Martial Arts Change
There has been a pretty interesting discussion going on in the comment sections of my last two articles (Changing the Perception of Karate and Adapting Karate to the Local Culture) and I thought I would continue my thoughts in a full post rather than just a response to the comments. The main comment I am responding to is from Dan Killingsworth:
“Why not celebrate Karate for what it is instead of trying to market it as something else? Why not strip out all of the parts added when it was brought into the schools, standardized the same way that Judo and Kendo, was commercialized for the Westerners as a way to earn money for a ravaged Okinawa after the war, and teach it with an emphasis on how the Okinawan military class learned it? Not only would it open eyes as to what is really there and the value that it has, it would also go a long way towards removing the stigma that has been brought to the word Karate by bad b-movies and snake-oil selling pseudo-sensei. My feeling is that would be better for Karate as a whole rather than trying to rebrand it into something else. Rebranding still stinks of snake-oil practices – Just think about all the MMA ‘masters’ out there schilling only the most rudimentary techniques that they learned from a few seminars, Youtube, and books. Snake-oil indeed.”
I know Dan meant this with the best intentions, and it brings up an interesting point – I would never sell lessons in Open Hand Combatives (karate-do). If I were thinking of changing the name in order to increase my revenue, then I would have to agree with Dan 100%. What I am suggesting is a name change to help spread the good that Open Hand Combatives provides to people’s lives. In the same way that Funakoshi changed the name to help spread Karate, I would like to change the name to spread Open Hand Combatives. Most serious karateka know that karate was once called tuidi (tode). Why wouldn’t serious students of Open Hand Combatives learn that it is entirely based on karate. Based on? I thought this was just a name change? No.
How the Okinawan Military Class Learned It
While my attempts to change how I teach application of kata are meant to “return” to the way karate used to be taught, the reality is that no one knows exactly how it was taught. We are not removing extra things and returning to our roots, we are developing techniques independently in an attempt to mimic what we think the Okinawan Military Class would have learned. This is a change to the curriculum to make karate more appealing and effective (both to ourselves and our perspective students).
“Hoping to see Karate included in the universal physical education taught in our public schools, I set about revising the kata so as to make them as simple as possible. Times change, the world changes, and obviously the martial arts must change too. The Karate that high school students practice today is not the same Karate that was practiced even as recently as ten years ago [this book was written in 1956], and it is a long way indeed from the Karate I learned when I was a child in Okinawa.” – Gichin Funakoshi
I am hoping to see karate included in a list of respected martial arts along with krav maga, brazilian jujitsu, and other popular arts. For that to happen, karate needs to change. The commonly taught application needs become more realistic, the sparring needs to become more physical, and this needs to happen fast. I am ready to make these kind of changes. The problem is that most instructors aren’t because they make the majority of their money from kids classes. Changing would mean going broke.
If this change isn’t universal, then any good we do will be overshadowed by McDojos. With all of this in mind, I am going to start doing open hand combatives (name pending) and if people want to make fun of the childish practices of McDojos teaching karate – I don’t have to care because open hand combatives will be just that – combative.
I look forward to the responses to this.