Monday, 23 March 2009

Karate Lunge Punch Practical Applications

If you read an article on this website a few days ago about the karate lunge punch for self defence training, (here) you may think that I am totally against the technique. For anything but basic self defence training, that may be so, but it does still have its place in karate and fighting.

The lunge punch is the basic of all punches in the karate syllabus. It is drilled for hours and hours up and down the dojo until it becomes as natural as breathing. It is used for breaking demonstrations, one of the main punches used in most kata’s and is the symbol on the top of many karate trophies. However, ask most people, karate ka or any other martial artists weather they have seen it used in sparring, competition or a self defence situation and they will say, never. Ask a few karate ka who really study the art and its practical fighting applications and they will say “all the time”.

When untrained people and many trained people for that matter witness the lunge punch, they see just that. A person lunging forward and striking with the fist. However, if you break the technique down (not thinking about the arms) you have the start (figure A), the middle, where the back foot comes off the floor and the leg proceeds to step forward with the knee slightly bent (figure B) and the end, where the step is complete (figure C). It is at the end that the punch is also performed.

Not many people think about these three parts of the lunge punch as anything more than a simple step forward in order to close the distance for the a successful strike. This is also where some points of the impracticalities of the lunge punch appears. Stepping forward to punch is not fluid enough, it leaves to many open targets, is slow and is not how anybody moves on the street or in competition.

Now, if you know anything about Muay Thai or if your art practises knee strikes, you will know how sometimes the knee strike can be practised. With a partner who is holding a padded target on his/her torso, you bring your back leg off the floor and thrust your knee into the target. After the strike you can either step forward or step backwards, depending on your opponents placing.

If you step forward you are performing the exact movements which are shown in the above diagram. Starting from your leg back, you bring your foot off the floor, thrust your knee into the target (which could be the torso, groin, thigh or even the knee) then step forward.

This knee strike (or supposedly, lunge punch step) is best used when grappling with an opponent. When two fighters are grappling whilst standing, the back leg can be thrust straight forwards just as in the Figures A and B, to strike. If it is on the street, a strike to the groin can be used which may be enough to successfully defend oneself. If its competition where groin strikes are not allowed the strike could be to the thigh which can be very painful. To complete the full lunge punch technique one would then land forward after the knee strike and punch with the front arm whilst holding/controlling with the back hand (hikite), which is a common dirty boxing technique (to hold and strike).

From this basic step and punch which is one of the most basic of all karate techniques we have seen that it can be used as a very realistic, close quarter knee strike and a follow up punch if needed. Just because the technique involves a step forward and a punch does not mean that when performing this particular application a punch must always be performed after the knee strike. Sometimes the knee strike may be enough to end the conflict which means that the step forward and punch is not needed.

So is the karate lunge punch a bad technique? Yes, if performed in the unpractical way of stepping forward and punching your opponent from a distance, but no, if the practical applications of it are studied and regularly practised and this all comes down to the practitioner, not the art, or the technique.

All techniques of karate are designed to be effective and practical for use just as this one. But it is up to the person studying the art to really think about each technique and how they can be effective. Karate is a very complicated art and the beauty of its techniques is that they have numerous applications. Study them wisely but most important, practically.


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Anonymous said...


Very good explanation and practical application, I actually learned something from it. In those situations (which we usually seek as soon as possible: grabbing the collar and the sleeve is a very strong controlling position for close-quarter striking or possibly throwing)I usually employ either more knees (thai-fashion) or an elbow while pulling the partner into the strike.

Basically it's the same principle but you've shown how a seemingly inpractical technique does have its uses. I wouldn't rely on it too much and certainly wouldn't train it as much as karateka in kihon (fights usually begin and sometimes end in long/medium range) but it can be very effective in the clinch.

One thing though: how many karateka would actually know this application? I still think it's stupid to practice a movement you do not fully understand (at least on a basic level) and it's highly irresponsible/incompetent for sensei to teach techniques without also showing proper combat-application.

That being said: thanks for the lesson, if you have more information on bunkai it would be highly appreciated.


MARKS said...

ZARA - Thanks for your comment. This pplication is one of many for the technique which actually took me a while to figure out (even as simple as it is)lol. This is the thing about Karate. If one looks past the point style competition karate (which to me is NOT real Karate) one will find a style which is a very hybrid and effective martial art, but it does take a lot of thought and practise to unveal effective bunkai, then more pratice through sparring on trying to use it.

To answer your karate, im sure that at least 90% of the worlds Karate ka do not know this application or indeed many true effective applications in order to use Karate effectively. This is a shame, but as mentioned, there are a few Karateka remaining which do understand real karate and how it can be applied.

Anonymous said...

Another (and more long-range apllication) would be a mae-geri with the back leg, followed by the hikite and the punch. This would make sense since he's already dealing with one attack (and from the same side which would make it even more difficult) and you sort of fall into the strike as you put your foot down.

Perhaps this might even be construed as a reaction to your opponent blocking the kick to the side: you lean in and punch with the same side, maybe even catching him off guard.

Just a thought.


PS: I once saw a similar application to this: when you frontkick and he blocks you step in with an elbow. Very hard to defend against that combination and the elbow will easily smash through any defence.

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