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Kata for knife defense is big-time B.S.

This thing makes the rounds every so often, and it's a good 4-minute laugh-riot, right? Well, if we are  honest, it makes instructors uncomfortable too, because of the kernel of truth within it.
In aikido and judo, we often do hand-to-hand randori or sparring with a goal of 50% success rate. That is, I "win" about half the time and the other guy "wins" about half the time. This is not just trading throws (nagekomi), it is managing the intensity and controlling our objectives such that it is a toss-up as to who is going to come out on top in every encounter. If you find yourself throwing the other guy down 80-100% of the time then something is wrong with how you are doing randori. You need to dial it down so that the other guy has a chance to work his material and you need to reconsider what your goals are for randori - maybe work on something besides throwing.
But when you give uke a knife, if the practice conditions are even remotely realistic, then tori's success rate should plummet to near-zero. The knife is just that good a weapon.
If, through practice, we can build tori's success rate back up to near 50% while maintaining moderate realism, that is a phenomenal result! That suggests that the addition of a knife wouldn't change the odds much beyond those of a hand-to-hand encounter. That would be superb knife-defense - bordering on amazing!
I think we get into trouble doing knife-defense in kata (as in Kodokan Goshinjutsu or Tomiki Sankata or Rokukata). In kata, tori is defined to have a 100% success rate and he is forced to look and move a certain way while doing it. The only way this is possible to overcome this double-whammy against a knife-wielding partner is for uke to throw the encounter badly in tori's favor, like Bob is teaching in the video above.
Therein lies the knife-defense B.S. factor.
I think kata is the culprit - at least, embu (demonstration) mode kata. Attempting to hit 100% against a knife while moving in a prescribed manner is impossible. But kata is not totally useless - what if we take the kata patterns as starting points and redefine our goals and what we think kata is supposed to be.
What if kata were a set of pre-arranged starting points for a randori-like drill, in which the goal were to survive (not triumph) about 50% of the time against a live (semi-resistant) partner?  That would be doable!
By starting with the kata patterns, you are able to reproduce the starting conditions precisely, which allows you to study some particular area of interest.  
In drills you are allowed (maybe even expected) to fail sometimes - which is unacceptable in kata.  By reducing the target from 100% to 50% you eliminate the ego threat involved in learning to do kata. No longer do you have to worry about failure as an ego threat because a drill is like a game of tag in which you are supposed to lose 50% of the time (because losing is valuable experience too).

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Patrick Parker

1 comment:

  1. I believe as well that knife defenses have extremely low succes rates at best, and that they may actually putting us in more danger in real life situations. I like your idea of training first to maybe survive a knife attack. Surely there are physical movements that will enable your survival, but in a real life situation survival will probably largely depend on the environment, like using other tools/weapons against the person, escape routes, contacting others. Of course there's also identifying and avoiding a situation before it happens, but I guess part of the point is that these things happen when we least expect it. Funny video!


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