Japanese Karate – The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly
Karate was born in Okinawa, but most people think that Japanese Karate is the source. The reason for this is that Karate travels through Japan, and this country becomes the marketing power of that art center. So, people just assume that Japan is the heart of art.
It is true that Japan has made a great contribution to the growth of Karate, but there are some problems that arise because of that assistance. Things have happened in Karate that actually limit the individual struggle for artistic expression. This paper will examine this concept.
The person most responsible for propelling Karate into the modern world is Gichin Funakoshi. In his writings one notes that he does not advocate Karate for competitions. Unfortunately, this advice was not heeded, and Karate went awry to win the tournament.
There’s nothing wrong with testing yourself, but when the game becomes winning at all costs, having to get that gold, having to beat everyone else, the art gets pretty skewed. The sport’s desire to bring down other human beings runs counter to the more artistic desire to control oneself. Thus, Karate ceased to function as an Art, and became a method for human cockfighting.
This problem was realized by Funakoshi teaching karate to students. These students changed art according to the excesses of their youth, and ruled out character development as the main motivation for art. Thus, tournaments grew in popularity, students became fascinated with battle after battle, and there was even one incident of a student being killed for not wanting to go down this dark path.
Main Styles of Karate Practiced in Japan
Due to the lust for personal power in Karate, there is also a different degradation of the arts. For example, until today karate points would not be awarded during a fight unless the student attacked with a forward stance. However, if one examines the ancient art, a Chinese-based art derived from the Japanese version, one will see that the front stances are an over-commitment, and that the actual fighting stances are the far more balanced rear stances.
When fighting from a balanced back position, one can use all weapons (boxing, legs or otherwise) and still maintain the ability to retreat from the action. To be able to retreat, regardless of the action, as it were, encourages students to take a more balanced point of view towards facts and even fights. It has been a considerable observation of this author that when students are trained in the back position as the main stance of Karate, they become less aggressive and more understanding.
Interestingly, Funakoshi himself seemed to have grasped these points. On the one hand, he reportedly said that he didn’t even recognize the Karate being taught, that it was very different from what he brought to Japan. And, on the other hand, his official gear, meat and seals and whatever else you have, were not given to Shotokan Karate (Japan’s premier Karate organization) after his death, but rather passed on to a more complacent and gentler style. karate called Shotokai.
In closing, whether you learn one of the more balanced styles of Karate, or whether you’ve been influenced by the pushing forces of the Japanese style doesn’t matter. What matters is that you do form, and you seek balance. So, consider the words of this article, apply as much as you can and Japanese Karate can return to a truer form of Martial Arts.
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