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Japanese Martial Arts Styles
Japanese Martial Arts Styles
The Lone Ranger
Published by The Lone Ranger
01-07-2007
Default What Kinds of Martial Artists are Kyokushin Karate-ka?


What Kinds of Martial Artists are Kyokushin Karate-ka?

As is probably pretty obvious, I count myself as one of the "philosophers" when I consider my own approach to the martial arts. My impression is that while philosophers are common in the sword arts, they're not so common in karate. Sure, Kyokushin has that neat philosophy of self-improvement through self-discipline, but I don't encounter a lot of people who really seem to be trying to live up to that ideal in the dojo. There are exceptions, of course, but my impression is that most people who're studying karate aren't doing so with the goal of becoming "better people."

A lot of the karate-ka I know are "pragmatists." Of course, I'm one myself. Pragmatists study karate because they think it's good exercise (it certainly is), and/or because they think it's a good way to learn self-defense. (That's a more debatable point, I think.)

A great many of the karate-ka I know are "fighters." Even I have to admit that it really gets the blood (and adrenaline) flowing to get into a knock-down fight with somebody. And I don't even like to fight. I'm not an aggressive person by nature, and I definitely don't enjoy fighting for its own sake -- especially not in karate. At least in kendo, we're smart enough to wear armour!

Still, an awful lot of people really seem to enjoy fighting for its own sake. Some of them use it as a means of letting off steam. Some of them look at it as a way to challenge themselves. Some just enjoy a good fight for reasons all their own, I suppose.

Are there karate-ka who love the sense of power it gives them? Oh yes. I've encountered more than a few people who swagger about, just as proud as can be of their prowess, and practically begging for somebody to give them an excuse to demonstrate it. Well, it takes all kinds, I suppose. A lot of these people would receive a very nasty surprise indeed if they were ever to challenge a good street fighter who didn't "play by the rules." It might be good for them to learn a little more humility.

In summation, the point that I really think should be stressed is that the "true purpose" of martial arts training -- certainly when it comes to training in the gendai budo -- is self-improvement. There is no clear distinction between the philosophy and the practice of the martial arts. At least, there shouldn't be. But outside of Japan and China, students of the martial arts often focus more on the techniques and less (if at all) on the philosophy. This is something that many traditional martial artists regard with outright disgust.

An acquaintance of mine once opined that it's nonsensical to view training in how to fight as a means of self-improvement. She was missing the point, though. The purpose isn't to learn how to fight (though that can be a useful skill), but in learning self-discipline and self-respect. I'll leave Sosai Oyama with the final words on the subject:
Karate, properly viewed, is a way of perfecting character.

Subjecting yourself to vigorous training is more for the sake of forging a resolute spirit that can vanquish the self than it is for developing a strong body.

One must try every day to expand one's limits.

Courtesy should be apparent in all our actions and words and in all aspects of daily life. But by courtesy, I do not mean rigid, cold formality. Courtesy in the truest sense is selfless concern for the welfare and physical and mental comfort of the other person.

Aspirations must be pure and free of selfishness. Arising from the depths of the soul, aspirations are spiritual demands penetrating all of a human life and making it possible for a person to die for their sake. A person without aspirations is like a ship without a rudder or a horse without a bridle. Aspirations give consistent order to life.

The most significant life is the one lived on the basis of a personal sense of justice and the desire to see justice realized everywhere.

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  #1  
By TheBeast on 01-11-2007, 09:33 PM
Default Re: Japanese Martial Arts Styles

This isn't so much Japanese martial arts as an article on karate, with some overview on a couple of other arts and a basic introduction to general Japanese martial artistry.
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  #2  
By Doctor X on 02-25-2007, 12:08 PM
Default Re: Japanese Martial Arts Styles

Karate is not a Japanese martial art.

--J.D.
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  #3  
By The Lone Ranger on 02-25-2007, 10:02 PM
Default Re: Japanese Martial Arts Styles

Perhaps you haven't read the article?
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  #4  
By Ari on 02-25-2007, 11:25 PM
Default Re: Japanese Martial Arts Styles

Good article.
To add to the section on suffixes another common suffix is 'to' which means 'sword'. Interestingly this means that the tanto (a knife sized weapon) is considered a sword, not a knife and is treated with the same respect.
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  #5  
By Doctor X on 02-25-2007, 11:55 PM
Default Re: Japanese Martial Arts Styles

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Lone Ranger View Post
Perhaps you haven't read the article?
Perhaps you do not know geography or culture?

--J.D.
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  #6  
By Doctor X on 02-26-2007, 12:08 AM
Default Re: Japanese Martial Arts Styles

To wit:



--J.D.
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  #7  
By Dingfod on 02-26-2007, 12:25 AM
Default Re: Japanese Martial Arts Styles

"Whoosh!"
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  #8  
By livius drusus on 02-26-2007, 12:33 AM
Default Re: Japanese Martial Arts Styles

As TLR said, in the article you'll find an explanation of why Karate is considered a Japanese martial art despite its putative Chinese origins:
Quote:
Originally Posted by From the article
Whether or not Bodhidharma actually existed, karate appears to have originated in China, from the same traditions that gave rise to kung-fu and other Chinese martial arts. Little is known about karate's early history until it appeared in Okinawa, however.
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  #9  
By Doctor X on 02-26-2007, 03:15 AM
Default Re: Japanese Martial Arts Styles

Okinawa is not Japan, nor is the culture Japanese.

Nor is the practice Japanese, particularly given the mainland versus Okinawan approach. It is not some accident that the main branches on Okinawa refer to themselves and their organizations as "Okinawan" rather than Japanese and are not generally connected to the JKA. These styles came over separate from what would become Shotokan.

As for the Chinese origins, such requires a far more involved analysis than is possible in a short essay. This is, at best, an uncritical history of a particular off-shoot of Shotokan, rather than a history of "Japanese Martial Arts Styles."

--J.D.
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  #10  
By livius drusus on 02-26-2007, 03:27 AM
Default Re: Japanese Martial Arts Styles

That's a far more substantive objection that your suggestion TLR doesn't know the difference between China and Japan, so fair enough. I'll leave you to discuss it with the author.
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  #11  
By Dingfod on 02-26-2007, 03:40 AM
Default Re: Japanese Martial Arts Styles

How about writing an article about it, Doctor X?
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  #12  
By The Lone Ranger on 02-26-2007, 03:52 AM
Default Re: Japanese Martial Arts Styles

For what it's worth, the article makes mention of the fact that Okinawa is *not* part of Japan, and that karate was refined into its modern form (more or less) while Okinawa was occupied by Japan, since the Japanese forbade the Okinawans to own or use weapons.

The article *also* mentions that this is one of the big reasons why the Japanese were originally reluctant to accept karate, because of its "lowly" Okinawan origins.
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  #13  
By Doctor X on 02-26-2007, 04:31 AM
Default Re: Japanese Martial Arts Styles

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Lone Ranger View Post
For what it's worth, the article makes mention of the fact that Okinawa is *not* part of Japan, and that karate was refined into its modern form (more or less) while Okinawa was occupied by Japan, since the Japanese forbade the Okinawans to own or use weapons.
Not really true since traditional Okinawan weapon systems survived as separate disciplines. They remain as such. The "could not use weapons" story is a myth, frankly, right up there with the Bodhiharma stories, or the popular beliefs that each style somehow comes from a Shaolin Temple.

Each major branch of what we call "karate"--which was originally understood as "Chinese hand" and pronounced as such--has its own origin, from Grand Pooh Bahs who either traveled to China--many to avoid the Japanese military draft or to just get work. These men tended to put together what they learned. They also were happy to compare and contrast what they did with other stylists. such an approach is antithetical to actual traditional Japanese styles--koryu--which are practiced very differently than Okinawan karate systems.

The distinction between "Japanese" and "Okinawan" is as severe as that between "Okinawan" and "Chinese." While many Okinawan systems--at least the main three--claim origins in China, their practice and, frankly their base forms, are not Chinese either. One might sit back and see, for example, how elements of White Crane are in some Okinawan systems, but the Okinwans systems are not White Crane. Similarly, one might see a connection between modern Shotokan and its original base system, but major changes--particularly in practice--were instituted once it became a "Japanese karate." That does not mean one is "better" or "worse," but in discussing such, one has to recognize the history.

Much of the Japanese approach that colors the practice of Shotokan--very militaristic with levels of students--the kohei and sempai stystem--came from university practice in which students were expected to serve in the military. Karate on Okinawa was not, and generally is not, practiced in that fashion. Hence the need to recognize the distinction.

Again, you have written an essay on a particular off-shoot of Shotokan--a very fine off-shoot. To which I would recommend both the works of Harry Cook, Jr. and Jon Bluming. Methinks you should simply identify it as such.

Moreover, practitioners of some of the systems you briefly describe--like Judo--would take some exception to remarks such as it is practiced as a sport. That is the equivalent to claiming that Okinawan karate only practices for WKA jiyu kumite--自由組手--"point sparring" rules. It is not the same thing. Sure, some Judo practitioners concentrate on competition--competition is an integral part of its practice. But there are large portions of the curriculum that are not in competition.

So, I suggest you concentrate on what you seem familiar with--KK--and title the essay as a description of that rather than of "Japanese Martial Arts Styles." That is far too broad of a topic for this essay.

--J.D.

References:

Bluming J. The History of Jon Bluming: From Street Punk to Tenth Dan. Amsterdam: 2000

Cook H. Shotokan Karate - A Precise History. 2001.

Cook H. Karate Chronicles - The History of Karate In Okinawa & Japan. 2007.

[Edited to provide links to the references.--Ed.]
Last edited by Doctor X; 02-26-2007 at 05:03 AM..
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  #14  
By Sock Puppet on 02-26-2007, 06:57 PM
Default Re: Japanese Martial Arts Styles

I guess "your title is too broad" wasn't as sexy or interesting as "Perhaps you do not know geography or culture." Still, it would've been a bit better to lead with the former rather than the latter.
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  #15  
By Doctor X on 02-26-2007, 09:32 PM
Default Re: Japanese Martial Arts Styles

"Too broad" is not the same as failing to understand cultural and geographic history.

--J.D.
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  #16  
By Sock Puppet on 02-26-2007, 10:34 PM
Default Re: Japanese Martial Arts Styles

New to this whole human-interaction thing, eh? Good luck.
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  #17  
By Doctor X on 02-26-2007, 10:43 PM
Default Re: Japanese Martial Arts Styles

Not at all.

I recognize a waste of my time very readily.

Nevertheless, those who create critical essays must expect criticism.

It is this "free thought" thing you may have heard of. I can send you some literature on it.

--J.D.
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  #18  
By Sock Puppet on 02-26-2007, 10:54 PM
Default Re: Japanese Martial Arts Styles

I was criticizing the form of the criticism. It's this "getting people to give a shit what you have to say" thing you may have heard of. I'd send you some literature on that, but I doubt you would understand it.
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  #19  
By Doctor X on 02-26-2007, 11:16 PM
Default Re: Japanese Martial Arts Styles



"Can't help fools!"

--Sanjuro Kawabatake
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  #20  
By Sock Puppet on 02-27-2007, 12:39 AM
Default Re: Japanese Martial Arts Styles

I would certainly agree with that.
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  #21  
By Doctor X on 02-27-2007, 01:50 AM
Default Re: Japanese Martial Arts Styles

I am certain should anything of substance rather than whining be added, I shall be informed of this.

In, literally, the rain.

--J.D.
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