Shotokan in the street

Demonstrated by D Kirkham
Article first Published (July 1987)                                         Revised (May 2001) Issue # 3

Shotokan in the streets is the title of a series of two videos that were produced by the Shotokan Karate Union in the 1980s that featured its director of coaching. Stills from the videos were successfully reproduced and serialised in "Traditional Karate and Combat" magazines. The original purpose of the videos was not to be a mini course in self defence but was to raise the interest levels in the study of traditional kata bunkei & oyo; by highlighting that there are many little hidden gems that are nestled inside the traditional kata of karate, and how that they can be utilised for the purpose of self defence, if they are slightly adapted to suit a street situation. It has long been our belief, that there are three distinctly separate disciplines when people refer to the generic term of karate. Generally these three disciplines are not readily understood by the general public and the distinctions are blurred in the public’s perception. Sometimes, they are deliberately being blurred by some unscrupulous coaches, as a method to help them to sell their product to a wider uneducated audience. By that is meant that owners of karate clubs advertise things that they don’t really offer nor are they qualified to teach in; they are purposefully misleading the public merely to attract members that they wouldn't get if they were being honest or specific about the ethos of the club. In other words, if your purpose for learning karate is based solely around learning in a short time a means of pure self defence, then there is no need for to join a traditional karate club, equally there is no real point in learning the kata or any of the etiquette and history that is involved in the study of traditional karate. That isn't to say that there are no techniques within traditional karate if taken in isolation from either the kata or kumite that would make excellent self defence techniques when slightly adapted to fit the street application. So if self defence is ones primary motivation then my advice would be to go and take a short course in self defence or MMA lessons or some similar combative discipline that is more naturally akin to street fighting. Likewise, don't join a sports karate club expecting to learn the history, the traditions and the ancient methods and techniques of traditional karate. Also don't think that because you "practice karate" that you are automatically a traditional karate-ka, as the traditions of traditional karate have been dramatically exaggerated, compromised and many of which have been dropped wholesale, to make "sport karate" an acceptable sporting activity to the eyes of the Olympic selection committee. The sports karate kata nowadays are a more stylised version, and a more over emphasised version when compared to their related traditional kata of the same name, however, in most cases it makes the kata a more artistic and spectacular performance experience for the general viewing public, this viewer friendly approach is a long awaited change for the good in so many ways. Sports kumite however, has deliberately lost many of the dangerous techniques that are involved in traditional karate, just as judo did prior to and continually after its acceptance into the Tokyo Olympics. That isn't to say that sports karate-ka are less skilful than their traditional counterparts, oh no! There is indeed some highly proficient sports karate-ka, many of whom come from a traditional background. Sports kumite players seem to place their emphasis squarely on different things to those of the traditional karate-ka. For many sports karate players, any input other than something that will contribute to giving them the edge on winning in a sporting contest is not something that is of any interest to them. Sports karate is not a self defence system as sports karate techniques especially these days are thrown to gain a point’s advantage over an opponent whilst operating under the supervision of the strict safety rules of a sporting setting, their aim is not "ikken hissatsu" as with the traditionalists of years gone by, it is however, aiming to inflicting the least harm to their opponent while picking up the points, otherwise, they would lose the match through disqualification for excessive contact. But even the most traditional Japanese associations these days seems to be bowing to the publics requirement for a sport orientated system, due in no small way to the ever growing litigious nature of society and to the perceived softening of attitudes towards what are and are not acceptable training practices. The most confusing situation of all however, for the public and new members of "Karate"clubs to differentiate is, what form of karate is it that they are they practicing, especially if it is the "hybrid" version of karate. This is where the club advertises they are a traditional karate club and the instructor takes on the mantel of what he believes a traditional karate instructors should be,  they have to guess as they have no first hand experience of a traditional Japanese instructor.  They may only have 10 years experience themselves gained in a non traditional karate club environment, and when it comes to their kumite practice they only study the sport form of kumite, they even offer sports kumite techniques as pure self defence techniques. All in all there is a confusing minefield for would be new members to choose from and often it is long after they have joined a club when they become aware of the fact that there are different paths in karate practice and the path that the club they have joined is not the one that matches their perceptions of what karate is or indeed what it is that they want from practicing karate. I firmly believe this is why sports people frown on traditionalist saying that a traditionalists kumite doesn't hold up in today's sports arena and that is also why practitioners of pure self defence systems say that traditional kata is a pointless pursuit, its no good for self defence and that is why some traditionalist frown upon both the sports karate players and the practitioners of purely for self defence systems. That said, this series of scenarios isolates techniques from various traditional kata and puts them into a street setting, merely to stimulate the thought process of traditional karate students to accompany their physical training actions that are taken in the dojo. Another aim is that they will generate an interest in understanding the kata a little better. Hopefully through a better understanding, then ones performance of the kata can only improve, especially if the element of visualisation has previously been the missing ingredient in ones kata training regime. Visualisation during practice for performance has proven over the years to help a large group of students push themselves on to achieving a much higher standard of performance.

street fight scenario 1 Shotokan Karate Union

tate empi Shotokan Karate Union

kime waza Shotokan Karate Union

otoshi empi Shotokan Karate Union

Photo 1

This is a scenario where a lone individual is at risk, when they are getting into their car especially when it is parked off the main road.
Photo 2

Using tate empi as a defence as seen in  Nijushiho. The attacker, is using mawashi tsuki.
Photo 3

The defender stretches out the arm that has just performed the tate empi to grab the hair, or the ear if the attacker is bald or has short hair, to perform jodan tsuki to the trachea.

Photo 4

Continuing to pull the attacker sideways and downwards and perform otoshi empi to the carotid artery and jugular vein.

ushiro gedan barai Shotokan Karate Union

age tsuki Shotokan Karate Union

hiza geri Shotokan Karate Union

otoshi tsuki Shotokan Karate Union

Photo 5

Ushiro gedan barai as seen in Enpi to the opponents front kick.
Photo 6

Counter with jodan age tsuki.
Photo 7

Grab the hair and perform hiza geri also in the same Enpi sequence.
Photo 8

Finish this encounter with gedan tsuki to the symphis pubis. Whilst not performed in the kosa dachi as in Enpi, the net effect  is the same.
haishu uke Shotokan Karate Union mawashi empi Shotokan Karate Union
Photo 1a

This scenario the defender is on foot. When  approaching a corner you should never take a close inside line as it hinders ones range of vision. 
Photo 2a

Notice how the defender has stepped out to offer some distance allowing him to parry the punch with haishu uke as seen in  Kanku sho.
Photo 3a

Maegeri to the groin not the usually associated mikatsuki geri after a haishu uke that is seen in many of the kata.
Photo 4a

However, the mawashi empi uchi as seen in Heian Godan, Bassai dai and others is the usual follow on technique.
Photo 5a

Attacker 1 is momentarily stunned from the mawashi empi uchi which allows the time to halt a would be maegeri from attacker 2 by using a blocking yoko geri aimed at the opponents shin as in Bassai dai.
Photo 6a

With attacker 2 also momentarily stunned you are now able to finish off attacker 1 with the use of hiza geri as in Heian yondan.
Photo 7a

Attacker 2 throws a mawashi tsuki, stepping inside with tai sabaki and blocking jodan age shuto uke as in Bassai dai this allows you to grab and control them with tsukami uke.
Photo 8a

Pulling down his arm and grabbing the hair allows full control to pull him in a rotational manner.
Photo 9a

Resulting in total destabilisation of  the opponent.
Photo 10a

Follow up immediately with the decisive blow of otoshi tate tsuki.

uchi uke Shotokan Karate Union

ura tsuki Shotokan Karate Union

fumikomi Shotokan Karate Union

Photo 1b

The first move is jodan uchi uke but is inspired by the heiwan uke from the first sequence of Heian nidan. 
Photo 2b

As is the counter attack of the ura tsuki, and it is assisted here with a hair grab and head pull.
Photo 3b

Take the punching hand and grab the head pulling the opponent to the ground leaving you in the gyaku gedan barai posture.
Photo 4b

Fumikomi is the decisive blow and aimed at the kidneys of the now face down attacker.

heian yondan Shotokan Karate Union

Photo 5b

Heian yondan is the source of photos 5b, 6b, 7b. Morote uke is the initial defence.
Photo 6b

Shifting the body weight forward to perform the head grab.
Photo 7b

Pulling down the opponents head and simultaneously attacking with hiza geri.
Photo 8b

An additional gedan tsuki to the groin ends this scenario.

chinte nakadaka ippon ken tsuki Shotokan Karate Union

mawashi uke Shotokan Karate Union

Photo 1c

Double lapel grab is the defence scenario.
Photo 2c

Nakadaka ippon ken hassami tsuki as seen in Chinte but this time to a jodan not chudan target.
Photo 3c

Once stunned perform mawashi uke as in Nijushiho.
Photo 4c

Step forward and push the attacker away.

Photo 5c

Now the opponent is in range for a follow on technique of choice such as a kick.

yori ashi gedan shuto Shotokan Karate Union

ogoshi Shotokan Karate Union

Photo 6c

An attempted grab from behind if foiled by side stepping in yori ashi and perform gedan shuto uchi to the groin.
Photo 7c

Grab the attacker as he stoops forward and
perform ogoshi hip throw as implied in katas Heian sandan, & Gojushiho.
Photo 8c

Use an arm lever to
control the attacker
before delivering the final technique.
Photo 9c

Drop the body weight into your otoshi tsuki to deliver the decisive blow.

Photo 1d

This scenario offers four different options to the same grab from behind,  the start position will be the same in all four options.

tekki nidan Shotokan Karate Union

hangetsu Shotokan Karate Union

gankaku Shotokan Karate Union

Photo 2d
Option 1

If you are alerted early enough of the grab then drop the bodyweight, open the chest and pull the arms apart as in the first
move of Tekki nidan.
Photo 3d

Alternatively if you are caught totally unaware then use the double knuckle fist as seen in Hangetsu this secures a release, which is  enough to launch your counter.
Photo 4d

Which this time is the arm lever over the shoulder as seen in Kanku dai and Gankaku.

heian sandan Shotokan Karate Union

Photo 5d
Option 2
Photo 6d

Again using the double knuckle fist.
Photo 7d

Then use yori ashi to the side allowing you to perform tsuki age the swinging punch over the shoulder as seen
in Heian sandan.

Photo 8d
Option 3
Photo 9d

To secure the freeing action use kaishu ryo sho yama kamae, which is  taken from Hangetsu.
Photo 10d

Deliver your counter with the gedan shuto uchi again from Hangetsu.

Photo 11d
Option 4
Photo 12d

Using the ogoshi major hip throw as implied in Gojushiho sho.
Photo 13d

You are now in the ideal position to deliver the decisive blow of choice.

knife attack Shotokan Karate Union

Photo 1e

This scenario offers three different options to a roundward knife attack or punch. The start position will be the same in all three options.

mikatsuki geri Shotokan Karate Union

kinsetsu geri Shotokan Karate Union

Photo 2e
Option 1 

Uses Mikatsuki geri from Heian godan, Bassai dai etc..

Photo 3e

Secure a grip of the attacking hand and use Kinsetsu geri /
Fumikiri geri taken
from Basssai dai.

Photo 4e

The dislocation kick
creates destabilisation which allows you
to take control of the weapon.

tsukami uke Shotokan Karate Union

Photo 5e
Option 2 

Uses the more familiar blocking technique of tsukami uke from Bassai dai.

Photo 6e

As in the previous option secure a grip of the attacking hand and use Kinsetsu geri /
Fumikiri geri taken
from Basssai dai.
Photo 7e

The dislocation kick
creates destabilisation which allows you
to take control of the weapon.

Photo 8e
Option 3 uses

Uchi uke with an
open hand as in
Photo 9e

As in the previous option secure a grip of the attacking hand.
Photo 10 e

Counter with maegeri aimed at symphis pubis.
Photo 11e

Pull the attacker forward and deliver the decisive blow of otoshi empi uchi aimed at the jugular vein and carotid artery.

heian nidan Shotokan Karate Union

uraken Shotokan Karate Union

Photo 1f

This scenario utilises techniques from several kata.
Photo 2f

Gedan gyaku uchi haito
barai from Heian nidan against the opponents
chudan maegeri.
Photo 3f

Move in close with uraken in kosa dachi as in Heian yondan.
Photo 4f

Follow on to deliver the decisive blow of tate empi as in Chinte.

kanku dai Shotokan Karate Union

sochin Shotokan Karate Union

Photo 5f

The opponent grabs your arm, and the following moves were inspired by Kanku dai whilst individual moves can be seen in other kata.
Photo 6f

Step inwards to close the distance and elevate the grabbed arm.
Photo 7f

Use the opening technique from Heian nidan but use it as uraken not as haiwan uke.
Photo 8f

Perform tettsui uchi /
wanto uchi creating
muso kamae
as in Sochin.

Photo 9f

Mawashi empi uchi
seen in Heian godan,
Tekki shodan,
Bassai dai and others.

Photo 1g

This long range photo highlights the wisdom of never walking too close
to a wall when
approaching corners
as it give one a
wider range of vision.
jion Shotokan Karate Union

nagashi uke Shotokan Karate Union

Photo 2g

Kosa uke as in Jion, blocks the attackers front kick.
Photo 3g

The none blocking hand is poised for the counter attack of kizami tsuki to the trachea.
Photo 4g

Hineri uke / Nagashi uke  blocks Mawashi tsuki taken from Sochin.
Photo 5g

Immediately followed by Ura tsuki / Uraken uchi.

Photo 6g

Gedan shuto uke from Heian yondan and Kanku dai blocks the maegeri attack.

Photo 7g

Simultaneously perform jodan Taisho nagashi uke and gedan taisho uchi similar to Heian godan.

osae uke Shotokan Karate Union

nukite Shotokan Karate Union

Photo 8g

Directly taken from
Shuto uke.

Photo 9g

Osae uke.

Photo 10g

Shihon nukite.

Photo 11g

And an additional Gyaku tsuki to the solar plexus or sternum is the decisive blow.

nijushiho Shotokan Karate Union

Sequence one

mae empi Shotokan Karate Union

Osae uke The Gyaku tsuki is slightly adapted to strike over the osae uke unlike in the kata where it appears under the osae uke.

Likewise the Mae empi uchi it is slightly adapted here to strike over arm towards the chin of the attacker unlike the usual application of using it underneath as a fulcrum for an arm lever.

Sequence two

tate empi Shotokan Karate Union

Another slight adaptation
to the usually taught application, in as much
that the Tate empi
is used as a block and
not as a strike.
Soto uke blocks
the Gyaku tsuki.
The Gedan barai here
is aimed at the groin
and is used as the
decisive blow not as a block.
Remember that the examples here are to stimulate thought and to highlight that with a slight adaptation to suit the arena of the street that kata do possess numerous workable self defence techniques. 

They are not intended as a substitute for qualified instruction in self defence.

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