Manipulations and Takedowns

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Karate largely relies on developing inhuman striking power to quickly destroy the anatomical weaknesses of a malicious attacker. However, the real world rarely has clearly defined attack and defender roles. Do not view these situations as being the shades of grey which exist between black and white -- you need to acknowledge that black and white are just extreme shades of grey.

There exist situations where action is required, but striking people is unjustified or immoral (e.g., teachers breaking up a schoolyard fight). Likewise, you have a moral imperative to stop intoxicated, mentally ill, or suicidal people from harming themselves or others. Manipulations and takedowns can resolve situations that require action, but not violence; these are the techniques to use against the people you love. Within Goshin-Justsu, we refer to all of these non-striking techniques as aikijutsu. Please note that our use of the term "aikijutusu" is a just a crime-of-convenience catch-all term; our art is not descended from any aikijutsu lineage.

Goshin-Jutsu Karate is made unique by its deviation from this standard approach. Karate is classified as a “hard” (gō) martial art, because it is based on the premise of optimizing one’s strength and power, and then directing that strength into an attacker. To understand how, you must first some to understand the martial principle of jū, an approach to fighting which compared to what we have shown you so far, is as radically different as the mountains are from the sea.

A brief overview of the theory and applications of manipulations and takedowns are provided below. For more information, we encourage you to cross-train in the arts of jūdō, aikidō, and jūjutsu / jui-jitsu.


We will use the following manipulations and takedowns in our lessons. Do not attempt these techniques unless you know how to breakfall.

Takedown theory

Any successful takedown is a three-point process:

  1. Destroying the opponent’s balance (Kuzushi): A stable well-balance opponent cannot be thrown. Try it; it will never work.

    [Video of trying to throw someone in a perfect front stance, and failing.]

    Even if you can do it, you’ll tire yourself out in the process. We don’t want that. Kuzushi is the difference between martial arts and weightlifting; kuzushi is the gateway to effortless power.

    Someone who is well-balanced is, by definition, difficult to topple. This needs to be changed in order for you to succeed. You need to rob your opponent of their stability. Due to the different weight distributions within of men’s and women’s bodies, there is a definite gender bias in setting up throws. Men are top-heavy -- especially those who have cultivated their upper body strength. It is easier for men to lose their balance, harder for them to recover it, and they will collapse quickly once it is gone. The opposite is true for women, who carry most of their weight upon their wide, child-bearing hips. Women thus have a naturally low center of gravity. Therefore, it is much easier for women to throw men, and harder for men to throw women. Just like Weebles, Daruma dolls, or the classic inflatable punching-clown, Mother Nature has gifted her women with a degree of intrinsic stability.

    The most common way to off-balancing an opponent is to capitalize on their momentum -- pulling them as they push; or pushing as they pull. No matter what the situation is, do not allow the opponent to stop moving. Takedowns are like pushing a wheelbarrow full of rocks up a hill -- if you stop, it will take more effort just to get started again. Additionally, there are other ways to off-balance an opponent. For example:
    • Atemi. Not only can a fast strike stun an opponent long enough to set up a takedown -- it can off-balance them as well. Strikes to the groin or abdomen cause opponent’s to lurch forward; a strike to the face will cause the opponent to lean back.
    • Step or shift backwards as your opponent throws a strike, to trick the opponent into overextending their technique.
    • Catch your opponent’s kick, then push or pull them aside.
    • If an opponent pushes you, parry their arms to the side, and they will fall forward.

  2. Positioning (Tsukuri): All throws and takedowns are based using clever body positioning to gain leverage, amplifing your strength. The setup for takedowns will take some time. Ardent practice can minimize the setup time, but a delay will always remain. However, since the opponent is woefully off-balance from the kuzushi, they are unable to put up a meaningful attack or defense. (If they can, repeat Step 1.) You are relatively safe as long as your opponent is off-balance, so you can take the time needed to for a quality setup. Lousy setups only result in lousy throws.

  3. Throwing (Nage): The throw itself is actually the easiest part; there should be no effort or exertion in this step. If there is, something went wrong in steps 1 and/or 2. Once the opponent is off-balance, and you are in position, the opponent is ready to topple on their own. They only need a little push, tap, or twist to finish the job. The “throw” is merely providing the opponent with that last little push.

    Do not look at the person you are throwing; instead, look at where they will land. This allows you to concentrate on the form of the technique -- and good form means good execution.


While manipulations and takedowns offer a flexible response, these techniques also have their drawbacks, which must be acknowledged.

  • Manipulations and takedowns are technically complex moves. Because of their complicated setups, these techniques require lots of specialized practice before they can be successfully used to control, restrain, or incapacitate someone.
  • Manipulations and takedowns capture your attention. Manipulations and takedowns are complex moves, and you must focus on this one thing to succeed. This is effectively a form of fascination, which is one of the Four Poisons. This is why manipulations and takedowns should be incidental, if not accidental. Don’t walk into situations with the intent of performing any one technique. Instead, capitalize on the first opportunity which presents itself.
  • Manipulations and takedowns will not stop a truly malicious attacker. Manipulations imply compliance and submission, and this is not possible from a truly malicious attacker. If they want to hurt you, they will -- unless you hurt them worse. Putting them down will not be enough; you must keep them down. This is why Goshin-Jutsu typically uses manipulations and takedowns as setups for brutal finishing moves, like stomp kicks.
  • Manipulations and takedowns are still uses of force. While manipulations and takedowns can be used when striking is unjustified or immoral, their misuse still constitutes assault. Manipulations and takedowns will likely injure those without breakfalling skills. PLease note that is immoral to restrain or bind a non-resisting person (e.g., someone who has willingly surrendered to authorities, or who has committed a purely administrative crime))