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Paul Herbert 5th Dan
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Ikken Hisatsu

by Shaun Banfield


Shaun Banfield sweeping and punching



Ikken Hissatsu is the choice between life or death. It is the choice that instantly has to be made between killing or being killed, with moral issues cast aside. It is the base instinct of the animal, and manifests itself in a moment of purity – survival.


There is no clearer example of this than a lioness protecting her cubs from the large and potentially dangerous stampeding lion from another tribe charging with intent on killing her young. She ignores the very obvious – that she is small and he is huge – and risks her life to protect the lives of her babies. She attacks, aware and resigned to the fact that she could die. In a moment’s explosion of energy she attacks, with one very precise objective, to kill and stop her opponent.


The very essence of this lies within the Samurai tradition. Mikio Yahara states ‘When the katana is unsheathed, blood will follow’ – ‘either that of your opponent or yours’. When you make that profound decision, there must be 100% commitment. This decision has to be made instantaneously, there is no time for introspective moral juggling or debate, if you do so, you will die.


This decision will be a product of MU, nothingness. There is no thought process. If the cognitive dictates then you will die. The instinctive, created only through exact and specific training, brings the body and mind together to attack and destroy.


If this concept is not the nucleus of the training, then defeat will follow. Self-preservation is the ultimate instinctive response.


Maslow’s hierarchy of needs’ states that after the physiological needs: breath, food, water, sex, sleep, and excretion, comes the need for safety.


There is no grey area – only black and white. The muddiness of grey only confuses the instinctive. When approached by a potential danger there is only black and white, death or survival.


This is not a concept of old, locked away in tradition. It is manifested every day. In every violent situation there is a black and white clarity, no better personified than with the lioness launching ahead with a fierce and steely determination.


The sword is lethally sharp, designed to bring instantaneous death, and it must be used with an instantaneous conviction. If you are cut with the sword you can die instantaneously, and so karate techniques must be developed to this point where they can have fatal-potential. Karate techniques should be sharpened until they have the capabilities of the sword, to take a life instantaneously.


The sword alone however is not deadly. It is the hand and skill that turns it into a deadly weapon. Karate similarly, even when practiced most skilfully, is not deadly without intent. It is this intent that turns a powerful punch and kick, sharpened to a razor like sharpness, into having the capabilities of killing an opponent, but more importantly, protecting ourselves and our families.


Shaun Banfield striking with haito


Karate training must be practiced with a shinken shobu mentality, which Mikio Yahara translates to mean ‘If you make a mistake, you die’.  Miyamoto Musashi, the great warrior also states ‘‘the warrior must accept the resolute acceptance of death’. One must accept death in order to function efficiently; aware fully that one moment of error can result in your own death. This is the threat and danger of conflict.


Modern competition, with its emphasis on high scoring possibilities and opportunity to, even when you have lost many points, regain points and the lead does not nurture this Samurai mentality. If you get hit here you don’t, metaphorically, ‘die’. You simply lose a point, which you can regain in a moment with a jodan kick. You lose this instantaneous threat of defeat. Shobu Ippon competition, although not permitting the actual killing of an opponent, retains this level of threat. If you get hit, you lose, ‘if you make a mistake you die’, of course death being the loss of the fight. There is nothing wrong with Modern competition for athletes, but this is not a Martial competition in its design or mentality.


The Lioness’ form of defence against the cruel aggressor is attack. She faces threat with threat, confronting danger with her own deadly passion. When approached outside, possibly by what is so quickly becoming a common trend – the pack and weapon confrontation – there is no time to think. If the Lioness had waited for the Lion to come too close to her cubs she would be putting herself on the back foot and placing her young in danger. Instead she moved forward, and pre-empted. Her defence was to meet the confrontation head on. This is no different on the street. Wait to be attacked and you will lose. You must take the initiative, be instinctive rather than cognitive and meet the aggressor head on. Defence by attacking.


Building this mentality in training is not easy. Friendships are formed in a dojo environment. We eat, often drink, and laugh with these people. When we face one another however, we are enemies. Training drills and practice provides a looser and calmer atmosphere, as experimentation and time is required to fully learn from the experience. When it comes to the crunch however then it is time to commit and is no better developed than through kihon ippon kumite and jiyu ippon kumite which will lead naturally into jiyu kumite with sun dom in place for safety.


Every blow unleashed from the body must have the capabilities of stopping an opponent. Kihon training must be the place where we learn to take maximum energy from the body through to the chosen technique. This must be done with much impactive training, for if not there can be no actualisation or reality to these techniques. In kumite practice in the dojo we have an actual target, but are not permitted to hit them fully. Therefore, impact training must bring about this realisation. Understanding what is physically required to stop an opponent must be at the core of the kihon training along with ensuring we practice healthily for longevity. Using the body’s mass with speed will then become to central study and the fruits of this will become evident when impacting.


Kata naturally therefore has a vitally significant purpose here. There are so many values to kata, which will not get mentioned here for not wanting to veer off the subject. Apart from the physical and educational purposes for kata, it has a very important role to play in the mental development of karateka if it is practiced and executed properly. The space in time between the opening bow and the closing bow in the kata, is the time for conflict. This is where it kicks off and you have fight. When you bow initially, you switch on, and every technique you do, either defensive or offensive is saving your life. You are fighting for your life and this mentality brings the kata alive. This mental training of absolute commitment to the moment, visualisation manifested into deadly techniques is what brings the kata from being a collection of moves into being a truly scary experience.


Ikken Hissatsu is at the core of this also, and only when you attack to kill in kihon, kata and kumite can you develop this instinctive response. 


Shaun Banfield gyaku zuki

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