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Sunday, May 26, 2013

5 Things that have Made Karate Unforgettable

There are many reasons why Karate became as well know as it did in the 1970's to the 1990's, including a western fascination with Buddhism and any slightly related eastern practices and a wealthy Japanese economy that lured many people in and gave the Japanese the mobility to venture out. But putting all the cultural and sociologically interesting information aside I am in the mood to get a little natsukashi 「懐かしい」or nostalgic. So here is a look at five pieces of popular culture that helped Karate be the first thing any one thinks of when they think of Martial arts, even in Japan.
A reenactment of a real conversation I had with a Japanese friend in Japan.

Kenji: What do you do tonight?
John: Oh I am going to go to Aikido.
Kenji: Aikido what's that?
John: It is a type of Martial Art, ugh Budo.
Kenji: Oh like Karate...

So here is the list:

#5 007
That's right James Bond. No not that beer drinking hack Daniel Craig, Ok I am not a big 007 fan so I really have no place in making such a snide comment plus people generally seem to like Mr. Craig, but the original Sean Connery James Bond is arguable one of the most know spies in the world and guess what he knows... KARATE. At least according to You Only Live Twice and the Kyokushin Kaikan (though I am not sure which faction). If you know who awarded Mr. Connery his Sho-Dan let me know.

#4 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
These lean mean fighting machines were on ever child's Christmas list for over a decade. My eyes glistened with joy when my father built me a turtle sewer big enough that I could fit inside. I could even run real water through it. No ninjas didn't practice Karate but that didn't stop every Dojo on the block from starting a little ninjas club, that may or may not have allowed for students to wear hachimaki 「鉢巻き」over their eyes.

#3 Street Fighter
Possibly on of the very best arcade fighters ever released and re-released. By creating some of the most iconic, yet problematically stereotypical, characters street fighter is undoubted one of the most unforgettable fighting franchises that has ever existed.

#2 Chuck Norris
He was a friend of Bruce Lee and a reputable action star in his own right. He has become on of the biggest memes on the internet due to his tough grizzled attitude. He made hairy chests cool and gave men a realistic physique to look up to. Sadly he has recently used his fame to put out some very strange ultra conservative messages but what the Chuck, this guy eats lightning and craps thunder.

#1 The Karate Kid
This movie was an instant classic. It dealt with a young man from a broken home dealing with the difficulties of adapting to life in a new and "exciting" suburb. Through Karate Daniel San was able to over come his enemies and gain confidence in himself. The final scene of this movie is as exciting to watch today as it would  have been in 1986.

Bonus: Two things that could but are failing to save Karate

The Karate Kid
The latest reiteration of the Karate kid has to be one of the worst martial arts movies I have ever seen. If you want to see a real Karate Kid reboot don't waste your time with Jaden Smith and Jakie Chan and move on over to Never Backdown. A decent MMA movie that basically uses the premise of the first Karate kid to make a decent movie, not a classic but worth your time.

Contrary to popular belief it is not MMA that is distracting people from Karate rather it is the internal politics of Karate that try to steer their members away from organizations like the UFC. Two of the UFC's most respected fighters GSP and Lyoto Machida are both Karate-ka and they are both damn good so why haven't Karate Dojos flooded with new members. Because most dojos are not open to making partnerships with other Dojos so that their members can excel in what ever realm of the martial arts they like.

There should be Karate and Jujitsu or Judo clubs paring up to give there students a chance to expand their horizons and possibly compete in the MMA ring with out leaving their original school or style. I don't believe any school needs to sell themselves out by pumping the MMA "brand" but they should make sure what they are learning in the Dojo is practical enough to be used in a ring or on the street and that they are open to allowing their students to cross train.

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