Monday, October 15, 2012

Does Tang Soo Do (Karate) Really Work?

We refer to this as “the question.” Some instructors try to avoid a direct answer, others find “the question” insulting. I’ve answered here before but I return to this topic again as it is a question a lot of people ask. Is Karate effective; is Tang Soo Do effective? Oh my heavens, yes.

Before we get too far, let me put it right out here that I’m answering “the question” as it is intended, as opposed to answering a hundred nuances of the question. I could say, Tang Soo Do is effective in creating self esteem, or improving physical conditioning, or encouraging the development of a disciplined mind.

All of these would be true, and worthy of extended conversation, but let us cut to the chase. Most of the time when someone asks “the question,” what they really want to know is, could a Tang Soo Do martial artist defend themselves against a larger, stronger opponent?

For example, can a woman, trained in Tang Soo Do, defend herself against a larger male attacker? Yes, with caveats. More on this below.

I’ve never been attacked by three ninjas in an alley, but I have sparred in class and at many tournaments, and frankly (and with a little embarrassment) cannot count the number of ribs, fingers, and toes I’ve broken. Not my bones; rather the bones of my partners with whom I was holding back, going half speed, and who were wearing pads.

I have heard countless stories of students who reacted spontaneously to aggression with very basic blocks and counter strikes (without thinking) that in every case ended a fight very quickly. This is true of children, young adults, and more than one parent at what should have been a friendly soccer field.

There are two points I want to stress. As cool as a back-wheel kick is (I do a mean back wheel kick if I say so), it is a most impractical weapon. As boring as a middle outside-inside block, followed by a reverse punch is; it is unimaginably effective. Front snap kicks, forearm blocks using the waist, and reverse punches with the leading two dominant knuckles are pure gold in actual self defense.

I would also stress the value of Ho Sin Sul, or extractions from grabs. In Tang Soo Do we practice these a lot, and at the Black Belt level, test with multiple attackers grabbing and holding you while others try to punch and kick. It is not for the faint of heart.

Lastly, the caveat to all of this is you will execute your martials arts exactly as you practice it. If you go to class multiple times per week, and practice each punch, kick, block, turn, jump, and dodge with sincerity, precision, and effort you will become an effect artist. If you practice half heartedly, you will reinforce half hearted execution and you get your clock cleaned in actual combat. You are what you practice.



    Just got back from visiting some MMA blogs. The topic of, "Does Karate Work in MMA?" is continually talked about. The colloquial belief in MMA it seems that karate "has to be adapted" to MMA.. Along these lines MMA practitioners largely out-vote karate with Muay Thai.

    For practical purposes, I have to agree. The arguments that Muay Thai is more versatile in use of strikes & in close quarters, and has more emphasis on conditioning is true when we look at full contact MMA competitors as a group.

    This belief has been borne out by the defeat of two of the best traditional karate-based MMA fighters by Muay Thai stylists. To me, a staunch believer in traditional karate, of which my favorite is Tang Soo Do, my competitive hackles raise up. So, Does Tang Soo Do, traditional karate really work when the chips-are-down in MMA?

    I've laid out the MMA proposition that karate does not, in particular, stand up to Muay Thai. I look @ at Shogun Rua's TKO won over Lyoto Machida at UFC 113 to make the TRADITIONAL KARATE Case.

    The MMA website community, who are so very clever, will immediately rise up and point that Shogun Rua (a Muay Thai stylist), KO'd Lyoto Machida (Shotokan Karate base). So, I must be daft!

    My point to M. Meredith is this type of response is pretty much the 1-dimensional MMA fighting mentality that Tang Soo Do discipline is designed to crush. See Part 2 for why traditional karate is better MMA than Muay Thai illustrated by UFC 113 where Muay Thai, in fact, WON over "karate.".


      UFC 113, Shogun Rua defeats Lyoto Machida by TKO. Here's my brief fight recap of the fight which lasted about 3 1/2 minutes of Round 1.

      Machida opens with his traditional karate stance poised just out of hand striking range. Rua responds with leg kicks & rushes which cause Machida to back up, often circling to his left to avoid getting hit--Machida still gets hit. Rua also stalks Machida down often using combination strikes, and knees in the clinch.

      Machida answers with his trademark counter punch and single knee strikes. Machida grapples with Rua on the feet and twice takes him down. Although Machida's techniques technically score, Rua is completely unfazed.

      At about the 3 minute mark, Rua stands in front of Machida. Machida lands a knee to the body. Rua doesn't flinch. Machida backs away, pauses, and then moves in again for a counter left. Rua shifts and ducks left--Machida's left shoots harmlessly by Rua's head. Simultaneously, Rua counter right hooks and smacks Machida squarely on the left side of his head. Machida topples to mat-- Rua pouches--punching on the prone Machida's head to finish. It's about 3:30 into the 1st Round, over by TKO.

      MMA sites reviewed the fight--stating Machida's karate couldn't stand up to Rua's Muay Thai. For example, one MMA writer pointed out two critical 'blunders' Machida made.

      ONE, Machida routinely circled back & left which was towards Rua's power side. According to the MMA writer, Machida should have circled back and right. TWO, Machida abandoned his "distance" strikiing-game and engaged Rua, a dangerous striker, in the "pocket," Rua simply countered Machida and knocked him out.

      The FIGHTLAND author I've previously mentioned has just penned another piece illustrating how the rush-striking tactics similar to Rua @ UFC 113 KO'd another competition karateka. The theme of basic karate strikes being ineffective is also present.

      Machida lost UFC 113. Rua dominated and dispatched Machida in clear & uncertain terms--Machida not even making it out of the 1st Round.

      Did karate lose? I say NO!, because critical principles of traditional karate weren't present at that fight.



    Shogun Rua TKO'd Lyoto Machida @ 3:35 in 1st round of UFC 113. The KO Exchange went like this.

    1. In response to Rua stalking him, Machida steps in and knee strikes Rua in the body, then steps back. Rua is UNAFFECTED & stands his ground.

    2. Machida pauses--then as Rua lifts his left leg (step or kick we don't know.) stretch-leaps forward and goes for Rua's head with his trademark reverse left.

    3. Rua shifts to his left in a wide stance, ducking down and Machida's left sails past his head. With the stance switch, Rua throws a counter left hook and hits Machida on the left side of the head, just as Machida's arm flies by Rua's head..

    4. Machida crumples to the ground stunned.

    Without reviewing the whole fight, an MMA author says Machida lost (KO'd) because he made two big strategic errors.

    First Strategy Blunder, in the face of Rua's stalking attacks, Machida circled back and away to Rua's power side or left, exposing Machida to punishment especially from kicks.

    Second Strategy Blunder. Machida abandoned his karate-distance game & engaged Rua in the "pocket" (close quarters) where Rua is dangerous.

    The MMA author sums up Machida's karate game plan as akin to fighting a land war in the Middle East; and a sort of high stakes rock-paper-scissors.

    MMA journalists are under a lot or pressure to produce copy, but here is one reason I don't weigh heavy on metaphors. Furthermore, Machida has been under pressure to "evolve" his "game plan," then when he's unsuccessful, the statement was made that he made a mistake in evolving his game plan. M. Meredith, this is where you are sorely needed....whether "we" know it or not....

    See Part 3 for what I saw in Machida's loss.


    So, here @ UFC 113 we have karate not working, not working against Muay Thai. The loser, Lyoto Machida, has a Shotokan karate base. Tang Soo Do is similar to Shotokan, and I'm going to state my response to the MMA article criticism's of Machida's loss with my own relating TSD principles.

    FIRST, reliance on backward movement & constant circling away (backpedal, etc,) I realize in full contact, you don't want to get hit & knocked out like Lyoto did. The traditional karate answer, however, isn't the likes of back pedaling; it's Il Soo Sik Deh Ryun. M. Meredith has a number of articles on TSD sparring--MMAr's need to go read them.

    SECOND, when Machida did actively engage Rua, he got, M. Meredith words it, "clocked." Here a major, very major lapse on the part of Machida is captured by a concept reinforced by M. Meredith, Il Kyuck Pil Sal. Once you engage, you make it count.

    Machida did attempt to executed along the lines of Il Soo Sik Deh Ryun & got KO'd. The MMA crowd who complains that the karate fighting style is too fixed, then criticizes a karate stylist who attempts to address that & fails--by concluding that strategy was a mistake--Tang Soo Do will never work for that audience. A fatal karate factor in Machida's loss against Rua (who was out for the KO), was Machida's absense of the 2nd TSD principle / strategy I mentioned.

    Overall, my view is Machida can do Ill Soo Sik Deh Ryun. Unfortunately his performance @ UFC 113 on that score against Rua was very limited by traditional TSD standards; hence it didn't work.

    Machida spends immense amounts of time punching on what I regard as boxing protocols. I'd try adapting Tang Soo Do to MMA by actually doing Tang Soo Do the way the principles in the C.S. Kim curriculum show me (Hint, M. Meredith has presented twice TSD's basic response to a punch @ your head!). I like the one best where the assisting TSD black-belt instructor positions & breaks the boards.

    Does Tang Soo Do (karate) really work? That last paragraph of M. Meredith's article, IMHO you said a traditional karate mouthful.....


    UFC 113 RECAP: We have the MMA Author citing two mistakes made by Machida that cost him the figtht.

    MISTAKE #1: In response to Rua's aggression, Machida backed up & circled out to Rua's power side, making Machida vulnerable to Rua's strong strikes, including telling kicks

    I, as Okinawan Master, have a completely different view. There seems to be some idea among competition karateka, that when confronted, that the thing to do is re- actively back peddle, then make this backing up more effective by circling out to one side or another. The tactical goal is to hopefully move far enough fast enough in order to stay out of your opponent's reach.

    Being an Okinawan Master, this isn't what I do. I don't back up, peddle myself away, or circle out power side whatever....I follow the principles of Ill Soo Sik Deh Ryun.

    Now comes the huge outcry that these are staged exercises and don't work in "real" fighting. We have to set these exercises aside if we want to win.

    There's something wrong here with the latter position. Look at the result. We either don't believe in our traditional karate kumite training; or we use something else because of that belief. And so we are either not applying traditional karate kumite OR we aren't doing traditional karate at all.

    My Okinawan Master verdict is that when we constantly rely on backing away, we cede the high ground to the attacker. We are substituting the expediencies of playing "dodge ball" with our opponent, hoping (praying) we can react faster than he acts.

    Chuck Liddell was a huge user of the same pattern exhibited by Machida that day, and clearly advocated by his trainer & champion kickboxer, John Hackelman. Both are trained in traditional karate. Yet the backward movement ended disastoriously for Liddell against Rampage, Evans and Rua. So if you want an established MMA example, here's 3.

    The Fightland Authors similar illustration-same dynamic--the sport karateka backed up against the oncoming opponent who then threw a kick which caught the sport karateka because he didn't keep backing up fast enough.

    >>> If you are going to train karate, fight with karate. The 1-Step fighting approach is right here in M. Meredith's blog. And you can't learn it through internet chat's telling the world how you're an MMA expert from your apartment. And you can't learn it by pounding the heck out of a heavy bag.

    Machida opted to follow kickboxing gospel, which awarded Rua the upper hand. Traditional karate didn't have it's say that day 'cause it wasn't there.....


      The MMA Author states Machida Mistake #2: Machida abandons his trademark karate "distancing" strategy, and attempts to fight Rua in close. Machida, now made vulnerable by the switch in tactics, gets instantly KO'D by Rua.

      As Okinawan Master, this MMA viewpoint amuses me (really not amused). If we want to be sophisticated in our fighting competition, it's required that we string two thoughts together in the context of a championship UFC match.

      The MMA author just notes how Machida's trademark distancing wasn't working well (Machida Mistake #1). Machida circling to Rua's power side or not, Rua was closing & landing on Machida.... backing Machida up, frustrating Machida's effectiveness.

      So Machida makes a strategic change and confronts Rua, in keeping with the philosophy of Ill Soo Sik Deh Ryun. As Okinawan Master, I applaud Machida for making the philosophical shift. Kickboxing evasion isn't working, let's try Deh Ryun tradition.

      Ends in disaster for Machida. What went wrong? My general ruling, as Okinawan Master, is that the philosophical shift was all we saw. There lots of blanks & boxes to be filled in under the philosophical umbrella of Ill Soo Sik Deh Ryun.

      In short, Machida's real-time performance of Ill Soo Sik Deh ryun came up short (way short). Machida was taken out by a good, solid fundamental boxing counter. Boxing beats karate ONCE MORE! Yet, the very 1st Ill Soo Sik Deh Ryun application I learned was against what, a Punch............

      Machida's landmark losing exchange with Rua has been dissected & diced all over MMA blogs. I, Okinawan Master am not going to review those specifics.

      WHY? There's a many time champion karateka and professional MMA competitor out their just now posting on MMA websites about the proper !!! BOXING TECHNIQUE !!! to defeat opponent in MMA. The Okinawan Master, me, SMH.

      I'd still like to watch M. Meredith take the MMA competition challenge match. These MMA slicksters are looking to flatten M. Meredith the way Rua did Machida.

      Leaning back in my Okinawan Master chair, my closing thoughts are this. The way to win with karate is to do karate, not GNP your well-accomplished, well-credentialed guide & representative, M. Meredith. You see however slick talking the MMA critics of traditional karate are, they're not smooth at all....


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