A Look At The Future of Karate: 3 Great Changes To Come

The other day I was having a conversation with one of the head MMA coaches at our academy.

He was in a philosophical mood, and wanted my input on if there was “one ultimate truth” when it comes to building an effective system for combat (in this case Mixed Martial Arts). Knowing that I am on a similar journey myself – with 24/7 Karate thinking, traveling, bunkai research, historical explorations and weird projects – he was curious about my input.

Because, according to him, in the MMA world everything is turning the same.

It’s like a big funnel.

Everyone are sticking with what the “big boys” are doing and teaching – even though that particular method or system might not be the best one. Nobody knows. But those “big boys” have been around for the longest, so they seem like the “ultimate” or “best”, or at least very close to what we imagine a “truth” would look like – when it comes to training methods, physical preparation, tactics, techniques and such.

Me? I don’t think there is one truth.

Not as long as the world keeps spinning.


As long as we have evolution, or change, and constant discoveries about ourselves and our surroundings, it is not possible to find one true solution to anything. Sure, you can come infinitely close, but the moment you are about to unveil the “truth” it will already have changed.That is, until evolution or devolution (change) stops. And I don’t really see that happening.

Which, of course, gives us something new to think about: Can we ever really know anything?

Or are all “truths” relative?

I don’t think any human being escapes that question in their life. At least not a thinking human being who takes life seriously. Because this question is about on what grounds I can take other questions seriously: political, social, humanitary… Really, it’s something of a paradox that we are searching for an “ultimate truth”, while at the same time constantly evolving.

Interesting, right?

And although Karate is not as modern as MMA, we have the exact same dilemma.

But I’ll leave the rest of this discussion to The Karate Code, where this problem (among other!) is explored and discussed by some of the world’s most senior authorities of Karate, from different points of view. Yup, you’d better believe it! And don’t worry, I have almost finished it! It’s gonna be totally sweet…

So, with that shameless plug out of the way, in my very own Nostradamic fashion I thought I’d take a moment now to look into my crystal ball of Karate knowledge and see if there indeed is something we can know about our beloved martial art of Karate. Sure, the most ground breaking events are always the ones you could never predict, but the predictable events can be pretty interesting too.

The world is indeed moving.

And if you ask me, the Karate world is moving in three very specific directions.

Let’s have a look at “The Future of Karate: 3 Great Changes To Come”:

#1. China – Completing The Circle

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past decade, you will have come to the conclusion that China will be ruling the world in the future. So you’d better prepare those chopsticks!

Once one of the world’s leading cultures (pioneers in gunpowder, book printing, paper, literary achievements, geographical exploration, martial arts…) the “middle kingdom” unexpectedly faded away and let other nations and cultures fly past them in the race for world domination.

Well, the age of being a stepping stone is over, and China is growing to be a humongously powerful nation in many fields.

Even Karate!

Which is kind of… ironic.

In fact, many famous Karate masters, both Westeners, Okinawans and Japanese have been invited by the Chinese government lately to spread, share, teach, educate, and do whatever it takes to elevate the Chinese people’s understanding of Karate. Is it because they feel that their own national martial art (wushu) is too flimsy and unpractical? Nope. Is it because they want to waste their money one foreigners (some Karate teachers actually get paid handsomely)? Heck to the no.

It’s all about power, baby.

What some very important government dudes in China have discovered recently is that Karate almost made it to the Olympics last time. It was so close! Next time it might get in! And a country that helped spawn the evolution of Karate in the first place is not going to wanna get left behind when it’s time to battle one day! Believe dat!

They are trying to understand the practical purpose of Shotokan-style stances like crazy over there…

And so, the circle is completed.

#2. Sport Karate – Stepping It Up

2011 marks a spectacular year in the advancement of the sport side of Karate.

For instance, the WKF (World Karate Federation) just began with their professional Karate league (KARATE 1), officially sponsored by Shureido, Okinawa, which will be a series of top-notch elite Karate tournaments held throughout Europe (to begin with), including famous venues such as Paris, Istanbul, Milano, Zurich and Salzburg.

As the WKF president, Mr. Espinosa, says himself:

“The Premier League Karate 1 is the Formula 1 of Karate. When this project is complete will have 10 competitions in a year giving the possibility to many good karateka in the world to take part in the best events after the World Championships. The new series of WKF competition activities will be complemented by the Master’s Cup with the 8 best karateka of the world competing in an open category in 3 events per year to declare the best of the best”.

The Olympics just seem closer and closer, doesn’t it? You’d better hop on that Sport Karate train if you want some government money, wherever you live!

Of course, what actually happens in the dojo stays in the dojo… right?

And then, as if that wasn’t enough, multiple times kata World Champions from Italy – Valdesi and Figuccio – are putting together some kind of elite academy, focusing on “[…] to study and research, using the contributions of science, the “perfect style” or that mix of tradition and innovation that will enable the improvement of technical and functional Karate in full respect of our bodies and of our welfare.”

Valdesi actually wrote that to me on Facebook (!) himself, so it seems legit. Good luck.

But that’s is not all.

More and more World, European and Japanese Champions are slowly starting to realize that they are, in fact, a brand. They can, kind of like a street geisha, start selling themselves and their skills. All they simply need to do is (1) find the right pimp daddy, (2) get rid of that feeling of being ashamed for charging for your knowledge and face, and (3) let the paper flow.

Seminars, DVDs, video consulting, private coaching… the opportunities are out there, and they are expanding.

In fact, I’m going to a seminar with Antonio Diaz and Rika Usami myself soon.


#3. Kobudo – Searching For The Roots

Along with the exciting reintroduction of Karate in China, higher development of Sport Karate, professional leagues, Olympics, fame, fortune and power – there inevitably exists a hole.

A hole that accompanies almost all change, known as that “I feel something’s missing…” -hole.

Well, that hole, or at least part of it, is going to be Kobudo. Mark my words. The Chinese are already on that bandwagon, spreading authentic Okinawan Kobudo to most of their universities. The old ways of fighting with strange “farming implements” (sic) against the evil “Satsuma samurais” (double sic) is rising for real, folks.

(Let’s just look past the widespread shallow understanding of the origin, history and application of most Kobudo weapons, mmkay?).

Practising Kobudo feels authentic.

You are dealing with hard and dangerous stuff here, consisting of wood and metal. Some weapons are even sharp. So of course this provides a drastic change for those who are used to kumite where you can barely touch you opponent, or kata where you are only allowed to touch the “air”.

In short, Kobudo will grow partly because it makes up for the “losses” in the modernization process of Karate!

And the fun thing is, Kobudo itself is only in its cradle.


So, that’s the big three for me.

That’s what I see growing in the future.

And I’m already looking forward to it.

Let’s just hope that the term “kara” within Karate actually represent the vast emptiness of inner peace that most old masters wishfully imagine… instead of the emptiness one associates with an old, rusty, battered tin can from which all the essential ingredients have been poured out long ago, so that only its empty, hollow-sounding, distorted shape remains.

The future of Karate is indeed what we decide to make it.

Your choice.


  • Diego Romero
    nice re: china, i wanna see more people actually look seriously into the connections, unconnected coincidences/similarities and differences with different kung fu styles, both southern and northern. i personally feel that with this, karate can only grow.
  • Matsu
    This month I was atonished by a new sent to me http://www.rincondeldo.com/?p=3066; Chinese group of Karate from Beijing were visiting Madrid Dojos for a exchange, weird, isn´t it? Chinese doing Karate...and now I read this post...Is more than a coincidence
  • SKCMiami
    A national coach very close to me just got back from China after doing a Shotokan Seminar there. Paid very well.
  • Theodore Kruczek
    I couldn't agree more with your thoughts on kobudo. I have always been drawn to it for the very reason that, no amount of modernization could change it. Even if we were to pad up and use bamboo weapons (similar to kendo), the fact is it would still be full swings and complete contact (that sounds fun actually). If we look at things like kama and sai. I have yet to see a kobudo demonstration that looked anything less than scary. There are some who will get a golden bo that weighs less than a few kilograms and dance with it to music. This is the only attempts I have seen to "modernize" kobudo, and it just doesn't stick. There is just too much lure to have a real weapon. Great Post.
  • John
    China will not be controlling the world... Japan will.
    • Viking
      China won't re elect them.
  • Patrick Chifwema
    interesting wow!
    • Patrick Chifwema
      anyone can its just about hardwork

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