Gichin Funakoshi never had the intention of beginning his own style (ryu) of Karate. He taught the twenty guiding principals of Karate in which he describes the aims of Karate as a whole. He has taught eclecticism, blending of styles, and the creative improvement of the self. He did not teach “Shotokan”.
In his autobiography, Master Funakoshi actually maintains a stance somewhat against styles, and overall expresses, that Karate-do is both the name and the way. Funakoshi’s Karate is a blend of a handful of other peoples interpretations, and we of course as individuals retain our own interpretations of Karate as we grow.
What I am arguing for here is that we as students of Karate as a whole, should rise above style’s, interpretations, and methodologies that lead Karate doctrines and organizations. They are destructive to the progress of Karate-do and the advancement of it’s diligent students. Instead we should practice, teach, and learn “Karate” – and as much of it as we can.
We share many of the same kata, which in themselves are the teachings of the different forms of fighting arts. For example, in the Chinese systems, you have Tiger form, Dragon form, and so on. That doesn’t mean that they are an individual form or kata, but a whole form of martial skill in themselves encompassing many kata and teachings.
The kata provide a universal curriculum, and the decoding of that curriculum has much to do with the creativity, rationality, and ingenuity of the individual Karateka. Consider the Tekki/Naihanchi series of kata. They are a blue print of a fighting art all on their own. You can read about this in Kruczek Sensei’s article on the Naihanchi Series. If you limit yourself to your style’s interpretation of it, then you miss out on all the other perspectives that have developed in the last 200 years.
It is my hope that at some point all of us come to the higher understanding that Karate-do doesn’t lie on paper. It doesn’t manifest from your black belt. Instead, it comes from your empty hands, and that you can transcend doctrines and rise above them in pursuit of the completion of the self. Bruce Lee can be used as a prime example in the necessities of transcendence. He rose above his thought that Chinese Gung Fu was superior to other martial arts and instead developed a superior mentality. He learned as much as he could about multiple martial arts and it all came together in what he called Jeet Kune Do. That does not mean we should become Bruce Lee or doff the Gi and Obi. What it means is that we should learn Karate-do, and not just our “style”. Encourage cross training in all “styles” until the point that people slowly forget we had styles. Foster the mentality that Karate is its own entity done differently by every individual, not a collection of various curriculum taught at different schools. Osu.