By Michael Clarke
By Garry Lever
By Barrett & Lever
By Mark Bishop
The Shinken Dojo   真 剣 道 場
Ryusyokai Okinawa Goju Ryu Karate   琉 翔 会 沖 縄 空 手
Ilfracombe - North Devon - England   英 国


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A while ago now I put a post up about Karate Ka training for the possibility of fights Going to the Ground, of which I never got
around to posting my thoughts on the subject, so here is part 1 again, and part 2 will be put up in a few days time.

I was reading a report in a newspaper recently about a guy who had been seriously injured whilst training in a Dojo down in the
South of England, as a fellow Martial Artist it all made very sad reading, and without doubt very thought provoking too. The
write up indicated, that previous to this the guy was a healthy fit young family man whose life had been turned upside down
due to practising the Martial Arts, leaving a shattered wife and couple of young children trying to pick up the pieces through
the rehabilitation process. It is believed that the guy sustained a serious brain injury, primarily caused by a strangle hold being
applied on him whilst practising ground work skills. To date I have no idea what style or Martial Art that was being practised at
the time of this incident, the same in that I do not know any of the facts surrounding this particular case, so I will remain open
minded. Having vast experience in both applying and avoiding people using strangles and chokes on myself, I have no doubts
on their deadly capabilities.

What I also know is this...  That over the past decade or so, there has been a desire and shift by countless Karate exponents
and teachers to spend an equal amount of their Karate practise time on the ground, to the point that they are actually taking
their Karate more and more to the ground. With many Karate teachers being very inexperienced in this domain, despite
claiming otherwise, and in reality they are playing around with some lethal techniques here, that in most cases they have little
training in or understanding of.

I simply wonder and ask why?  I probably already know the many answers that will be given to me, so in truth I don’t need to
ask.  

Answers given will probably be something like or similar to the following in most cases.

1, If a Karate exponent with acquired ground work skills takes me/you to the ground I/we will be given a lesson in real fighting
and Karate that I/we will never forget. So of course then I or we are poorly informed of the benefits inherent in practising on the
floor, and that as Karate Ka we are ill prepared for this eventuality. So a Karate Ka with 50 / 50 stand up to ground skills is
more proficient than one that is say 90 / 10 stand up to ground.

2, around 80 to 90 % of fights will end up going to the ground at some stage; just watch MMA as this proves this.  So going to
the ground will then of course become imminent once a fight commences.

3, ground work fighting and grappling is an integral part of Okinawan Karate, so thus should be practised equally as much as
stand up skills, as is proven on old photos of the likes of Chojun Miyagi Sensei teaching and practising  ground work skills.

So then…..Is all of this actually as true as some people would like us to believe? It all sounds reasonable and logical enough I
suppose.
Well No! It doesn’t actually.  But I can certainly see why so many Karate Ka are taken in by these words of
guidance or advice.

In most parts I would have to strongly disagree with all
3 answers presented, and this is nothing to do with just being
argumentative, my reasons for thus are based off many years and a variety of experience, All of which I will post in a few days
time...
This will also give some the time to think things over for themselves. My father as some of you will already know, was a Judo
Ka, so my very own grounding in the Martial Arts was based off this very ground that I speak of here……..
"Good Feelings & Meeting back up with Friends"
The aim once a confrontation becomes physical, has always been to stop the opponent and put them out of action as swiftly
as possible, by way of disabling or knocking them to the ground, this will then prevent any further harm, whilst also giving an
outward sign that the altercation has come to a decisive conclusion. At times there can be brief scuffles with no real outcome
or harm done, but primarily in real confrontations the aim has always been to down the opponent.

Fighting on the ground and grappling is a skill in itself, a speciality that is an integral part of arts like Judo, Wrestling, and
some forms of Ju Jutsu. These arts also use the grappling link between the stand up fight to the ground fight as a decisive
part of their armour.  Just like many areas of the Martial Arts ground work grappling or wrestling has to be experienced
firsthand to be fully appreciated, to those unfamiliar with this domain they will find it a culture shock, I can only liken it to
swimming in mud.

I have never questioned the effectiveness of ground work. As I've mentioned many times before, my father was a Judo Ka, so
I spent my youth being thrown around and rolling the very floor that I speak of here, and I do still work on essential elements
with my training partners and students. Not wishing to sound contradictory here, but  ground work training will benefit all
Karate Ka. My main concern though is that many Karate Ka have just jumped on to this modern phenomenon to the detriment
of their stand up Karate skills, and there is certainly more poor Karate around today than ever. I also believe that many
Karate teachers that claim competency in teaching ground work skills, should really prove their worth in a strong Judo,
Brazillian Ju Jutsu or Wrestling gym.

So around 80 or 90% of fights will end up going to the ground? Sorry but this is a myth. Knocked to the ground I may agree
with, but fighting or wrestling around on the floor is not so high a percentage as some would like us to believe. Rolling around
on the floor and being off ones feet feels very unnatural and brings on an instant uneasiness in confrontation, so noone will
ever really want to be there. Being on the floor is the last place that you would want to be, and I would strongly advise against
going there by choice, no matter how good your ground fighting skills are. Avoid being on the floor at all costs and get up on
your feet as quickly as possible.  The biggest ground threats are that you are vulnerable to some very nasty attacks, and like
it or not, every man and is dog will be brave enough to join in on an attack if they believe you are down and maybe out of the
fight, whereby when you are on your feet, they are not always quite so brave. This is not a sport arena, real confrontations
can be life or death.

The primary basis of Western Boxing, Bare Knuckle fighting, Thai Boxing, Chinese Gung Fu, and may I say Okinawan Karate,
is to both control and win confrontations at the stand, by way of finishing off or downing the opponent/attacker whilst one
continues to remain on your feet.  Of course there will be those who believe that a Karate Ka who adds ground work skills to
their armour will be more proficient to cope with in fight situations than one who does not? I kind of agree, but only if these
skills are correctly studied under the likes of a good Judo Ka, in many cases these days though it's more of an in flavour
curriculum or syllabus thing which equates to poor ground work skills combined with poor stand up skills. What I will say is
this, when it comes down to reality with no rules, I will put my money on the stand up skills of the Western Boxer, Bare knuckle
fighter, Thai boxer or good Okinawan Karate Ka every time before I would the average general all rounder Karate Ka.

Over the past decade I have on several occasions asked Senaha Sensei questions on the subject of ground work in
Okinawan Karate... Each time he has always answered with the same
"There is No Ground Work in Goju Ryu"! He has gone
on to elaborate, but basically he has always stated that the objective of Okinawan Karate is to finish off or knock the
opponent out or to the ground, not to go rolling around the ground with them.  I have also asked the very same question of a
few other senior Okinawan Karate teachers, and they have all seemed to give similar answers and reasons.

There will be those of you who see old photos, like the above of Miyagi and Kyoda Sensei's and then come to an instant
conclusion that they are doing ground work, in a way they are. However,  knocking the opponent down by way of a blow and
finishing them off, or doing a takedown or throw, and then concluding the fight as they go to ground, is NOT the same as
actually doing ground work or ground grappling in the way that Judo Ka do, far from it in fact, the training emphasis of
Okinawan Karate is so different.  
Going to Ground  "Part 1"
Going to Ground  "Part 2"
The one thing that I learned many years ago is that you can't live your life in the past, like it or not, you have to live it in the
present and now, whilst working towards the future. In relationship to Karate, it's quite surprising how many Karate Ka dream
about what training was like under the likes of Miyagi, Funakoshi or Motobu, when at the same time, the training that they do
and the basis that they work from is clearly a million miles away from those that they dream of training with. To the point that
they would probably have ended up being turned away or scolded by these teachers at best... Which when you sit back and
think about it logically is a very strange concept indeed. Don't get me wrong I would have loved to have experienced training
under all of those teachers, but to do them justice today is to carry on their teachings, not disregard them.

Naturally Karate will change, situations change, and times will change and evolve too, but like these very words spoken on
Karate by Funakoshi Sensei himself, we should;

"Cherish the Old but Embrace the New"  Gichin Funakoshi Sensei

After training when looking towards the photos that head your Dojo, don't do so out of worship, that's pointless, out of
respect though yes. But also ask yourself honestly what you think Miyagi or Funakoshi Sensei would think of the Karate
training that you are doing had they witnessed it firsthand.  Would they be happy with your effort, commitment, and progress
being made in the art or style that carries their name? or would they be downright alarmed? Personally I feel that only a very
small percentage of Karate Ka practising today would receive a nod of approval. I know I've often walked out of my old Dojo
after doing this feeling totally dismayed with myself, thus promising to do better next time. It is not just about effort and
endeavour though, far from it in fact, most would get 100% for effort, it's about practising the art of Karate correctly and in a
way that the likes of Miyagi, Funakoshi and Motobu were raised on and wholeheartedly believed in.

Remember; even Funakoshi himself all those years ago had doubts about directions taken, as he hinted in his work
"Karate
Do My Way of Life",
mentioning that he thought his very own teachers Itosu and Azato would be disgruntled by the direction
Karate had gone in for some, especially so in comparison to the invaluable and quality training he had received under their
guidance. Yesterday it may have been, but it's a lesson for Karate Ka of today...
"Your Karate is Today, Not Yesterday"
Speaking of living Karate in the now and present, not the past. If one searches hard enough, has the correct attitude, and
puts the time and effort in, then quality guidance in Authentic Karate is still out there for those who genuinely seek it.

With this in mind, I have posted below ten pieces of advice and guidance on Karate that have been spoken by a present
day Sensei, as in
Minoru Higa Sensei of the Kyudokan Dojo in Okinawa. All are essential for understanding the basis of
true Okinawan Karate, regardless of style or system practised.

(For those of you still thinking over my words written on
Going to Ground, please note number one).


Words of Advice from Minoru Higa Sensei


"In the old days a fall would mean death, so in Karate we must always avoid falling or going to the floor"  

"The most difficult concept to learn in Karate is the art of learning to control your own body"

"If you have the initiative, you have control over your opponent, and victory in sight"

"Do not put a block where there is nothing to protect, a block only protects the body not the sides, and remember, your attack may
also be your defence"

"In Okinawan Karate there are no excesses or big movements"

"Movements are small and built around the centre of gravity around the tanden"

"You must block and strikes from the positions that your hands are already in"

"An old saying on Okinawa was that the feet or kicks were not to be lifted above the belt"

"Use minimum movements but create maximum results"

"Without regular practise, there is no Karate"
"Training Advice by Minoru Higa Sensei"
I took the above photograph of Naminoue temple in Okinawa a few years ago now, and I've always really liked it, why this is I'm
not quite sure. But, with it being fresh, bright and colourful, whilst being close to nature and spiritual, it always gives me an
uplifting feeling, acting as a kind of reminder of how good and precious life really is, especially so when times are a little hard.
This of course then dispels any negativity and sets off a positive and good mindset for the future...

With the New Year closely approaching us this will bring about varying customs on Okinawa, with visits to family, friends, and
temples like Naminoue. This will include the customary 108 chimes of the bell to see out the old and bring in the new, as people
then remember those they have lost, whilst praying for good luck and fortune, together with warding off any unwanted bad luck or
evil spirits too.

Speaking of good feeling, the old, the new, visiting, photographs and the future, not forgetting Karate of course...  The second
photograph was taken one Sunday evening around three years ago in my former Dojo. Again, I like this photo for a number of
reasons, but mostly because it reminds of the close bond and friendships that regular hard training in a real Karate Dojo can
bring.

I will soon be travelling up country to spend time with 6 of the long term friends who are with me on this photograph, along with a
few other good people and Karate Ka who I have known for many years too. There will be some hard training shared, as we do...
Together with some serious discussions on a few issues, plus light hearted ones too, some good food, drink, and laughter I'm
sure. I have witnessed this close comradeship both in Okinawa, and in various other environments visited around the world.
When people share testing personal experiences, battles and sacrifices together, especially so over many years, it naturally
brings about a mutual respect and friendship that one has to have experienced or been a part of to be appreciated, there will be
a very close and lasting bond formed.

Senaha Sensei puts all of this more simply
"The Karate Ka of a true Dojo will become Family".

(Thursday 18th December 2014)