What’s in a name?

Written by bryan. Posted in Martial Arts

I’ve been asked many times over the years, what style of Karate do you do? Too many people get too hung up on styles, particularly those that have done some prior training.

Black Judo, Black Belt Karate in Basingstoke

Black Judo, Black Belt Karate in Basingstoke

To a great extent Karate is Karate whether its Goju, Shito-Ryu, Wado, Shotokan, Uechi Ryu, Kyokushinkai or whatever (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karate for more information on styles). Each style has something to offer, but at the end of the day, there are only so many ways to kick, strike, block, throw and punch. Of course an individual practitioner might tell you…….. that their style is better than style x because ……well generally there are lots of different reasons and most of the reasons given aren’t usually genuine in the sense of being correct.

All the styles that I’ve ever seen or trained in work at long (kicking) range, medium (punching) range and close (elbows/knees) range. They all teach front punch, reverse punch, upper block, round kick etc etc. Okay there may be some stylistic difference between them. For example how they generate power in performing a reverse punch you can use your hips (amongst other parts of the body) to generate power, but double hip, single hip or no hips? Consider a Roundhouse kick, do you impact with the ball of the foot, instep, shin or even big toe? Linear or circular, hard or soft, Kime or no Kime…….I could go on, but you probably get the idea, that’s are some differences between styles, but what’s necessary to keep in mind is that If you watch two exponents from different styles fighting, there is very little to choose between them in terms of repertoire of techniques, nor in terms of which style wins most enough at an international competitive level.

What is more important is the individual teacher and their ability to impart knowledge with some substance behind it. If we take one style or lets narrow it down to an association within that style and then further to a single club within that association, there are and should be differences down to the dojo level, let alone as you investigate across a cross section of different clubs in an association. Its not rocket science really to figure out why. As individuals we are all different; – weight, flexibility, strength, co-ordination, age, body type, fitness levels etc. Given this fact, why do some instructors insist that we have a vanilla flavoured Karate style.

I remember Kanazawa Sensei http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hirokazu_Kanazawa at a grading saying to someone grading for Sandan (3rd Dan,)  okay your way is different to mine, but at your level you must change your Karate to suit you. Karate should be different its not meant to be a one size fits all Martial Art, its meant to be personalised by the practitioner, rather than developing clones of a particular instructor. Heaven forbid that people look different when training in class, it makes the dojo look so untidy. I found myself out of favour at a course once, when the instructor moved my punching a fraction. I asked him during a break and with no-one else present, why? His answer was because it looked better, not that it was more practical or more effective, but because of aesthetics, so that I’d look the same as the rest of his students. It’s sometimes confuses visiting students when they train with us to see a Kata being performed in different ways by different students. For example is a particular leg movement a crescent kick, knee stomp, knee block or step? Does it really matter which of these moves is used as long as the practitioner understands why they do the application? I don’t believe that it does, of course I’m open to being persuaded, but as far as I’ve seen so far the study of Karate and in fact Martial Arts is a personal thing. I’ve trained with many of the most respected instructors both from within the UK and also from overseas and the quality that they share is their individuality, regardless of which style they are meant to be practicing.

Don’t worry about the name of a style, the approach of the instructor is the most important thing.

As the pop group Bananarama and Fun Boy Three sang many years ago “It’s not what you do, but the way that you do it.”

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Martial Arts Standards Agency British Judo British Council for Chinese Martial Arts – National Governing Body The World Union of Karate Federations Shi Kon Martial Arts British Council for Chinese Martial Arts – National Governing Body

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