The Jujutsu Hidden Inside of the Katas of Karate-do
From the dawn of human existence, we have had to defend ourselves. Humans have developed plethora martial arts across the globe and often shared it with each other. Each of these different martial art systems, while superficially different, provided its practitioners with effective self-defense techniques. This treatise will focus on the martial art systems ultimately known as Jujutsu and Karate-do.
Written historical records can take us back only 5,000 years or so. Most historians agree that in the first instance, it is on the Asian continent that we can follow these records from India through China to Okinawa, then Japan, and finally arriving on this continent in the nineteenth century with the arrival of Chinese immigrants who worked on the railroads.
Oral customs, traditional folklore, and now genetic analysis lead us back even further to the African continent. African martial arts have existed and still exists, as is evidenced by the pictographs depicted on the walls of ancient Egypt of Osiris—Lord of life after death; Sun god; and God of War; Horus—Falcon-headed Sun and sky god; Lord of prophecy; revenge, justice, weapons; or Neith/Neit/Net/Nit (pronounced Night)—”The Huntress”; Patroness of hunting, medicine, war, and weapons. These depictions of ancient Egyptian deities clearly demonstrate that martial arts existed in Africa thousands of years before the Shaolin Monks of China began training the martial art that would become Karate-do.
Indeed, it can also be seen in a relatively recent manifestation, the Afro-Brazilian art of Capoeira.
Capoeira is a martial art hidden in an apparent dance form developed by Africans to hide their fighting techniques from their slave masters. It fact, many cultures around the world learned to disguise their fighting arts in the form of dance.
Karate-do and Jujutsu can trace their lineage back to the ancient Indian martial art of Vajramushti.
Legend depicts Bodhidharma, an East Indian born into a warrior family, studied and brought with him this martial art to the Shaolin Monastery. Once there he taught the Monks the “Eighteen Hands of Lo-Han.”
It is from this series of exercises that Ch’uan Fa or Gung fu are said to have evolved, which clearly influenced many Asian martial arts and particularly the Okinawan martial arts systems
. These were the Okinawan systems studied by Gichin Funakoshi and the other Okinawan Martial Artists who introduced Karate-do to Japan during the early part of the Twentieth Century.
Japanese Martial Arts arrived in the United States late in the nineteenth century and the earliest we can trace Karate-do’s arrival is in the late 1940s soon after World War II.
All Martial Arts share some fundamental principles:
- Combative engagement posture/stance/attitude
- Center of gravity, how it may best be concentrated
- Essential energy
- Preparing/off balancing/executing
- Combative engagement distance
- Combative initiative or “timing”
- Detecting weaknesses/openings
Jujutsu is no different.
Please keep this in mind as we explore the Bunkai of Karate-do Katas. There are specific jujutsu techniques in Karate-do Katas that are rarely fully explored. Today, I hope to cover some of the classic jujutsu techniques in several well-known Karate-do Katas. But first, let me lay out some fundamental jujutsu principles we will need to consider.
- Balance – Rootedness
- Yielding – Escaping
- Gakun – Wrist Bends
The first three (Stance, Balance, and Yielding) are closely related. Ignoring any one of them is like trying to sit on a two-legged stool. Striking helps prepare an opponent for a Gakun and/or any other jujutsu techniques (like nage or otoshi; types of throws).
To execute these techniques effectively, we must apply them focusing the principles listed above.
As a practical matter, the natural standing position is one of the three basic positions we humans are most often in. The other two are sitting and laying down in their various manifestations. I know you all know how to stand but bear with me for a moment. I think we may be able to find something new to consider. Moreover, since nearly every kata starts with a natural stance, we will cover this first.
Warm up – Salutation to the Sun as warm up exercises
Stance – Balance/rootedness exercise
Break-falls – The safest manner of preventing injuries when thrown
Yielding/Escaping – Various escape techniques and where they exists in the Katas
Striking –The difference between Karate-do attacks and jujutsu striking application
Gakun – Various wrist bends and how shifting body weight with the power of the pinky finger can enhance the effectiveness of a wrist bend.
Kata Bunkai – The Jujutsu Hidden inside
I will use “Shotokan” Karate-do style of the Heian (peaceful mind) Katas, also known by their original Chinese name “Pinan,” to illustrate these applications and thus will refer to their numbering sequence in the following guide. It is the actual technique and not the style within which these are kites are found nor the ascribed sequential number that is important. Therefore, incorporate the suggested applications in the appropriate and corresponding technique to the logical place for the Heian (Pinan) Katas of your system regardless of any apparent numbering or stylistic difference.
Heian Kata – 1
- Opening Movement – Stance/balance/yielding
- 4th technique – after executing the right side down block imagine an opponent grabbing the right wrist. To escape the opponent’s grasp, execute Hakko Dori (escape through the opening technique).
- 7th technique – after executing a left side down block, the opponent realizing the front kick was blocked immediately punches to the head. Execute an left knife hand high block, grab the opponent’s wrist and execute a right high elbow strike – depending on the situation the first choice is to then execute an arm bar to hyper extend the opponent’s elbow, while simultaneously forcing to opponent to the ground on a controlled pinning techniques or if warranted dislocating the elbow.
Heian Kata – 2
- 2nd technique – simultaneously block the opponent’s counter punch by executing an arm bar against the opponent’s elbow. Once again depending on circumstances this can be a controlling pinning or an elbow dislocation technique.
- 5th technique – repeats above
- 23rd technique – repeats technique learned in Heian 1, seventh movement – arm bar
- 25th technique – repeats above
Heian Kata – 3
- 9th technique – after executing a spear hand strike, imagine the opponent grabs your spear hand – execute a Hakko Dori to escape.
- 12th technique – as you begin to stand, imagine an opponent has grab you in a bear hug, bring both fists to your waist and step forward executing a either a nage or otoshi throw, throwing your opponent to the ground. This repeats for the next two movements.
- 18th technique – after executing a left forward punch, imagine the opponent is attempting to encircled you with a bear hug, step forward with the back foot and immediately pivot counterclockwise executing an otoshi.
Heian Kata – 4
- 9th technique – after completing right side kick and back fist to elbow strike sequence, turn toward the front and extend the left hand forward while raising the right hand to the forehead. This sequence allow you to execute an advance jujutsu maneuver that utilizes Gakun and Shibori grasps when applying Yodan level “Uchi Kome Dori” when you capture the opponent’s right hand lunge punch.
- 9th technique part two – while still facing to the front, perform an open hand high block with the left hand, capturing the left wrist of the opponent while simultaneously executing a high right hand Shuto. Immediately, kick with the right leg toward the elbow of the opponent’s left arm.
Heian Kata – 5
- 9th technique – after executing a closed fist lower X-block against the front kick, immediately execute an open hand X-Block above the head; then rotate the hands clockwise, focusing on grabbing the opponent’s fist and bringing it down to waist height executing “Shodan” wrist bend.
- 17th technique – is a jump over a Bo being used to attack the legs. Hakko Dori – escape through the Opening.
- 20th technique – upon turning to the left rear to block a front kick/high punch combination, simultaneously block a counter punch to the head with an left side high inside knife-hand block while executing a low right side spear-hand strike toward the groin. Immediately thereafter, grab the inner thigh (pant leg) with the right hand; pull the opponent’s leg while thrusting the left hand into the chest of the opponent to execute a “Push-Pull” nage throwing technique. This is repeated on the opposite side.
Nearly all of these applications are described in either Gichin Funakoshi’s Karate-Do Kyohan or in other published texts regarding Karate-Do Katas.
One final comment on terms Karate-do and Jujutsu, these as written using the English language can be spelled differently. For instance, Jujutsu can also be written as “Jujitsu”. Moreover, even the meaning of the origin Chinese character used to describe the martial arts practiced in Okinawa had its meaning changed from “Chinese hand techniques” Karate Jitsu to “the empty hand way” Karate-do. There are also differences ascribed to the terms “Do” and “Ryu”. The underlying meaning of these terms are complex and wrapped in cultural contexts, which make their translation into the English language awkward and their understanding even more difficult. However, superficially “Do,” means “Way” and “Ryu” means “Style.” I will leave their deeper meanings to language and cultural scholars.
Finally, I owe a tremendous amount to Nidai Soke Ryuho Okuyama, Dr. Akinori Murakami – Kaidan Shihan Sandaikichu, Mr. Douglas Woodall – Kaidan Shihan Sandaikichu, and fellow Shihan Walter Mackney for the knowledge and guidance they provided that allows me to now share what they have taught me with those who like us follow the “Way” in order to perfect their character.
Sensei Pedro J Perez began his martial arts training in 1960, starting with Shotokan Karate-do. He earned his first black belt in 1966. He continued training at the American Shotokan Kudokan Dojo, earning another black belt and ultimately receiving a 3rd Dan. In 1970, he earned a black belt in American Goju. He then began training in Taekwondo and earned a black belt in 1975. During the mid 1970s, he taught at the Shotokan Kudokan Dojo and founded the No Name Dojo on the Lower Eastside in New York City. He then taught karate at the Pitt Street Boy’s Club, and was the head instructor at the Jerome Mackey’s Incorporated Karate Dojo in Stamford, Connecticut.
In 1983, Sensei Perez began training in Hakkoryu Jujitsu, under Sensei Paul Neuroth. He has continued his Jujutsu training with Shihans Michael LaMonica and Douglas Woodall, earning a 4th Dan black belt. Sensei Perez continues to refine his Karate-do development and now trains with the highly regarded Shotokan stylist Sensei Carlos Medina of the Japan Karate Association, an internationally certified instructor, judge, and examiner, at his dojo in Bethlehem, New York. In December of 2006, Sensei Perez earned another Shodan Black Belt and then in 2010 Nidan from Japan Karate Association – Shotokan Karate-Do International, Chief Instructor Mr. MasatakaMori,9thDan.
Sensei Perez taught self-defense at the New York State Police Academy during basic training for recruit troopers. He was a member of the New York State Police’s Mobile Response Team, the State Police’s elite special weapons and tactics unit. During his tenure on the NYSP-MRT, he was its primary self-defense instructor. As a member of the NYSP he has risen through the ranks, being the first Latino to achieve Commissioned Officers ranks. He is now 2nd in command, holding the title of First Deputy Superintendent.
Over the years, Sensei Perez has successfully competed in many tournaments winning his share of awards including 1st place kata at the 1974 CK Kim Rhode Island Invitational, beating out the legendary kata champion Chuck Merriman. In 1983, he won a gold medal in kumite and a silver medal in kata at the New York State Police Officers Olympics. He has trained in Bo/staff and received special certification from Sensei Fumio Demura. Sensei Perez traveled to Japan, where he trained at the Japan Karate Association and Hakkoryu Jujutsu Hombus. Most recently, he studied directly under Hakkoryu Jujutsu’s Nidai Soke Okuyama and was awarded Shihan rank.