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Thread: Legitimate Karate Systems

  1. #31
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    I can see what you are getting at, but isn't this what a lot of the founders of now highly respected Japanese styles did. Why didn't they continue to do Shorin Ryu instead of creating new styles and associations? And why did Okinawans create new systems, why didn't they simply continue to promote the Chinese systems they originally learned.
    For example it is widely known that Kanbun Uechi trained primarily in Tiger Boxing in Fujian, and yet when he left China he restructured everything he did and called it Uechi Ryu. I am not having a go at Uechi Ryu, it is simply an example (in fact I have a high regard for Uechi Ryu). The same thing can be said about Goju...why didn't Kanryo Higaonna and later Chojun Miyagi simply pass on the White Crane boxing they had learned?
    Actually this watering down of systems (if that is what it is) is not new. Miyazato sensei in his book on Goju Ryu talks about fraud 'experts' who after the Meiji Restoration claimed to teach Chinese systems on Okinawa - he calls them 'han chin te' ie teachers of low value. Now it is interesting to speculate how many of those people are now regarded as great masters.
    Of course we all are interested in maintaining and improving standards, but juts because an American (or British or whatever) 4th or 5th dan starts his own style does not automatically mean that what he is teaching is any less useful than the most time honoured tradition.
    Harry Cook

  2. #32
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    Default Apples Oranges again

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Rivers
    Considering that, at 5th dan, in some styles, you have not learned all of the kata or the truest meaning of the kata, do YOU think a 5th dan is qualified to break away?

    Dan requirements vary from style to style, but, at 5th dan its a no-brainer. Normally, one would ask permission to do so...to make it legitimate. Could you imagine a 5th dan asking permission to start his own style?

    Start his own dojo...? Sure. But not his own style.

    In Koryu, you cannot even call yourself "Sensei" until 5th or 6th dan. So, imagine the 5th dan newbie Sensei going to Honbu and asking Soke if he can start his own line. This is something that has been forgotten here in the states...it happens so frequently here that people now think it is normal.
    The problem with your point is that you are mixing apples and oranges. This forum separates the koryu from sport karate from okinawan arts for good reason. It's true that a 5th dan in a koryu art starting his own style without authorization would have no legitimacy as a koryu. However, karate has no such restraint since legitimacy of the modern arts unlike koryu is not determined primarily by the past (history and lineage) but by present and future performance (popularity/performance in sport combat). Both koryu and modern arts derive some legitimacy from external bodies (ministry of education or other such entity) which ultimately support a self sustaining organization. But unlike a koryu, for a new karate organization, the external acknowledgment is sufficient determination of legitimacy even if the parent group disavows the runaway.

    Is a 5th dan qualified to break away even if he/she has not learned all of a particular style? Frankly, in most sport budo, you have learned most if not all of the curriculum by 2nd or 3rd dan and may need to do more on your own in other arts. Plus rank cannot quantify or limit talent. Tetsuhiko Asai was probably ready to found his own version of JKA shotokan at that rank.

    For these reasons, I find Harry Cook's comparison of transmission from China to Okinawa to be a perfectly apt response to the original post. What is happening in the US is another variation of the transmission problem. This time from Okinawa/Japan to the US. Each time an art transfers across the waters the control of the originators slips and the art inevitably changes, sometimes for the worse but sometimes for the better. As H. Cook noted:

    "Of course we all are interested in maintaining and improving standards, but juts because an American (or British or whatever) 4th or 5th dan starts his own style does not automatically mean that what he is teaching is any less useful than the most time honoured tradition."

    I agree wholeheartedly that talent and organizational ability which supports institutional legitimacy are 2 different things. In another thread, much is made of Dave Lowry's castigation of mullet wearing redneck, star spangled bannered samurai, but I believe that TALENT is the ultimate legitimacy. My favorite trailer trash is Tonya Harding. Aside from her talent with weapons, I remember that she was a truely great athlete, who was far and away better than Nancy Kerrigan. Had she taken up karate, yikes!! So I would find someone like her in the west to be quite legitimate as a martial artist despite their lack of credentials acceptable to the middle class palate.

    Finally, a comparison from the Chinese martial arts - while no one doubts the legitimacy of chinese arts, realize also that hucksterism, fraud, schticks (bend the spear with my neck) is completely part of the MA. The clown may or may not also be able to fight and no one thinks twice about it because martial arts is so deeply engrained into the culture that there is room for everybody. So I see the flowering of rhinestones to be an indication that martial arts has transplanted successfully into western soil..really no harm done.

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    Last edited by Margaret Lo; 13th January 2006 at 00:24.
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  3. #33
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    The dojo I recently left had switched from traditional style karate to a new style created by the sensei. The style seemed to be a mixture of American boxing and BJJ - similar to what I've seen on UFC. The things he was teaching I found somewhat useful - in a sense, it helped me to understand the science behind the fight, so to speak. But in the creation of this, he threw out traditional kata. I missed the dicipline of kata, so I continued to practice it at home. The moves in the new style were easy to learn...almost too easy. Why go home and practice when you can pick it up in two or three classes? Perfection wasn't an issue with the new waza, which is why I've always liked traditional kata - the working and reworking and the pushing yourself to improve.... the other problem I had was the ranking. The students that were promoted to shodan had all been (like me) learning the traditional style for several years as well as learning the new style for several months. Yet they were promoted to shodan in the new style - even though they knew as much of the new style as someone who had just joined the dojo three months ago. Yet these shodans were called sensei and given classes to teach. Not that they are bad martial artists - its probably just my perception that a sensei should be able to teach me something I don't know, and improve on what I do know..not just go over the drills.

    Can a fifth dan create a new style? Yes, why not? Is it legitimate? If it adheres to the traditional ideals and philosophies in martial arts, of course it is, whether some organization puts its official seal of approval on it or not. There is,however, a danger in becoming a McDojo when you break off into your own created style. When I first joined the dojo, the sensei was a hard-line tradtionalist who failed students if they didn't kiai during kata. When I watched a shodan promotion (under the New Style - ironically enough, those of us who started in the old style were still required to do kata for promotion to shodan) where the student couldn't even get through ANY kata and got the rank anyway - I knew I what I was looking at.

    To be fair, I do not think the new stuff was worthless or useless. To use it to supplement traditional training would have made for some future truly brilliant martial artists. For the record, I quit the dojo for reasons other than the creation of a New Style.

    K Webber
    K Webber

  4. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rin
    The dojo I recently left had switched from traditional style karate to a new style created by the sensei. The style seemed to be a mixture of American boxing and BJJ - similar to what I've seen on UFC. The things he was teaching I found somewhat useful - in a sense, it helped me to understand the science behind the fight, so to speak. But in the creation of this, he threw out traditional kata. I missed the dicipline of kata, so I continued to practice it at home. The moves in the new style were easy to learn...almost too easy. Why go home and practice when you can pick it up in two or three classes? Perfection wasn't an issue with the new waza, which is why I've always liked traditional kata - the working and reworking and the pushing yourself to improve.... the other problem I had was the ranking. The students that were promoted to shodan had all been (like me) learning the traditional style for several years as well as learning the new style for several months. Yet they were promoted to shodan in the new style - even though they knew as much of the new style as someone who had just joined the dojo three months ago. Yet these shodans were called sensei and given classes to teach. Not that they are bad martial artists - its probably just my perception that a sensei should be able to teach me something I don't know, and improve on what I do know..not just go over the drills.

    Can a fifth dan create a new style? Yes, why not? Is it legitimate? If it adheres to the traditional ideals and philosophies in martial arts, of course it is, whether some organization puts its official seal of approval on it or not. There is,however, a danger in becoming a McDojo when you break off into your own created style. When I first joined the dojo, the sensei was a hard-line tradtionalist who failed students if they didn't kiai during kata. When I watched a shodan promotion (under the New Style - ironically enough, those of us who started in the old style were still required to do kata for promotion to shodan) where the student couldn't even get through ANY kata and got the rank anyway - I knew I what I was looking at.

    To be fair, I do not think the new stuff was worthless or useless. To use it to supplement traditional training would have made for some future truly brilliant martial artists. For the record, I quit the dojo for reasons other than the creation of a New Style.

    K Webber
    Well, I don't mean to sound rude but if it was really a combination of legit BJJ and Boxing this would require a lot longer to receive a shodan in. Most BJJ black belts I know personally that aren't pro fighters take at least a decade to earn their black belt(1st dan). There have been a few that have earned black belts in 5 years or less, but not many.
    Boxing is also referred to as the "sweet science" for a reason...so is this instructor a BJJ black belt or just someone that has watched a few bjj instructional videos and done a seminar?
    This is also kind of weird to me that your sensei having a "traditional karate" background would take out all the karate and add BJJ and boxing.
    Many BJJ schools also teach some boxing and/or Muay Thai, even some basic capoeira kicks from the ground.
    Compared to most martial arts of today, I hate to say this but BJJ seems to take the longest to earn your 1st dan or "shodan"(they don't say shodan/nidan/etc. in bjj)and I'm wondering how much longer before it's watered down and we see a bunch of fake high ranking BJJ black belts...like there is with Karate, TKD, etc.
    Brian Culpepper

  5. #35
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    No, not rude at all. Some of the questions you raised were some raised by a few of my fellow former students as well. The New Style wasn't much of pure anything - not really BJJ, not really boxing...but really not karate anymore. I know the sensei was taking lessons in BJJ, and had done grappling and ground fighting in the past (where and with whom I do not know because in the beginning it was never part of the regular class - just things we did on occation to suppliment our karate training. It was also never part of any rank promotion). As for the karate, I can name style, history, founders, the sensei's teachers (I've met a few and even trained with them during seminars). He was always very forthright and honest when asked "where did you learn this?" and "with whom did you train?" and to be honest where he learned the ground fighting was something I never asked - probably because I enjoyed the karate more, although I found the other stuff useful in the sense it helped me to understand my karate a little bit better (I know that probably sounds rather strange, but then I suppose its just the way my head works). It would have made more sense to me to have the students who received shodan get it in the style we had been training under before the switch but since I've never run my own dojo I can't really say if that is the norm or not.

    I know it seems rather odd that such a hard-line traditionalist would throw all tradition out the window, but that is what happened. Its possible he planned on going back to kata for those students who advanced in terms of years with the dojo under the new style - who can say? As a martial artist, he is quite good. It seemed, however, with the introduction of the New Style, things went downhill fast. Rank became less about ability and more about social status and pecking order within the dojo. I did not quit because of health or financial reasons and I still train at home five days a week going over all the old things I have learned and continue to try to improve upon it as I continue to seek out another dojo.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that I didn't have a problem with the creation of a new style, but I did have a problem with the loss of tradition, as well as a few other things. Sorry to be so long winded - I am trying to be fair and not present the sensei in a bad light because in reality I only have my version of events - however, the questions and comments raised by Brian had been lurking just to the left of my brain during the classes and after I quit. I've run into several martial artist in the past few years and in striking up a conversation with them and asking what style they teach - the responses I've gotten were along the lines of "I teach a complete self defense system" -when pressed, they say they throw in a little of this style and that style...and I've wondered about fake high rankers myself.

    I've always felt martial arts should be a balance between physical and mental training - to understand the philosophy only will not help you in a bar fight and to understand only how to fight will give you a limit which you cannot get beyond. Perhaps this thought just shows my youth in training, but for now, it will suit me.
    K Webber

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    Default Crisis of Confidence or the Kitchen Sink Trap

    Quote Originally Posted by Rin
    I know it seems rather odd that such a hard-line traditionalist would throw all tradition out the window, but that is what happened. Its possible he planned on going back to kata for those students who advanced in terms of years with the dojo under the new style - who can say? As a martial artist, he is quite good. It seemed, however, with the introduction of the New Style, things went downhill fast.

    I've always felt martial arts should be a balance between physical and mental training - to understand the philosophy only will not help you in a bar fight and to understand only how to fight will give you a limit which you cannot get beyond. Perhaps this thought just shows my youth in training, but for now, it will suit me.
    Rin,
    It sounds to me like your teacher is an extremist by personality and belonged to the "cult" of karate-do. Problem for such a "believer" is that once his system is challenged, he can suffer a crisis of confidence that makes him ditch all he did before, and that sounds like what happened to your teacher.

    The Japanese karate kata are difficult to apply and understand and sometimes even senior instructors apply techniques poorly. I have found Japanese jujutsu to be the perfect complement to karate strikes since it emphasizes unbalancing techniques against strikes. Japanese jujutsu also presumes use of weapons and when compared to karate techniques clarifies the fact that many karate kata applications only make sense if the parties are armed. This is, IMO, the missing link for better understanding of karate.

    H
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    Default Crisis of Confidence or the Kitchen Sink Trap

    Quote Originally Posted by Rin
    I know it seems rather odd that such a hard-line traditionalist would throw all tradition out the window, but that is what happened. Its possible he planned on going back to kata for those students who advanced in terms of years with the dojo under the new style - who can say? As a martial artist, he is quite good. It seemed, however, with the introduction of the New Style, things went downhill fast.

    I've always felt martial arts should be a balance between physical and mental training - to understand the philosophy only will not help you in a bar fight and to understand only how to fight will give you a limit which you cannot get beyond. Perhaps this thought just shows my youth in training, but for now, it will suit me.
    Rin,
    It sounds to me like your teacher is an extremist by personality and belonged to the "cult" of karate-do. Problem for such a "believer" is that once his system is challenged, he can suffer a crisis of confidence that makes him ditch all he did before, and that sounds like what happened to your teacher.

    The Japanese karate kata are difficult to apply and understand and sometimes even senior instructors apply techniques poorly. When I became frustrated with this problem, I thought of going to BJJ but realized that it did not relate to karate enough. I felt an obligation to understand karate and not to "renounce" it when the failure to understand was mine.

    So to understand karate better, I started training in Japanese jujutsu since it emphasizes unbalancing techniques against strikes. Japanese jujutsu also presumes use of weapons, which illustrate the fact that many karate kata applications only make sense if the parties are armed. Now looking at kata, I can say of certain movements, ok, let's not use it in unarmed drills since it makes sense only with a weapon in hand.

    Rather than recognize and accept the limitations of karate, your teacher seems to have "panicked" and is trying to start all over again, which is just inefficient. Karate is good in and of itself. It does not have to be all things to all people. Karate does not emphasize ground work, nor should it have to to be "legitimate".

    M
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harry Cook
    I can see what you are getting at, but isn't this what a lot of the founders of now highly respected Japanese styles did. Why didn't they continue to do Shorin Ryu instead of creating new styles and associations? And why did Okinawans create new systems, why didn't they simply continue to promote the Chinese systems they originally learned.
    For example it is widely known that Kanbun Uechi trained primarily in Tiger Boxing in Fujian, and yet when he left China he restructured everything he did and called it Uechi Ryu. I am not having a go at Uechi Ryu, it is simply an example (in fact I have a high regard for Uechi Ryu). The same thing can be said about Goju...why didn't Kanryo Higaonna and later Chojun Miyagi simply pass on the White Crane boxing they had learned?
    Actually this watering down of systems (if that is what it is) is not new. Miyazato sensei in his book on Goju Ryu talks about fraud 'experts' who after the Meiji Restoration claimed to teach Chinese systems on Okinawa - he calls them 'han chin te' ie teachers of low value. Now it is interesting to speculate how many of those people are now regarded as great masters.
    Of course we all are interested in maintaining and improving standards, but juts because an American (or British or whatever) 4th or 5th dan starts his own style does not automatically mean that what he is teaching is any less useful than the most time honoured tradition.
    Harry Cook


    Mr. Cook, I think the group seems to be stuck on a few things perhaps to clear it up we could go back to the chicken and egg question.

    "What came first, the style, or the dan rank"?

    the answer seems simple, but if you all listen closely you can see how the scenarios and examples quoted do in fact fit today. It was not that many years ago that this all started.

    I spent last weekend with a man from Okinawa that studies Ti, he was taught by his father and his father by his. He refers to it as Kempo (if you really need a definition) He has 8 students throughout the world, 2 in Okinawa. He does not charge.

    He studies two kata, Seisan and Nihanchi. (yes he learned more but only studies two) there is a distinct difference between "learn" and "study" .

    He refers to it as Pre chinese okinawan Ti.

    He wears a black belt, and nobody asked his rank. His first demo was to have people punch him, I watched some pretty experienced big guys take a shot at him and they could not move him not even the slightest. he has been training for 28 years and is a professional body guard. The things he taught and demoed were quite interesting and very different from modern day karate. One of the highlights was when he explained that everyone does kata to fast. kata is done slow to instill the lesson. I have been training since 1981 and I was impressed.

    so what came first the 10th dan or the system........ and if we all get together and decide that something is legit, then award a 10th dan to the originator to legitimize it.............. is that wrong?

    Mike O'Leary
    Old Dragon

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    No it is not wrong, which is why I do not place a lot of value on grades as such; a grade or rank without the skill, ability, conditioning etc etc to back it up is just a piece of cloth tied around the waist.
    I think what came first was the need (real or perceived) to survive, to maximise the chances of survival in situations that might become lethal. Techniques evolved and methods of teaching those techniques were developed. Those teachers who could communicate well and develop the required skills in their students were valued highly and accorded high levels of respect, and sometimes large amounts of money as well. As this is attractive it would inevitably attract those with lesser abilities whio then dressed up what they did have in such a way that they were never subjected to criticism or questions. Sadly much of the 'traditional' way can allow these people to flourish, based largely on student ignorance of what really matters.
    All cultures adapt karate to siut their own needs, which of course is exactly what the Okinawans did to the Chinese methods they imported. If they had not done that then methods such as Shorin Ryu, Goju Ryu, Uechi Ryu etc etc would not exist and Okinawan karateka would be training in White Crane, Tiger Boxing, Five Ancestors etc etc . For someone to set uop a new style is perfectly usual and has happened throughout recorded history. If the innovations are useful and effective then the system will survive; if not it will eventually die off, or mutate into something else, absorbing elements from the more effective systems.
    Harry Cook

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    A problem comes when people insist on instant recognition and respect simply because they have tied the belt around their waist. Tournements are good for sorting this type of thing out at a certain level. I remember reading how Chuck Norris beat both Nakamura and Joe Lewis in the same contest in 1967 using Tang Soo Do. It's hard to argue with an art's legitimacy when the guy who just beat you is a black belt in that art. There are other ways to exert quality control, such as governing borads etc. but the usefulness and effectiveness of an art are always going to be the main ways of determining things. If someone straps on a black belt and says he is a 10th degree and he beats all of the others at that rank, I will have to give him credit.
    Dan Weston

    "It is not the art that makes the man, but the man the art."---Funakoshi Gichin

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    Quote Originally Posted by Danjo
    A problem comes when people insist on instant recognition and respect simply because they have tied the belt around their waist. Tournements are good for sorting this type of thing out at a certain level. I remember reading how Chuck Norris beat both Nakamura and Joe Lewis in the same contest in 1967 using Tang Soo Do. It's hard to argue with an art's legitimacy when the guy who just beat you is a black belt in that art. There are other ways to exert quality control, such as governing borads etc. but the usefulness and effectiveness of an art are always going to be the main ways of determining things. If someone straps on a black belt and says he is a 10th degree and he beats all of the others at that rank, I will have to give him credit.


    Based on that, are the ranks handed out in the 60's legitimate????? I know several people who went to torunaments, full contact in those days, who as a shodan beat sandan..... at the end of the tournament sensei would say.. Well you beat the sandan.. therefore you are sandan. Those people hold very high rank today and are recognized as 10th dan or 9th....... well respected people....

    by the way.. it was they themselves that told me this.


    Mike O'Leary
    Old Dragon

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    In regards to practitiones receiving rank because of accomplishments in tournaments/matches it still happens.
    I know of a few BJJ people that have rose through the ranks a lot quicker then 90% of people do because they'll go to a tournament as a blue belt and beat all the purple belts..then receive purple belt. Go to a tournament as a purple belt and beat all the brown belts, then are rewarded a brown belt..etc. One such individual did this in about a 6 month period went from purple to black belt. The thing is, is that he was beating black belts and is now a pro MMA fighter. A lot of people were upset at how quick he rose through the ranks but now shut up because he's proving himself in the ring very convincingly.
    I honestly don't have a problem with someone receiving rank this way...I have a problem more with someone that can't fight there way out of a wet paper bag but has "ok" form in their kata but is a high ranking senpai or sensei handing out advice. I once went to some korean style school nearby me and tried out a free week...it was kind of weird because in the sparring leg kicks and knees were allowed, they wore TKD chest protectors but no shin pads. I basically just leg kicked, sweeped, and kneed...was whiping the floor with everyone because they didn't know how to defend leg kicks right. Anyhoo, the instructor tells me: "your good but I could make you better" but wouldn't spar me. He then went on to ask me if I could tear a phone book in half and that he could teach me how, like this is supposed to sell me on his school and said I could enter his school as a black belt even though I dont know any Korean terminology or anything. To make a long story short, I never came back to this school.
    Brian Culpepper

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    Quote Originally Posted by Old Dragon
    Based on that, are the ranks handed out in the 60's legitimate????? I know several people who went to torunaments, full contact in those days, who as a shodan beat sandan..... at the end of the tournament sensei would say.. Well you beat the sandan.. therefore you are sandan. Those people hold very high rank today and are recognized as 10th dan or 9th....... well respected people....

    by the way.. it was they themselves that told me this.


    Mike O'Leary
    I'd say yes. It was done that way in Japan long before WWII. Nagamine Shoshin tells how an entire group of students in Judo were given their black belts because they had won a tournement. It's definitely one way of determining one's level. More to the point, it shows how inconsistent ranking is even within the same art and therefore how subjective it all is. Motobu felt that he should outrank all the other karate instructors because he was the best fighter. It's a debate that's gone on for a long time.
    Dan Weston

    "It is not the art that makes the man, but the man the art."---Funakoshi Gichin

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    [QUOTE=Danjo]More to the point, it shows how inconsistent ranking is even within the same art and therefore how subjective it all is. QUOTE]


    I agree. I've visited various karate web sites and checked out their requirements for rank. In one dojo what I have learned so far qualifies me for 2nd dan. In another, it doesn't even qualify me for brown belt.
    K Webber

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    Quote Originally Posted by Danjo
    I'd say yes. It was done that way in Japan long before WWII. Nagamine Shoshin tells how an entire group of students in Judo were given their black belts because they had won a tournement. It's definitely one way of determining one's level. More to the point, it shows how inconsistent ranking is even within the same art and therefore how subjective it all is. Motobu felt that he should outrank all the other karate instructors because he was the best fighter. It's a debate that's gone on for a long time.
    We (in RUSSIA) have separate rank system (the same for all sprots - judo, basketball, chess etc) reflects you sport activity - how many competitions you win. It isn't related to technical rank (belt).

    IMHO it's very good practice.
    Dmitry Samersoff
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    * There will come soft rains ...

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