Kyoshi's Technique of the Week

August 9th , 2015

From Kyoshi David Baker,Chief Administrator,
Ueshiro Shorin-Ryu Karate USA

From Angles – Get to the outside

If 360º describes the outward awareness of everything surrounding us necessary to defend ourselves, then Angles is meant to describe the inward angle at which we focus our offense at our opponent, as taught by Master Kyan.

Each kata trains us to defend against an attack from the outside, constantly turning to our side and to our rear, anticipating an attack from our blind side. In fact, many of our kata begin with a turn to the side, because that blind side is our most vulnerable position from which an attacker may strike.

And that outside position is to where, ideally, we want to shift after being attacked—especially by using his forward motion to get there. To counterattack from his blind side.

Never step straight back
Chotoku Kyan is quoted in Shoshin Nagamine’s book The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do (page 40): “(do) not take backward steps to evade blows or kicks; instead take forward steps or side steps so (you) can take the offensive right after defending (yourself).” Nagamine further writes, “To acquire this ‘offense-right-after-defense’ technique by stepping forward or sideways, Kyan used to train himself on the banks of the Hija River, keeping his back to the river or the railings of the bridge.”

Hanshi Scaglione illustrates this principle in Building Warrior Spirit, with the diagram showing the points of a compass, on page 55, stressing that—ideally—we should move in any direction except straight back while engaged with an opponent.

Get to the outside
In each of our Yakusoku kumite, we “win” as the defender immediately after we get to his outside. This is because in each sequence, we are attacked head-on but then gain the positional advantage over our opponent by shifting to his side.

Examples of this “getting to the outside to win” as the defender in Yakusoku kumite are: step #2 in Pre-arranged fighting 1; #3 in Pre 2; #1 in Pre 3; and #3 in Pre 4. The very next technique after getting to the outside of the attacker is a “winning” technique where we neutralize our opponent.

Counterattack from the outside
Later in his book, Master Nagamine, writing of the influence of another of his primary teachers, said on page 252: "Motobu, my sensei, used to preach against ‘dead kumite’. Therefore, I deliberately developed kumite, seriously considering the following seven essential conditions” (including):
4. To develop techniques to enable us to shift the body to the attacking position reflexively and naturally in order to always keep beside the opponent and avoid facing him.

5. To develop techniques to enable us to defend and attack by means of shifting the body and approaching the opponent from the side or the front, with definite determination to find some way of beating the opponent, in critical situations.

This ancient karate strategy also defines a hallmark of Cus D’Amato’s boxing philosophy that he taught his fighters, including Mike Tyson. Sensei Steve Lott, who was Tyson’s assistant manager, said: “Cus's theory was, ‘it's always good to be in a position where you can hit him but he can't hit you.’ In Mike's case that means getting completely to the side of the opponent. Even more than is seen in pre-arranged 2.”

So to summarize, in defense, we avoid stepping backward (which may be a natural reaction to being attacked), but rather we shift to the side or forward. Then, in offense, we counterattack from where we have shifted on his outside.

Now, this shifting to the outside describes where we stand to fight. And, because we always face our opponent, this ideal angle for our counterattack might be described as: “Face his midline without facing his face.”

And, as with any principle, it should be assessed in terms of its advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of being on the outside
· We are partially hidden from his view, making it difficult for him to see our incoming techniques
· We removed ourselves from his range while keeping him within ours
a. He is blocked by his own body from striking us with either of the two limbs on the opposite side of his body—arm and leg
b. His two close limbs—arm and leg—are prevented from striking us effectively because they are too close to reach most targets or generate power from his hip
c. Meanwhile, his body targets are well within our range
· Attacking while unseen is psychologically unnerving to our opponent

Possible Disadvantages of being on the outside
· Worth considering is how this “get to the outside” positioning partially hides our opponent’s primary, midline targets. However, this is mitigated because Master Ueshiro always stressed that we keep our fist tight and smash through our opponent like a sledgehammer or pile driver regardless of where we strike. That, wherever we strike, we smash. So we strike through the same primary targets, but from the side, and on the same plane as if we were in front of our opponent. In addition, by being on his side, we have his secondary, side targets exposed to us as well.

· Another consideration is, if I’m on HIS outside, doesn’t that mean that he is simultaneously on MY outside? Not necessarily. It depends on how we are rotated vis-à-vis the other—where are we each facing? Because, ideally, we want to be facing his midline while he faces straight ahead. Always move so that we have the positional advantage.

Advantages of moving straight ahead
· As with any step to avert, this removes the target that he is striking at on our body from almost any strike (except a straight punch)
· Can “jam” his strike before he throws it
· Potentially shocks and overwhelms our opponent psychologically

Possible Disadvantages of moving straight ahead
· To step forward as someone strikes, we must overcome, not only the instinct to step backward when attacked, but to actually step forward as he strikes. That takes courage.
· We potentially add force to his strike by stepping forward.

So, get to your opponent’s outside wherever possible and use that advantage to end the fight quickly.

Domo arigato gozaimasu,
Kyoshi David Baker,
Chief Administrator,
Ueshiro Shorin-Ryu Karate USA
founded by Grand Master Ansei Ueshiro
under the direction of Hanshi Robert Scaglione

New York, NY • USA