Karate, how to move forward?

Karate is called a ‘traditional martial art’. Part of what makes karate unique among other striking arts, are the traditions it has. As karateka we need to be mindful of those traditions, but we can’t let the past define how we train indefinitely. Before anyone gets too excited, I am not calling for the end of kata or kiso kumite practice, we must keep those methods, but we shouldn’t focus exclusively on methods of training that are a hundred years old or older.

As a Goju practitioner I believe Miyagi sensei, and Toguchi sensei would fully support including advancements in modern athletic science into karate training, and would include it in their own training if they were alive today. Our knowledge has greatly expanded in the realm of sports, exercise, and fighting, as such our training should advance along with it.

Our founders were not afraid to pick and choose what they liked from other martial arts, and use it for themselves. That is after all how karate developed over the years into what we now know. Okinawan Te, was a very hard linear striking style, but as time passed and Okinawans trained Kung Fu in China, several brought kata from Kung Fu back with them along with various exercises and drills, and added that into their local style of Te. So why shouldn’t we continue that tradition? It seems that many modern dojos, and karateka are fine letting the style stagnate, only making advancements in their art to create a new kata for competition. We need to continue to grow, and adapt karate. What works on an untrained opponent who is attacking you? What works best on a trained opponent who is attacking you? Are they identical sets of techniques or do they differ? If they differ, how do we train both sets? Create new kata? I’ll admit I feel presumptuous even suggesting that I could possibly create a kata worth passing on to others, that they would then pass on to even more people. I feel this way despite Shihan Roseberry’s Gaku Sei No Kata being one of my favorite katas and the newest in any Goju Ryu organization or school that I am aware of. Maybe instead of creating new kata we create drills that can be worked with a partner, or we borrow drills from other styles, since as I have said, our forefathers of karate did just that themselves.

Our karate forefathers knew a lot, and gave us a lot of good stuff to work on, but that was learned from the ever evolving human experience. In much of the karate world it seems that the human experience continues to evolve and change, but has ceased to be a driving factor in the development of the art as a method of self defense. If someone could justify this stagnation in a logical, well thought out manner I would love to hear their thoughts on it. Until then I plan to use my own experience, and the experience of others to guide my continued progress in karate, and martial arts as a whole.