6 Jai Apartments , 56 athlestan Road, Romford, Essex,, RM3 0QH.
I love watching this video, as most karate-ka do. We love it because we recognise the moves that are familiar to us from traditional kata and we feel all the hours of kata training are validate because all that kata training was not wasted because in the video you can see your training has taught you a broad range of techniques that clearly work context and in action. BUT that is NOT what this video is should show you. If you are a karate student the video should prompt you to ask yourself – having practiced all of these techniques in kata can you now use them with consistent success in the context of a self-defence situation or even in sparring?? If the answer is no then your time practicing kata so far has indeed been wasted- UNTIL you take the step further and drill it in practical application, then pressure test your ability to achieve consistent success with the technique in context.
If you have already read the modern training section of this website you will already know that the vast majority of clubs have lost their way from the intent and purpose of karate. They have evolved into highly stylised sport versions of karate or over focus on the performance aspect of kata to the exclusion of the more practical elements of Bunkai and Oyo which are the reason behind why kata is part of karate in the first place. Either way, they have strayed ridiculously far from the self-defence purpose of karate.
Nothing is more harmful than a martial art that is not actually effective in self defence. Choki Motobu
One of the biggest ironies is that these developments are relatively modern, although the clubs that practice them proudly boast that they are “traditional karate”. A lot of the characteristic of “traditional karate” leading to this change have occurred in the last 120 years. When an art has a rich 400 year old history what has evolved in the past 120 isn’t the traditional part, it is the relatively modern part. I personally have seen “traditional” karate instructors talk about first kata: taigyoko shodan like it was a sacred and ancient foundation of karate. But the reality is it was created in the late 1930s to help introduce beginners to the heihan katas, which makes this kata more modern than commercial airlines and TV. The stylised “straight punches only” sport fighting only started in 1959. So in-spite of clubs and styles calling themselves traditional they are actually relatively modern, and very far removed from the effective fighting arts that they evolved from.
So if they are modern what is traditional? Proper traditional karate was a truly combative art. While we don’t exactly know how they used to train 200 years ago one thing is certain -Karate’s foundation and indeed its’ purpose is was it is meant for self-defence. So these “neo” traditionalist teaching incomplete and impractical skills that are not focused on self-defence are actually turning their back on the most important, most fundamental and most traditional precept of karate- that it’s purpose is for self-defence.
We also know from the study of traditional kata karate included a wide range of techniques that included grappling, throws, hooks punches, upper cuts, elbows and many more dirty fighting self-defence techniques as shown in this video. It was nothing like the hyper-stylised straight punch only sport fighting taught in most clubs today. But because all of these techniques are illegal in sport fighting karate tournaments they are not taught in many clubs, at least not in a functional form or with any regularity or consistency that is required for the development of proficiency. Truly traditional clubs in our opinion practice and train in the wide variety of techniques demonstrated in kata. Frequently clubs that reject the narrow doctrine of these sport fighting styles, and teach the broad range of skills that karate was intended to be, call themselves karate-jitsu rather than karate-do.
In spite of adopting the truly traditional philosophy of a broad range of skills, Shinkyu still calls itself modern training. There are two reasons for this:
We have adopted many modern training methods including the use of pads, kick shields, striking melons, full face head gear and grappling gloves as well. We still do a fair few traditional drills but equally, we practice modern training methods that you would more typically see in a MMA gym.
The second reason we call ourselves modern is that we have a “whatever works” philosophy of adopting techniques from any style of martial art or combative. If it is the best tool for the job at hand we are open to using it. Or mindset is to “Strive not to follow in the footstep of masters but rather seek what they sought”
So if we readily adopt techniques from other styles why call ourselves Karate? Why not mixed martial arts? Aside from the fact that the term mixed martial arts (MMA) conjures up images of full contact cage fighting which is not the image we want to project, we also believe karate was the original MMA. Besides we are not a complete departure from our “traditional” cousins, we have more in common than we have differences.
One of the many ways Shinkyu maintains it’s traditional roots is through the study of Kata. Like the video above demonstrates we always try to relate our training back to it’s self-defence origins through the study of both bunkai and oyo. As such the emphasis in performing kata in Shinkyu is placed on effectiveness and purpose rather than being aesthetically pleasing.