Karate Spectrum

Few things in life are black and white, one thing or the other thing. Most exist in gray zones or on a spectrum, from political views, to legal standing of various activities, etc. and traditional martial arts are no different.

As of now, I am working with a simple number line based spectrum. In the center is 0 and each side goes to 10 meaning Left 10 (L10) and Right 10 (R10). The 10s are the extremes, for example L10 would be modern sports karate that only focus on kata competition, and never  do any sparring, while R10 would be trying to emulate the training that our forefathers underwent 150 or more years ago, with no advancement in training method since then.

Neither is inherently bad as long as students and instructors are all up front and honest about what it is they’re doing, and what they want from their martial arts experience. Personally I think the ideal training would be around L2-R2 meaning retaining traditional methods, goals, and focus, but also mixing it with modern methods and competition that have improved upon the older methods.

I’d rank the Karate Combat league as about L2. They’re full contact, and very modern technique training while still trying to maintain some semblance of what came before, however, karate was originally designed for self defense, and any system that puts competition as the primary focus will always be on the left of the spectrum, while systems that eschew competition, will always be on the right of the spectrum.

You can’t claim to be teaching effective self defense if students and teachers have never experienced heavy resistance to their techniques, and you only work with compliant attackers. Similarly even competitive full contact sparring has rules which will severely limit a martial artist’s catalog of techniques if competition is the only focus of the training. While some techniques may be unnecessarily dangerous and damaging outside of real life self defense scenarios actually occurring to intentionally use with moderate to full contact, that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to work them into training so they can be used if needed during a real life attack.

This idea of a karate spectrum is a concept I will try to refine, and maybe add a vertical axis to help the spectrum be more specific as a rating system.