Kyoshi's Technique of the Week

May 23th, 2016

This week's thought is from Kyoshi Michael Mackay
Ueshiro Midtown Karate Dojo,
Ueshiro Shorin-Ryu Karate USA

MMA and the Imaginary Opponent

Onegai shimasu, Hanshi, Sensei and Deshi of Ueshiro Shorin-Ryu USA,

As the Gracie family and televised "full contact" cage fighting rise in
popularity, one often hears debates such as "What style is better, karate
or jiu-jitsu? Judo or kick boxing?" followed by a surge in enrollment at
schools vaguely associated with the reigning champion. Those of us deeply
invested in a classical martial art such as Ueshiro Shorin-Ryu might
wonder if our traditional training truly prepares us for opponents skilled
in other fighting forms.

My suggestion is if you're concerned about your abilities to defend
against a boxer, grappler, street fighter, knife fighter, etc.:

(1) Research how these people attack and defend in life and death
situations (vs. movies or sports entertainment).

(2) Select one or two strategies or techniques from your kata or
yaku-soku kumite best suited to defeat such an opponent. (Denying the
opponent an opportunity to attack is a good start.)

(3) Practice those strategies or techniques to a level of proficiency you
believe greatly exceeds the skill level of your imaginary opponent.

I do NOT recommend:

(1) Diluting the speed or accuracy of your Shorin-Ryu reflexes by
practicing techniques from another fighting art.

(2) Stepping into a cage, ring or dark alley to "test" your skill level
and find out what it's like to get choked, pummeled or knifed.

(3) Spending large amounts of time watching random fights on YouTube or
playing videos games that simulate violence.

As white belts we're taught to practice kata against our imaginary
opponents. Depending on the type of day you're having, such opponents may
emerge from last night's MMA broadcast, a newspaper headline, an
irritating colleague, or the dark recesses of your past. Back on the
deck, Sun Tzu's classic, "Know your opponent and know yourself" becomes
vital as we go through the hard work of analyzing the opponent's strengths
and weaknesses vs. our own. Over many hypothetical battles - preferably
during kata - we eventually discover a specific strategy or technique that
will optimize our chances for success. It all depends on our analytical
(as opposed to creative) powers of imagination.

Alas, there are a LOT of hypothetical opponents. The "Shorin-Ryu Okinawan
Karate Q&A Book" lists more than 53 martial arts systems; add in MMA
hybrids, self-proclaimed masters, and hardened street fighters and you
start to realize that the basics your Sensei has been trying to teach you
all along are your best bet for survival - no matter what your opponent's
fighting style or skill. In this regard, Ueshiro Shorin-Ryu Karate-Do has
served us very well.

Will Fukyugata San assure you victory against a Joe Frazier or Royce
Gracie? It depends. Will the fight takes place on your terms or theirs?
Will you first research the strategies of heavyweight boxing or Brazilian
jiu-jitsu? How are you defining "victory?" As long as you pick up the
pace of your training and practice Fukyugata San as if every move holds
the power to preserve your life or take away your opponent's, then there
is no NEED to fight, let alone prove which style or combatant is better.
Cancel the match and get on with what is truly important in your life.

Domo arigato gozaimasu, Hanshi and Grand Master Ueshiro, for your "Just do
it" and "Keep training" philosophies.

- Kyoshi Michael Mackay
Ueshiro Midtown Karate Dojo