Kyokushin Karate and MMA
By Ali Naseer
During the next few days I will be giving my thoughts and opinions on the traditional martial arts and how people think/believe that they are effective in real life situations and/or in the ring. Please keep in mind that there always has been an open debate about various martial arts being the best and how one should respect every aspect of the sport, similarly I’m not here to make fun of or degrade any style, as each style has its pros and cons and no style is perfect. My purpose here is to expand the knowledge of the traditional martial arts practitioners in Pakistan and clear the misconception that only one style is enough to cover the essentials of combat and self defence. With that being said let us move on to the discussion.
Today I have selected one of the many styles widely practiced in Pakistan, namely Kyokushin Kaikan Karate or simple Kyokushin. Kyokushin is a style of full contact stand-up karate which is mainly based on the Knockdown Karate system. In Kyokushin hand and elbow strikes to the head or neck are prohibited however, kicks to the head, knee strikes, punches to the upper body, and kicks to the inner and outer leg are permitted. Although it is considered the strongest form of karate, the fact that one is not allowed to hit the opponent on the head and neck and is never used to do so raises the question of this martial art to be effective in MMA and/or in a real life situation, also the fact that the practitioners have no concept of ground fighting adds up to the list of what makes Kyokushin lack the skills needed in MMA and in real life.
Now since I’m only concerned with the state of Martial Arts in Pakistan I decided to do some research on the Kyokushin being done in the country and after watching the videos of various Kyokushin masters performing, giving demos and competing I found one video which covered almost most of the aspects of the style and using this video I will share my opinions on what I think lacks in the style as far as MMA and self defence is concerned.
Now firstly I’m not a board breaking fan myself and personally I think that it doesn’t prove anything and as far as strength goes, in real fights only cooler heads prevail and personally you won’t have time to show your “board breaking” skills. Now as we move on we see a stone breaking demonstration which again I feel doesn’t prove much, yes it might demonstrate the courage and concentration of an individual but it does JUST that and nothing more. I feel that all these demonstrations i.e. brick breaking, ice breaking etc have somehow managed to become a part of the traditional martial arts and some may say that it involves inner strength and only the one with great concentration and focus can accomplish inner strength. My only question is will that inner strength help you when you’re on the ground getting your face pummelled? I don’t think so.
Moving on, we see the master checking the stomach conditions of his students which I honestly don’t understand but I have no objections against it. As we move on the sparring/fight demos begin and this is where the flaws begin.
Immediately one can see that 80% of the attacks were made to the upper body, 10% to the legs and 10% to the head but only with kicks, which demonstrates how ineffective most of the attacks can be and the only chance you get to knout your opponent out is by throwing a kick to the head which can easily be avoided or may never even happen if the fight goes to the ground. As far as the attacks to the body are concerned I personally think that they aren’t even bothering the receiver and since the student/practitioner is used to throw and receive punches to the body he/she is unaware of the concept of keeping his/her hands up to protect his/her face and in a real fight is vulnerable to all sorts of attacks to that region.
For most of or approximately all of the Kyokushin fights that I have seen, I saw nobody counter, move away or dodge attacks, instead both the opponents keep throwing punches, kicks, knees etc regardless what the condition of the other fighter is. The point is, that being aggressive only leads to fatigue and stress and most probably will result in getting one gassed out and vulnerable to even more attacks.
Now you may be wondering that I’m making all these concepts on the basis of just the video but if you look around youtube long enough you will find that most of the practitioners display the maybe not the same but very similar traits. In fact here is another video of two black belt Kyokushin masters in a match at the international SAARC games and displaying the same weaknesses that I mentioned earlier.
To sum it all up my perception of Kyokushin Kaikan Karate is that it is useful in MMA and self defence BUT only accompanied by styles which cover up the remaining essentials which Kyokushin leaves out and the reason why I claim that it is useful in MMA is because 2 of the biggest names in MMA are practitioners of Kyokushin, namely being Bas “El Guapo” Rutten (a former UFC Heavyweight champion) and Georges “Rush” St-Pierre (current UFC Welterweight champion). Although I could not find a video of Kyokushin Kaikan Karate being matched up against a style which focuses on ground work but I will leave you with a video of the Gracie’s taking on different Karate practitioners and making them realize the importance of ground fighting.
the current rules of kyokushin were set to broaden the popularity of the style due to the serious injuries occured during the early days of the kyokushin. now that MMA has made it’s global impact (not in Pakistan, not yet) and kyokushin karatekas have been participating in international events like K-1, K-1 Heroes, UFC and M-1 etc, the senior masters feel a need to bring changes in the sport. They, however, kept in mind the REAL LIFE situations rather than a cage or ring situation, but still, changes are coming and it once again will be the strongest karate. OSU!!!