Goju-Ryu Karate-Do Kyohan
by Yamaguchi Gogen "The Cat"
Editor's note: This article is the
second in a three part series excerpted from Yamaguschi's
classic karate text, "Goju Ryu Karate Do Kyohan:
The History and Fundamentals of Goju-Ryu Karate,"
now in reprint. Previous articles in this series were
History and Fundamentals of Goju-Ryu Karate."and
Significance of Kata."
Before Starting Kumite (Practice Fighting)
In kumite, you use all the basic techniques,
movements, and kata for actual attacks and defenses.
is yakusoku kumite, in which the movements are performed
by the book; and jiyu-kumite, in which the movements
are performed freely.
In either instance, the practice will be changed
from a single practice to a practice with more than
one person so that there are many things you have
to pay attention to.
First of all, you have to choose the right opponent.
The first condition is, you should choose someone
who is the same level as you are, or preferably better
than you are. You can see that when you practice the
basics or movements of kata, it is helpful if you
have more than one person to practice with because
you can defend against many types of opponents.
The techniques and standing positions used in the
practice of kumite are the same as the practice of
basic techniques; however, in jiyu kumite, different
techniques or standing positions can be used. Yet,
the foundation has to be the extension of the basics.
Although you did very well in individual practices
and you have very good basics, having an opponent
in actual kumite is very difficult and you cannot
perform as you want. When you practice kumite, you
have to pay attention to the next points:
there has to be a certain distance. Even though you
have a strong attacking technique, if the distance
is too far, the attack can fail. Kumite is the combination
of attack and defense, therefore, a one-sided performance
is useless. The timing has to match the opponent's
movements. When you use techniques in attacks and
defenses in an actual fight, you have to have kime-waza
[timing] when you attack consciously. In the game,
this is the technique to gain the point. For the technique
to be effective, your mind will have to be enriched
and it appears outwardly in your kiai (shout).
When you proceed with your techniques, speed is needed;
however, if you attack or change position continuously
and recklessly, you cannot make use of timing. For
that reason, after you perform kime-waza (timing)
as zanshin (continuing spirit), you have to leave
some place in your mind to enrich your power.
Furthermore, to catch the opponent's movement in
advance and read his mind and therefore know which
technique he will use, you have to gaze into his eyes,
which is called "me-tsuke."
Yakusoku-kumite is the performing of movements against
an opponent structured by the basics with an opponent
by having the kind of techniques and the directions
arranged in advance. It is decided by how many techniques
the attacking side uses. It can be ippon-kumite [one-point
kumite], nihon-kumite [two-point kumite], or more.
The most basic techniques, which are standing, thrusting,
and catching techniques, are used. It follows the
basics, and both have the same standing position --
if the opponent has the right leg out in front, the
other has the right leg out in front as well, or if
the opponent thrusts with the right hand, the other
catches his hand with his right hand. In yakusoku-kumite,
the person who performs defense will use attacking
techniques at the end. On the other hand, there is
applied yakusoku kumite, in which the basic and applied
techniques are structured promisingly for use in an
actual fight. The number of techniques used are not
limited in applied yakusoku-kumite; therefore, the
number of structures are uncountable. Still, this
is promised kumite and is usually performed by two
people; however, there are practices in which three,
four, or even more people perform what is called applied
kumite. When applied kumite is practiced by many people,
depending on how many are involved, the person on
the opposite side will be indicated.
refers to the practice of using all the techniques
you have learned until now against an opponent. You
cannot be off your guard even a second. This is a
very serious training method. If you do it for enjoyment,
you can get injured. Jiyu-kumite is not designed for
deciding victory or defeat. It is the practice of
offense and defense with the development of the techniques.
You can not improve if you always think about victory.
As a matter of fact, you should not excite (or stimulate)
your opponent more than needed when you practice kumite.
You have to respect any opponent you have when you
In kumite, it is forbidden to attack your opponent
with direct contact. As a principle, any technique
you use will have to be stopped before it connects.
However, when you are in defense, you have to practice
as if you are actually being attacked. Any injuries
in kumite are usually because of carelessness. Especially
common is the injury of fingers when the fist is opened.
The fist needs to be firmly closed. Practicing using
an open hand should be restricted until you improve
There are eight kyo (opportunities) to take advantage
of when you attack:
Instantaneous kyo. Right before the opponent
changes to the next movement.
Right after the opponent has made a movement
that was not effective.
When the opponent lacks harmony between the techniques
used and his mind, during both attack and defense.
When the opponent's mind is dispersed and is
not really ready.
When the opponent loses his balance when he makes
Right before the opponent breathes in deeply.
When the opponent is confused because of your
When the opponent is daunted by your tactics
The five unguarded moments you have to prevent when
you are in defense:
The unguarded moment in the mind.
The unguarded moment in the spirit.
The unguarded moment in the technique.
The unguarded moment in the appearance.
The unguarded moment in the act. (The same as
in normal life, if you behave badly, you have
to take responsibility for your actions.) If you
use techniques that do not follow the rule, that
(3) Yakusoku-Kumite by More Than Two People
Usually, yakusoku-kumite is done by two people. One
does the attack and the other the defense. Practice
by repeating the attacks and defenses as the preceding
stage of jiyu-kumite and shiai-kumite. I especially
recommend to students who have a black belt, or who
are more than third-dan, to practice yakusoku-kumite
against two or three opponents, besides the one-on-one
practices. Jiyu-kumite and shiai-kumite (contest fighting)
are both practiced by two people. For that reason,
some people interpret that the practice against three
or four people is the art of self-defense, which is
unreasonably emphasized in karate.
However, the purpose of practicing is to build up
your strength in kumite, and when you have many opponents,
extreme reflexes are needed; therefore, you will improve
changing your positions and the continuous techniques
of uke (block) and tsuki (punch), technically and
is not done to win against many opponents, it is to
grasp the opponents' movements quickly and precisely
and for yourself to gain the advantage. Moreover,
even though most of these techniques are simple ones,
you have to try hard to learn that these techniques
can be useful and will eventually be performed unconsciously
by repeating them over and over. To learn that when
you have many opponents around you, that these opponents
will take the most advantageous place and that you
will be in the middle, a disadvantageous situation,
will allow you to think and move with all your strength.
(4) Kumite of Self-Defense for Women
Editor's note: While Yamaguchi's
portrayal of women in karate is not consistent with
modern thinking in the west, his statements are interesting
from a historical point perspective and show that
he progressive in his thinking in a country once dominated
by the male point of view.
Karate-do is spreading rapidly among men. As yet,
there are not many women who want to learn karate-do.
However, recently, some women who are interested in
karate-do can be found here and there practicing in
dojo. Few women are practicing karate with men, especially
in foreign countries. There are classes just for women
and more women are becoming interested in karate-do.
Since ancient times, the practice of karate-do was
very strict and designed for fighting. For that reason,
karate had unrelated techniques for women. However,
as the eras went by, karate-do modernized and now,
it is thought that through practicing kata many people
start learning karate as a self-defense. When women
want to learn karate-do, the purpose is for self-defense
as explained above. The discipline acquired during
the practice, character building through courtesy,
and the increased body strength are all beneficial.
From ancient times on, the techniques that are used
for karate are adopted to the dance of the East and
the dance of Okinawa. In dance, the meaning of the
dance and the movements of the hands and legs of karate
are taken in an aesthetic sense. Especially, the harmony
of the systematic movements in a kata is worth performing
without question, by both men and women. Compared
to the powerful performances by men, the elegant performances
by women can be equated to a dance. It is no exaggeration
if I say there are elements of the stillness you can
see in Noh (Japanese ancient dance) in the movements
of karate, as well as the rhythm you can see in modern
dance and the delicate balance of Thai dance.
How To Practice for Women
Primarily, it was said that the women were weak and
the violent movements that men do was moderate among
women. Now, as you can see in the Olympics, women
who train well exceed the average man. For that reason,
it is not unnatural for women to practice karate as
men do; however, although women have become stronger,
there is a limit for women who fight in karate without
the benefit of any equipment.
It is important for women to get stronger mentally
before they get physical strength. In modern society,
it is not allowed to put up with the idea that you
are a woman. In the work place, the responsibility
must be the same as well. Even though women are ladylike
and cheerful in the modern day, moderation, courtesy,
and endurance are asked for. The training of the body
and mind are not only for men. The practice of the
basics of karate and the movements and discipline
are needed. Still, although women do vigorous exercises,
they will not develop the strength of men.
In the practice of kata, you have to realize the
importance of basics and have to remember them precisely.
It is important to practice self-defense techniques
with the attitude of passiveness. It is not the practice
to twist men around your finger. There are many ways
to defend yourself. It is how you judge to defend
yourself when the danger comes suddenly that is important,
and you have to cope with the situation calmly without
There is a proverb that says: "Discretion is
the better part of valor." Self-defense techniques
for women is as the proverb says. In the explanation
of the techniques, they appear from the uke (block)
to the kime-waza, but if you have composure to throw
down the opponent, it is better to run away rather
than fight. Half-confidence is a big mistake. The
important thing is not to go to a dangerous place,
and avoid these troubles to begin with.
Us Know Your Comments & Opinions On This Article
Part 1: The
History and Fundamentals of Goju-Ryu Karate
Part 2: The
Significance of Kata
This excerpt from Yamaguchi's book, "Goju Ryu
Karate Do Kyohan," was submitted by Masters Publications.
This is the fourth book in the Limited Edition series
translated from Japanese into English and published
by Masters Publication; the first was "To-Te
Jitsu" by Funakoshi Gichin, followed by "Okinawan
Kempo" by Motobu Choki and "Wado Ryu Karate"
by Otsuka Hiroki.
For more information contact:
Mastersline/Rising Sun Video Productions
310-477-7604 fx 310-383-3135
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