Is it Worth the Time and Effort? 4

Kiyohide Shinjo Sensei breaking two 1″ boards with a small surface strike

Martial artists–usually of the competition-driven variety–often like to point out that certain techniques don’t work, are impractical, or simply too difficult to make work. There are certainly bad techniques out there, that simply do not work in reality, but I will often see perfectly sound techniques being lumped into these complaints. In my experience, these people are really all complaining about one thing–time. Specifically; the time it takes to be use the technique effectively. They don’t want to put in the time that is necessary to develop the skills and/or conditioning needed to make the technique work. This is commonly said of small surface strikes (as seen in the photo, above), standing joint locks (as seen in the photo, below), and tactile sensitivity training (also shown in the photo, below). Of course, these comments usually come from people who haven’t had the techniques applied to them by a skilled practitioner, and don’t really know anything about how to make them work.

Detecting a push, redirecting it into a standing lock, and following with strikes

For competitive martial artists, this mindset makes sense. They need to develop a set of skills that fits the ruleset of their sport as quickly and efficiently as possible. This means that they are going to focus on the most basic techniques that work in that environment–things like punches and kicks are much easier to learn and become effective with than small surface strikes, standing locks, and tactile sensitivity. That isn’t to say that those techniques are bad, of course! The trouble is that they can be limiting in the long term, and if you are training for the long term, then what is the harm in exploring the more time-intensive methods of your art?

Matt Brown using tactile sensitivity in his fight against Robbie Lawler

These techniques require more time and effort than the basics do, and most people aren’t willing to put in the time and effort–they can argue about effectiveness all they want, but this is what it really boils down to. They can perceive no immediate benefits from it, so they ignore it. Thankfully, as I mentioned in my article on traditional karate techniques in MMA, some people in high-level mixed martial arts competition (which is the best ruleset for these types of techniques) have started to see the light. They have put in the time to make techniques like tsumasaki-geri (toe-tip kicks) and tactile sensitivity useful to them, and they have benefited from it. The more they succeed, the more others are likely to see the value in the more esoteric/advanced methods of fighting, so I suspect we are going to see a slow rise in their popularity.

Facebook Comments



About Noah

I began training in karate (Shuri-Ryu) in the Summer of 2006. Subsequently, I started training in judo, kobudo, and iaijutsu within the next 6 months. During my training there, I earned the rank of Sankyu (3rd Degree Brown Belt) in Shuri-Ryu, Gokyu (Green Belt) in judo, a certification in the use of the bo, and passed proficiency tests for the four tachigata of Shinkage-Ryu iaijutsu. I moved to Arizona in the Summer of 2008, and continued training and researching karate at home. I continued regular training in judo at a local club until 2010, when I was able to start training in Shorin-Ryu with Sensei Richard Poage. I have been training with him ever since, and currently hold the rank of Shodan (1st Degree Black Belt) in Shorin-Ryu under him. In addition, I began studying KishimotoDi under Sensei Ulf Karlsson in 2014.

4 thoughts on “Is it Worth the Time and Effort?

  • Anonymous

    Is tactile sensitivity really an esoteric/advanced technique? I honestly always assumed the incessant flicking of “almost jabs” that you see constantly in sports like boxing was a variation on the tactile sensitivity concept ie doing things proprioceptively. Perhaps it doesn’t always show up as clearly as the example that you give above (and I like this example) though? I understand this wasn’t the entire point of your article, in fact I don’t think specific techniques were your point, but I got curious about tactile sensitivity as manifested in other combative sports outside the major recognized eastern martial arts.

    • Noah

      It depends on your art, and what you mean by “tactile sensitivity,” I suppose. For example, in judo, it is very important for detecting the movement and balance of your opponent. That said, a lot of judoka don’t develop that much tactile sensitivity, instead opting for combinations and power, because it still takes a long time to develop in comparison. It exists in boxing–you’ll see it when a fighter covers up, and the other puts his/her gloves on the opponent’s, but they don’t usually seem to do much with it, aside from feeling when the guard goes back down. I don’t see the “almost jabs” you mention as being part of “tactile sensitivity.” To me, those are feints that are being used to provoke a reaction, which can then be countered. Thanks for the discussion!

    • Anonymous

      I see now a little clearer what you mean by tactile sensitivity, especially when referencing judo. On that note, I can think of few things that are more spiritually crushing than a skilled judoka making micro-adjustments to positioning and stance in such a way that they make you feel like you’re trying to take down a mountain even though they are your own size! Never mind actually landing those darned throws…

    • Anonymous


      Your article is packed with some weighty issues. I never thought much about “tactile sensitivity” having a place in traditional karate.

      Perhaps off topic a bit, about Matt Brown. Gotta love the guy. He has a serious, well rounded MMA style good both on his feet & on the ground. Matt’s a straightforward stand & fight competitor–I see him as the ultimate “black-belt” test for traditional karate fighters.

      The main point I want to make now is Noahj’s wise counsel that traditional karate requires a greater investment than sport-fighting methods. On the unworkable-karate technique issue, I have three replies:

      1. One, certain of the self-defense techniques were changed from those likely to seriously or permanently disable the opponent. I’m speaking about the Japanese karates which my style emulates.

      2. I also understand that Japanese karates were adapted from the Okinawan karates for broader application by the general public & physical education. This ties in with reply 1 above. I believe we see this with the evolution of Shotokan which I understand to have launched the practice of sport karate.

      3. Traditional karate becomes effective when physical & mental capabilities become melded together. This takes more time & effort and the understanding mental discipline is powering the physical technique.

      Under this fundamental principle, this is what makes a very basic karate straight or lunge punch work in fighting; or the more involved self-defense application Noah illustrates above.

      This is in contrast to sports, say for fighting, you develop the muscle memory to throw a good left hook which KO’s your opponent because your reactions are faster than his. Note: I’m not saying there isn’t more to advanced boxing.

      In traditional karate, the apparently unworkable or impractical technique–and my style is populated with these–always has a deeper purpose twofold: One, mind discipline over the body; Two illustration of martial principles which can be applied in multiple fashion.

      Few MMA competitors make karate the center of their style. Is the investment demanded by traditional karate training practical for MMA?? Noah addresses this above. For those who want to become accomplished at karate, though, getting overly caught up in criticism of particular karate techniques is a sure way to miss the underlying principles that drive successful karate skill.

Comments are closed.