In defense of Japanese Karate…

Justice for the Kata.

This blog has been formulating for a long time. Maybe even longer than I’ve been around. These topics kind of reveal themselves to me on a weekly basis and some make it into script and some don’t. A few months ago I would have been writing them on Facebook to my friends dismay and one thought away from folks unfollowing me to avoid my rant. Don’t get me wrong, my rant will still be shared on Facebook but now you get the option of “clicking” the link to my rant via blog. I found myself in a tai chi workshop this morning for seniors where I have committed the next 6 weeks, twice a week donating my time to teach tai chi at a seniors center in a nearby town. They’re lovely folks and seem to enjoy our first session. As I drove home looking forward to the thought of a healthy lunch my mind began to relish in the thought of a generation beyond my own learning kung fu for the first time. Yes, tai chi chuan is a version of kung fu and even though I haven’t had instruction in the art for at least a decade, its something that continues to evolve every time I practice/teach it. Its crazy but its almost as if the form actually is doing the teaching. I can hear the faint instruction in the background of my martial memory of my instructor correcting and re-correcting my form or lack of.

So, Japanese Karate. Kata’s. Pinan’s. Whatever you call it, Karate is at the forefront of what a lot of folks are doing today. MMA, fighting, training, an other systems of self-defense. Some say its a far cry from king fu while others quote history and find a distinct correlation. We could launch into a whole history of Japanese Karate here. But that’s not what I’m talking about and about how it came from White Crane Kung Fu. Whatever. The real point her is the effectiveness and what most folks “think” what Karate is all about. Its power. Its finesse. Its grace. Its fierce. It evolves. Its raw and refined at the same time. While it would be fun to discuss the usual famous pioneers at length…Mas Oyama, Fumio Demura, Gichin Funakoshi…its more interesting to note these powerful guys knew what was up and employed their tools with deadly accuracy. The forms and Katas are a strong foundation in what we do. Even the most basic forms have a plethora of techniques laden through out. Fundamentals become advanced moves. If you know where to look. I think folks get so bogged down with what it looks like or surface appearance that they don’t give it time.  Blocks are a strong foundation as well. Blocks are not blocks and they are blocks at the same time. Blocks are strikes. Its what ever it needs to be. Like your Kata. Also, the Kata or form itself doesn’t need to be a descendant of an antiquated warrior to be useful. Its the method rooted into the move itself. Sometimes we get stuck on which is better. I say “who cares??!”. Seriously, what does it matter. Its similar to folks fanaticizing about pitting this fighter against that fighter…if this is as deep as your thoughts run you should probably be working on your Kata.

It still boggles me that to this day there are gifted martial artists touting theirs as the “most effective” or “the best” or “the art that puts it all together”. Please. We all as martial artists are capable of arriving at the same place. But we all take a different path to get there. I think most of us want something good from it. We want to live better. Teach better. Share a strong moral compass. We want others to succeed. Folks and fools make comparisons sometimes based on someone else’s perception. I cant tell you how many times I’ve been introduced to or approached by someone who asked what I practiced or what I taught. Usually before I finish briefly explaining Shaolin Kempo the interviewer lifts their head up and explains to me their great uncle studied Black Mountain Tiger Kung Fu from the Shou Shan Mountain Temple of Secrecy and how they were the greatest kung fu guy that ever walked the earth….okay I just made up that name, but you get my point. They also go on to indirectly or directly tell me how much better their Uncle is than me because they do kung fu. I politely smile and nod. A kung fu master in Louisville once told me “Its all the same.” To some degree I have to say I believe him. I mean, I like what I do but a lot of us have that capability. Granted some are more skilled or gifted than others and can get there quicker.

The point here is that we all have something to offer. Karate included. Its sometimes used as a punch-line because its not “popular”. Because someone in MMA doesn’t like it or Because someone really skilled in something else doesn’t like it. These guys deserve their due. They’re solid and tough. Ground fighting isn’t the only thing going. Everything has its place.










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