The Problem of Ikken Hisatsu

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The Problem of Ikken Hisatsu

Postby HanshiClayton » Sun Dec 21, 2008 4:41 pm

Ikken hisatsu means to kill with one blow. It is an idea borrowed from Japanese swordfighting and applied to karate. The ideal of hard-style karate is to "destroy the enemy with one blow." We diligently work to achieve this degree of power.

The problem with ikken hisatsu is this: I strongly suspect that modern senseis have no idea what it means. They believe that ikken hisatsu is an achievement based on five, or ten, or forty years of dedicated practice. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Matsumura and Itosu were practical fighters, not hobbiests. They weren’t perfecting their spirit. They were learning to destroy a human body in minimum time. They trained people in this art because they were in real danger, and because they needed allies in real confrontations. If you were training an assistant to guard your back from cold steel, would you use a skill that takes forty years to learn? Matsumura would laugh out loud at the thought.

If we are Shuri bodyguards, we don’t want techniques that take decades to learn. We want techniques we can study this week and use next week.

We have missed an obvious question: “What is the easy way to destroy an opponent with a single blow?”

The real ikken hisatsu is visible in the grab/twist/strike techniques we are finding in the katas. We grab an arm or leg, apply a joint lock to make the opponent helpless, and then strike with full Shotokan power at the opponent’s sudden vulnerability. There are many examples enumerated in Shotokan's Secret, Expanded Edition and in these forums. I call this “twist and shout” bunkai.

In judo competition, you grab your opponent but you never strike him. Karate’s kumite is based on kendo matches, where we strike our opponent (with a sword) but never grab him. True ikken hisatsu involves a hybrid system of grab-and-strike techniques. The karate jutsu movement is the only place I see this system being taught.

This leaves us with the tragic spectacle of traditional senseis spending their lives trying to “perfect” their technique and achieve the "finishing blow." They could be learning finishing blows this afternoon and using them in combat tomorrow, but their path is too narrow for that.
Bruce D. Clayton, Ph.D.
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Re: The Problem of Ikken Hisatsu

Postby colinwee » Fri Jul 23, 2010 1:15 am

Dr Clayton - The tactical approach you highlight is much more aligned with the definition of Ikken Hisatsu that reads 'one punch, certain death' as opposed to 'one punch, one kill.' My training with traditional tools in the last few years have seen significant increases of power without requiring gains in body mass or muscle strength. Reliant on pure physics and technical ability, I am sure such devastating strikes can be learned by any coordinated individual in a very short amount of time. Adding knowledge of controls, target areas, and follow throughs means these strikes certainly come close to being lethal. While I have taken a long time coming around to this point, such a skill should be introduced earlier rather than later to adult practitioners. Cheers, Colin
Colin Wee is the Principal of Joong Do Kwan in Western Australia, and a Board Member of AMAHOF Inc. Colin has recently published Breaking Through: The Secrets of Bassai Dai Kata. He has practiced three systems in three countries for four decades.
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