Complete martial systems

K&B, LLC co-owner and instructor Don Alley is a martial arts, personal protection, and emergency preparedness writer. Many of his articles originally appeared in As these articles are able to be retrieved from old web caches, they will be posted here.

Originally published 26NOV2010 for

The instructor performs a kata (martial arts pattern featuring many techniques) nearly perfectly. In his class, his students look on with attention. They will be practicing and testing on this pattern and this is their first time viewing it. The various strikes in the kata are emphasized with a kiai (focused yell), that both add energy to the performance and force to the attacks.

What each student sees depends on his level, but also his background. At one point in the kata, the instructor does a double punch, striking simultaneously to head and chest level.

The karate practitioner sees the punch, and knows it to be a good, solid technique, virtually guaranteed to hit one of the two targets being aimed for. It has drawbacks, of course, in that both hands are striking so there are no defenses available. Still, in the kata, it might represent a finishing blow. The fact that the instructor pivots away and low-blocks represents that the target is finished an a new assailant is being dealt with.

The grappler in the audience sees a throw. The two fisted punch is really a grab, pulling the target in. The pivot afterward represents the throw, followed by a low block protecting himself from an opponent on the ground or is in actuality a strike to finish off the assailant.

The weapons expert in the group sees a weapon technique, a block with a staff or chain, causing the opponents thrust to sail by him. The pivot and turn afterward represent follow-up attacks while the opponent is off balance.

After conferring with their classmates about their different perceptions, they ask “Which one is right? We all saw it a different way.” The instructor smiles and says “You are all correct.”

Economy of movement is one of the best indicators of legitimate martial arts. Not only should all techniques be free of unneeded movement, but the movements themselves should be applicable to multiple actions. If the martial art is a complete fighting system, every action can and does have multiple applications.