"The Author, it must be remembered, writes from his own standpoint!"
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If you have a question not covered in this blog feel free to send it to me at my email address, i.e. "snow" dot here "covered" dot here "bamboo" AT symbol here "gmail" dot here "com"

"One thing has always been true: That book ... or ... that person who can give me an idea or a new slant on an old idea is my friend." - Louis L'Amour

"Ideally, your self-defense will never get physical. Avoiding the situation and running or talking you way out - either of these is a higher order of strategy than winning a physical battle." - Wise Words of Rory Miller, Facing Violence: Chapter 7: after, subparagraph 7.1:medical

"Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider..." - Francis Bacon

Warning, Caveat and Note: The postings on this blog are my interpretation of readings, studies and experiences therefore errors and omissions are mine and mine alone. The content surrounding the extracts of books, see bibliography on this blog site, are also mine and mine alone therefore errors and omissions are also mine and mine alone and therefore why I highly recommended one read, study, research and fact find the material for clarity. My effort here is self-clarity toward a fuller understanding of the subject matter. See the bibliography for information on the books.

Note: I will endevor to provide a bibliography and italicize any direct quotes from the materials I use for this blog. If there are mistakes, errors, and/or omissions, I take full responsibility for them as they are mine and mine alone. If you find any mistakes, errors, and/or omissions please comment and let me know along with the correct information and/or sources.

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Is karate ... based on principles or technique?

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

The answer seems simple but as with all things martial arts you end up with - "It Depends!"

First, define principles?
Second, define technique?

Starting with the second first, technique(s) can be defined two ways where the most obvious is derived from the modern technique based training model while the second ways is more apropos and at the same time either unknown or misunderstood.

Then there is the first, a principled based model where the universal underlying principles connected to multiple methodologies, etc., is the basis or foundation for all martial arts.

Herein lies the rub to the original question that started the mess to begin with. Herein lies the article you will read today in my attempt to put a light on the question so I will begin as before, with the second.


Technique is not about specifics, techniques are any and all methods used to achieve a principle based situational application(s) necessary to achieve goals, tactics and strategies to avoid and/or resolve conflicts and/or violence. Marc MacYoung refers to technique in his eBood, Writing Violence: Defense, and states, “A move is an action, a technique is a collection of movements. Each consecutive movement of a technique builds on the success of the last. They should provide fense, it should disrupt the adversary’s ability to attack and it should set up the next move.” 

Note that Mr. MacYoung does not use this term like so many karate dojo, i.e., the technique of punching with the fist, the techniques of striking with a palm or the technique of kicking with the ball of the foot. This is all novice stuff meant to teach not necessarily techniques but how to move, it is the moves to achieve actions, it is about a collection of appropriate moves for the situation that becomes, in that moment only, a collection of movements that make up the technique used in fense. Then the rest is basically tactics to apply those techniques to achieve a goal of fense. Learning how to move and the proper physiokinetics necessary to perform those movements as techniques and so forth. 

“Technique is the easiest part. Knowing when and how to apply the technique is the second easiest. Making yourself do it may be the hardest and that is the part I am not sure can really be taught.” - Rory Miller, Facing Violence

I believe you get the picture regarding technique(s), so now lets take a look at a favorite subject and perception of fense karate, the principles. The principles to which I speak are those fundamental principles of fense through the discipline of karate or martial arts. They are the same regardless of style or system, the are universal and they provide us the foundation to make any fense discipline work. 


These principles that I am writing about are the majors while within the disciplines of the mental and physical there are other principles involved as well. These minor principles tend to involve some aspect of technique, moves + actions + collective = technique, such as certain principles involved in body manipulation, i.e., ball joints vs. hinge joints, etc., and the process to manipulate them to achieve a tactical and strategic goal. You can find out more about that specific example by getting Rory Miller’s video’s on that subject. The application of major and minor principles also involves methodologies used to get things done, i.e., methodologies are a collection of techniques as described above but are not always techniques per say but those actions that lead to things like avoidance, awareness, and escape and evasion - all fense strategies and tactics to get-r-done.


Now, lets diverge a bit from the original question that I would pose and that is, “Is karate based on principles, techniques or changes. For me, my mind tends to go toward changes because as I will explain, everything is about change, everything is about yin-yang and everything is about how we apply ourselves toward not just change for changes sake but the balance we achieve toward the ever flowing chaotic change that life presents every single moment of life be it normal day-to-day things or when it comes to serious conflict and its resulting violence. 

The true question is not whether karate is about principles or technique or even both; it is a question of "change!" The true nature and essence of karate is the principle of change, learning the patterns (kata) of change. We endeavor to learn rhythms, cadences and patterns when the truth is we should be learning about change.

The very basis on which like and the way, Tao, is about change and resulted in the creation of the I Ching and other classics. The effort was to teach about the Universe and that means it's only constant - Change!

The very essence of life is change: birth, growth,  decline and death. The fabric of our universe is about birth, growth, decline and death therefore that process is about the changes life pulls us through and change is life's cornerstone.

Evolution is about change, to grow one must learn from that experience meaning change meaning survival or human kind would have ceased to exist long ago. The very word and process of evolution is change geared toward survival according to the very changes naturally occurring as a result of the natural changes that come from the very nature of our world and universe. 

If not for the nature of changes life as we know it may not have come to be - change is inevitable. If not for the changing seasons the fuel we need for sustenance would not be possible.

All this says to me that the true nature of disciplines such as karate should be based on change. It is amazing how many karate-ka work so hard to avoid change that the very nature of karate, change, has all but disappeared.

Karate as a fense system is about learning how to handle one of the most chaotic and changing form of conflict and violence where mastery comes not from the memorization of technique but our abilities to adapt to - change!

I feel that all my studies to date have come to realize that the underlying theme to all reality based models of fense are about handling changes, unexpected and unique changes from moment to moment and situation to situation.

Oh, forgot, now I am going to throw my personal monkey wrench into the mix by answering the modified question. No, it isn’t going to be a long repetitive answer since you already got that one but a much shorter answer.

Here it is: “In a nutshell, karate is based on all three concepts, i.e., it is based on principles both major and minor; it is based on technique as described as moves, actions, a collective and its resulting techniques; it is based on change, i.e., the chaos of violence and conflict that requires rapidly changing circumstances and environments that is conflict and violence. In short, it is all three of those. 

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