A dear friend came over to my house the other day and as usual he remarked about all of my karate memorabilia that I have laying in my house. He asked me a few questions about karate as usual, he wanted to know how long I had been involved with the sport. I told him, quite a while. Honestly, I don’t remember how long I have been doing karate, probably since I was in high school. Finally he came around to the question that he really wanted to ask me, and that is how one get involves in karate. I recall sitting on my couch, a bit stumped. Stumped because I wasn’t quite sure there is an “official” way to get involved in martial arts. So I told him that the best thing to do was to get with a good instructor, at a reputable school and start taking classes. I could see that answer wasn’t exactly satisfactory. So, I told him I would do some research and let him know.
The first thing I did was drop in on a few of my karate friends who happen to own their own schools. I asked them what they thought would be the best way to get involved in Karate. They were a bit puzzled at why I would be asking that question, but then when I explained why they under stood. I talked to about 5 different instructors at 5 different schools. I even talked to an older friend of mine who used to have a school but is now retired from teaching.. After listening to these opinions here is what I came up with. These are my 5 steps to getting involved in the sport of karate.
The first thing that you need to decide is what style of karate you are going to take. There are several different karate styles to choose from: Goju Kai, Shotokan, Shito ryu, Wado ryu and Kyokushin Kai to name a few. And they all are slightly different from each other with emphasis in different areas. Actually, it doesn’t matter which style you chose. Because the reasons you will actually be participating in the sport is to learn self-defense, get exercise, and develop some type of mental discipline. All the different styles do this. So, if you go talk to a bunch of different instructors they will all tout the benefits of their particular style. Take the style from the instructor that you think you will be able to follow, and learn something from. When you choose the instructor you choose the school. Different schools teach in different ways. Choose your instructor wisely. Make sure that the training times are convenient to your schedule. If the training times aren’t convenient, you won’t go to the classes. It’s just that simple, and if you don’t go to the classes you won’t learn karate. One of the last thing you do is get your martial arts gear. You need to find a school first before you purchase any martial arts supplies because they will tell you what kind of uniform to get. A good place to get Karate uniforms is from an online supplier like www.Karatemart.com . They have pretty much everything you need when it come to martial arts gear.
So, from what I learned, my initial thoughts were right on. First you find the right instructor, which leads to the right school. From there you start taking classes. It really is that simple.
Returning to the theme of “old school” karate traditions, touched on my previous posts The Way Things Were and How Popular Media is Killing Karate, the YouTube clip below is a perfect example of how the media goes too far in brushing over intrinsic details to milk a proven recipe. Veteran Karate Kid fans would certainly have made the connection had the latest remake been called something like: Karate Kid – Rise of the Kung Fu Kid. It would have saved a whole new generation of possible karate enthusiasts (that wasn’t around when The Karate Kid, starring Ralph Machio was released in 1984) from growing up with a misguided perception of what karate is.
The reasons for sticking to the title seems plausible, but could be taken to mean that karate is a less potent self-defense style which won’t hold up against wu shu in a fight. The biggest problem with that misunderstanding is that any martial artist worth his metal knows that more than anything else, the efficacy of your combat method depends more on your experience, ability, level of training, speed and creativity than what style you are doing. Compared to the original, the clip below displays the bold but flowing identity of wu shu kung fu and the unmistakable finesse of a well trained stuntman. Entertaining as it is though, calling it the Karate Kid is a bit of a slap in the faces of both karate and wu shu kung fu.
Wasn’t It Time For A Kung Fu Kid?
The Karate Kid 3 (2010) fantastically packages a combination of wu shu kung fu, sophisticated stunts and gymnastics while performances delivered by Jaden Smith and Jacky Chan went along way to inspire a whole new craze as is seen in this Halloween costume I came across on Karatemart.com.
Karate Kid inspired Halloween Costume from Karatemart.com
However, although superbly produced, there’s just one little detail that bugs me a great deal and this is simply that it’s not karate we’re watching.
That said, why not just call it “Karate Kid: The Wu ShuKid” or something like that which, in fact would have removed the awkward limitation producers face and open the door for endless sequels each featuring a different martial art style. It seems a simple thing and despite the undeniable relationship between the most Asian martial arts, there are a few definitive differences which are excellently defined in Karate vs Kung Fu, on Diffen.com.
Chuck Norris Launches a Spectacular Roundhouse Kick
I write this story in the hope of inspiring a better understanding of the values of karate and to also reignite the traditional values of days gone by in the hearts of modern practitioners – called karateka (空手家) . It also hope to counter damage done to karate by reckless sensationalism which further confuses young ideas about what karate is.
It seems as though gun-ho impression of martial arts has been engraved into the minds of the general public, which somehow puts greater value on tricks such as the iconic Chuck Norris Roundhouse Kick than what it does on the deeper intrinsic values of karate. Values like humility for example, (the first theme I’ll address in this series), which just get marginalized and eventually lose all importance overshadowed by bells and whistles producers use to sell movies.
This is meant to be a simple and entertaining revisiting of the traditional values of karate and there’s a twist in the tail in store so, read on and enjoy.
What’s It Gonna Be?
Staring up at the blue wonder in front of him, the kid smiles am incredulous smile which needs no flashing a dollar signs in his eyes to let us know just he’s got in mind. “You’re kidding me right????! Aaaw gee, that’s a no brainer dude – get me the Ten Thousand Kicks and make it snappy you big blue oaf!” says the brat as he snaps his fingers and the genie disappears in a puff of blue smoke.
Kevin Taylor a.k.a “Big K”, 6-foot, 285 pounds, fourth-degree black belt holder in Karate has recently been included in Ripley’s Believe It or Not Dare to Look. Breaking 584 bricks with only his hands in 57.5 seconds awarded him World Records.
What’s interesting with this big guy is that he doesn’t consider himself a violent man. Here is what he has to say.
“Violence is a sign of insecurity. Violent people are afraid of themselves,” he said. “They were picked on perhaps, and now they put their guard up. They become violent and mean and pick on weaker people. But guess what? That brick ain’t gonna change because it can’t talk. It can’t move. You’ve got to make it move. When you are relaxed inside and don’t want to hurt anyone, that’s how I work. I don’t let that brick stop me.”
Also though he is huge, he says that the power to break all those bricks in seconds is due to his speed and not raw power. He explains that his ability to draw out his strength and release it in an instant makes the blow powerful.
Below is his video when he attempted to 809 bricks spanning 100 yards in one go.
Karate as a tradition is slowly dying because we are redefining tradition.
Karate as a martial art was imported by different parts of the world not only taking in the fighting style but the philosophy. Traditional martial arts often point out that its not about violence but avoiding it. But this reasoning can only sink into our thick skulls if repeatedly reinforce and lived out.
The problem here is that popularity of martial arts like Karate and other Kung Fus came from the popular media especially films. Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan are big names in this industry. Anyone who have interest in martial arts might know more about them than what they will have for dinner. You watch their movies and you think that what they do is so cool. And cool is what sinks in to us and the principle of the martial arts they are employing does not.
The popular media dilutes or even remixes traditional martial arts. It takes out discipline to make room for stunts because that’s what sells.
Also related is our very fast-paced way of living. Martial arts is a practice of patience and that’s rarely a trait that is given prominence and consideration nowadays. We want it fast. If we are going to choose between staying at a dojo, training hours a day and relaxing at a couch watching an action/martial arts movie or an MMA fight, most of us would likely choose the latter. It takes lesser effort and you get more hype.
MMA is now a huge thing and, as reported by WBUR, is causing the decline of interest to traditional martial arts. It was also stated that because of MMA’s popularity, traditional dojos are considering starting classes to teach it. With this, we can see tradition being forsaken for the fact that today they are no longer practical and popular. What do you think? Do we have no more rooms for traditional martial arts?
If you are reading this, then there is a good chance that you are a martial artist. And, I think it is probably safe to assume that you have a lot of respect for your current instructor. So, I’m going to try my hardest not to offend anyone with this website. I understand that every school is going to be a little bit different. Every instructor has their positives and negatives and every school needs to monetize their art a little bit differently than the others (unless you are a free school). I just want to give a little background on how martial arts used to be and how I continue to try to run my dojo in a traditional fashion.
I, like many others my age had the privilege of being introduced to the martial arts through a Japanese instructor while being stationed abroad with my military unit. As I’m sure you are aware, the military in itself is an entity built on discipline. But, if you were lucky enough to train in the martial arts while in the military, then you got to see a side of discipline that many never get to experience.
One of the key destroyers of martial arts in this country are the frivolous lawsuits that come about from someone getting injured while practicing a sport. Nowadays, every martial arts instructor I know has an insurance policy in place to protect them in case someone gets hurt and tries to sue them. In the military, we sparred hard…really hard. We were careful not to hurt each other, but people did get hurt because of the intensity at which we trained. You don’t see that kind of intensity anymore when you go to a martial arts school, because people have an understanding that things will never escalate past a certain point. Now, that may be a good thing, but it does not prepare you well enough for a real life situation.
This is one area that MMA schools are excelling in. In preparation for a cage fight, they train hard to be mentally and physically prepared to enter the cage. Unfortunately, you rarely see traditional martial artists enter a cage or octagon anymore.
Some of us see bowing a little bit different than others. I understand why people of specific religions may not bow to their sensei….it makes sense to me. For many of us, we’ve been taught only to bow to your one true God. If that is your reason for not bowing, then I won’t argue with you. But, I choose to see it in a student/teacher role, where you are only bowing to let the instructor know that you are giving them your utmost attention and respect during the class. Make sense?
There are many other things I could discuss about how things were different back in the day, but I’m sure if you read my blog enough, you will read about them over time.