The title of this post is a comment which summaries an argument often used in attempt to discredit a karate technique or kata application and seen as a sort of coup de grace to end the discussion.
When I encounter this comment, my usual response is "I know the technique/application wouldn't work against a trained fighter".
Hearing this argument reminds me of another comment I hear when it comes to one of my other hobbies and past times, pro-wrestling. When ever my love for pro-wrestling is brought into a conversation, it is almost without fail that someone will proceed to tell me its "fake". I know it is, I get it, its part of why I enjoy pro-wrestling is the theatre, the drama and the fact the results are predetermined. Telling me that pro-wrestling is fake does not take away any of the enjoyment I have in watching it as the "fake" aspect is taken into consideration already. This is much the same as telling me a kata application won't work against a trained fighter, I likely already know this and it was taken into consideration when developing the application.
But admitting that the technique wouldn't work against a trained fighter is not a cop out nor does it reduce or lessen the quality of value of the technique in comparison with a technique which would work against a trained fighter. Let me explain why with an example of a counter to a standing front choke (aka guillotine choke), for sake of simplicity I will refer to this as "the choke" throughout the rest of this article.
The reason I have picked this technique is that it crosses the streams of both combat sports (it is a highly effective move in MMA, Judo and other grappling arts) as well as being a primal movement used by criminals and assailants during attempted muggings and assaults.
Common choke counters found in combat sports which involved closing the distance with the attacker, working gripping/clinching, transitioning to a throw, takedown or sweep and then once on the ground they look at removing the head from the choking arm as positional dominance is sought. There are lots of effective versions which can be found with a simple Google or YouTube search and if your goal is to 1vs1 consensual fighting where your aim is to submit or KO your opponent then these work great.
One of the first choke counters I teach is based on the situation being one of non-consensual violence, meaning violence I don't want to be apart of (criminals using violence to steal or assault others). For that reason the initial defence I teach (see images 1-6 below) involves remaining standing as best as possible, disengaging our arms with the enemies as so that we can strike whilst remaining on our feet as well as being unattached to the enemy so we are able to initiate a swift escape to a safer place.
If my go to move for the non-consensual violence situation was to just take the "consensual fighting" technique and use that, then I am getting my self connected to the enemy and making it harder for me to get away, I am also hoping that the ground I am about to drop to is relatively soft and free from sharp edges and debris. I am also completely removing my sense of awareness as I am landing on the ground with my head still tucked into the enemy's arm - I am completely blind to the surroundings and better hope there are no third parties about to join in and stomp all over me or attack me with weapons - which happens and happens a lot more than we would probably think.
Before, you think I am bashing the first type of choke counter I described, I have two points to make. Firstly, of course it is true that if the initial technique failed, I would need to move to other counters which may not have as many upsides as I would like, therefore I may have to go to the ground - but it is still clear that doing this is not the preferred option and is not what I would be using as my "go-to" counter.
Secondly is that if I was in a dojo and it was 1vs1 and I was trying to win the fight, then I may well use the consensual fighting technique first as I don't have to worry about all the things I mentioned earlier (ground condition, lack of sight, third parties joining in and so on...).
To be crystal clear, I am not saying that the aforementioned consensual fighting counter is bad. Both counters work but they work for their specific environments and there is no hierarchy whereby the technique which works against the trained fighter is better than the one used for civilian self-protection. Both techniques are designed to work great in their own environments where the outcomes are different and therefore specific tactics used to achieve these outcomes will also be different.
Choki Motobu is quoted as saying “The techniques of kata have their limits and were never intended to be used against an opponent in an arena or on a battlefield”, maybe we need to remind each other of this and that a similar quote could be written for the techniques of combat sports when taking out of their natural environment of a consensual violence.