My Karate style
What is my Karate style? I guess one needs to know if he/she can feel identified with the contents of this blog. If my methods and theories are aligned with those of his/her Dojo. Fair enough.
What is my Karate style? That is a fair question with a complicated answer.
My first Art was Judo, which I started to learn when I was six years old. Even though I never stopped training I did it in a discontinuous manner, never caring too much about it. I never thought it could be used in a fight, until recently.
After that I joined a Shotokan Karate class, not by choice (I wanted to learn Kick boxing) but because it was the only kicking-and-punching option available at that time, until I broadened my martial circle of friends and became involved in full contact styles.
Many years and a few dans later I was forced to move my residence to China, having Kyokushin as my only choice for the first years after I landed. After that I met many people involved in a variety of arts who were gracious enough as to invite me to train with them. I could do Boxing, Sanda, Muay Thai, Kendo, Kalaripayatu, Kobudo, Shotokan, Judo, Brazilian Jujitsu (gi and no gi), MMA, Taekwondo (WTF and ITF), Aikido, Shorin Ryu and Wing Chun.
In the meantime I joined Goju Ryu International Karate Kobudo Yuzenkai too, where I got introduced to its practices.
So, what is my style? All. And none.
Let me explain: after all of my training sessions with so many different martial artists and fighters of different schools and traditions I see no styles. I do not see rigid divisions between what a group does and another groups does not do. I now can not force myself to accept that there are techniques that are not allowed to me just because they are not part of the curriculum of a particular school. I do not even see divisions between different Martial Arts!
If you read the works of the Karate pioneers they all share a common interest to improve by sharing what they know with others. There were no styles in Okinawa a century ago. Why should we have them now? Most of the revered Masters of old had instructors from the Naha and the Shuri lines. Funakoshi, Mabuni and Oyama Senseis, just to name the ones with the most following these days.
Of course, we should keep the traditions alive and pay homage to the Masters who handed down Martial Arts to us. But following a tradition does not mean that you must abandon critical thinking and that you can not learn a technique that is not in the syllabus. MMA fighters got it right very quickly. One must be able to use a variety of techniques in any range and situation, standing or laying.
I am not the first one and will not be the last to feel a natural continuation from kicking to punching to elbow to grappling to take down and to ground fighting. I can not say where Shotokan ends and Kyokushin starts, where Judo takes over or what Art my punch came from.
If I punch before performing an elbow lock, I am doing Karate or Aikido?
Of course the answer is both, and none.
I do not want to upset anyone saying that styles are unimportant or that I am above all the styles I have mentioned (or above any). Beginners must strictly adhere to the syllabus and teachings of the instructor, but cross-training and “seeing what others are doing” are highly recommended by the autor.
I am lucky to have learnt a great variety of kata from different styles and, even if I can not remember all the kata I have practiced in my life, I can choose the kata that feel better for my practice. I am lucky that I can practice standing and ground fighting with my friends. I am busy because I have many techniques to work on, striking and grappling, empty handed and with weapons. It makes me feel good that I can practice with anyone in the planet at any time in whatever style that person can do, but at the same time if makes me feel sad that there are so many aspects of the Martial Arts that I will never be able to practice with enough depth.
The whole book must be read with a no-style-mind, an open mind who can see the goal (self-defense) and who does not care about labels and limits.
Let me quote some Martial Arts experts:
“If we examine, analyze and breakdown the essence of Shorin-ryu and Shorei-ryu we can see that the strikes, kicks, techniques, the application of strength and pliability, etc., are the same. Even if some differences can be seen, such as differences in speed in advanced forms, this is simply a natural extension of karate training. It is normal in karate to have different notions of the use of speed, strength and pliability when training. Therefore the idea of different styles is fundamentally wrong. We can only conclude then, that Shorin-ryu and Shorei-ryu are both one and the same.
Regardless of the method, almost all empty hand techniques fall within the range of goho (剛法 – hard method) and juho (柔法 – pliable method). Boxing is the hard method of karate, while Judo is the pliable method of karate. People think that karate is simply a hard method but people simply do not know what karate is. Karate as a martial art includes both methods of go and ju. Pliability (ju) can be found in the hard method (go) and hardness (go) can be found in the pliable method (ju).” Toyama Kanken Sensei.
“Atemi accounts for 99% of Aikido” and “In a real battle, atemi is seventy percent, technique is thirty percent”, as by Morihiro Saito and Gōzō Shioda Senseis.
“In karate, hitting, thrusting, and kicking are not the only methods, throwing techniques and pressure against joints are included … all these techniques should be studied referring to basic kata”, as said by Funakoshi Sensei.
“Atemi-waza (striking techniques) are the most serious attack techniques and essential for victory in combat. They consist of strikes, kicks, hits and attacks using the fist, foot, elbow, kneecap, side of the palm, shoulder, or head, to attack the opponent's vital points until he is beaten.” Kyuzo Mifune Sensei.
So, if Karate is a grappling method of throws and locks, Judo uses the head, knees and elbows and Aikido is mainly a striking Art, I can not see the reason why the top dogs in modern Martial Arts are insisting in keeping the Arts self-limited.
The huge success of MMA tournaments has shown that for a Martial Art to be effective it mas cover all the fighting possibilities: all possible attacks and being attacked by all possible means. More and more artists are starting to realize the uselessness of limiting themselves to a unique method (striking or grappling).
After WWII the dojos in Japan (most of them, at least) became specialized in just one kind of technique, while before that all the Arts gathered all the knowledge that they could. Specialization means you will become really good in a very narrow field, and that made the Arts grow, but in isolation.
I believe it is time to go back to the roots.
Let us train in a constructive and useful way.