Karate-do is, to a large degree, learning how to hit and where to hit. You learn how to hit, including how to move your body to generate power, how to position your body to apply power, and what parts of your body to hit with. You also learn where to hit your opponent - vital points, anatomical weaknesses, and a touch of physiology so that you will understand the results and consequences of hitting a person a certain way.
I teach vital targets in levels of increasing specificity and precision. At the basic level I teach people to mostly aim for center of mass - the vital points are intentionally vague as the student is learning the 'how to' of atemi. As the student progresses the kata become more and more specific and my teaching of vital point striking becomes more detailed as to location, direction, type of stimulation, etc...
For the basic level of striking, imagine a human body with a 4" wide stripe painted vertically down the centerline, a 4" wide stripe painted horizontally across the solar plexus and lower ribs, and a 4" wide stripe painted horizontally across the pit of the stomach and the groin. These stripes describe the basics of vital point striking. At the basic level, all your major targets (except knees and kidneys) lie on these three lines, and getting within about 2" on either side of the specific point is precision enough. On these lines, your targets include:
- facemask area
- corner of chin
- throat and neck
- solar plexus
- hip joints
In closing, an excerpt from Man of the West's pretty good History of Karate article - (a history that agrees in large part with my understanding of the subject and with my opinions, but still gave me a couple of juicy points that I didn't already know - e.g. the Jigen-ryu connection). Here MotW basically agrees with me that learning the 'how to' along with very basic 'where to' is often good enough to git-r-dun.___________
At any rate, [karate-do] is still often very effective! Of course, that may be partly because another modification took place, possibly apart from Funakoshi's intentions: his style, Shotokan, began to emphasize the development of power in the execution of techniques. What else could his students do? If you don't have the pressure point knowledge, you had better be able to hit hard. ... And if a practitioner somehow comes into possession of the pressure-point knowledge, then Shotokan becomes all about shockingly powerful strikes to vital points. Certainly nothing to sneeze at.
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