Is Karate a martial art? (please read full post)


Yellow Belt
Nov 10, 2016
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Honestly, it depends on who you talk to. Typically speaking, those who are uninformed about such matters use "karate" as a blanket term for all Japanese Martial Arts, just as they use "kung fu" for all Chinese Martial Arts. I'd like to think that people who actually practice those arts know exactly what style they are practicing but even then, I've talked to some karate practitioners and they thought there was only 1 kind of karate....

Oddly enough I was at a seminar yesterday, taught by my instructor's instructor, and we kind of discussed this. In our dojo and the other dojos in our association, there is an expectation that you learn about the history and linage of the style, Isshinryu. At first I'll admit to thinking, that while I didn't mind learning that Shimabuku developed Isshinryu, I didn't give a fig who his teachers were I just wanted to kick and punch things. Now after practicing for a little over eight months, I do actually appreciate learning about the history and think it gives me a more well rounded experience.

On the other hand I still do understand the "I don't care about history," mentality. Yesterday one of the instructors told a story where a man came into his dojo looking to join and mentioned that he had taken Karate in the past. The instructor ask which style. The response was, "Karate Karate." So the instructor asked a series of questions and finally realized the guy actually practiced Aikido. That's a bit beyond the pale in terms of being ignorant of your own style, but probably not as uncommon as you would think. I've certainly heard parents say they take their kids to Karate when they actually take them to a TKD school. I'll be honest and say other than having heard of Kyokushin I didn't really know the different styles of Karate prior to actually starting karate. I certainly had never even heard of Isshinryu before googling it when I saw it on the website of the dojo before I joined. That being said I think it's important to have a basic understanding of the art you practice.

I see Karate more like a family of languages. Certain dialects can be understood by each other, certain dialects might as well be a different language. If you speak Mandarin Chinese and you're in a area where Cantonese is spoken, you're going to have issues. If you're a Isshinryu student and you go to a Kyokushin dojo, you're probably going to have issues. If you go to a Shorin-ryu dojo you'll probably have fewer issues.