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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Karate Family Reunion


Karate used to be the go to martial art. At one time the word Karate was used synonymously with martial arts, the same way MMA is used today. Karate Dojos were over flowing with students, but it is not like that any more. What happened?

The answer is nothing, nothing happened. The Karate Kid (1984) was a smash hit but the most recent Karate Kid reboot was a lack luster, I am being nice here, movie at best that simply attempted to cash in on the original hype. Just as the Karate Kid franchise has become tired over the years so have many Dojos. But there is hope. That old school spirit is still burning in the hearts of every true Karate-ka, just looking to be unleashed.

It is time for us to toughen up and train hard. Students don’t want to be babied into black belts they want to earn them. They want to look down at that piece of black cloth and remember years of hard work, sweat and good times. They want to look down at that piece of cloth and know that it is a promise to keep showing up at the Dojo for years to come. It is time to put the fight back into our Karate.

After receiving my second degree black belt from ShotoCanda, in 2008, I moved to downtown Vancouver. There are no Shotocanada clubs in downtown Vancouver and the commute back and forth to Portcoquitlam, to train with my old Torakai club, slowly became more and more difficult as my life became busier. That is when I stepped into the Vancouver Kyokushin Karate club. This was the first Karate club I had walked into that had to turn away students, because they didn’t have enough space, since the early 90s when I began my training.

The reason this club has so many interested students is not because of great marketing or high tech facilities. I don’t think I have ever seen them put up a poster and they train in an old church on hard wood floors with a collection of well worn pads. The reason they are successful is because they have spirit. They train hard and they push each other to grow. Their students feel like they are getting stronger, faster and tougher with every class.

Since my short time at VKK I have explored Kyokushin, Judo, MMA, Seidokaikan, Ashihara and a variety of other martial arts. I by no means believe that fighting Karate is the holy grain of all Karate’s. On the contrary, I quite honestly feel that those who focus only on the knock-down styles of Karate miss out on the rich histories and traditions of Karate that came before Mas Oyama.

Every knock-down fighter has a lot to learn from the more traditional Karate and even sport Karate stylists (WKF) just as the traditional and sport Karate stylists have a lot to learn from fighting Karate. There are over 100 different styles of Karate all belonging to the dysfunctional Karate family. Each of these styles has a number of distinguishing features but at the heart they are all Karate. 

If we want to save Karate from fading into antiquity it is time that we stop style bashing and start cross training. You don’t need to switch styles but it is never a bad idea to head over to an unfamiliar dojo or maybe stop in at another styles summer camp. It can be scary but I promise it will be liberating to wrap a white belt around your waste and open your mind. Remember we all do Karate, we are a family, as dysfunctional as the Karate family may be it is time to share a little love and respect.

"Only when we show respect to others are we ever deserving of respect ourselves."

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