“So… what style do you practice?”
This is a question I get a lot.
(Especially since releasing “KARATE ON FIRE!”)
And to be honest, I hate that question.
Because I can’t answer it!
I don’t have a specific “style” anymore.
I practice ALL styles.
I PRACTICE KARATE.
And… perhaps YOU should too?
Let me explain.
But first, let’s define the meaning of style.
What is a Karate “style” anyway?
A style is a codified set of teachings, aimed at systematically teaching you Karate.
It’s a vehicle for transmitting Karate.
But, here’s the freaky thing:
Your style doesn’t tell the whole story.
It’s not The Truth.
Karate is actually much MORE than your style!
You see, a style just represents a tiny slice of the whole Karate cake. That cake is freaking huge. And very delicious.
It’s like a carrot cake.
And that’s why I hate being asked; “What style do you practice?”
Because I can’t limit myself to a style!
I want the WHOLE cake!
Yet, I have met Karate people who think “their” slice of cake tastes better than everyone else’s. They think it has some secret ingredient that makes it superior.
(Recommended reading: Is Your Karate Dead or Alive?)
But they’re just assuming – because they’ve never tasted anything else.
I think they’re fooling themselves.
You see, in 9 times out of 10, the only reason you practice your style is because that’s what is taught in your dojo. You probably didn’t taste the whole cake before choosing.
In other words, you got randomly handed a piece of carrot cake, and you try to justify this obvious “non-choice” by hailing its greatness.
But it’s all the SAME cake, dude!
And there comes a point in your Karate journey when you need to wake up and smell the frosting.
Let go of your style.
It’s like crossing a river: You start by building a raft. Then you sail over. But once you reach the other side, you can leave the raft behind you. It served its purpose. It was a vehicle. Just like your style is.
In other words, your fixation on a “style” might be holding you back.
Perhaps it’s time for a change?
Don’t get me wrong though;
I’m NOT saying styles are unimportant.
On the contrary, styles are super important. They are essential! They are what makes Karate unique, diverse and interesting. In fact, the developmental process of Karate, known as “Shu-Ha-Ri”, requires you to start with a proper style in the beginning.
(Related reading: How You Can Master Karate in 3 Steps (Shu-Ha-Ri))
The longer you practice Karate, the less your styles means.
It’s almost paradoxical.
There’s only one cake – just different slices!
And that’s why “what style do you practice?” is one of the smartest (and hardest) questions you can ask someone who practices Karate a lot, like me and you.
Their answer will reveal how far they have come in Karate.
Are you ready to bite that cake?
“There is no place in contemporary Karate for different styles. I have heard myself and my colleagues referred to as the “Shotokan style”, but I strongly object to this attempt at classification. My belief is that all “styles” should be amalgamated into one, so that Karate may orderly progress into man’s future.”
– Gichin Funakoshi (1868-1957)