Karate, the Complete Martial Art

With the rise of MMA, There is an odd trend prevalent in martial arts schools nowadays. In the Karate Dojo and other martial arts schools, instructors don't seem to be happy only to teach one art. Instructors feel as if they need to combine and mix their art with others to make their system remain pertinent and useful. You look up martial arts schools, and its always "Karate and Jiu-Jitsu" or "Taekwondo and Judo" "Kung Fu and Krav Maga" "Jeet Kun Do and Escrima", and so on. This totally makes sense, these schools are run as businesses, and as such want to offer what their potential clientele thinks is useful. Again, refer back to the rise of MMA.

But for REAL KARATE, this is 100% unnecessary!

If you practice Karate the way it should be done, you will realize that Karate is the king of martial arts. Keep in mind that is a BIG IF, because 99% of karate schools out there have no idea really how significant their kata are. To understand this, you need to understand the origins of Okinawan Karate. This is a subject that many have written entire books on, but let me summarize for you.

Okinawa has historically been a stop on trade routes between China and Japan. From China, immigrants traveled to Okinawa and brought with them Kung Fu (Fujian Province White Crane Style), this Kung Fu was mixed with a native style of Okinawan wrestling called Tode. Note the use of the word mixed there; it's entirely intentional because Karate is an ancient version of MMA. But it doesn't stop there; the Japanese also influenced Okinawa, both swordsmanship and Jujutsu influences can be found in Okinawan Karate. For this reason, if you understand the traditional kata of Okinawan Karate, you will see every attack and defense possible by the unarmed human body. Yes, obviously punches and kicks, but also throws, submissions, pressure points, joint locks, sweeps, and disarms.

So what are the kata?

Kata is a mnemonic tool to remember techniques. Not everyone was allowed to practice martial arts back in the days, and for many, the practice had to be done in secret. So how is this done? The master would teach some techniques and then instruct their student to practice by putting them together in a memorable way, kata.

So what happened? Why did Karate stop getting taught this way?

There are a few reasons why Karate evolved the way it did; one is that Karate needed to be simplified and organized to be taught in an academical environment. This was a necessary evil that Ankō Itosu (The Grandfather of modern Karate) and Gichin Funakoshi had to deal with to popularize Karate with the Japanese. Then, the Japanese happened. If you are familiar with the way Japanese people handle anything, you understand that everything is about efficiency. It doesn't matter what it is; if there are steps to it, the Japanese will make it both beautiful and streamlined. Just look at how they serve the traditional tea ceremony (Chado), or swordsmanship (Iaido). This mindset is what molded Karate into its modern form. The focus in kata became a lot less about why you're doing it, and more about how to do it "right." This is why the desired traits in kata tournament are sharpness, exactness, and mindful timing in technique execution, and also why the "Bunkai" performed usually make no sense.

Now, don't get me wrong, I LOVE and appreciate beautiful kata! I believe it is one of the things that makes Karate such a great and refined martial art. However, I ALSO think we NEED to understand REAL, USEFUL APPLICATION of our kata for Karate to grow.

So next time someone tells you they study...

Muay Thai for "Knee and Elbows"

Jiujitsu for "Ground Work"

Judo for "Throws"

Escrima for "Weapons"

Taekwondo for "Better Kicks"

Krav Maga for "Real Defense"

Silat for ...Okay, no one adds Silat to anything, but you get the idea.

Remember this.

Karate has it all. Karate, studied properly, uses every kind of attack and defense imaginable, includes weapon study (Kobudo), and is VERY "real" and practical for self-defense. This, however, is up to YOU the PRACTITIONERS AND INSTRUCTORS to teach and practice this way.

Learn the art.

Evolve to meet the challenges of modern self-defense.

Share it with everyone willing to learn.

This is your goal as a modern-day karateka!