Saturday, April 26, 2014

Traditional Karate


Torii gate in Japan. Photo by Heather From, Uchi Deshi
One would need to search the corners of the Earth to find anyone who has not heard of karate. Karate was created on a tiny group of islands known as Okinawa. Because of pragmatic combat effectiveness, karate spread throughout the world in the 20th century after it had been revealed to the public such that today, almost every person has a general idea of what karate is.

Many fighting sports in the world try to mimic karate and incorporate karate-like techniques; but just because someone kicks and punches does not imply they know karate let alone understand martial arts. Any school boy or girl will kick and punch under certain circumstances, but this does not mean they are karate practitioners. Unfortunately, few people understand the difference between sport karate and traditional karate. Even those who practise karate, most do not understand there is a dramatic difference between sport and traditional.
'Aerial Karate' - color pencil sketch by Soke Hausel
Sport Karate, as pointed out by Tsuneo Kinjo from Okinawa, has two branches - kata and kumite. In sport Karate, kata is practiced more like a dance contest with a fashion show - performed for trophies with a general lack of understanding of bunkai (pragmatic self-defense applications). Kumite (sparring) in sport karate is also about winning and losing. Those who train in sport karate wear padded gloves and try to out-score each other requiring many unfocused techniques. The Father of Modern Karate, Gichin Funakoshi of Okinawa wrote, "The purpose of Karate lies not in defeat or victory, but in perfection of its participants".

Traditional Karate is very different. It is about perfecting oneself and as stated by Chojun Miyagi, it is also about "... training oneself to be able to overcome an opponent with a single technique". This is why those who train at the Seiyo No Shorin-Ryu Karate Kobudo Kai hombu in Mesa, Arizona, are taught to develop maximum focus and work towards a skill of a one-punch knockout: not a knockout in a ring or cage, but a knockout that may save your life during an aggressive attack on the street. If a person has to use more than one technique in self-defense, they stand to lose the battle and possibly their life.
Gichin Funakoshi, pencil sketch by Soke Hausel

By definition, a martial art requires not only martial combat technique, but also esoteric value to guide a martial artist along an ethical and moral path. Think about it for a second. How many politicians are you aware of who train in traditional martial arts? Most of us would say none, others might answer Vladimir Putin, the Premier of Russia. After all Putin is reported to have a black belt in sport Judo.

But traditional martial and politics are antipathetic towards one another. Traditional martial arts requires honesty, ethics and morals. Politics requires a broken polygraph.










'Okinawan sunrise', pencil sketch bo Soke Hausel