Wednesday, July 8, 2015

What's Wrong With Karate 6

Some time ago, I was at supper with my family. That's not the funny part, though. As we were leaving, my wife and daughter went outside to the car, talking with friends. My son and I stayed back to pay the tab.

A fellow restaurant patron had a T-shirt with a mention of a karate event. I was unfamiliar with that event, so I asked her what it was about. She proceeded to tell me.

In the process of telling me, she smoothly transitioned into a detailed pitch for the studio where she attended. It was nearly 20 minutes before she asked a question or let me speak in any manner. Her question - "do you live near here?"

I replied in the affirmative and asked her current grade and time training. She had been training 3 years and was a black belt candidate. I asked what kata she was currently studying. Naihanchi was the response.

My reply - performing the first half of the kata.

Her look: total astonishment. She never took her eyes off of mine. I guess it had never occurred to her that perhaps I had trained. She had certainly not thought to ask. Maybe that caught her off guard. Perhaps she felt a bit embarrassed for having gone on and on about karate to a person who had quite clearly trained longer.

Her reply: "Except... You are supposed keep your toes pointed more inward "

She had never glanced down at my feet.

I politely demonstrated kiba-dachi - the stance most styles use for Naihanchi, where the toes point straight ahead. I also demonstrated the product of 20th Century US Karate - "Naihanchi-dachi" - which is what I had used in the performance of the kata a moment prior, and which has the toes pointed slightly inward. And last, I demonstrated sanchin-dachi, the most extreme stance with regards to the toes being pointed inward, and which is a feature of the kata, Seishan - ironically, the next kata in her future.

A brief and courteous mutual farewell was had, in which she coincidentally forgot all about inviting me to the studio where she trains. But I was left realizing some of the problems with so many karate styles and studios today...

So many karate schools teach (indirectly of course) the students that their black belt means more than it does. So, if they feel shown-up, the karate man feels he must demonstrate superior knowledge in absence of superior skill. This "skill" is handed down directly - teacher to student.

"I say, you do"
In the rest of the world, we have conversations and interact socially. A high number of karate studios keep the quasi-military mentality. This does not help the students converse normally about their passion in public.

Too much salesmanship
Enjoy what you do, and let others see that... this is your most powerful sales tool. Scripts, controlling the conversation, etc. are for inside the professional dojo. Not for talking with people in public.

Too much studio pride
It's fine to have pride in your studio, style, etc. But on the grand scale, be accepting of the fact that you are fellow martial artists. Being inclusive is not what karate schools used to do, but it is how Americans in the 21st Century interact.

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