Sunday, December 11, 2011

The death of karate? Who cares?

I was introduced to the following article on a couple of internet fora, where people were getting up in arms about the author's contention that karate is weak and watered down: UFC 140: karate is overrated.

The author's contention is that because of McDojos, teaching children and antiquated techniques, karate is weak and past its use-by date.  It is deliberately a polemical piece, but one that reflects an attitude that is common and sustained amongst some areas of the martial arts community.

My response?  Yep, cool.  

That's it.  In the author's experience, he may even be correct.  But whether he is or not, doesn't matter.

His opinion (and the opinion of pretty much everyone else on this planet) are not only not important, they are made nonsensical by the wide, wide diaspora that is karate.  I can pretty much guarantee that the karate I do is a different beast from the karate done down the road, in the next suburb, or in the next state or country.  Hell, I'm pretty sure the karate I'm doing is different from some of the people I train with in the dojo.

That's not to say that because I think it is good, that it is.  Relativism goes only so far when it is married to physical reality.   The karate I do is done within a specific context, certain conceptual bounds and for personal goals.  Commentary on karate is only relevant for me when it is pertinent to one of those three areas.  So, mostly I look for comment and feedback from my sensei (surprise, surprise), peers, or from people whose experience comes from those three areas.  The rest, I don't worry about.

There is another reason I don't mind people talking about the death of karate.  It means that people are more likely to judge and underestimate me because of what I do.  I'm not in to my training for the good opinions of others, or to gain social kudos, so the standing of my martial art in the eyes of sections of the public is not important.

What is important is that in my eyes, and in the eyes of those whose opinions I trust, I am improving, or at the very least sustaining my development in my art.