...What is the Authentic, Traditional and True Karate?
Today’s article is not about Scientific Knowledge!
Today, we’re going to write about the Authentic, Traditional and True Karate…
But let’s start with a personal reflexion. Think by yourself…
… What really is the Authentic, Traditional and True Karate?!?
This is a question to which no one was able to answer me in a convincing way!
I train Karate for about 23 years and never received a credible answer.
I also made several attempts to understand, myself, what Traditional Karate is, but the History and Evolution of this amazing Martial Art destroyed every argument I tried to use.
Let’s try to look at the facts and not to what “my Master says” or to what “my Karate style defends” as Authentic and True.
Curiously, we think this article has much more questions than answers (lol)!!
Karate Is, Itself, An Evolution From Other Forms Of Martial Arts!
How can we talk about the Original Karate, if Karate itself is an evolution of Tuite/Tudi or Chinese Kung-Fu?
In turn, Shotokan, Goju-Ryu or Shito-Ryu are evolutions of Shuri-te, Naha-Te or Tomari-Te…
… Should we consider Gichin Funakoshi, Chojun Miyagi or Kenwa Mabuni as heretical or traitors?!?
Do You Teach Karate In Your Dojo As The “Original” Masters Did?
Do you teach Karate on a one-on-one basis? Do you teach only 3 or 4 selected students that dedicate most of their lives to Karate?
Do your Karate students and athletes clean your house or cook for you, every single day, so they deserve to receive your knowledge?
99% of the Dojos teach Karate with organized classes, which sometimes have more than 40 students, at the same time!
99% of the Dojos begin their training sessions with all the Karatekas lined-up… The students practice Kihon and Kata in lines, everyone at the same time, right?
Well, this is also an evolution of the “Traditional” way of teaching in Okinawa!
I Don’t Know Any Karate Sensei Who Doesn’t Teach Mawashi-Geri or Ura-Mawashi-Geri!! Do you?
Tell me one Kata where you execute a Mawashi-Geri or an Ura-Mawashi-Geri!!
You can’t do it?!? We neither…
So, why do we teach and practice these Geri-Waza, hundreds or thousands of times per year?
Aren’t Katas the source of the “Authentic” Karate?!?
Are we all “clowns” that are misrepresenting the “True” Karate?
Do you imagine yourself stop teaching such an effective kick as Mawashi-Geri, just because it’s not part of any Kata?
How Many Dojos Teach And Train Kumite?
It doesn’t matter how you name it: Jiyu-Kumite, Randori, Iri Kumi, Shiai-Kumite…
Originally, in Okinawa, free fighting drills were not part of training!
That’s an evolution that spread in the main islands of Japan.
Is it wrong to teach Kumite in Karate sessions because the Okinawan didn’t do it, in the early days?
By a Scientific point of view, free fighting drills are essential to becoming good at fighting! We think this should be quite obvious…
Karate is a Martial Art… So, fighting skills should be one of the top priorities, right?
Hojo Undo Was An Evolution In Strength Training!!!
Ancient Masters felt the necessity of improving their Strength and Power levels.
So they developed some tools like Chi-Ishi, Kongoken or Tetsu Geta…
It’s amazing that with the lack of Scientific Knowledge, 100 years ago, they were able to understand that external weights would help them to improve their performance in Karate.
So why some of we have so much resistance to train with Heavy Bags, Pads, Barbells, Dumbells…
Why some of we are skeptical about Plyometric training, for example?!?
If our “Original” Masters just wanted to progress to higher levels, why there are so many Karatekas that are so stubborn and obsolete?!?
Spend 2 Hours On YouTube And You’ll See An Amazing Thing!!!
You search for Kururunfa, Chatanyara Kushanku or just a Pinan/Heian and you’ll see several ways of doing the same Kata…
Each lineage of Shito-Ryu (or any other Style) has its own way of performing the same Kata.
What’s the “Authentic” version?
The answer usually is: “the Authentic version is the one that my Master taught me and I train for more than 10 or 20 years”!!
It’s not a very convincing answer, is it?
Sports Karate vs “Traditional” Karate
As we’ve seen, “Traditional” is an undefined terminology…
We think the adequate way is to make a distinction between Sports Karate and Non-Sports Karate.
That way, you can clearly make a difference between Shiai-Kumite (sports version) and other forms of fighting practiced in the Dojo…
There is an objective criterion: the Rules that define WKF, Kyokushinkai or any other sporting version of Kumite…
… and other types of fighting that don’t follow any rules.
And what about Kata?
Honestly, we don’t see the difference between Kata performed in WKF Rules competitions and all the other versions that we can find on YouTube.
The versions performed in WKF Rules tournaments are as valid as all the other versions we see on the internet.
And regarding Technical level, Strength, Power, Speed, Balance or Mental Commitment, we think we all should follow the standards of Rika Usami, Ryo Kiyuna, Sandra Sanchez, or Antonio Diaz!!
Colored Belts Grading System
Note: The source of this specific chapter is a text from Wendell Wilson (2010)
“The kyu/dan system of rankings in Karate is not original! Did you think it was?
The first one to develop it was Jigoro Kano… Yes, the founder of Judo.
Jigoro Kano achieved the goal of introducing Judo into Japanese grade schools and colleges.
With so many new students, all in the highly structured public school environment, he decided that a grading and ranking system would help to encourage them, and would allow them to gauge their own progress.
Funakoshi moved more or less permanently to Japan, where he instituted karate training in 1922, and soon it spread to schools as the practice of Judo had done.
Funakoshi became closely associated with Jigoro Kano.
The founder of Shotokan decided that it would be appropriate to adopt the Color Belt system for Karate ranks on his students.
The belt-rank system devised by Kano and accepted by the Butoku-kai consisted of six kyu (color-belt) grades, three white and three brown, and ten dan (black belt) grades.
Funakoshi adopted this same system for Karate, after 1922.
How many Dojos and Senseis do you know that still follow this Color-Belt system?
Today, we have yellow, orange, green, blue, red, purple belts…
On April 12, 1924, Funakoshi awarded the first Karate Black Belts and Dan rankings to seven of his students: Hironori Ohtsuka (later, the founder of Wado-ryu), Shinken Gima, Ante Tokuda, and four others named Katsuya, Akiba, Shimizu, and Hirose.
If you are a student or teacher of Wado-Ryu, do you consider Hironoru Ohtsuka a traitor?!?
Of course not…
The only thing he made was developing a new version of Karate, best suited to his point of view and goals.
Is that wrong?
We don’t think so.
Stop being “Authentic”, “Traditional” or “True”… Just be a HUMBLE KARATEKA that is always trying to improve your Karate!!
Embrace EVOLUTION whenever it’s proven that will help you to reach your goals in Karate…
The richness of Karate is exactly the several ways of viewing, training and teaching it! This way, everyone has the opportunity to find his or her own way in this great Martial Art…
P. S. – This article only uncovers some examples… Because if you observe it deeply, Karate is evolving since its “foundation”! Change your mindset regarding this issue and you will see a much more rich Martial Art…