The Culture of Karate

Discussion in 'Karate' started by isshinryuronin, Mar 10, 2019.

  1. isshinryuronin

    isshinryuronin Yellow Belt

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    Culture: The characteristics and features shared by people in a place or time. From the Latin, colere - to cultivate and nurture.

    The verb used in the above definition is "shared," meaning freely given and received; something those people then have in common.

    A century or two ago, the karate community was quite small: A handful of Okinawan villages with a handful of masters, each teaching just a handful of students. That community shared geography, bushido tradition, history and social standing - very homogenous with a lot in common.

    Not so today. There are many schools in many places teaching many and diverse students. So, is there a "karate culture" today?
     
  2. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    I still think there is, in a sense. Forget about inside the dojo and differences in training; there’s still a bit of mutual respect between karateka and MAists in general. Get two guys who don’t know each other and let them each find out the other one trains MA. Like at a party where one person says “you do karate? That guy over there does karate too.” Chances are they’ll strike up a conversation about it. Hell, if they hit it off they might start sparring by the end of the night :)
     
  3. isshinryuronin

    isshinryuronin Yellow Belt

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    If they don't hit it off, they may start sparring even sooner.
     
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  4. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    Funny, like, and agree all at the same time. So I went informative instead ;) I don’t use that one enough.
     
  5. spidersam

    spidersam Yellow Belt

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    This happened to me just last week at work. I mentioned I do kung fu to a new coworker and he went into full detail about his wife’s bb taekwondo journey
     
  6. kempodisciple

    kempodisciple MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Happens to me constantly. Most of my friends know that I *cough* used to *cough* have an obsession with martial arts-studying, training, researching, fighting, etc. When they introduce me to someone who trains, they'll immediately tell them I train, and 9 times out of 10 the guy wants to spend an hour talking about it. Not that I mind, obviously.
     
  7. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Where I volunteer (security at the county courthouse), another volunteer is an old Kempo guy. He can't train any more (back and autoimmune disorder), but as soon as he found out I was a MAist, he made that the thing we talk about. Unfortunately, he's not really into discussion, so much as pontificating.
     
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  8. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    There’s certainly no shortage of pontification (is that a word? If not, it is now :) ).
     
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  9. Yokozuna514

    Yokozuna514 Blue Belt

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    I cannot count the number of times I've had people find out that I train in karate and either do 'Bruce Lee' noises while waving their hands or just simply put their hands up to do air 'crotty' or 'judy' chops.

    But does always come down to sparring at the end of the night doesn't it ;) ? Even when you meet MA-ists that train seriously, the conversation usually turns to if you spar or not and what the drawbacks are of no face punching in Kyokushin. I have been popped in the face a few times (even after we agreed that face punching at a party is probably not a good idea) but I usually shrug it off and continue. I haven't been hit in the face twice yet but the other person quickly understands how fast I can adapt and hit to face as well ;). I don't actually hit them in the face but I do let them 'kiss' the knuckles or give them a little stroke to the face as a reminder that it was 'their' idea to spar and that we should 'both' remember to keep it light and friendly.
     
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  10. Never_A_Reflection

    Never_A_Reflection Blue Belt

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    A single, universal culture? Not really, aside from what was borrowed from Okinawa/Japan, such as wearing keikogi, using Japanese terminology, bowing, practicing kata, etc., but even those aren't universal in all karate styles/dojo. Of course, that isn't terribly surprising--humans are a tribal species, by nature, and that tribalism both brings us together (on a small scale) and drives us apart (on a larger scale). I generally see three tribes/cultures within karate, and there is some overlap, of course, but they are generally distinct from each other, overall:
    • Budo Karate - the belief that the highest aim of karate is to develop the spirit and character of the karateka, and give them a vehicle for living a long, healthy life
    • Sport Karate - the belief that the highest aim of karate is victory and success in competition, ideally climbing the ladder to world-wide competitions
    • Practical Karate - the belief that karate is meant to be an effective method of self defense and/or security, as it was historically
    Each of these come with their own cultures, and I tend to find that most karateka can fit into one of these tribes, although there are always exceptions and overlap.
     
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  11. isshinryuronin

    isshinryuronin Yellow Belt

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    I pretty much agree, although sadly, there are some dojos with little or no culture of any kind. The old karate masters cultivated the budo and practical aspects in their students. Luckily, there are some senseis who respect the old ways still around to nurture their students and propagate true karate culture. But, yes, there is the competition culture, and of course, the crass commercial culture as well.
     
  12. isshinryuronin

    isshinryuronin Yellow Belt

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    There is a lot of pontificating in these forums - some knowledgeable, some not so much. Something we, especially the more advanced practitioners, should guard against, as its easy to fall into. Humility is a part of bushido.
     
  13. Buka

    Buka MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I think the person running the dojo dictates what the culture is.

    I hope and pray that anyone running a dojo knows that.
     
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  14. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I find that many schools are at least two of those things.
     
  15. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    We.
     
  16. isshinryuronin

    isshinryuronin Yellow Belt

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    We. As in myself included. I can always blame it on old age.
    • ;)
     
  17. Steve

    Steve Mostly Harmless

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    Every group has a culture. Much of the conflict we have on this forum is related to differences in culture.

    That said, I think talking about a common interest is not shared culture, though the topic of conversation will likely be about the similarities and differences between the two styles.

    I think pontification tends to be cultural, as folks will tend to believe that the most knowledgeable posters are the ones they like and agree with, based on their own cultural norms (martial arts or otherwise). It’s human nature,
     
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