Time To Break Out Of The Box? Old Vs. New

You know what I can’t stand?

People who are trapped in boxes.

Squeezed into these tiny compartments – boxes – that safely disassociate them from everything in the big wide world that contradicts their own views on what’s “wrong” and what’s “right”, these people are often very tiny and angry, perhaps from the lack of space in their respective boxes.

It is safe to say that Karate has many of these people.

Stuck in their tiny Karate boxes.

You can say pretty much anything you want to them, but they will always have a counter argument ready. It is a conditioned reflex that they all have, hardened by years of blindly following a certain dogma, often set forth by somebody on a picture hanging on the wall. You can have as much proof as you want, as much evidence as you can gather, but it will be of no use. In their eyes, it is invisible.

Because the majority of the modern world of Karate is plagued by dogma.

People cling to other people’s ideas with almost religious-like zeal, defending even the most ridiculous theories, training methods and philosophies because not doing so equals defeat. On their part. Or at least so they believe.

The box needs to be “defended” at all costs.

And we all know what the end-result is: unnecessary acrimony over what are ultimately minutiae in the neverending journey towards the ultimate goal of Karate.

Because to me, we are all one.

And the minute you start defending your box, you are in fact essentially not recognizing that there might be other boxes out there, with other people in them. Some of those might even be bigger than yours! Or just different. And they all need to be opened.

To me, all boxes are spread out over a big mountain.

Mt. Karate.

But to some people, the mountain is inside their box.


And if you propose otherwise, well, before you know it you are suddenly ensnared by your own words in a childish mess over whose box is the “best”, the “original” box, the “biggest” box, the “only” box and so on, with words like respect, loyalty and tradition being (mis)used all over the place.

As an example, imagine that there are two teams.

Two Karate teams, to be exact, that will have to fight each other in a death match. Scary huh? Well, you will need to guess the winner.

To make it easier for you to choose, let me tell you something briefly about each team, and we’ll see who you choose as the winning team by the end of the post, okay?

Team One:

Team one consists of many strange characters. Most of them have a mustache, for some reason. They were all brought up in a poverty-stricken society, and most of their childhoods consisted of successfully running away from bullies, those fortunate times when they weren’t actually beaten up. Danger lurked around every corner.

Most of the members of team one were sick and frail as kids, and in today’s society they would probably have been taken away from their parents. The members of team one had, in one sentence; a rough life.

The result, of course, is the same as for anyoe who has had a rough childhood.

Serious personal issues.

Many members of team one have both physical (broken leg) and mental (broken childhood) injuries. For instance, some of them were give away to other families when they were kids, got to see their best friends and students killed and even revolted against their families by cutting their topknots off.

Many of them even got to see their children dead before they died themselves, leading to depression, poor diet and exercise habits that no doctor today would allow.

Perhaps I should mention that some of them had frequent contacts with criminals too. And geishas (sic).

But they all trained Karate.

At least during their childhood.

Later in life they mainly just sat on a chair and pointed with their fingers.

Most of them actually trained outside in the dirt, at night, coincidentally during a human being’s most important time for recovery (sleep). And when they didn’t train, they liked to challenge people to fights in some shady red-light district of their town, to see if their techniques really worked

Later on in life, many of the members in team one were stressed out.

Some even stopped Karate, for personal reasons.

Now, let’s look at team two.

Team Two:

Team two grew up with a totally opposite economical, sociological, emotional and cultural framework. If you come up with any other word that ends in “-al”, just throw it in there.

Team two frequently travels the world, happily spreading, sharing and gaining knowledge about the martial arts in general and Karate in particular, meeting all kinds of fun and interesting people everywhere. They often produce books and DVD’s, teaching people about their ongoing process in climbing Mt. Karate.

Some of them actually eat a little too much, a habit they have had their whole lives, growing up under such great socio-economical conditions that their modern society has provided. No frail, underfed, individuals here, nope!

And they all train.

Inside, in very fancy facilities with tons of cool equipment. Not only Karate, but cross-training in MMA, Submission Wrestling, BJJ, Boxing etc. is nothing strange. Strength training too.

It’s not because they believe Karate is a lesser form of martial arts, but because they want to expand their knowledge into areas that Karate doesn’t touch in the wide spectrum of the whole “combat game”.

Because knowledge is power.

Team one rarely did anything like this. Their culture strongly opposes it.

And sure, many members of team two used to compete heavily in their younger days, fighting all around the country/world but most of them have now left that area of Karate, choosing to engage in ongoing research about the lost “secrets” of original Karate and bunkai instead.

Most of the people in team one are used to train children and youngsters.

Most of the people in team two are used to train with adults.

Enough said.

Now you choose.

If team one had to fight team two, who would you bet your money on? Huh? No, better yet, if you had to join one team in a fight to death, which team would you join?

Team one, or team two?

The old, or the new?

Karate masters WW2 and before, or modern day Karate masters?

Team one, or team two?

It is interesting to note that many people would probably choose old Karate masters like Funakoshi Gichin, Chojun Miyagi, Taira Shinken, Mabuni Kenwa etc. over our modern Karate/bunkai/self-defense experts if they hadn’t seen the comparison between team one (old Karate masters) and team two (modern day Karate masters), simply because… because… well, they don’t really know why themselves.

It’s ridiculous.


Because they are stuck in their boxes, of course.

And in their boxes… evolution doesn’t exist.

Today’s masters of Karate have developed and built something that our old beloved pioneers could never imagine. A worldwide, continually expanding, network of Karate knowledge and wisdom, based upon the cornerstones laid by people from team one. The updated scientific knowledge, equipment and training methods that we have today are like from another planet.

So, when I ask you who would win between team one and team two in a fight to death, I am basically asking you who would win between the five-year-old yourself and the current yourself.

Between an infant, and an adult?

Between something in its cradle, and its evolution?

If you can’t answer that question, or if you think team one will win the deathmatch, feel free to just crawl back into your box and stay there. And keep words like respect, loyalty and tradition to yourself, because they have nothing to do with this. Karate is not about deathmatches. It’s not even about who’s the “best”.

This is facts.

If you really need to use the word respect, begin by respecting yourself. Loyalty? Be loyal to the goal, not the method. Tradition? Start by actually walking in the footsteps of tradition, don’t just stand in them. And make sure you walk in the right direction. And most importantly, keep going when they stop.

Let’s recognize the developmental process of Karate.

It’s a part of evolution, you know.

Or else our beloved historical pioneers did it all for nothing.


  • I don't argree with you on the evolution of karate. Actually I am a big critic of any evolutionary model. Karate has changed, and that's about all. Arguing which is better, has no point. However, I would like to see your recent article on the blog again. I wasn't finished reading, sparing the fun part for home and now I see 404. Please, don't let the howler monkeys appoint the content.
    • That's cool! Can you expand on your thoughts a bit? I'm eager to hear. :) I see evolution/devolution as two sides of the coin of change. Re. Old post - I'll repost it at a more appropriate time. Sorry!
      • Evolutionism implies that something is growing better, naturally. Like technology today. Fact is that time doesn't always make things better; in history acheivements also get lost. Like technologies from the transition from antiquity to middle ages. So you come to a evolution-devolution-dichotomy, describing development: change means either getting better or getting worse. For defining "better" and "worse", you need definitions of "good" and "bad", but those again are dependent on needs and requirements. This is a problem, as needs and requirements are specific (on time, culture, protagonist etc.) and, of course, they change. Now describing the value of past traditions(practices, theories, phenomena, whatever) with recent specifics, ignores the fact that specifics change. Describing the value of recent traditions with past specifics, lead to impractibility. Describing past traditions with past specifics and recent traditions with recent specifics result in no comparability. So valuation leads to nothing (in my view). Instead I find it appropriate to retrack past traditions in their own setting and make them usable in today's practice. The thought of evolution has no place in this concept. Does a stream evolve when it creates a riverbed? Now this may sound a lot aloof. Actually I just want to underline that anything has to be understood in its own context and manifestation. It can be researched and applied on todays need, but a direct comparison like the thought of tournament can't have a common measure. Luca Valdesi is an ace athlete. Compare him to ol' Gichin and laugh about the old man (not really). On the other hand, Funakoshi (et al.) learned a practice that was meant to kill someone at once. Doing this today, gets you straight to jail in most cases. What would you say if we would apply (APPLY, not just translate) ikken hissatsu in competition and tournament -would it really reflect the spirit of karate? The Manchurian prisoners of war would probably know an answer. Difficult. In the end I can only state, that evolution is dependent on the point of view. Who is to judge? As a last note I would say that karate of today is an art that is half-buried. We may have brought some aspects to perfection, but completely forgot about others.
        • Great! As always, it comes down to semantics. And like you say, it's not a fair comparison, so it's really nothing to be upset about. Just silly. But a great way of checking the sturdyness of your box :) Btw, you subscribe to the "Karate is for killing people" theory? Interesting note: The "ikken hissatsu" principle (one punch kill) was a military battlefield term coined during the WW2 modernization of Karate, ripped straight from Ken-jutsu and other Bu-jutsu (compare the sniper saying "One Shot, One Kill.). Although many people think it is, it is not in the original Okinawan spirit of Karate. The real Karate term, as once popularized by Chibana Choshin of Kobayashi Shorin-ryu goes: "Ippon Kowashi", meaning "destroying (not killing) the opponent with one punch". Just in case anyone is interested...
          • Hey, semantics is an important part of hermeneutics! ;) All I'm basically telling is that you can't say that the new is necessarily better than the old (or vice versa) -which actually is the basic meaning of evolution. About karate is for killing and ikken hissatsu: This was put a bit straightforward, I admit, but it hopefully served the cause of what I am trying to say: demands do change. I derived that view from "Empty Hand" by Kenei Mabuni, where he states that Jigen-ryu kenjutsu has a major influence on karate. In his depiction of Jigen-ryu I saw "ikken hissatsu" fulfilled.
  • Two objects can't exist in the same place at the same time. Pure Physycs. Karate Do is a Box. Your box is another one... (Without the "Do", may be...)
    • Alberto, sorry to tell you this, but the *box* doesn't actually exist in real life. It's not an object. The word "box" is a metaphor for one's limited scope on a certain subject/idea/principle, in this case Karate. There is nothing that says that several people can't see a subject in their own narrow ways from several viewpoints. It has nothing to do with physics.
      • Viking
        Lack of imagination. There is a always a limit because we live on a box. Many seem unable to entertain the concept that for us to exist something must have no limits and go on forever. Do we evolve or is there an under lying design they will always result in simalar outcome. Is your box so far away I can't see it or it just inside another box?
      • Oh... Yes it has my friend... There's a lot of people trying to give Karate Do a "modern view". A refurbishing movement trying to make a "new Karate Do". That's not possible (Even in Okinawa are a bit confused and seduced by westrern ideas). Karate Do is something freeezed in time and what is new... ...is new, but it is not Karate Do as it was trained and "thinked". It's like the "new" Mustang, or the "new" Camaro, or the "new" Corvette, or the new designs of Chip Foose... They're not the originals neither the hands driving them... Of course it's nice to watch R. Aghayev in a competition but sure it has nothing to do with a real fight in the old times. Of course the box is a methafore but do not mess Karate Do with what is trained and performed nowadays. You like modern ways of trainig? Competition may be? Lots of lights and trophys? Name that box as you want, but it is not Karate Do. Please do not use that word to say it "has changed" neither to say "it's a martial art"...
        • Wow... interesting. Can you elaborate?!
  • Tobias
    Great post! I did however see it from another perspective as well as the one presented. Doesn't the mental aspect play a heavy role in this case? Team one's individuals have been forced to fight in different ways throughout their lives while the same probably can't be said about team two. Shouldn't this make team one more mentaly prepared as they have faced "similair" situations in the past?
    • Yes, I think you are right. A very important aspect that is often forgotten today is that the members of team one were ultimately chosen (accepted) by their teachers because they had the correct mindset from the beginning - while members of team two could theoretically choose to train with whomever, whenever and wherever they pleased, no matter what mindset they had to begin with. This is the basic difference between modern and "old" instruction: We no longer choose students, they choose us. But does that mean there are no fighters today? Nope. It always takes a very special person (read: correct mindset) to become the best in his/her field, no matter what time or age you live in. Also, many of today's best Karate exponents have worked as guards, bouncers etc, in the past and very well know violence. Sport Karate is not the only form of contemporary Karate, as most commenters seem to believe :)
  • As you say: "It is interesting to note that many people would probably choose old Karate masters like Funakoshi Gichin, Chojun Miyagi, Taira Shinken, Mabuni Kenwa etc. over our modern Karate/bunkai/self-defense experts if they hadn’t seen the comparison between team one (old Karate masters) and team two (modern day Karate masters), simply because… because… well, they don’t really know why themselves." I have to remind you that when japanese sent Okinawan to Russian war (As USA military does now with latins and african-americans,)Funakoshi was known as the soldier who ran our of ammunition and killed russians with his fists. "Okinawa gen kotsu" was called and Funakoshi was asked to teach that to the rest. That's one of the reasons Shotokan is now the "Lord of International Competition" and original okinawan styles and schools remained anonymous. So... In a combat hand to hand, I want Funakoshi by my side...
    • Diego Romero
      [citation needed]
    • lol
      source or it doesn't happen.
  • Diego Romero
    i go with whichever team has more guys with kobudo weapons and katana
  • Stu
    I agree with the spirit of the message you are trying to get across here. However the teams analogy misses the mark slightly. I'm reminded of the old saying "it's not the dog in the fight, but the fight in the dog". The guys in team 1 will potentially have endured through far more hardship and developed greater fighting spirit when comes to the "get knocked down 7 times and get backup 8 times" part.
  • andi
    If the box used as blinkers (blinders?) helping people to not be distracted while fulfilling their tasks (like racehorses?), that's ok, no? For example, it may be better to have a mindset like "Did just a duck fart?" instead of "Oh no, there's the champ, he's gonna kill me!!! shry!!!". Boxes helps to fade out environment/competitors. Ever saw people of which you asked yourself "Where do they take their self-confidence from?". And I admire those people for this ability. On a personal level, the box helps you to fade out what could distract you. On an organizational level, it also may serve as a tool to manipulate people (if you succeed to force them into the box somehow). In any case it gives you security and warmth. Outside the box it's insecure and cold. So most people in this world will not get out of theirs. I think it's ok if they just stay on their sofa, keep their blinders on and lead a happy and undistracted life. It's their right (in most countries). Using boxes is actually many peoples and organizations strongest "weapon".
  • shane
    A "box" is just someones perspective on something, so we are all in our own "box". karate (empty hand), mma, bjj, boxing, are all empty hand (minus the gloves), it all blends together, there's only a certain amount of ways to defend yourself.
  • Andrei Dima
    Hello! Very interesting comments.But this subject is very complicated.Depends of everyone life experience and way to think.Change is everywhere and all time.Univers is in motion.( see I Ching - antique chinese ,,book of changes"). But the real question is if the changes in Karate practice are evolution or not. And this depends on social , historic , politic and economic conditions. Let see some ,, modern " forms , like Kick boxing , K1 , Kyokushin competition and others. Only a sport's regulament avoid the practioners to be sever injured or killed. In my opinion Karate techniques are Deadly.This is their initial purpose.In what kind of competition someone see Mawashi Zuki at the temporal skull bone?With bare fists. Or a full kick in grown area?I am not sure but I remember that Mawashi Geri is named ,, suicidal tehnique " in martial traditions.This kind of leg tehnique exists only by sport , because is not permeted to hit genital area in any kind of ,, modern martial arts" or broke the support leg.This can be one point of vue, a martial one. Other is social .Karate is the result of brutal japanese ocupation on Ryu Kyu archipelago.For people in that time the martial way is important.In our time Karate became educational method , sport , some time bussines , recreation , fun , music forms( a kind of aerobic in my opinion) , etc.Karate for everyone.In a modern society. This is the second point of vue. Everyone is responsible for choices that make in his life and the direction of his Karate practice. Find a good inspiration and train yourself with sincerity. The purpose of your effort is only your's.But never forgett the real Karate : to protect you.( not only martial).Live pacefull , but if you decided to fight , fight like an injured tiger. This is okinawan , influenced by buddhism: ,,life means suffering , suffering make human being to think ,thinking goes to philosophy , philosophy make life acceptable". With respect , Andrei
    • Agree Andrei... (Long life Team 1)
      • Of course you agree! Because "Karate is the result of brutal japanese ocupation on Ryu Kyu archipelago" [sic] right? Just like "Funakoshi was known as the soldier who ran our of ammunition and killed russians with his fists." [even more sic]. I am really curious: Where do you learn these things? :)
        • Where do I learn these things? Are you serious? Seems that listening to the Masters is more usefull than playing Hip Hop with the memory of Okinawan History and taking pictures in Okinawan Dojos with those Masters...
          • Hey, don't be like that. Let's stay on the subject. I am simply wondering where you got your information. From listening to a master you say? Okay, great! Progress! Follow-up question: Which master(s)? I have never heard things like these before, so I really want to know. I'm a Karate nerd amigo! :)
          • One of those masters is no longer with us: Higa Benito Sensei, brother of Higa Oscar Masato Sensei and cousin of Higa Minoru Sensei. Brothers Higa were born in Argentina fron Higa Jintatsu, brother of Higa Yuchoku, who told Mario Ramundo some tales from the old times. I took clases with Jintatsu, Oscar, Benito and Mario, who is my personal friend. Another one who I did not train with (but with his son) and had long chats is Nagahama Muneo, an accupuncturist from Perú, who met some "bushis", called from Okinawa to protect the okinawan community there. No one of those bushis had any graduation, they just "know Tode" (Including Kobudo, taught kids and adults, refer stories about some old Masters and told me about "Okinawa Genkotsu". They also taught "old forms of the Katas" he could saw in some "battles" at the harbours, where okinawan had a sort of restaurants for sailors... We had a lot of fun comparing forms even with Fukien Chuan Fa techniques, very similar indeed... And some more... ;)
    • Lennart
      Nitpicking here but buddhism never had a strong pressence in the Ryukyus, and the notion that life is suffering contradicts the most basic points of the traditional/typical (though by no means only) okinawan outlook. Sure buddhist priests officiate at funerals but that mostly seems to be a case of "somebody's gotta do it" and the kaminchu aren't allowed to. Back in the day some uppeclass families had statues of Kwannon (A.K.A. Guanyin A.K.A. Avalokiteshvara) too but that mostly amounted to a once a year ritual (for reference other gentry had statues of Kwanting, a non-buddhist deity, with a simular ritual obligation, although both were presumably imported from China at some point). Of course there are individual exceptions. Funakoshi was one (as most of you probably know). Appologies, this post is way to long.
  • Lecé
    Wow, this kind of post always generate aggressive responses. I just don't understand why some include any kind of sports into the equation. I think MMA, K1, or SPORTS karate should be left aside, as they dont represent the martial art, but a sport. I will just point the fact that the pioneers of Karate, where just that. They where first developing the art, with all the ingredients you want, but now the art has changed and gained more influences and development. At the same time, the sources from wich it developed had been around probably for thousands of years, lets face it, they didn´t invent fighting, so whats best? Do people now train as hard as before? Are we as devoted? Well I guess it depends of the practitioner. How can we know what was better? Weren´t there. We all tend to criticize what´s not familiar...in other words, what´s outside our box. It´s human to be in a box, just try to expand it´s walls every day...finally we may all fit inside.
  • Andrei Dima
    Hello again! Thank for your answer.I read the other comment too.Thank again.About Kick boxing , k1 and others modern sports.They are not presented as sports but as ,, Martial Arts".This confussion exist.Sport Karate is also presented as Martial Art.Like I say , everyone is responsible for his choices in life.This not mean that ,,martial "karate is better than Sport Karate or Kick boxing .The question was evolution of Karate.About boxes , is very interesting that concept.Surely everyone live in his own box.From ,, my box " I see the way of nowdays Karate in evolution , but not by Sport , Competition or Music Kata . Is about science and comunication - like this ,that help us. Is not about criticize what is unfamiliar. I was practice Boxing more than 10 years , also Kick Boxing .Please ask me that this practice help me to improve my Karate development. I can answer you now : NO.Absolutely NO.The problem is that a lot of young people who begin with one school or other of Karate have no patient.They want results , NOW .In conclusion they choose MMA , K1, Kick Boxing , etc. For some of them work ,for others no.The same in karate.And karate is presented as a lesser fighting art. For japanese ocupation on Ryu Kyu islands is better that don't talk about it.Remember that Uechi master in his youth gone to Fujian province in China to avoid been recruted in the Imperial Army. With respect , Andrei
  • Just a random thought: Isn't the whole purpose of teaching people to make them ultimately better than yourself? To take the art one step further? Improve each generation? Evolve? In that case, saying that our old pioneers were "godlike" (or "better" than us today) would be like saying that they - and every single generation after them - were terrible teachers, who miserably failed in developing Karate, since we now are "worse" than them! Sorry, but I can't for the life of me imagine that they were that bad at teaching! But that's essentially what you are saying, indirectly. Second: To those who think that "Karate is frozen in time" - and compares it to a classic Mustang, Corvette or Camaro - well, I see it like this: A beautiful car with a 60 year old rusty engine, dusty flat tires and moldy seats is not something to be proud of. Never. No matter how classic it is. That just shows that you don't care about your car. However, updating the technology inside (engine, exhaust system, dashboard, steering wheel, pedals etc.) to make it run "better", while keeping the classic DESIGN intact and shiny (which, like Karate, is timeless) - is something we should all strive to do. That's the spirit. Either you choose to keep the flame lit, or you try to preserve the ashes. Burn up the box.
    • Leo
      Isn't the most reasonable purpose of teaching people to make them as good as they can be? To help them grow into a framework, not make them fit into a heritage?
      • And who decides how good anyone can be? Just aim for the stars, for once. The sky isn't the limit, there's footprints on the moon. It's not about fitting in, it's about breaking out. At least on this website.
        • Thomas
          Tradition should be an inspiration....not a limitation
    • The whole purpose of teaching is not to make them better than you. It's just to "Teach", as Karate Do is just to "Learn". Nobody is Godlike. Nobody wants nothing from nobody. Nobody is a terrible teacher and nobody is a terrible student. (Satori is very far away, my friend...) If you feel worse than them is because Karate Do was seldom find out of Okinawa. May be Perú, may be Brazil, may be Argentina. sure not in the USA (there're only cowboys there...) Karate Do is timeless. And is a way of living. "A beautiful car with a 60 year old rusty engine, dusty flat tires and moldy seats is not something to be proud of" ??????????????? Maybe your box is bigger and open than my, but my is the Original! Masters say we can NEVER improve Karate DO!!!!!!!!!!!
      • Fabio
        I know that this whole thing about boxes and cars is just a series of metaphores... Metaphoric (and literally) saying: not every old car is rusty and decaying. It´s the owner´s responsability to do maintenance, clenaning, and keeping it shiny and new for decades. An old art, when well taught, can pass on for centuries without much changing.
        • Fabio
          Of course, I just wanted to put some more fire into this discussion. I am always the first to throw away long-revered traditions in favor of new ideas. And the important thing in a martial art, to me, is that it takes the opponent to the ground.
      • Thomas
        Tradition should be an inspiration...not a limitation
    • Viking
      If you are going to teach if you cannot accept that some of your students should become better then you, you have accepted the destruction of progress and hence the human race. Team 1 should be dispatched quickly because they are pioneers therefore we stand on their shoulders. Otherwise it is very sad and very disappointing.
  • patrick
  • Sayo
    I havent read the article yet, but looking at the number of comments I believe I must!!!
  • Jorge
    the line of shorin ryu which ends in kobayashi ryu (takahara-sakugawa-sokon matsumura- itosu- chibana) can barely be on the team 1 and definitively not belong to the team 2.they were important and wise persons, who worked for the kings of ryu kyu. But interesting article anyway, I undertand what you wanted to say
  • Sanjuro
    Yeah, all is about faith and evolution. Best, worst, good, bad, cool suits and sort pants... but, hey, stop a moment. What are we really understanding when we said karate (or any other thing) evolves? Evolution is change, development, through the time. Tracing back in time, fifty years before Darwin published his theory about natural selection, a french scientist called Jean Baptiste Lamarck exposed the first complete theory of evolution. That was in 1809. For Lamarck, evolution was universal, from minerals to human psyche, was inevitable and unstopable. Moreover, he proposed than evolution was the result of two complementary processes: 1) a progresive tendency to grown in complexity and 2) the adaptation of each organism form to the circumstances of the environment. At least for Karate (and arguably for many other social and biological phenomena), i think lamarckian evolution is right. I don't care if Karate is now better than 80 years ago, i think it can't be measured anyway. But karate is evidently more complex today (variety of training methods, information networks through practicers, disparity of interpretation, etc.) than 80 years ago. And this probably would satisfied to the pioneers of our art. In the other hand, karate has been continually adapted (and keep doing) to the necesities of the practicers and the circumstances of their environment. Anko Itosu modified karate for primary school teaching, the pioneers (Funakoshi, Mabuni,etc.) acepted the impositions of the butokukai and they made karate more modern and mechanistic, the firsts generations of japanese karatekas focused on the development of the trhee K's (kihon, Kata, Kumite)... in each particular situation, people has tried to improve (i.e. adapt) karate to make it fit better with their conceptions and environment (may be their particular boxes?). And now, the process keep going. Adapting and complexing, evolution is universal, inevitable and unstopable.
  • Daniel
    I can understand (only after having put some effort in that) that the idea of something freezed in time, neverchanging, can be seen as reassuring... but I used to think that there's nothing like that in this world! Please tell to every scientist in the world that we have found the unique exception (eureka!): "karate-do"! We'll have tons of science men studying this phenomenon and karate will have a huge gain in visibility!
  • lionel
    Oh, but we do so love our boxes, for by putting ourselves in them daily, they become part of us. We need them. And when the rectitude of those walls is threatened, we feel the same in our hearts, and, naturally, take the defensive. (As Jesse points out.) But what is the ultimate goal in the practice of martial arts? It differs from one to the next, I think. I'll share and argue for the ideals that aim to my goal(s).... they are, after all, part of MY box.... but I think many people -- being neither true artists or in martial need -- are well served by the spiritual comfort and purpose their local box provides. For my part, I am delighted to learn techniques, applications or ideas that supplant those I had before.
  • Hi Jesse san, Nice to hear from you, thanks for the invite to come over here and my apologies on chiming in a bit late as we've all been a bit busy here in Brisbane [Australia] over the past few days with one of the most devastating floods in recorded history ... but this is a story for another time! I’m pleased to see the Blog is coming along and that you’ve put some of my own old concepts and ideas to such good updated use - congratulations to you! Karate is filled with many curiosities; tracing it roots back to other fighting arts in China and SE Asia, karate is actually an eclectic tradition less than 100 years old. Yet, in spite of its relative youth, it has no shortage of myth and self-serving politics to conceal its actual origins, depth and application, seemingly lost, "in the sands of time." Actually, historical and cultural naivety within the tradition of Karate has aided unchallenged myth to evolve into widespread misunderstanding. Although far from being a monopoly here, nowhere is this misunderstanding more evident than here in the West. One of the biggest problems enthusiasts face today, when seeking to better understand the historical and technical ambiguities of this art, is stumbling over contemporary assumption. With little more than a passing understanding of the cultural landscape and social mindset of the place of origin, its people, customs and rituals much of what is said by your detractors is at best personal opinion, and at worst, someone repeating what uncorroborated things "their teacher told them." I think critical thinking is the best tool to eliminate the kind of ambiguity, which has given kata and karate a bad name. After all, isn’t "Tradition about keeping a flame alight rather than preserving the ashes?" It's sad that innovativeness and eclecticism within our tradition are greeted with such a pejorative if not entirely hostile attitude. It’s nothing short of bewildering that today’s innovators are criticized for what amounts to be the same thing pioneers were admired for! Your idea is good but I think the problem lies with folks not getting your analogy: Learning to mimic the performance of ritualised techniques is not what karate is all about. Too often traditional-based karateka place more emphasis upon loyalty to the sensei, dojo and style, or correct lineage, and performing redundant drills, or doing the kata "exactly like the master did it," and cultural/political correctness than they are with understanding and mastering the art. One of my favourite [related to this issue] sayings is from the Zen Prelate, Matsuo Basho (1644 – 1694) "Don't seek to blindly follow in the footsteps of the men of old, but seek out what they sought." Why/how do you think this expression came about? It's for the same reason that Ben Franklin wrote, "To Follow by faith alone is to follow blindly." There's a great quote by the late American Cultural Anthropologist, Joseph Campbell; "In an effort to keep tradition a living experience for the community it serves every generation produces innovators who reinterpret the common principles upon which it rests; in doing so more innovative ways of accomplishing the same outcomes are established." Such a continuum guarantees an infinite cycle of growth. Truth does not conform to style --- style is an interpretation of truth, and so many styles are simply incomplete, ineffective or just plain impractical because they see the art as something “etched in stone!” This is just not true. Remember Matsumura, “Virtue before vice, values before vanity and principles before personalities.” Nor is Karate about the perfection of one's character as it is our imperfections that make us who we are. Karate is not exclusively about fighting either but rather learning how to overcome an adversary without resorting to physical violence. The greatest adversary of all is oneself. I am absolutely certain that these lessons is far more in line with the spirit and aims of the Okinawan pioneers then it is with the conceit associated with one's "style" being the ONE AND ONLY CORRECT WAY!" There will always be people around who oppose innovation and ready to use whatever influence they can to discredit others. Right or wrong, good or bad, everyone's entitled to their own opinion and it would be inconsiderate not to respect an individual's right to voice their point of view, even if it's not the same as ours. That said, genuine criticism is always a welcome gift, it's the unscrupulous bottom-feeders, whose only intention it is to denigrate the credibility of another for the sake of protecting their own inadequacies, which force us all to take protective measures. I say congratulations to you and encourage you to keep going! BTW, I haven't seen you posting on the KSL and you've been an IRKRS member for many years...so get you ass over there ASAP :-) My best to your family. Patrick McCarthy International Ryukyu Karate Research Society More here ... "Myth Busting" on my website here www.koryu-uchinadi.com The Shotokan Way Interview http://www.theshotokanway.com/interviewwithpatmccarthy.html Karate-do Kurofune - The Joe swift Interview http://www.koryu-uchinadi.org/Karatedo_Kurofune_Interview.pdf Meibukan Magazine Interview http://www.meibukanmagazine.org/Downloads/MeibukanMagazineno7.pdf Putting the Fight Back into Kata - by D.J. Lamberton http://www.ikkf.org/article3Q00.html Thinking Outside the Box - USA Dojo.com http://www.usadojo.com/articles/patrick-mccarthy/Thinking-Outside-the-Box.html
  • andrei dima
    Hello ! Very interesting question indeed. Evolution or devolution ? Good comments and strong opinions . Finnaly is not about Team 1 or Team 2. We cannot generalise the human tipology in just two types.If we look carfuly we see a lot of team 1 type of character in the ,,modern '' team 2.Isn't it? ( very good the article about Mc Dojo ). I agree the ideea that Karate is about learning , learning all life. ,,Ki Itsu Sai " - everything is one unit.Body - Mind - Spirit is just one of interpretation. Teaching Karate is something else.Again is true the article about Mc Dojo.Karate is not a ,,frozen art " just because some of us are closer to tradition then modern. I understand why a lot of modern Karate adepts reject some traditional ways.Is about culture and politic.They live in their ,, boxes " - made by culture , religion and again politic.Their tradition.So they take from this phenomenon only that they can accept mentaly.This not mean that all karateka must transform in 1930 okinawans.Karate is about Human Being evolution.But in unity.For too many Karate is just Body.And for me , from my ,, box " Karate without Spirit is not Karate. Karate is only one.This is the essence.Forms can change , styles can apear or disapear , it's naturaly. Hope in a future debate to develop the link between Karate and Buddhism , Hinduism and numbers. With respect , Andrei
  • Bart
    "Most of them have a mustache, for some reason." ROFL! Being open minded to new techniques, principles and concepts from "other boxes" is IMHO very important to discover new insights into "ones own box" I guess it's a general life success rule also. One can simply not grow if one is not open minded :-) Keep the cool humourism coming :-) Bart
  • Gm3742
    I do agree with the box analogy, but the karateka of today believes that karate has no or little grappling. But when you look at the Kata's there are a multitude of throws, seizing and grappling, and even some ground work (not as much as say judo or BJJ)so you could say that todays karateka is stuck in a box created by making Japanese arts into sports such as Judo and then Karate and have lost most of their martial aplications
  • Everest
    I recon team one would win hands down. The reason is simple, they had a harder life and are in touch with their desperation to survive. A modern man/woman who is wealthy and well fed may have a bit of a time getting in touch with that survival instinct.
    • Everest
      Ps. My girlfriend went mental when you used geisha as a key word for prostitute. Lol I'm told that it should have been courtesan.
      • Daniel Handler
        I agree, team 1 trained in an unpredictable environment where they had to fight to live. But team 2 trained in a structured, friendly environment that may have made them great sparrers, but won't do anything in a match to the death.
    • Mark A
      I have heard and read the "fought for their survival" countless times. What made "street fights" then anymore dangerous than "street fights" now? Many pro combat sports veterans have been in numerous barroom brawls and the like. Tex Cobb was famous for it. As are Chuck Liddel and some other pro MMA fighters. It leaves me feeling as though the use of the statement "fought for their survival" is mostly hyperbole. The late, great, Joe lewis voiced some thoughts on the subject that I think make a compelling argument for favoring the highly trained competitive combat sports athlete over the street fighter http://www.bullshido.net/forums/showthread.php?t=96583 And the Brazilian BJJ black belts I have trained under, come from a very rough country. They have stories that are no less intense or visceral than the ones told of the old karate masters. The karate masters have nothing on them in that regard. And that is clearly reflected in how we are trained, and the aliveness of the art. Thus, I would not necessarily weight the "survival instinct" or "harder life" in group A's favor. Because not everyone I train with were afforded the luxuries many citizens of first world countries enjoy. Heck, there are plenty of places here in the U.S. just as harsh. So, perhaps you might consider the proposition, that choosing team one on that basis, is a mistake.
      • Cassie
        Chiming in somewhat late here, I agree that the argument of "harder life" or "used to fighting for their lives" isn't a valid argument. I can think of plenty of towns/cities in the U.S. that are dangerous places to live like Detroit, Oakland, or Chicago, or any of their poor suburbs. A man got jumped outside my house two weeks ago (I wasn't home, thankfully) and one of the guys came back later and killed the other one. It's still a scary place out there. I haven't had to defend myself before, but I know people who have. That being said, I would also like to point out that some of the "old masters" I've read about studied under more than one teacher. It appears to me that they recognized the usefulness of other styles/techniques and sought out ways to augment their existing skills, so why shouldn't we do the same? Am I off base on this?
  • Isaac
    great article, if the old masters were alive today they would be training in that new gym with team #2
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  • Daniel Handler
    I would actually disagree with who would win literally. Metaphorically I know what you're trying to say and I agree completely. But literally, team 1 trained in real street fights in an unpredictable environment, while team 2 trained in a structured, friendly environment. So in a match to the DEATH (key word = death), I believe that team 1 might win. But metaphorically I completely agree:)
  • me
    Very insightful....I wish I could take it to heart.... but this is also from a guy that 'Interviewed' Steven Segal and only had good things to say about that Steven even though he is obviously a garbage person, attempted rapist and one of the most famous frauds of martial arts...I dunno, doesn't add up.

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