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#433844 - 09/21/11 02:27 PM Full contact Karate & the Sabaki Method
Prizewriter Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 10/23/05
Posts: 2577
Hello folks.

I first heard about the "Sabaki Method" while doing Aikido. I'm aware that most karate styles do some sort of Tai Sabaki, but I was intrigued about the Sabaki used in full contact karate styles (particualrly Ashihara and Enshin). The idea, as I understand it, is to avoid your opponents attack while placing yourself in the best position to counter. Seems like a sound theory.

I'm still interested in the method, but in looking it up I've noticed something. Below is a demonstration of the Sabaki method in Enshin:

Agsin, seems sound. With all that said, what happens in the clips of Enshin matches or Ashihara matches I've watched is that there doesn't seem to be any of this method used. It always ends up looking like Kyokushin, all linear movement and straight on attacks. Here's an example of what I mean:

Is the Sabaki method only used in drills for "self defence" purposes or is it practiced in sparring too? I realize full contact striking sparring is tough and what you've drilled doesn't always come across in sparring, but there doesn't always seem to be a lot of sabaki in the Ashihara/Enshin fights I watch. I'm don't mean this in a critical, negative way, just curious as to why it is?
"Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food" Hippocrates.

#433845 - 09/21/11 03:46 PM Re: Full contact Karate & the Sabaki Method [Re: Prizewriter]
Zach_Zinn Offline

Registered: 12/09/07
Posts: 1031
Loc: Olympia, WA
Just an oberservation, and i'm not sure how relevant it will be:

While the instructional video says moving to the outside is the only 'smart move', I think that moving tot he outside isn't always easy against someone who knows you are trying to do it. It's also much easier to do against linear attacks than against circular ones.

So part of the answer might be that ironically, if you are fighting another Karateka trained like you and no one is able to obtain an outside position, you will end up head to head.

#433846 - 09/21/11 03:58 PM Re: Full contact Karate & the Sabaki Method [Re: Zach_Zinn]
iaibear Offline

Registered: 08/24/05
Posts: 1304
Loc: upstate New York
Oddly enough, just yesterday my traditional Aikido sensei was introducing us to a variation very similar to the Sabaki technique in the first position. Behind Uke's attacking hand did seem like the only sensible place to go.

Edited by iaibear (09/21/11 04:01 PM)
Edit Reason: more relevant

#433847 - 09/21/11 04:00 PM Re: Full contact Karate & the Sabaki Method [Re: Prizewriter]
gojuman59 Offline

Registered: 04/08/11
Posts: 224
Loc: Missouri

I would say that all the "knockdown" karate styles probably have training that involves techniques shown in the first clip. This is where it ends.This isn't a criticisim of the style. I do know that when you get to banging like those guys do there really isn't the time to "slip and counter." While I do Goju ryu and it's different than that, there are some things that I notice when we get to banging real hard.It's very hard to shift off the line for countering in a "sparring" situation. If you notice that the "knockdown" guys seem to want to keep their opponent right in front of them.This is probably for a couple of reasons. They want to keep in "banging range." Also since it's knockdown you can put yourself in a dangerous position if you slip to the side with a good headkicker.This goes way back to my TKD days. I used to use my roundhouse to the head on opponents who lingered too long off to your side/front.
All this being said, I would think that the drilling shown in the first clip probably comes into play more in a self-defense situation.That's just my 2cents worth. You will get a better answer from one of the knockdown karate guys.


#433857 - 09/23/11 09:36 AM Re: Full contact Karate & the Sabaki Method [Re: gojuman59]
Ives Offline

Registered: 04/25/05
Posts: 691
Loc: the Netherlands
Most Sabaki-method matches are open to different karateka, so you might not always see sabaki in use.
Zach-Zinn also made a good comment: "moving tot he outside isn't always easy against someone who knows you are trying to do it". Sound logical.

#433877 - 09/27/11 08:32 AM Re: Full contact Karate & the Sabaki Method [Re: Ives]
Dobbersky Offline
Peace Works!!!!

Registered: 03/13/06
Posts: 921
Loc: Manchester United Kingdom
Strange, I am an Ashihara Karateka and I had noticed this before lol.

We teach Sabaki as movements for Defence, against untrained or done a bit street situations, although, I teach my kata applications from Stand-up to ground work. I find the “Sabaki” movement on the ground has the affectionate nickname of “Shrimping”.

The Sparring (Kumite) well it is as you have suggested. More on stand and pummel or similar to "Milling" that was/is used in the British Armed Forces. It’s hard to use Sabaki "against" someone who is trying to use it against you, becomes a bit of a stalemate

I would suggest that our type of Kumite is similar to that of Thai Fighters and Kick Boxers although we do allow grabs and throws! Don't get me wrong ALL of the fighters are looking for that illusive Sabaki movement but some of the techniques are deemed "Illegal" in Competition, the same as in other styles of MMA, Karate, Kick-boxing, Jujitsu and Judo.

I would love to see Aikido, Hapkido too, Competitions where the 2 fighters are out to win (not choreographed).

Sabaki is in most styles it has different names, I think Judokas like to call it Kazushi. We also have Tai Sabaki and Ashi Sabaki but it’s good in 1-Step but what about Competition

A man is but the product of his thoughts what he thinks, he becomes.


#433881 - 09/27/11 10:51 AM Re: Full contact Karate & the Sabaki Method [Re: Dobbersky]
gojuman59 Offline

Registered: 04/08/11
Posts: 224
Loc: Missouri

Well said Dobbersky-san.I think that alot of the concepts that we learn in MA really are geared to use against others that aren't trained.The stalemate you speak of is real and I've experienced it in training in my Goju class.
Knockdown karate does appear to be stand and pummel.It seems to be a war of attrition in a way.It's not for everybody, but for those who do it they have my respect.You never have to question the toughness of a knockdown karate guy.


#433884 - 09/27/11 05:12 PM Re: Full contact Karate & the Sabaki Method [Re: gojuman59]
Zach_Zinn Offline

Registered: 12/09/07
Posts: 1031
Loc: Olympia, WA
Kazushi means to imbalance, not the same as tai sabaki, which as far as I know roughly translates to "body positioning".

I really think the stalemate thing is the main answer here, maybe the results would be different in the grabbing wasn't allowed, I think what you see with the head to head is a result of the stalemate and the ruleset. If there were no grabbing allowed I assume you'd see more circling and 'rangey' stuff.

Not to put down Ashihara or Enshin, but obviously this idea of taking an outside angle is not unique to those styles, so I wouldn't neccesarily expect their sparring to be all that different from anyone else.

Edited by Zach_Zinn (09/27/11 05:13 PM)

#433885 - 09/27/11 06:47 PM Re: Full contact Karate & the Sabaki Method [Re: Prizewriter]
MattJ Offline
Free Rhinoplasty!

Registered: 11/25/04
Posts: 15634
Loc: York PA. USA
Hey PW, I totally missed this post before. Sabaki is definitely used at butterfly's Ashihara school in Los Angeles. Those guys can do it for real in sparring quite effectively. I'm not sure about other schools, maybe they don't put it into sparring as much.
"In case you ever wondered what it's like to be knocked out, it's like waking up from a nightmare only to discover it wasn't a dream." -Forrest Griffin

#434318 - 12/14/11 09:49 PM Re: Full contact Karate & the Sabaki Method [Re: MattJ]
hedkikr Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 02/28/05
Posts: 2827
Loc: Southern California, USA
First of all, Enshin comes from Ashihara (Ninomiya was one of ashihara's top students), therefore the methods are essentially identical.

The video did a good job @ explaining the basic concept, but don't forget that karate isn't static. There may be several movements (back & forth, side-to-side, faking etc.) before the best opportunity to utilize one of the four directions for a specific attack/counter happens.

The primary goal of the tai sabaki (which I teach) is to gain maximum tactical advantage & be able to off-balance (kuzushi) -if possible- and finish the fight (sparring or SD).

Ed Ichihara Smith - Shukokai


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