The Art of Karate-do, a thing of the past?
I believe a Karate-do association in the western world needs to be connected to its Japanese counterparts if they exist. A purely occidental organization can quickly become occidental in their practice, especially in Europe. I lived in Denmark and know how informal things are, you even call the Prime Minister by his name… I remember in my talks with some European groups, they no longer counted or gave orders in Japanese, they would even call their Sensei by name. I believe they are in danger taking that direction.
We are learning a Japanese Art, we are not free to choose what we like and discard that which we don’t. We must follow a strict tradition, small things like that quickly can become bigger and after very little time, a generation or two of students, it becomes the clown circus karate is in USA and other place in the world. A general chaos with stars and stripes karate-gi, Budweiser patches, trophies, tournaments and the general Chump Norris stuff that has helped to pull Karate down into a deep pit, a moral decadence and a horrible reputation in the eyes of the public. If Gichin Funakoshi was depressed of the state of Karate in the mid-fifties, what would he think of the present state! He would be surely horrified.
One day I was unlucky enough to turn the TV to one of the sports channels and surprise surprise, the Professional Karate Association was in the process of holding a tournament, I am not sure if I remember well but it had “karate” in its name. What it really was was second rate boxers, on a boxing ring, that were obliged by the rules to, from time to time, send a second rate kick to the opponent. Merely another form of kick-boxing, I was flabbergasted, and they have the shamelessness of calling that karate?! I was immediately depressed and irritated, how could they call themselves karate, with what authority. It is unacceptable, truly unacceptable. Things like that can only happen when there is no respect for the original art, no respect for the creators. Can anyone take you seriously when you say you practice karate? No. I now even feel ashamed to say that I practice Karate. I now say “Shotokai” and if they want more details I explain at length how it is different from all the impostors they know. I know there were also other so-called “Masters” involved in the creation of competition but I am mainly concerned about those related in some way to Gichin Funakoshi’s Karate.
I believe the greatest problem is that we are doing something completely different, there is no relationship between what we practice. I do not believe we are superior, we are not talking about that. I am talking about the fact they used the prestige and the name “Karate” to establish non-Karate groups and sports organizations. They should NOT use Karate in their name. I have said it all along, when sports karate was created they were dishonest enough to maintain the name for the sport they established. They should eliminate the supposed connection that really doesn’t exist anymore, if it ever existed, in some cases. They are not practicing Karate-do or Karate, they are practicing sports martial arts. I am writing this comment only because they have tricked people into believing they are Karate, otherwise there would be no problem. Am I ranting about Kung fu or other arts, no, only Karate. It’s the fact they are misleading people into believing Shotokai (as a group practicing Karate) is the same as the rest. No we are not, they, the largest group are not Karate and we the small group, we are Karate as originally conceived by the creator of Karate-do. No, the mass will not accept this for sure and they have the mass to make sure that truth doesn’t get through.
I personally believe sports martial arts have a limited lifetime. It’s just a matter of time before people understand that they are empty, the true depth in the practice appears when you forget about being the best compared to others and try to be the best you can be compared with yourself. Time will go by and you will become stiff and loose your original strength, stamina and speed, no more competitions, is karate to be limited to your first 30-40 years? No, surely not, Gichin Funakoshi practiced virtually till his last days alive. This is possible without competition once you can grasp the profoundness beyond the surface of Karate. If you are as I, just beginning the trip, you just have to believe and trust those that have shown you the tools for the journey. As a student of Karate-do and therefore of O-sensei’s Karate you can not consider yourself on the right road if you practice sports karate, competitions or are obsessed with being the best Karateka on the face of the Earth. Gichin Funakoshi was so opposed to competitions and sports free sparring that he had to die before they began! I visited a site the other day that placed O-sensei’s death after the first tournament in a chronology trying to establish competition as something he was in favor of, something completely false.
Well, I hope I have gotten my point across. What the general public has ended up relating to karate is not karate, they are sports martial arts and in no way related to real Karate-do practice. Participants in O-sensei derived karate should reconsider their direction, many don’t know that competition is not part of karate as he established it. It’s time to receive another version of the story and decide who is right and who is wrong.