How to Save Karate From It’s Dark Future (Before It’s Too Late)

Yesterday my friend told me his dojo has grown 200% in the past week.

Turns out, they got one new member.


Meanwhile, across town, the local Mixed Martial Arts gym is growing like crazy. They need to bang out a couple of walls to fit all the youngsters in there soon.

MMA has truly come a long way in such a short time: From fighting in rusty cages or dark alleys twenty years ago, to competing in some of the biggest arenas around the world. Heck, last time I checked, some MMA stars had even become movie stars – shooting Hollywood blockbusters between upcoming fights. So, not only do they get boatloads of money for beating the crap out of each other, now they get fistfuls of dollars for pretending to beat the crap out of each other!

Question: When was the last time you saw a Karate practitioner sign a multi-million dollar contract? Get paid to compete? Drive a Lambo? Have a private jet?

I’m just curious.

Now, obviously I’m playing devil’s advocate here. We all know that the purpose of Karate is something entirely else. But there is still bitter truth to the fact that Karate is gradually being pushed aside when it comes to these modern martial sports.

And this concerns me.

“If you want a vision of the future; imagine a boot stomping on a human face – forever.”

– George Orwell (1903-1950)

So what should we do about this?

Should we try to make Karate “cool” by changing it for the competitive world?

Well, people are certainly trying.

Or should we simply embrace the inherited “uncoolness”-factor of traditional Karate, thereby acknowledging the fact that we have a unique cultural and historical heritage behind our martial art, which should be respected, researched and developed in accordance with the underlying principles that govern Karate’s very existence?

In other words, should we try to become the cool “bully” on the schoolyard…

Or just admit that we are… nerds?karatenerdjumpkick

You know.

Karate Nerds™.

The interesting thing, of course, is that we as martial artists aren’t alone in this inevitable metamorphosis of our business. Far from it.

For instance, the music business and its’ captains of industry met a similar fate when they failed to properly embrace digital music a while back. The same holds true for the book publishing industry too.


Because young people don’t want CD’s or books no more. They want more than that. The whole package. The ultimate experience.

Fast. Effective. Cheap.


And even though you might not care a diddly-squat about the book/music industry, the dynamics of the martial arts world aren’t much different. Frankly speaking, apart from the sisyphean project of trying to get “Sport Karate” accepted into the Olympics for the year 2020, no significant groundbreaking development has taken place in the Karate world for a long time.

(Meanwhile in Japan, most dojos don’t even have a website…)

I mean, consider this: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, MMA, Submission Wrestling and almost all other modern martial arts have ‘open mat’ sessions, where people from other schools, gyms or styles can come over to freely share techniques, train together, challenge each other and drink tons of beer have fun together.

When was the last time you heard about an “open dojo” session for Karate?



That’s right.

“Because OUR style is the best!”

And it seems we can do nothing but stand still and watch, as our ancient martial art steadily crumbles under the mighty pressure of 21st century martial sports.


karatenerdpunchingUnless we embrace the Karate Nerd™ mindset.

Because, let me tell you something:

Nerds are the new cool.

“Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.”– Bill Gates

You see, as Karate practitioners, our natural status as nerds has afforded us the ability to pursue things without fearing failure (cool people are shit-scared of looking bad), and that factor is incredibly powerful in this ever-changing world – where survival relies more on standing out than fitting in.

And nerds have always stood out.

Seriously; if Stephen Hawkings, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates (arguably the three biggest nerds on this planet) decided to become evil supervillains and take over the world together, do you really think they would have a problem?


They would swiftly create a giant mind controlling gorilla robot of awesomeness that would shoot fireballs from its ass and laser from its eyes.

And it would

  • OWN.
  • US.
  • ALL.

Because nerds rule.

It’s as simple as that.

And Karate Nerds are no different.

What more people must realize is that, scattered throughout history, nerds have always been feared by the masses for their mysterious knowledge, out-of-the-box thinking and kinship. From famous radical nerds like Galileo Galilei – who dared suggest that the earth revolve around the sun – to Nikola Tesla – who played with electricity like others play with water – nerds have always been at the core of paving the way for the masses.

So please trust me when I say this:

Beware the Karate Nerds.

For we believes in tools, not rules.

(More specifically, a certain set of mental tools. More on that here.)

“Nice guys finish last?” – Not always.

And we believe that information is free – yet knowledge is invaluable.

Nothing has ever been safe from a nerd and never will. It is the inquisitive nature of the nerd to bypass needless regulations imposed on him from those who “don’t get it” (what we generally refer to as McDojos™) in order to achieve success in the pursuit of awesomeness.

So become a Karate Nerd™ my friend.

It is time to understand what it takes to truly get your Karate into the 21st century – without compromising the cornerstone principles upon which Karate were once founded by our pioneers.

And you will learn EXACTLY what I’m talking about.

…or face the consequences forever.

I know it sounds harsh, but it’s the cold truth. Time flies fast, and we can’t afford to get left behind anymore. Karate is too valuable for that.

It’s time to make a change.

Read more.


PS. I’ve got an exclusive KbJ interview coming up soon with Rika Usami, female kata world champion from Japan. We talked about some really cool stuff, including her recent announcement of retiring (!) – so don’t miss it! Also, I just uploaded some new videos, including one of Rika. You’re welcome.


  • Good article, Jesse. I actually know of one bona fide karate dojo that holds open sessions!! (hard to believe I know!). Sensei Vince Morris of Kissaki Kai karate and his wife Eva have open sessions during their karate classes at their NJ dojo (they also have MMA., jujutsu and kobudo training). They are the nicest folks, and Sensei Morris is very forthcoming with his knowledge and experience. Another outstanding martial artist that holds open sessions in Filipino arts and Goju ryu (he is a direct student of Gojen Yamaguchi) is Mataw Guro Lou Lledo, one of the most accomplished and knowledgeable instructors I've ever met. To an Isshin ryu practitioner who no longer has a dojo to train in, I feel privileged to be allowed to participate and learn and share with these great teachers and their students. I can say that my own art has gained tremendously from the cross training.
  • Rille
    I started reading this with a very serious thought in mind and could hardly wait to give some comment but then I saw those hilarious pictures and forgot what I was going to say. Thanks for the laugh. =)
  • We hold open sparring events every couple of months at my dojo, and we invite martial artists from all over the area. Strangely, none of the MMA gyms we've invited have ever attended.
  • There is nothing that MMA fighter are doing that boxers haven't been doing for a century, including the movies (Mike Tyson's cameo in The Hangover was hilarious). I certainly don't remember karateka feeling that boxing was "killing" the art. In my opinion, this is about language and the use of the words "martial arts." But, the similarities between MMA and what I do are similar to using the term "vehicle" to describe both a tank and ferrari. I am not doubting the skills of many MMA people but theirs are different skills from mine. Celebrity and the money it brings requires great and constant public displays of your skills. Almost all karate includes the teaching of humility from the very start. This is not just because we are nice people with good moral values. Not showing off your techniques gives you a strategical advantage. Should you ever need to fight, the other guy won't see it coming. Just like the nerd, in the back of class, we are paying attention and quietly preparing. I never liked the term "nerd" but, Jesse, you have sold me on it! Thanks for the post.
  • Nice article, it's interesting that "When was the last time you heard about an “open dojo” session for Karate" is causing the most feedback though, that is what I first through to comment on as well :o) I've practised Goju Ryu with Paul Coleman at the Oxford Karate Academy in the UK for 13 years, and Shihan Paul has always welcomed anyone from any club to come and train with us, he's also always positively encouraged all his students to go and try any other dojo out there that will let them join in as well, to see what other clubs are like and settle where you are happiest. In my time with OKA I've taken part in a Vale Tudo seminar with Ian 'The Machine' Freeman, a visit to Team Trojan gym in Cheltenham for MMA and Muay Thai, and an eye opening defence seminar with an H2H Raid instructor. There have been many more cross style events I've sadly been too busy to attend. I've seen plenty of people come from other clubs too saying "if my instructor found out I was cross training I'd be asked to leave", I always found that attitude more fitting for a cult than a dojo, and can't see why people would want to stay in such a closed environment. You say that other clubs don't have open sessions because of an "our style is the best" mentality, I think it's perhaps slightly more subversive than that. The attitudes of MMA fans that I see is exactly that, they want to do MMA because they see it as the best, because they see it winning in a cage on TV all the time. It doesn't stop them having open sessions, because they tend to train very hard and have nothing to hide, I wouldn't expect the clubs teaching rubbish to last too long because well trained visitors would show them up pretty quickly. I see the same attitude in good dojos around the UK, they maybe don't have the same level of enquiry as something constantly pushed on TV, but they absolutely don't fear people from other clubs visiting, they encourage it. Keep up the good work, osu!
  • Paul Anderson
    Look at most dojo's. They are full of kids. Karate is becoming a kids sport. Just like TKD. Why is this? Sport Karate. Non contact karate 'fighting'. Kata competitions that are akin to gymnastics. If Karate gets to the Olympics it's going to be the end of any reputation for actual fighting Karate ever had, and reduce it to a kids tip tap sport, and mark the end of any possibility of Karate challenging any of the 'grown up' combat sports like boxing, MMA, wrestling, Judo. Karate is doomed.
  • Mel
    Hi, I think martial arts tricking will have a influence on the future of karate. Since martial arts tricking is influenced by karate, people will discover karate this way. I don't say that al lot of martial arts tricking people will be intrested by karate. And I don't even say that karate looks like martial arts tricking. But since martial arts tricking is becoming quite popular (I think) I will maybe help karate stay, because trickers and "ordinary" people will think about martial arts everytime they see or do tricking. And who doesn't think of karate immediatly when they hear karate. Karate doesn't even have to change. It isn't for everyone (well, it's for every intressted person), and making it become like everone wants, adapting it to everyones needs and likes is impossible and will destroy any sport no matter what kind of a sport or art it is. Osu!
  • Chip Quimby
    Great title, I know it grabbed my attention. But true karate-do will never die - just the people that practice it. Granted, the audience for this type training and 'life pursuit' seems to be shrinking by the day, but it's the quality of the members that make the dojo, not the quantity of them. Hopefully the Olympic pursuit will never happen.
  • To grow by 100% means to become twice as big, because a 100% growth means adding 100% of what was already there. For a single person to equal 200% growth, the dojo must have consisted of only *half* of a human being prior to the new addition. Just sayin ... ;-)
    • Well, "percentage point" sounds so nerdy, Ryan-san ;) (And I was literally waiting for somebody to point this out!)
    • Ioannes Salinensis
      Not half human, a half member. (Whats this? Maybe not a full member or what? Or a member with a half body missing?)
  • Antonis
    Hasai Jesse-San!Nice article (once again)! For people who have paid time and effort to see some deeper aspects of Karate, and any decent martial art, MMA is neither a "revolution" nor a "practical-applicable" sort of self-defence (contrary to Karate). Great masters are people themselves, with vulnerabilities and ambitions. This has led to many splits and...hate... (unfortunately). It's up to us, though, to be the researching "Karate Nurds", without spoiling the "family" traditions within the line we belong. As far as MMA business is concerned, personally I am very happy that Karate world is improving in quality. People have access to knowledge today. Karate practitioners are much more determined and McDojs are getting less over time (thank god). Did you prefer the Cobra-Kai-McDojos of the 70's and 80's (when Karate was popular)? I - don't - think - so... Karate is not for everyone. Like piano, painting, rugby, skydiving are not for everyone ... It is for the one who really wants to practice. Not as a sport. Not for the sponsors, the Barbie-girls and the Lambos. Not for being super-cool and make Hollywood blockbusters... But for bleeding his uncles on the Makiwara. For exploring ones pain and patience limits. For starting at any age and still put your ego and social status aside and accept to be a 10-Kyu newbie! For putting time and effort on thinking and trying to read between the lines in order to find the reason in every move, every kata and every breath. This is, in my humble opinion, "healthy" motivation. And this is NOT mainstream. It can lead to 5-people dojos. I can live without expensive tatamis and fancy training facilites. I can train in my 6sq. meter backyard and I can be happy with that. I can call "dojo" any park or forest or hill that can accommodate my training (and I really enjoy that)! I did that years ago and, hopefully, I will keep doing this for many years in the future. Where were all these "super-cool" MMA practitioners 15 years ago? How many martial art schools have they visited over time, without staying long enough to master an art? Where will they be in 15 years time, when MMA is not so "hot" and "catchy" any more? I am not afraid of the evolution. Karate (or Tode or whatever) went through the centuries under complete secracy and still it survived. I am happy (and proud) to have chosen my side :D
  • Rev. Dr. Donalld Miskel
    OK Jesse, now you have me scared out of my gi. A world without karate? Don't even think it. I've been involved in the martial arts since 1957 when we wore loin cloths and animal skin gis. I've studied both shotokan and shorei-goju karate as well as kempo and aikijitsu. I've had several schools in my career but I taught a more eclectic approach to police officers, security and mental health personel and individuals in other high risk professions. I worked in the Cook County penal system and in mental health. Still I cherish my classical roots and martial arts morphing into MMA has totally challenged my digestion over these last several years. I did something of the same thing when matches were underground, illegal (profits made on betting) and held in old barns and empty warehouses and such. I had no idea that it would grow into what it is today. The competition wasn't what it is today but with the questionable legality and dubious charector of the promotors I would hazard to say that the class of the competitors was better than what we see in some of the competitors in MMA today. I'll continue to teach my eclectic system to those that need it and the traditional karate systems to the handful of students who are interested. Meanwhile I'll continue to pray that the treasure that we hold dear won't fade into history when we leave this world. That being said I'm going to take a few Tylenal. I suddenly have a splitting head ache. Keep up the good work, my friend.
  • Igor
    Just to drop this by you, maybe makes sense. Of all the kids and people how many reach black belt (more importantly stay in karate and MA altogether)? Let's say 10%, and of those 10% who achieve it, only 10% stay in karate for even longer, or their whole life's. This numbers are just of the top of my head, your estimates would make more sense. So what this MMA groups are doing might even be helpful, in a way that it takes wannabe tough guys who practice for a few months or a year and then quit and let's you have more time for your perspective students. best!
  • I have recently began training BJJ, after years of off and on Karate. Why? Well, in my town there simply isn't any good Karate. I've done it long enough to know that when Master Soke Bob comes out in his red and black gi, complete with beer gut tumbiling over his belt, that I'm being swindled. The main problem, for me at least, is that every Karate class I've seen is geared towards kids. There isn't a seriousness or an aliveness for me. I'm not going to say BJJ is better than Karate, but in my area there is a certain legitimacy to the BJJ schools. I found a small group to train with, and its a lot of fun. I don't have to worry about stances or katas...all I have to think about is "how do I choke this guy!" There is a lot of strategy that goes into it. Its something I never got out of Karate. That said, I still love Chito-ryu Karate, and I'd train it in a heart beat if it ever came back to my town.
    • Greg-san, that "Master Soke Bob" part had me rolling on the floor! Anyhow, the really fascinating part about BJJ is that the belts truly represent your skill level - universally - which is something Karate lost a long time ago. Good luck!
  • Vaughn
    Good article and something I have been pondering for the last several years. What is martial arts for? If you look around, and I mean actually LOOK with a discerning eye, you see arts that embrace weapons, ground-fighting, empty hands and kicking. I would call these war arts. They are only a small percentage of what remains of organized and codified martial systems. The God-awful Unconscionable approach to Mc-martial arts is not what has killed karate or any other "art". The slow death of true war arts began with the invention of gun powder. Yep, gun powder. How much skill and conditioning do I need to shoot you from 100 yards away? Anyone see The Last Samurai? Filipino Martial Arts, Bando, Krabi Krabong, "Dog Brothers" stick-fighting based arts are all at least a little suspect because they are not truly battle-tested anymore. Of course, stuff like that destroys the inherent "coolness" of martial arts because in real life and death application it is UGLY AND CRUDE and it actually HURTS. What is needed is exactly what I am seeing happen in a lot of schools. Arts are getting blended and stuff that doesn't meet up well with reality gets discarded. Does this include Karate? Well, it isn't the art, it's the application. It isn't the application, it's the applicator. Ever heard of Lyoto Machida? I think what is true of karate, which is all that is worth keeping of any system, will be just fine. If you teach what works, does it matter the source?
  • Hey relax. When was the last time you saw a practicing MMA-dude at the age of 70? Karate and most other old martial arts is something else.
  • Lyndon
    The point's already been made above, but karate at the moment has lost its sting. The same type of person who joined a karate class back in the 70s and 80s will now go to an MMA class - why? because they hit and are hit. While not all karate classes are the same, the vast majority do not encourage contact, which means you lose the "young turks" which gave karate its strong base. But what do the majority of people connected with karate want? Olympics? (so they can win trophies?), Somewhere to send the kids to promote discipline and self esteem? (good idea, but shouldn't that be a parent's role?) A good workout? (aerobics anyone?) Self defence? (not if you don't actually touch each other) Immersion in a foreign culture? (really?) I've spent a long time practicing karate and other than the "kids discipline" bit, all of the above (substitute "competition" for "olympics") applied at some point or another. I continue to train as I still enjoy the challenge, but if I was starting now, I'd be off to an MMA gym 'cos it looks more like what I originally signed up for (minus the cool pyjamas and oriental mysticism, of course!) Taught and practiced properly, karate is no better and no worse than MMA classes with the right instructor - it's all there if you choose to look. That people want the new best thing is no surprise and I think they can all co-exist - it won't take long before there are MMA "mcgyms" turning out the same rubbish as karate mcdojos. On the other topic, if my instructor had ever told me not to train with someone else I would have left. I was fortunate that my first instructor had no hangups about his ability - if we thought there was better out there we were free to go try, with no issues when we came back. I can't say I advertise an "open house" night, because if anyone wants to turn up and train at my classes they're welcome any time. But they do what I am teaching that night. If I invite an instructor in to teach a class we do what they say... that's the game, but people come to train with me for karate, so why would I ask someone from acompletely different art to come teach them? That doesn't mean that I can't seek out other styles and arts and go practice with them. If my students want to try other things they are also free to do so and if they find that something else is a better fit for them then good luck to them. I'll be sad to lose a student, but we only have so much time, so train with whomever will enable you to reach your potential, and stuff politics, egos, etc. Life's too short. I think we put far too much importance in what is, after all just a pastime (unless you're earning a living from it, it's your hobby) - Ok, it's been an almost 40 year hobby for me, but it doesn't put food on the table (it costs me money) and I can stop whenever I choose... I just choose not to, and hope I never will.
  • John
    OK ..someone had to say I guess it is me Lyoto Machida and George St Piere are both real karateka and both kick some serious MMA arse! discuss... ;-)
  • Jenny
    I don't think karate needs to change to be seen as "cool." Because for some people it's not just cool (the way it is, with traditions and all) it's super cool. Not everyone admires aggression that is evident in boxing and MAA fights. An example, if I may (and I wonder if it's something country specific or others noticed it as well). My school consists of mostly kids (and I mean 7-15 year old kids). Most like "fighting," are good kumite competitors, major discipline disturbers and headache for senseis. Kata? Thanks, but no thanks. Mokuso? What on earth is that good for? Japanese ritual and culture? Could not care less. But then there are these other kids. I spot them doing a kata in front of the mirror in an empty dojo, and I swear they are imagining themselves holding swords or shooting energy balls out of their palms. The best compliment for these kids is "you are a little samurai" or "you look like a ninja." They are interested in everything Japanese, including the tradition. Almost all of these kids love Japanese anime. It was often the anime that sparked their interest in martial arts and was the reason they asked their parents to bring them to the karate school! Because karate makes them look cool, like their favorite anime heroes! Silly? Yes. Shallow? Not necessarily. They are dreamers, and that's a good thing. I truly believe that the future of karate is with these types of kids. If their dreams are not laughed at but nourished and channeled in a certain way I think they will end up kicking the buts of those kids in the first category I just described. If they have to. Because they probably would not want to. That's not what their "cool karate" dream is about. Unfortunately in karate, like in life generally, those with more competitive, aggressive and slightly bullying attitude tend to hog the spotlight more. I guess it's up to every sensei and senpai to keep an eye out for these "dreamers" and not let the "fighters" crowd them out.
  • Andy
    If you'll bear with me, this is rather long and if it messes things up Jesse, you can delete it. I came to a worryingly similar 'We're doomed' conclusion a couple of years ago. Coming at it from a different angle , that of the current attitude among teenagers, which you touched on. I posted it as a thread on a now defunct web forum, I'll add it to the comments, if it's OK with you Jesse. I feel we need to do something to revive Karate - it is suffering at all levels. I don't don't have an answer myself, as I say , we are dinosaurs and perhaps we are just roaring at our own coming extinction ? See what you think. Monday, 3 January 2011 “WE’RE DOOMED , WE’RE DOOMED !” I have come to the conclusion that the traditional martial arts, in this country (G.B.) - are doomed ! There are a lot of reasons coming together to bring me to this view. It’s partially the domination of the ‘go faster stripe’, mentality within the martial arts world. Partly it’s the pollution and undermining of the martial arts by the likes of G.K.R. and the other ‘Mc Dojo’s’ and other charlatans etc. Along with the martial arts authorities and governing bodies obsession with competition and their abdication of responsibility in dealing with the problems the charlatans created. But , as the reasoning behind this abdication is money, I can , unfortunately understand. No , this isn’t the thing that leads to the ‘doom’ conclusion. The conclusion comes from a 'seed change' in attitude and mind-set, I’ve been encountering, this past few year or so. This , in an area totally unrelated to the martial arts. In work , for ten years, I’ve supervised an ever changing crew of collage kids, who work weekends, for the firm I work for. Recently I’ve seen an attitude change amongst these under 21 year olds. But the thing that really brought it home to me , were some in-depth talks with kids else where. I’m an inveterate ‘Soulie’ (northern soul fan), stomping around the dance floors of the northern soul scene since 1976. And it’s here, that several encounters have lead me to my disappointing ‘doom’ conclusion. Northern soul, is on the ‘up’ again , were becoming fashionable again. This has lead to an influx of under 25’s into the northern soul scene. Now, northern soul’s a friendly scene, we’ll talk to anyone. So, I’ve chatted to a lot of kids lately. Especially as I try to get to the bottom of something the kids do , and why ? The ‘Pratt’ dance ! The ‘pratt’ dance, is the name we’ve given to the silly, disco dance parody, that most new kids do in place of northern soul dancing. This is an important point, as northern soul is famous for its dancing. Northern soul can be identified by its dances. There specific and for many years were unique to northern soul - martial artist , can you see were this is leading ? Northern soul dances are definitive and identifiable. This is northern soul, that’s break dancing (showing my age !) etc. So where does the ’pratt’ dance come from and fit in ? As I’ve said, the northern soul scene, is a very friendly scene. I go up north or down south, alone, and end up chatting the night away with people I’ve just met. It’s the epitome of the ’only friends I haven’t met yet. ’ So, I get chatting with the ’pratt’ dancers, finding out the where’s and why’s. And this is why I now say we’re doomed ! The basic soul dance is simple and relatively easy to pick up, just by watching and copying - so why ’pratt’ dance ? The conversations have basically gone like this. I ask “Why the clowning around ? ” “ Cos we’re having a good time.” Comes the reply. “ So your not ‘into’ northern soul , just a good time ? “ “ Oh no, northern’s brilliant , fantastic. Wish I gone to the Casino, and all that. “ “ So why the clowning around, why not northern soul dancing ? ” The replies come. “Why ? it doesn’t matter, so long as I’m having a good time”. “ Can’t do that, it’s too hard .” “We can’t match you.” “ Whatever !”. When I nail them down, they ‘do’ the clowning parody ‘pratt’ dance. So, they can’t be compared to us, can’t be seen to try. If they tried to ‘do’ proper northern soul dancing, then we could see if they were any good - or not ! They don’t want to be compared, to be seen to try, to compete and most important, seen to fail. So they ‘pratt’ dance, to escape this . Now bear in mind, I’m 51 and most of us ‘soulies’ are the wrong side of 40. None of us are as dynamic or gymnastic as we were in our teens and 20’s. The kids can’t be bothered copying our old sliding feet. Only the odd one does, but they are a rarity. So, does it really matter ? Northern soul is all about a good time and it’s the music, the records, that are more important. So, in the scheme of things the ‘pratt’ dance is unimportant. But, in terms of martial arts, this new attitude, is really important. It doesn’t apply to modern and free style arts, but to the classical and traditional arts, that are definitive and specific in there structure. Were correct technique and thus comparison, is required. We’re doomed ! It will be impossible to hold to a specific format of training, a set standard of performance of technique, if you want to teach a generation benighted by this attitude. Central to this is my view that the martial arts exist only in there performance. This is why I say , we’re doomed. We are the dinosaurs, I can see those of us left, mostly over 30 remember, will be the last to maintain the classical and traditional martial arts. As we fade from training, through time and age, so the classical and traditional martial arts fade with us.
  • Paul
    The reason the younger generation are taking up MMA is they see skills which are immediately transferable to a self defence scenario. Something which is not obvious form the esoteric nature of TMA. Imagine that you are 18 and you have just started going out drinking with your mates. You are worried that you are going to get beaten up by some drunken idiot, so you decide to learn to look after yourself. Firstly you go to watch an MMA class. You watch them punching and kicking bags and pads, you see them performing moves which you think “Yes, not only is that useful, but I could pull that off in the pub if someone started on me”. The next night you go to a Karate class. You see people going up and down the hall punching fresh air, up and down, up and down punching and kicking nothing but fresh air. When they are not doing that they are doing little two minute dances. They have their arms and hands in weird and wonderful positions performing esoteric “techniques”. They stand in horse riding stance or cat stance, or some other weird and wonderful stance that no one ever at any point in human history has ever stood in whilst trying to defend themselves from getting their head kicked in. Which do you decide is going to be the best class for you to join?
  • Barbara
    I think there will always be people, like me, who wanted to learn traditional karate right from the first day I walked into a dojo. I wasn't looking for a realistic self-defense system and I wasn't trying to be like some martial arts star in a movie or a boxing champ I'd seen on TV. Young people, in general, might not be mentally geared for the years of training it takes to be truly proficient in karate but, like other age groups, there will always be a few who are. We may not have the huge numbers of some physical pursuits but that's not what we are about anyway. Numbers are only an issue if you are trying to make money out of it and, believe me, it takes a lot of consistent work to keep those numbers because Mcdojos have a huge problem with retention. All 'sports' have periods of popularity. Numbers ebb and flow. Who knows what new revolution may be just ahead that will have the masses heading for the dojo again. The question is will we be ready?
  • Jack M
    Well, I am very young, 14 to be exact, and I do Goju Ryu. In fact I have friends practicing Aikido, traditional Taekwondo and Shotokan karate. So i wouldn't say traditional arts are dead.
  • Roo
    I disagree completely.Karate is for little kids and the fat middle aged white guys who teach this crap. Karate is a fraud that the Okinawans passed onto to the Japanese who tried to make the phoney block,walk, kick, punch and cross your feet b.s. workable. It simply does not work the way it is taught or presented in the katas. Karate is a joke. The katas are all turned around and everything is done to obfuscate the true movements. So what was it before? Probably aikido/tai chi like movements with strikes. It needs to just go away.
  • Antonis
    Dear Roo, You sound too sure about something you - quite obviously - don't know at all. I come from a traditional Okinawan style, so I have many examples of senseis to prove you wrong, but you can google for them yourself. Honestly, what kind of answers do you expect when you write like that in Karate blog? Do you really want to save all of us who practice karate, to open our eyes and see the truth about the fake martial art we practice for years? Or you just try to draw some attention to you? Really, man, I suggest you find a martial art that will make you a better person. It doesn't really have to be Karate. You just need to feel good with yourself and not try to prove your superiority over others. This attitude only shows insecurity. Let's come to the point of "applying" a martial art. Do you think it really has to do with the martial art itself, or with your mentality and how ready you are to face a dangerous situation? If such a situation happens, what matters more? To beat the opponents in a technical or fancy way or to survive with any means? Are you ready for the unorthodox in order to survive, do you have the guts, or you think that real life is like a Hollywood movie? Even if you have a gun, you have to know how to use it, point and shoot correctly in order to make it useful. Overall, are you capable of controlling the outcome of a fight? Martial arts teach you exactly that. Tactics to keep your patience and make the best choice with the right timing. The rest is just punching and kicking, and these are the only things your experience on karate allows you to see.
  • Helena Branch
    I think that all "traditional martial arts", karate in particular, are "mixed". I say karate in particular because it was born in Okinawa and therefore has influences from China -to rewind even further, it goes back to India- and from styles like jujitsu and aikido coming from mainland Japan. Very mixed, as all martial arts are. It really is a shame that people cut out most of the techniques for the sake of winning competitions and making money.
  • Irwin Chen
    How about Kung-fu Nerds? I'm old school Jesse-san. Grew up deciphering tradition, culture and their significance to martial arts and found Kung-fu, Karate and to some point, Hapkido in 'Enter The Dragon'. I believe It's totally up to the practitioner where he wants to go: Tradition/culture Health Tournament Socials (karate dads?) And probably you may add another since training in both have exploded recently: MMA Army-like martial arts training Cheers!
  • monty
    Hate to say this, but I train shorin ryu 3x week for the exercise and heritage aspects. For effective combat/self defense however, it's bjj and muay thai 4x/week. The philosophical differences are clear wrt shorin ryu. bjj stripped out the useless stuff and muay thai is already stripped down. It's incredibly simple and powerful. Like the saying, not afraid of the person who practiced 10,000 kicks 1 time but the person who practiced 1 kick 10,000 times. Karate has way too much baggage getting in the way of combat effectiveness. I'd say GSP, liddel, machida were successful inspite of karate.
  • Sven
    It's funny though :) This new-age, fast-paced, frantic lifestyle where people prefer - MMA over Karate - eBooks over real Books - iTunes over CDs Yet... eBooks started from Books started from Scrolls started from Hieroglyphs; and so on. I just find it funny that people are crazy about "exciting" MMA...but...those exciting MMA guys practised the "boring" martial arts to build up their skills. Sure, it's okay to want to move forward.. but even when moving forward one should always take a step back and not forget where they (and everything else) came from. I love Karate.
  • Monty Hall
    The following is anecdotal YMMV. Actually, there's a lot of baggage that comes with TMA. 1. Most of MMA, which is usually 1 class of Muay Thai and 1 class of BJJ and then 1 class where they put the two together, instructors get respect because they've been tested in combat. In Japan, just by being born 1 second sooner than another, you're automatically given respect and are rarely questioned as it's seen as disrespect. Like many things Japanese, they systematized combat to a fault. Unfortuntately, fighting isn't like putting together IKEA furniture "just follow the instructions". BJJ instructors are similar to college professors in that college profs, at least in my experience, are rarely deified. They're facilitators. 2. Kata is like a riddle, if it takes 20 years to solve all the puzzles we have a problem. In BJJ, a techniques are straight foward. Further, BJJ is rather logical in terms of positional heirarchy and techniques (battle tested**) that can be executed from there. .... and it doesn't take 20 years to figure it out... 3. In some Okinawan styles, they don't even spar. So they really don't know what works under pressure and only know the moves in some theoretical/ideal situation. Being able to create combinations of moves is crucial. Since Karate is loaded full of low percentage moves, I believe no spar policy is a very bad idea. 4. Some of the techniques in Karate just aren't up to date. Bear Hugs? Really? In today's post UFC & ultra connected YouTube world, street bums are using rear naked chokes. Since grappling is now considered main stream, take down defense should be mandatory training. Of course, "one punch kill" or "I'm so weaponized the fight will end in 1 second and never go to the ground" mentality would say that training for such a thing would be a waste of time. The veil of Mr. Miyagi oriental mysticism in TMA was brutally torn off with the first UFC. People just want to know what works... In summary, kata needs to be obvious w/ little ambiguity. Some techniques should be added and removed based on success in modern combat. Sensei worship tossed out the door. Maybe karate will have a fighting chance. From what I've seen, it's riding - rightfully so - out into the sunset. ** Documented with clear rules and not "stories" of super human karate feats.
  • Bucksmallsy
    TO: Jesse ENKAMP / Karate Nerds 1. The issue of Karate becoming obsolete is already an undeniable reality; regardless of whether one is a student and or teacher. 2. The UFC / MMA was and is probably one of the best things to come public since its inception in the early 90's. 3. MMA has exposed 99% of anyone in all martial art disciplines to put their money where their mouth is or put up and shut up ! 4. Karate unfortunately has proven to be disfunctional for the most part with one well known MMA person (Lyoto MACHIDA) in particular having to unlearn and relearn his striking and take up Muay Thai - which has proven ten fold to shut down any person coming from a Karate background unless they have pre-existing boxing skills that are sound. 5. However all is NOT lost within the world of KARATE pending those within it understand its survival is now a journey of EVOLUTION and not the continued blind path of EXTINCTION. 6. Arts such as KUDO (Daido Juku) are the answer to those wanting their Karate to remain functional both ON and OFF the street and or both IN and OUT of the OCTAGON / RING. 7. By accepting the aforementioned we all must adapt in order to overcome such inevitable changes - EVOLUTION is in fact THE COMING FULL CIRLCE leading all of us BACK to the very beginning which was WHAT the arts originally all were - a complete combative system for war - NOT posing and winning points for fake plastic trophies! 8. As for the mention of Mark ZUCKERBERG and Bill GATES they ARE both very well known Cabalist criminals and anyone refuting this only goes to expose their true IGNORANCE or Cognitive Dissonance on this matter. 9. In conclusion, for KARATE to survive - its NOT about just KARATE, its about ALL disciplines coming together to save ALL of the information within the arts as a whole - MMA / UFC has done this to a large extent by exposing the majority of those within the martial arts world as being fraudulent. Thank goodness for coaches / teachers such as Greg JACKSON and Mike WINKLEJOHN who understand my herein post. 10. NOTE: we as practitioners within KARATE regardless of style (i.e. Goju, Shito, Shorin, Shotokan Kyokushin etc) must understand metaphysical flexibility and an adaptive spirit toward the truth is WHAT our journey must be about. Not the path of ego and living a lie. Domo Arigato Gasaimasu Osu ! Yudansha International Karate Organisation KYOKUSHINKAIKAN IKO3 / IKU KODOKAN JUDO
  • Jordan
    About the beer drinking and socializing: we do that in the aikido dodjo I'm going to. But we're most adults, everyone decides for himself be it beer or whisky or fruit juice. I think it's a nice bonus offerring a bit more socialization in addition to training. Today's computerized society is lacking on that.
  • Jonas
    MMA, Jesse Sensei, is like a modern car: it has everything bigger, better and more powerful. But does it have a soul? Does it offer more driving satisfaction or attract more admiration on the parking lot?
  • Adrian
    People want something that is proven to work and functional, realistic etc. mma demonstrates that.. doing blocks against air moving like robots in lines just doesnt appear to have any merit. Teaching kata without function also. This move is for kicking samurais off horses and this is jumping over corpses of your enemies wont hold up anymore..
  • When we moved to our own dojo 3 years ago we did so together with a taekwando club and a bujinkin club, and we have training together at least twice a year. More recently we've had guests from a fudokai club in a nearby town come and train with us, and some of our members have also visited them. It may therefore be no coincidence we've grown from around 20 active members to over 70 now, and are set to break 100 in the new year! Love your stuff, Jesse, thanks for all your knowledge and insights!
  • Pat
    Hi, I know I will take a lot of critisisim(spelling) I am 61 years old. I learned Karate in Okinawa between 1978 and 1981. My teacher was a man named Sekeichi Odo in the Okinawan Karate kobudo system. I received my black belt prior to leaving Okinawa. Most of our training was basic stretches, followed with punches, blocks and kicks, lots of hand katas and weapons katas (weapons were taught from the very beginning) and full contact fighting using what is call bogu gear. We also did bag work, makiwari training , etc. We did very little explanation of kata techniques, bunki, etc. What is the value in Kata? To name a few good reasons: freedom of movement without cramping up, Not to mention speed, bone alignment so you don't break your wrists and toes and muscle memory ( there is more but too much to cover here). Kata is good for your cardio system and with the right mind set can closely as humanly possible immulate a actual fight I will explain later). Kata can be practiced in a small room, by yourself, in prison camp, from ages 4 years -100 (if your lucky). I see no downsides to kata other than it takes time to learn, I think it is important to practice Kata with as much power as you can generate without losing your balance. I see a lot (most) practice it very casually with little power or focus on technique. If a cassual approach constitutes 90% of their training --they ARE WASTING THEIR TIME. I am talking Traditional Kata - not fancy competition stuff..... I think Kata by itself is useless unless you understand the fighting aspect. On ce you understand the fighting aspect you are good to go (unless you want to be an MMA fighter). I am talking purely self defense. As mentioned before we used this stuff call bogue gear. It was /is very heavy and expensive bogue gear. It was clausterphobic and somewhat restraining, Once you get used to it you can move very fast and by and large fight unimpeded. In many peoples eyes a lot of cons --thjis includes many of the old masters in Okinawa. In my eyes the pros out weighted the cons. Our fighting style was very unorthadox. It was brutal. It was war. Hard strikes to the groin was normal. Hitting a person while they were down was normal. Grabbing, throwing, pushing was normal. Every punch and kick was meant to destroy. It was not popular with many of the styles on the island of Okianwa. Many considered us brawlers. "We lacked control". Participating in a kumite match was pure survival. It was a mind set. It was lizard brain, neanderthal survival at its best. What do you learn??? Life is not fair. There is always somebody stronger, faster and more devious than you. You also learn not to give up and luck can play a part in your survival. This mentality can carry through your whole life in other endeavours. It makes you a better person. But you also see the weirdest moves come out during the fight when being pushed and shoved and attacked. Many of these moves resemble (drum roll please): KATA. Our classes were small (usually around 10 student, sometimes 20, sometime two). I never met a more cordial, humble, respectful group of practictioners. I never heard of one of our students beating up a poor drunk in a bar just to prover their karate prowress like I have heard from students from other dojos. If you wanted to prove something; put on the bogue gear --that was a test.... I never knew anybody in our dojo that liked to fight (even though we fought a lot) I came to hate fighting. As in war nothing good comes out of it. On the flip side of the coin we produced some of the best fighters I've seen in any dojo. We fought for 3 minutes, were not allowed to back up (we use angles), never turned our backs on the enemy. Our eyes were always on our opponent. We attacked, attacked, attacked while trying to protect our centerline. We were practicing the art of violence. No let me make one thing clear. I am NOT a violent person. If fact I needed a good trigger mechanism to fight well in our style: I imagined the attacker had just raped my wife and family and didn't deserve to breath my air. I learned to bring this trigger on very fast like nano seconds --after all karate is about fight avoidence UNITIL you really needed it. I truely belive this is what the original reason for karate was developed. The problem with most people is they want to break fighting down to a clean, styrile art: "if he does this move, I will do that move". Everybody wants a correct finite absolute answer for every problem. They pay their money and want a finite skill in their arsenal (much like buying a refriderator) This is human nature. They want to feel like they are in control. In an MMA events/ karate tournaments event the lighting is controlled, a referee is present, the mat is smooth and clean, you have a finite area to fight in --it is all controlled. In real life is there one opponent, two, three and so on? Do they have weapons? Are there rocks you can sprain your ankle on? Is it snowing outside? Are there bar stools, tables, stairs you can trip over? I there adequate light? --A million scenerios ,it is impossible for any human being to be fully prepared for. In the end all you have pure movement with strong technique, a lizard brain to help pull you through it all.
  • Sakuraba
    I don't think you have made a clear statement about how Karate should be saved, despite dubbing the term "Karate Nerd" and asking people to subscribe to the email guide.

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