you would want to prevent your opponent from "taking a shot," whether a throw, strike, or block. If you're unable to prevent it, you would want to hamper his delivery in some way. Meanwhile, each of your moves should set up future moves. These are the factors that determine whether or not a routine will be effective.

There are many other criteria that play a role in developing your martial arts technique. We'll cover them in the future. For now, it's important to understand that the debate between "right" versus "wrong" is far less relevant than it seems.