Shotokan VS. Karate

My dojo purposefully omits the name “Shotokan”, because Funakoshi sensei wished the same for his dojo. His intent, I presume, was to prevent the polarization of karate schools through segmentation and fragmentation of styles. The truth; however, is a little more nuanced that this. Funakoshi sensei did have a style of his own. Proof of this is that he borrowed kata from Shito Ryu’s Mabuni sensei, and adapted it to his version and vision of karate-do.

It is important to keep to the fundamentals of a particular style, because sometimes techniques are taught and practiced in opposing ways. Some styles, Inoue-ha Shito Ryu for example, teaches to land on the heal or rear third of the foot, while Shotokan teaches to land on the ball or front third of the foot. Or, as an example, old school Okinawan styles may advocate to step first then strike, while some other styles, Shotokan included, teach to strike slightly ahead of the foot settling. Now I understand this last example may also be a timing issue that is situation dependent, and that one should never adopt a “this way only, all the time” dogmatic view, but you can see how building a framework requires picking a lane and sticking with it, as they say. Fundamentals are so important, that if neglected, you’ll see someone with even decades of training, lacking the solid foundation that yields clean, polished, karate. Each style of Karate speaks a certain language, and if we diligently stick to the ethos of that sensei’s way, we can hear the language clearly. Don’t conflate this with athleticism. Don’t let the eyes fool you. See if the body mechanics and body language is conveying that style’s philosophy, particularly in its basics and fundamentals. Incidentally as a side note, this is one reason why I am opposed to tournament style kumite. It is at best, a failed attempt at fitting a square peg into a round hole. It doesn’t fit the ideals of self defense, nor the fundamental techniques of Shotokan karate. And unsurprisingly, you’ll see those who lack solid fundamentals, push and espouse for kumite (I would begrudgingly give an exception to old school shobu ippon kumite).

While I teach karate…when I look at my students, I have to predominantly see the Shotokan in them. If I see only karate, it is as if they are speaking out of both sides of their mouth. Like religion, like relationships, like karate… to be able to succeed, one needs to know and ply a clear cut way. The steps for awareness and progress must be communicated systematically, so students can go back or move forward with clarity and accountability. And finally, a reasoning should be presented so that people don’t blindly follow, but accept truth with free will and volition.

Anything other than submission and commitment to the fundamentals, is a wandering silliness, that only a fool would take seriously.

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