Karate vs karate-do

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Talk' started by isshinryuronin, Oct 6, 2019.

  1. isshinryuronin

    isshinryuronin Green Belt

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    We've likely heard of "gym" and "dojo" being used interchangeably. After all, they are places where one goes to work out and exercise. But looking at the meaning of these words, a glaring difference appears. Gym means naked; gymnasium, "a place to work out naked." (Glad I wasn't a wrestler back in B.C.) On the other hand, dojo means a "a place of the Way." Do=Way/path; Jo=Place.

    There are many Ways in Japan: Chado, Kyudo, Iaido, Aikido, Judo, etc. But it seems that only Karate-do has branched into two entities: What for this discussion, I will term Karate - undertaken as a competitive sport, exercise, or pure self-defense; and Karate-do - undertaken to follow a life-path. The former places little stress on kata and philosophy, stressing the result, while the latter, in my opinion, takes a broader view, stressing the journey and life's lessons and self-introspection via the vehicle of physicality. One can take either as they see fit, but should be aware of the difference. Of course, each has a bit of the other contained within.

    The recent thread on "Kata is Karate" showed varied views on the subject and led me to start off in a little different direction. If karate is viewed as a purely pragmatic physical activity, is the dojo nothing more than a gym? Or does the concept of "dojo" lend itself to something more - Karate-do?
     
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  2. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    I think that in the west, the term 'dojo' (the place where the way is taught) has become generic and does indeed just mean generic karate training location.

    The dojo where I train does not explicitly teach karatedo as a way of life, although some of our students, including myself, see it as a lifelong pursuit. To others, it is simply where competent and thorough Isshinryu is taught. We do not stress competition, but some of our students have competed, as have I.

    When I started training, I had two goals. Lose weight and learn self-defense. I feel I've done both, although imperfectly. I could still stand to lose more weight, and my self-defense isn't anywhere near as good as it could or should be. But I have also found a second home in my dojo. I could not stand not being there. And my eyes have been opened to the 'do' in karate to an extent that it has become a serious pursuit for me.
     
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  3. geezer

    geezer Grandmaster

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    Indeed Bill, it seems that at least for you, your "dojo" has taken on some of the transcendent qualities the OP described.

    When I first started training in my college years, the first "kwoon" I attended took on similar meaning for me. The idea that you don special attire (gi/dobok/saam) and remove your street shoes to go barefoot or (in kung fu) wear special slippers, that you bow before you step onto the floor, bow and offer respect to the photos of the founders and to your sensei/sobum/sifu at the start of training, and the other rituals and formalities of training... all these things reinforce the idea that the kwoon is a special, if not "sacred" space. Training in the dojo/dojang/kwoon should be entering a place and time when all ordinary and mundane concerns are set aside, and you are entirely devoted to an activity and discipline that has many goals, not the least of which is a form of self-betterment, disciplining the body and controlling the ego ...not just breaking a sweat in the gym.

    Now that I teach just a few semi-private students in public parks and apartment complex gym/activity rooms, I have lost a lot of this. More's the pity. When your martial art becomes just another activity class, you lose so much.
     
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  4. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    I think this vocabulary question belongs more in the karate section.
     
  5. isshinryuronin

    isshinryuronin Green Belt

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    I put thought into that, but decided the concept of "Do" is applicable to all traditional arts and would be of interest to the followers of the other Ways as well.
     
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  6. Mitlov

    Mitlov Blue Belt

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    I think there's not just two categories (purely pragmatic training and "do" training) but a spectrum, with at least four different varieties:

    Purely pragmatic training, like a police officer learning defensive tactics to make it through their shift safely.
    As recreation, like joining an office softball team because it's a fun way to spend an evening.
    As a life-informing passion, like a marathon runner whose experiences pushing through the point of collapse helps guide them in everything from work to family life.
    As a meditative ritual, like the Japanese tea ceremony (chado) or ritualized Japanese calligraphy (shudo) or ritualized flower arranging (kado).

    When most Americans say they do "karate-do instead of just karate," typically what I find they mean is that they practice karate as a life-informing passion instead of just as recreation or as pragmatic training. Almost none mean they pursue it as a meditative ritual comparable to chado, shudo, or kado.

    Why does this matter for the question of "gymnasium" versus "dojo"? Because "life-informing passion" is not at all incompatible with "gymnasium." Wrestling can be a life-informing passion, and takes place in a gym. Climbing can be a life-informing passion, and can take place in an indoor climbing gym. Crossfit can be a life-informing passion, and takes place in a gym. So don't feel that by calling your martial arts school a "gym," you're minimizing the fact that your training is a life-informing passion. You don't need to call it a "dojo" to convey that your training is a life-informing passion.

    That said, I still call Japanese/Okinawan karate schools "dojos." All of 'em. Just as a language thing. I just don't find that conveys any substantive difference in meaning than referring to a "taekwondo dojang" or "boxing gym" or "American karate school."
     
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  7. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    AGREE, AGREE, AGREE.

    Your post is right on point. To @skribs and possibly others who do not seem to get this, they are missing the whole point of "the Way". It is not something that is style specific, regardless of where this philosphy may have started. I just took your Karate reference as that which is what is relevant to you. Mainly Tae Kwon Do is relevant to me but the suffix is the same.

    Like @Bill Mattocks, our Dojangs are "dual purpose" I suppose. Our Korean GM is an older gentleman very steeped in tradition and philosophy holding the highest KKW and MDK ranks and a high belt in Kung Fu as well as a Master and Doctorate degree. Needless to say we get a lot of mental (Do) training.
    Many of us, myself included, have been very involved in the competition side of TKD and I have trained over 50 kids to the AAU nationals with 16 winning gold. In short I was obsessed with competition for about two decades. The competitive drive has simmered but I will still compete in the seniors division of local tournaments.

    Our GM is totally transparent that he doesn't fully agree with totally sport dojangs/dojos/gyms but he has never gotten in the way of anyone wanting to train that way as long as they are respectful and active in regular classes. He freely opens the doors for extra workout time and training. To me this speaks loudly of the 'Way' displayed in his life.
     
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  8. isshinryuronin

    isshinryuronin Green Belt

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    The point I was trying to make with my OP really had nothing to do with vocabulary, using definitions merely to give a handle to what the essence of karate "DO" is. "Life-informing passion" is a part of it, and I agree that other pursuits share this particular quality. But what I was getting at is the "Way" is much more than just that.

    I feel that the first 2 of the varieties you described are not that relevant to the Way. The second 2 varieties combined get closer and are definitely a part of it, as is kumite and the assumed risk of injury (a character builder), but still lacking. What's missing is the self-awareness, seeing what is not readily seen (yeah, Zen stuff), a sense of respect and obligation, humility and so on. Admittedly, these are not qualities developed over the course of just a few years, but should be a goal to achieve. So many MA schools have lost the goal of cultivating these elements.

    As dvcochran points out, TKD has "Do" in the name, but do they teach it? Seems like his dojang does. He is luckier than most who do not know what they are missing. Of course, they may not care, which is not a bad thing, for them. But for others who seek the journey, it would be sad if there was no place that offered "a place of the Way."

    To cater to both types, should there be a declared split, two or three recognized karate school types: One for fun and fitness, one for pure fighting/competition, and one for the Do? (Yes, they can all share some parts with each other - it is the nature of yin and yang)) I think it already unofficially exists, but should the evolution be formalized and given specific names?
     
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  9. Dirty Dog

    Dirty Dog MT Senior Moderator Staff Member

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    I don't speak any Japanese, but the Korean "dojang" translates as "school" or "gym" so it's not difficult to understand why they're used interchangeably.
     
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  10. Mitlov

    Mitlov Blue Belt

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    Personally I see those as three different types of student, not three different types of karate school. I don't think you need a different curriculum to serve each of these three purposes.
     
  11. Mitlov

    Mitlov Blue Belt

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    Likewise, in Japan, that's what dojo means.

    "In Japan, any facility for physical training, including professional wrestling, may be called a dōjō.[2] In the Western world, the term dōjō (when related to physical activity) is used exclusively for Japanese martial arts such as aikidō, judō, karate-dō, etc."

    Dōjō - Wikipedia
     
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  12. isshinryuronin

    isshinryuronin Green Belt

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    Not sure I'd go with a Wikipedia excerpt from a home video course as referenced above. I'm reaching out to my contacts in Japan for their feedback. Could be so, as modern times are increasingly drifting from the original intent - as one of the implied points of my OP. Of course, any kind of gym can call itself a dojo, just like I could call myself a kung fu master.
     
  13. Mitlov

    Mitlov Blue Belt

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    "Dojo" used in conjuction with Japanese pro wrestling:

    NJPW DOJO CAMP

    WRESTLE-1 INTERNATIONAL WRESTLING CAMP

    Experience K-DOJO Pro Wrestling Training!

    How do you know that the original intent has to be places that train in martial arts in a particular philosophical way? That could just be an overly literal translation. Go to a "bathroom" in a restaurant and you won't find a bath. Or how karate training can include weapons even though it means "empty hand." Or how judo isn't gentle. The word doesn't have to be that literal.
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2019
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  14. isshinryuronin

    isshinryuronin Green Belt

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    Not sure I'd go with pro wrestling as an authoritative source. It's just marketing on their part. My source in Japan says "dojo" does not refer to weight lifting or boxing gyms in everyday speech. I know the original intent of the word "dojo" refers to the "way" because of the kanji and that the word has Buddhist origins. For example, Sumo stables are called that as it has Shinto traditions that predate Buddhism, so did not get the Buddhist reference to its place of study.
     
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  15. Mitlov

    Mitlov Blue Belt

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    If "dojo" does not refer to all martial arts schools of Japanese styles, the way "dojang" refers to all Korean martial art schools, but only refers to schools with a heavily philosophical Zen Buddhist spin on their training--a limitation on the word dojo I've honestly never encountered before this thread--then I have questions.

    Why do jujutsu schools call themselves "dojos"? They're technically not a -do art at all, but a -jutsu art.

    What do karate schools focused on WKF competition call themselves in Japanese? I thought it was dojo.

    What do kyokushin karate schools focused on knockdown competition call themselves in Japanese? I thought it was dojo.

    What do judo schools focused on Olympic competition call themselves in Japanese? I thought it was dojo.
     
  16. lklawson

    lklawson Senior Master

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    Friend, you're over-thinking this. Just go train. If you want to make your training a "way" then do so. It doesn't require a club, school, gym, dojo, gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse, or doghouse. That's just a place. What you want is a life style; a state of mind.

    All it requires is you. Don't over-think it.

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     
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  17. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    That sir, was very, very well said.
     
  18. isshinryuronin

    isshinryuronin Green Belt

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    This thread seems to have gotten bogged down with the word "dojo" (although it's an interesting word on its own) which I just brought up as a metaphor to examine the main topic - Karate vs Karate-do. Even these words were just a way to describe the situation of some karate schools concentrating on the physical and minimizing the other elements of traditional martial arts that are shared by traditional arts such as chado, kyudo, iaido, etc.

    I recognize that some may prefer karate with the "do" and others who can do without it - much like having a sundae with or without whipped cream and a cherry. It would be nice, if in the future, there are places where one can still find sundaes served with whipped cream and a cherry if they like. The direction I was aiming for in this OP was whether the gap between these two views is widening and if maybe that should be encouraged to better serve the varied clientele that karate draws.
     
  19. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    I agree with the variety comment but why can't there be both in the same training setting? It is true that it would be a taller order for the instructor(s). I certainly feel using a styles native language makes sense if a school/instructor uses the "traditional" moniker.

    As to your question, there does seem to be less usage of Korean terminology in the TKD circles I run in. Ironically, in sport TKD all commands and judges calls are made in Korean.
     
  20. Mitlov

    Mitlov Blue Belt

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    I wouldn't worry too much. Fencing has Olympic fencing and classical fencing, and the two have coexisted for a century (albeit with plenty of catty comments back and forth on online forums).

    Karate is the same. I've trained in the karate equivalent of classical fencing, JKA Shotokan. Some people love it, but it wasn't for me. Now I train in the Chuck Norris offshoot of Tang Soo Do, complete with lots of padwork, lots of free sparring, and forms are for performance and competition instead of being treated as the central core of the style. Personally, it fits me much better. But I think both will continue to exist, just as Olympic fencing and classical fencing exist to serve two different types of fencing enthusiast.
     
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