Monday, November 17, 2014

Do or Do Not, There is No Try

You're about to slide your key into the car door when someone knocks the groceries our of your hand and pushes you up against the door. He screams, "Give me your money, give me your money, or I'm going to hit you again!"

Your mind races, "What is this? Who, what's happening?" In retrospect all of these questions will seem silly - you're being mugged; some thug wants your money and he's used the element of surprise with violence and the threat of more violence to scare you into compliance.

But in the moment, time simultaneously races and stands still. Do you fight back? If so how? He's still screaming, and he's starting to slap you again, and again. You tell him to stop - you're frightened, if you give him the money, he'll stop... right?

The truth is, maybe he will and maybe he won't. There are statistics to support either argument. Life and safety should be your primary concern. Not the money, the groceries, or even the car. You want to get to safety as fast as possible. This is the situation you have been training for, for several years.

You know how to execute an inside-to-outside block, a palm punch, an elbow strike, or Il Gi Konk Kyuck (finger strike) to the eye. You have practiced these techniques a thousand times enroute to getting your Red Belt. You know how to turn to the right or left and strike with Dwi Cha Gi (back kick) followed by a brisk run (you do know how to run, right?).

But, you're frozen in place. Why, because you're thinking. He used surprise to catch you off gaurd and instead of letting your instincts, training and muscle memory take over - you hesitated. You have only one real decision left - do you react as you've trained, or not. There is no middle ground; you cannot half hit back. You cannot slap him and walk away.

This cannot be stressed enough - if you have been training as you should, then let your instincts take over. That advice has two parts, predicated on the stipulation that you have been training as you should. You should be working in each class as if the day will come when you will need to defend yourself. Hope for the best - train for the worst.

If you have been using Karate class as a social endeavor, time away from the job, the kids, the pressures of life, then hope he takes your money and leaves, or someone sees you and calls the police.

But if you have used each and every class to hone you skills through repetition, repetition, and repetition; if you have been executing your kicks with hip extensions, your palm punches and elbow strikes with conviction, striking beyond the point of impact - if this is the way you have trained - then trust your instincts.

I don't mean to make light of a terrible situation, but in the words of Yoda, the great Jedi Master, Do or do not, there is no try. Trust your instincts and react - or don't, but there is no half way. Practice like you need it and if you need it, you'll use it as you practiced.


  1. This is an important point - the freeze factor that comes with real violence, especially when unexpected.

    This is also why I like to do freestyle self defense drills (not sparring) in order to get students acquainted and hopefully desensitized to the shocking feeling of chaotic violence.


    Master Meredith, there is no argument with your counsel. The question is that you're admonition--it's an overall objective (effective self-defense).

    The practical question is how do you get there? IKIGAI offers a short comment on particular, practical training. Looking at his blog, IMO he's a reputable karateka.

    I just watched an MMA match between a traditional karate stylist untested in MMA, and a more conventional MMA competitor with a wrestling base. The karate stylist was @ the pre-black belt level in his style, say a C.S. Kim Blue Belt? The wrestler hailed from an MMA school and had three competition wins under his belt.

    First round, the MMA-wrestler easily penetrated the karateka's guard landing a couple of solid strikes, which then transitioned into GNP. The karateka was on the 'receiving end' the entire first round.

    This is the basis for criticism of TMA by the MMA community. We have a nearly black-belt level karateka thoroughly trounced in his first full contact defense encounter. And unlike your example above, the karateka has advance warning of the conflict.

    Taking the opposite end of the IKIGAI perspective, this is why my comment on Does Karate Really Work re Muay Thai vs Karate in MMA had 3 parts. >>>Becoming skilled in TSD kicho alone is highly demanding. Integrating the whole of the traditional TSD curriculum ( Dorito-bag toting students aside) can only be described as very, very daunting.

    Becoming a good wrestler is a hell of a lot of work. A highly-analytic persona isn't necessary. People who want to win with karate should take a close look at what your blog has to say. If one is not willing to perceive, analyze, adjust & act competently, no amount of karate lessons can help you.

    1. ROUND 2: MMA-Wrestler vs. Karateka.

      The Karateka, though pretty beat up, survives Round 1. This is due to his active resistance AND due to sportsmanship of the Wrestler opponent who could have dealt out heavier punishment on the ground.

      Round 2 opens with both opponents positioned outside striking distance. Wrestler is the aggressor, throwing out 'feeling out' strikes. Karateka stands his ground.

      Second into the round, Wrestler throws a slight left jab then suddenly lunges forward with a looping overhand right. As he lunges, he ducks his torso & head under hand striking height and aims for the takedown.

      Karateka holds his position and performs a right round kick to the Wrestler's head, instantly dropping him to the mat unconscious. Why the reversal of fortunes?


      1. The Karateka stood his ground and fought. He kept his focus & was not distracted or intimidated by the opponents hand feints or strikes.

      2. He focused on the dynamics of the Wrestler's offensive gambit and targeted the exposed head with the appropriate weapon.


      The Wrestler presumably sought to repeat the success of Round 1. He employed an effective MMA-BJJ tactic of The Feint/Pucn Combo then Transition into Takedown. The feint/strike breaks the opponent's attention or stuns hims--setting up an unguarded takedown. The technique wasn't the mistake.

      The mistake came because the Wrestler launched the attack beyond practical striking range. The strikes were obvious and likely to have minimum impact. Second, the Wrestler's early head movement to dodge or confuse the Karateka by changing position actually presented a better target for a middle round kick.

      SUMMARY:For his efforts, the Wrestler--3-previous time MMA winner--was carried out on a stretcher. His capability, his gambit lost because he put technique on which did not match the fight circumstances. The Karateka won because he had the Mental Discipline to stand and fight, concentrating on the Wrestler's assault as it unfolded.

      IMO, MMA makes a great laboratory to test your actual fighting skills. It's also very costly, very dangerous, to lose.


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