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Thread: What is karate?

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    Default What is karate?

    Hi all. This is out of variots discussions with training partners and general sessions attended.

    What is karate?

    Let me explain my question. Some dojo you attend will be pure line work, some like to focus on self defence techniques others sport and point fighting...and so on. I wonder which of these actually bare any resemblance to ACTUAL karate?

    I had a recent chat and due to my judo training I often see throws in kata that are probably not there so my take on kata bunkai is often slightly different to those I train with but I would look to throw if I'm in close whereas the people I train with would NEVER grapple and see it as a waste of time and being as judo is nothing more than a sport I've nothing to discuss in terms of actual application! I'd bet good money the judo boys would destroy the karate class easily but why is that?

    Judo we train to fight every session. Every session has actual application yeah sure you don't punch and kick etc but you do have to test your techniques against a non compliant opponent. In karate I don't tend to do that even sparring doesn't give that. Not to the same extent anyway.

    But to be the karate guys should be above that? Or have I just been brainwashed with movies lol.

    I look at the old videos by Frank Brennen etc and their techniques are incredible their focus amazing and the sparring at the compitions they won was almost like watching a stand up mma fight.

    How do I get that?

    The main question is of course what is karate and I ask that because I'm not sure what I think is karate is actually karate. Has it just merged with jujutsu and various other arts so much that what was karate doesn't exist? Or am I just at the wrong club?

    I see these guys in their 60s that just have an almost spiritual aire about them. Those of us coming up behind them don't have anything like that

    I'll never be the next frank but I'd like to train toward that level. I want to be the best I can be. I train hard but I cone away from judo absolutely broken whereas karate I'm not.

    To me you should only be able to say you can do a technique when you can do it to an opponent in kumite if you can't then it needs further training.

    Anyway in the middle of the rambling is the question.

    What is karate?
    Olympic sport?
    Martial art?
    Pointless?
    Life skill?

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    I'm not sure I can answer the question in the framework you provide.

    You seem to be making some assumptions that are, at the very least, questionable. Just b/c that is the state of things in your life/where you personally practice there is no reason to presume that is the case everywhere for everyone.

    I was taught that "karate" was form of "last ditch" self defense practice for use when you didn't have a weapon, couldn't get to something that could be used as a weapon and couldn't run/get away. To be used only in situations that required seriously injuring people b/c you had no other choice.
    As an example, I recall a story of the one of the old experts (Tomari-te if memory serves) a woodworker by trade he was attacked in his shop and snatched up a hammer and hit the attacker in the head, when asked about why he used a hammer instead of his karate, the expert looked at the questioner like he was crazy, from his perspective he DID use karate, very good karate. So perhaps the approach taken by the old school karate folks is/was a bit different than the modern one.....maybe.

    To answer your direct questions.

    "Olympic sport?" Yes, my chagrin and IMO to its detriment, it might be used in an Olympic sport

    "Martial Art?" Yes.

    "Pointless?" Like any other art, depends on the teacher, how its taught, the ability of the student and how one defines "pointless."

    "Life skill" Maybe, I would hope that one gets more from their art than the ability to bust people up. Everybody gets old and I would hate to think that I spent decades learning something that has a limited shelf life, so to speak, and only a single application (actually that is paraphrase of a buddy of mine)
    Last edited by cxt; 24th January 2017 at 15:12.
    Chris Thomas

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    thanks for the reply. and I agree, i'm not keen on the Karate Olympic thing, too much bouncy tag and screaming for me.

    Anyway, I agree with the points made, I always think of Karate as a last resort art but in that last resort you want skills that work and i'm not sure i'm developing them. I guess the crux of my question is coming down to whether I need to find a new club. I am intending to sit for Shodan at Christmas and it's obviously a milestone - one that I don't feel is worth the paper it's printed on where I currently train - I've never met a poor Judoka that is black belt as they had to fight for it. Whereas in Karate I've met some bloody terrible ones that struggle to make a decent front kick. I don't want that for myself. But would going to another association help? or out of the frying pan into the fire??

    When I was 6 and started at my first Karate session discipline was expected and technique was the be all and end all and you worked hard I still remember tips that brown belts gave me back then but I haven't seen that type of atmosphere anywhere and to be honest I miss it. I want to have that back and my long term goal would be to have my own club to create that atmosphere but I think it needs a strong association behind it... one I have yet to find (not that I know them all of course and not speaking ill of clubs I've never been to so please don't take this as a judgement on anything other than my current situation)

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    Karate is what karate does.
    Ed Boyd

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    What is Karate? It is what you make of it. It has been said that the usefulness of a cup is in its emptiness; a cup that's half full of Judo can't be filled with Karate. Leave your preconceptions at the door, and go in without thought of comparing this to that, or "well, what I'd do in this situation is..."
    Yours in Budo,
    ---Brian---

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    There is a huge difference between modern karate-do and karate-jutsu. There is also a big difference between what most people think karate is and what the Okinawans train.

    I would go back to the origins of the word karate...empty hand...not what most people think it is...it is not about being weaponless. It is about being empty enough o employ all your training to fight...fill in the spaces and blanks (empty) with whatever is needed to survive.

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    Which Okinawans? and .... What do most people think Karate is?
    Ed Boyd

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    Hey Sam,
    Since you asked, here's my understanding .... Karate is a generic term. Since I like analogies, think of it as the word automobile instead. What is automobile? Is it for racing? Is it for off-roading? Is it for hauling stuff around, or for commuting to work? The answer would be yes, to all of it.

    You need to be more specific in your questions in order to get more specific answers. There are a lot of different karate organizations, and each one will have its own ideas about what karate is, and their own approach to teaching it. They will all have different emphasis, and the people that train in them will all be looking for different things from their training.

    Never forget that "karate" is a generic term, and can mean a number of different things to different people.

    Cheers,
    Paul Smith
    "Always keep the sharp side and the pointy end between you and your opponent"

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    Quote Originally Posted by mi_man_us View Post
    I would go back to the origins of the word karate...empty hand...not what most people think it is...it is not about being weaponless. It is about being empty enough o employ all your training to fight...fill in the spaces and blanks (empty) with whatever is needed to survive.
    Actually, the origin of the word karate, as I understand it, was Chinese hand. It was later changed to empty hand (same pronunciation, different kanji) after Japan began pushing nationalism prior to WWII. Could be wrong as I'm not a karate guy, but I believe that's what I remember reading about Japanese history.
    Paul Smith
    "Always keep the sharp side and the pointy end between you and your opponent"

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    What an interesting question.
    First maybe define by common characteristics.
    Karate is a fighting art, which at some point it's linage traces a path through Okinawa and has a significant portion of it's training involving practice of solo kata.
    Most practitioners train with makiwara and in both prearranged and free sparring. Various odd shaped weights are also frequently used.

    What did I miss? Is anything here wrong? Even if I am right it still doesn't tell you that much.
    Let's take a slightly different approach.
    Particulars and maybe you can draw generalizations.
    Uechi Ryu- Relatively little changed from when left China. Small number of kata. Extreme kotekitae. Very widely respected as strong fighters in Okinawa. No weapons training organic to style but weapons are frequently added in from outside. Many open handed strikes with thumb joint. Kicking with toes is common.
    Kyokushinkai- Founder is a yondan in judo and studied Daito Ryu under Yoshida Sensei. Uses both goju and shotokan kata. Sport competition is encouraged. Rules are bare hand knock down knock out but no face punch. Weapons include bo, sai, tonfa.
    Matsumura Seido Ryu (Shorin Ryu). Higher stances. Lot's of prearranged two person drills. Joint locks and sweeps similar to aikido (at least outwardly). Pressure points taught early. Large weapons curriculum. Kotekitae. Sorry did not cover earlier kotekitae sometimes translated bone toughening is striking body and arms to make tougher. Taisabaki (body movement to avoid strikes) is emphasized.
    Wado Ryu- founder was jujutsu expert. Body movements are different to the point that other styles would consider them wrong. Has a well defined prearranged kumite that teaches throwing and taisabaki.

    If you follow what I am saying not just punching there is plenty of grappling in some styles but sometimes you have to train a while to get there.
    One if the greatest advantages of karate is that if you can no longer train with your teacher you can still keep polishing the kata you have learned.
    One the flip side of course is that contact with another person teaches you things you cannot learn by solo practice.
    If you have a good teacher stay with him as long as you can and practice outside of class as much as you can.

    I think one of the reasons there is less weapons and less grappling in shotokan is because when Funakoski taught in Japan they already had good grappling and weapons. His students were probably more interested in striking and sparring. Just a guess.
    One thing I don't find useful is my style is tougher than yours. Could Oyama Sensei beat Ohtsuka Sensei? Could either of them beat Hohan Soken Sensei? Who cares? The real question is am I better than yesterday?
    Good Luck with you training.
    Len McCoy

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    Quote Originally Posted by len mccoy View Post
    What an interesting question.
    First maybe define by common characteristics.
    Karate is a fighting art, which at some point it's linage traces a path through Okinawa and has a significant portion of it's training involving practice of solo kata.
    Most practitioners train with makiwara and in both prearranged and free sparring. Various odd shaped weights are also frequently used.

    What did I miss? Is anything here wrong? Even if I am right it still doesn't tell you that much.
    Let's take a slightly different approach.
    Particulars and maybe you can draw generalizations.
    Uechi Ryu- Relatively little changed from when left China. Small number of kata. Extreme kotekitae. Very widely respected as strong fighters in Okinawa. No weapons training organic to style but weapons are frequently added in from outside. Many open handed strikes with thumb joint. Kicking with toes is common.
    Kyokushinkai- Founder is a yondan in judo and studied Daito Ryu under Yoshida Sensei. Uses both goju and shotokan kata. Sport competition is encouraged. Rules are bare hand knock down knock out but no face punch. Weapons include bo, sai, tonfa.
    Matsumura Seido Ryu (Shorin Ryu). Higher stances. Lot's of prearranged two person drills. Joint locks and sweeps similar to aikido (at least outwardly). Pressure points taught early. Large weapons curriculum. Kotekitae. Sorry did not cover earlier kotekitae sometimes translated bone toughening is striking body and arms to make tougher. Taisabaki (body movement to avoid strikes) is emphasized.
    Wado Ryu- founder was jujutsu expert. Body movements are different to the point that other styles would consider them wrong. Has a well defined prearranged kumite that teaches throwing and taisabaki.

    If you follow what I am saying not just punching there is plenty of grappling in some styles but sometimes you have to train a while to get there.
    One if the greatest advantages of karate is that if you can no longer train with your teacher you can still keep polishing the kata you have learned.
    One the flip side of course is that contact with another person teaches you things you cannot learn by solo practice.
    If you have a good teacher stay with him as long as you can and practice outside of class as much as you can.

    I think one of the reasons there is less weapons and less grappling in shotokan is because when Funakoski taught in Japan they already had good grappling and weapons. His students were probably more interested in striking and sparring. Just a guess.
    One thing I don't find useful is my style is tougher than yours. Could Oyama Sensei beat Ohtsuka Sensei? Could either of them beat Hohan Soken Sensei? Who cares? The real question is am I better than yesterday?
    Good Luck with you training.
    Len McCoy
    wow! what a fantastic answer thank you!


    I think you got the idea of the question I was asking so thanks for finding the essence from my rambling post (not an easy thing to do really especially considering the amount of times I go off on a tangent!)


    See that is my query, should Karate be limited to a style? can you actually learn "Karate" I wonder what the origin is. Should I be looking at my training as Karate practice or Shotokan practice?


    with the comment above, my cup can never be filled with karate when I'm half filling it with Judo. I agree to a point on this but that's suggesting Judo is NOT Karate. Let me explain, as the post above shows, there are grappling techniques in some forms of Karate, I'm merely learning those among others I feel this adds to my karate cup very well but that's merely an opinion of course and one perhaps not shared by others.


    It's a tricky topic as I don't want to start a my style is better than yours or even my form of martial art is better or worse or anything like that I just think that Karate is one of the harder arts to explain due to it having so many different styles and organisations.


    So, my goals in general:
    All of these are applied to a street situation as that's what I see martial arts to be - a last resort to be used in a street situation. I don't look for these instances but like to develop a confidence in myself that i'm at least prepared if I can't get away.


    >> If someone grabs me I can either escape or restrain. So throws, locks etc.
    >> If someone trys to hit me (or succeeds) I have the ability to withstand (to an extent) the blow of the impact and respond calmly, be that restraining or returning a blow.


    Looking at the older guys in Karate these people could most definitely do this. Whereas now, I don't see it (in my area anyway) people are reluctant to train kumite, be that free training or training with full impact in mind. I want that! I want to know if I don't block i'm getting hit! I want to know what that hit feels like to better develop an understanding of how to respond and rather than being shocked in the outside world where the assailant won't stop when I tap, I can do it with a partner who will allow me to gather myself afterwards and learn from the situation.


    Karate to me is a very general term and has to an extent been so widely used it's hard to see what it actually means which is why i'm confused by it. I enjoy learning but I want more from it, Perhaps I just need to find some like minded people to add additional training sessions with like minded people to experiment.


    I've looked at Kudo and it seems to be exactly what I describe - is it Karate? or is it something else?


    Don't get me wrong I don't want to be a "bad ass" I don't want to be a cage fighter or the next mayweather. I just need direction really and to know that i'm aiming for something I enjoy kata but I HAVE to see something in Kata otherwise it's just dance.


    Perhaps the problem is me and what I want and it not existing in Karate or perhaps it does but I haven't found it.


    The last thing I'd want to do is join a new club to be presented with a set of little mits and taught to bounce around screaming when i've made the tiniest amount of contact nor would I like to join a MMA club and expected to put myself in harms way to be thought of as a serious practitioner.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hudson1984 View Post
    I've looked at Kudo and it seems to be exactly what I describe - is it Karate? or is it something else? ]
    Kudo, formely known as Daido Juku was founded by AZUMA Takashi, a former Kyokushin top competitor. Despite winning one all japan kyokushin
    tournament early in his carreer, he felt like something was missing in Kyokushin (punches to the head not to mention them) and started to evolve towards what would be later known as Daido Juku, and then Kudo.

    Azuma introduced the use of the headgear in order to avoid injuries while striking the head. As a result, even headbutts are allowed in shiai. Throwing techniques are also widely used, mostly borrowed from Judo as well as ne-waza. The competitions are all full contact.

    Azuma insists that Kudo is Budo mixed martial arts as opposed to mixed martial arts "only".

    There is another style which took a similar path, without headgear though: Shidōkan Karate founded by Soeno Yoshiji. Here again, it looks a lot like MMA.

    Whether those styles are or are not Karate anymore is mostly a matter of point of view. It is my understan ding that Azuma does not use the term Karate anymore but I´m not 100% sure.
    Deception is one of Kenpo´s best technique.

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    If you stick with Shotokan and haven't already get a copy of Funakoshi's Karate Kyohan. A lot of material besides just kick, punch. Some nice throws etc. The most common English translation also has a few old pictures with the higher stances. General view is low stances are to train the hips and legs and important in the beginning. Higher stances are more mobile and better for taisabaki when older.

    If you stick with Judo I would also recommend Kano's Kodokan judo. Also shows material like Judo Kata. A lot of the self-defense you seek is in the Goshin jutsu kata.
    At least as much as there is a good defense for a knife attack.

    Judo gives you good ground fighting which most karate lacks so honestly the path you are on makes sense to me. As you begin to age and some of this becomes difficult might be a good time to add qigong or tai chi.
    Like you I would like to learn it all but only so many hours in a day.
    Good Luck
    Len McCoy

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