Adapting to the Locals
In my last article I talked about changing the perception of karate. Today I want to focus on what specific changes can be made to preserve traditional karate while increasing membership and public acceptance. I can’t emphasize enough to those who think the art must remain unchanged and just like their teacher taught it that karate couldn’t gain traction in Japan until it was adapted to the Japanese. While there was a time that karate was popular in the West, that time is coming to an end and modern karate schools commonly pander to children to make sure they can pay their rent.
My List of Keepers
Here is my list of things that are essential. Without these things, it is no longer karate:
- The Ethics of Fighting
- Honor and Character Development
- Realistic Combatives
The Ethics of Fighting
OKI covers these kind of topics regularly in the philosophy section. It is more important to teach students to ask “Why would I want to fight?” than simply a crash course in how to beat someone senseless. This is what separates us from MMA and the older combatives that became karate. Currently many techniques are taught in a watered down form to increase safety. Teachers need to continue teaching the most effective techniques, and as an ethical consideration, discuss escalation of force and identify when certain techniques would be considered excessive. Simply hiding more effective techniques from students is careless and doesn’t teach ethics, but rather shields students from the ability to make unethical decision.
Honor and Character Development
No single quote explains the essence of karate-do better than Funakoshi’s quote, “The ultimate aim of Karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of the participant.” If we lose this and make our art primarily about fighting, then we have stopped practicing karate and begun something entirely different. While the name of karate is meaningless, the dedication to perfecting our character is essential to maintaining the art and keeping it alive in our current world.
This is something that is already being lost in karate. If we were to change how we teach karate to help its adoption by local culture, it is paramount that we maintain a dedication to realistic fighting scenarios. This means removing the lunge punch, eliminating point sparring, and training to use karate in life or death scenarios – rather than as a competition art that earns people trophies.
What I Would Remove
In order to adapt karate to my specific area, here is a list of the things I would remove:
- Calling it Karate
- Practicing Forms Alone
- Point Sparring
- Karate Uniforms and Belts
Rationale for Removing Things
Unfortunately you will have to wait for my next article to hear my rationale for why I would remove those things. Many of them have been mentioned before. The idea of removing Japanese goes against a lot of what I used to believe about learning karate, but I will explain the reasoning behind it. In the mean time, please leave your feedback. If the goal was to spread karate to as many people as possible without giving up its roots, how would you adapt karate to your local area what would you do differently? What would you call it? What would you have students wear to class?