In some recent postings by Michael Clarke I got to thinking about another perspective regarding modern karate. Add to that a post at Martial Way with a video of questionable karate I had to make comments if for no other reason then to get thoughts strait in my own head.
Most of what I see today of karate is that it has become "cookie cutter karate." I don't often see karate with an individual branding, if you will allow, to it. We have such a concerted effort to keep a style or system in its exact form as taught by the master according to that master's way we lose site of what karate is supposed to me according to my perceptions and beliefs.
It is alright to learn the system as it was originally intended. It is alright to have the knowledge of what was taught from the system or style's inception. It is a part of the karate system or style's heritage. It is not alright to allow it to remain so steadfast in the past that it becomes stagnant and causes the karate-ka to become less then possible. It is not alright to block out the potential of the individual's karate to honor an often dead past master who created and formed a system or style to accommodate their current times and environment, etc. for combat or defense.
Although there are aspects that change very little, i.e. a punch is a punch and a strike is a strike, the current times, environment and cultural aspects tend to change just how those strikes and punches are applied. In the early days with few having knowledge, proficiency and experience with karate the techniques, tactics and strategies were such that it often was used against less skilled adversaries even if they were soldiers or brigands who robbed and hurt others.
Today, there are very few who have not gained some level of proficiency in the martial arts be they Asian or European, etc. This means the karate of yesterday may not be enough for today's self-defense or combative environments. It is critical to take your cookie cutter karate outside the box and learn to apply it, to change it and to adapt it to today's individual.
Cookie cutter karate is also influenced by the gradual move toward larger and larger group learning. The distance between the teacher and the student has grown significantly since the days of the early pioneers who often trained and practiced one-on-one with their teachers. This is not the rule it is now a infrequent aspect of karate.
When you have that kind of distance with out all the connections necessary in karate then you end up training them according to some plan that is generic and does not conform to the individual. You have specific lesson plans with specific requirements that are testable in a mass test environment. Karate to be complete needs an individualized model that tests according to an individual and the relationship that results from a one-on-one environment. At the most a one-to-three ratio at the most so that individualization is still achievable. When you have a ten-to-one or thirty-to-one ratio the individual has to deal with mass teaching and they lose that individuality.
In another view it also lowers the standards so that those hidden within the mass group lose that level of learning, doing and achieving of karate. It also makes it easy for an individual to achieve some perception of proficiency simply by hiding with the group and doing only what is necessary vs. what is needed.
Get rid of cookie cutter karate and take it to the next level. Thanks to Mike Clarke for todays post inspiration.