Wednesday 3 September 2014

Talking and thinking too much: Western Karate Drivel

"Learn by doing" - André Bertel (Kumamoto, Japan).
Simplification of practice with deep meaning/study/understanding is exactly what happens, here in Japan, amongst the very top dojo (plural). In conjunction and directly pertaining to this is high level tuition, which is bolstered by a `learn by doing’ as opposed to `the overly thinking’/discussing approach (an approach which is predominant in Western nations).

Recently I was shown some videos of an American instructor who `moves OK'; however, no depth -- no real power, from a Japanese karate-do perspective. That is, lots of technical variations, lots of talk, and theories… Not to mention `sound effects' when the guy punches: yet clearly no real danger with his waza. Here in Japan, irrespective of ideas and lots of technical variations, what counts is that `one can you use their karate in a freestyle context’. In the context, of the aforementioned American, the answer is clearly “not the case”. My Japanese colleagues were laughing as we went through the videos: the comments were "what is this?". If such a person comes to Japan and enters serious training here, “that feeling” he is always talking about (which always coincides with his sound effects "hummmm") will be replaced by a trip to the dentist.

This appeal in Western countries for a lot of `karate drivel’ is very interesting, and is at the heart of why Western karate is no closer—to traditional Japanese karate—than it was 20+ years ago. There are, of course, some exceptions: but very-very few.

Using the example of Japanese technicians… Think about the likes of Naka Tatsuya Sensei. He teaches numerous variations; however, his technique is perfectly functional in a freestyle context. It transfers from the dojo to street practicality. He has very dangerous karateka. Another such karate expert is Keith Geyer Sensei. Two words, `phenomenal' and `devastating' come to mind. In actuality, all of the top Japanese JKA instructors have this quality. Why not the majority of Western instructors like Keith Sensei? Needless to say, if I lived in Australia, I would be in Melbourne to access training under Keith Sensei. Such non-Japanese true masters of karate-do are soooooooooooo rare!!!!!!!!!

Perhaps some people will not like this post, but it is literally a case of `the truth hurts’. There are, as said above, `exceptions’; nevertheless, I believe this needs to eventually be the norm-- not merely exceptions -- if Western karate is to truly advance. Unfortunately, based on what Western `karate consumers’ want, and how the majority practice karate, this is unlikely to change any time soon.
True karate is effective in the real world, not talk and theory: this is `budo karate'. This is Karate!
© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2014).


Andre Bertel said...
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Andre Bertel said...

Some people have not read my words in this post accurately. I have NOT SAID that "ALL Western Karate is drivel"; rather, that the majority is.

Still there are plenty of great non-Japanese instructors.

Just briefly, let me clarify good instructor and true karate: Excellence, and true karate, is not theoretical or trick based: irrespective of how it looks. True karate, taught and applied properly is a highly effective martial art of self-defence. Sound effects like "HUMMM" and "feelings" are non-existent in budo karate... Just as waffling and practicing anything that deviates from technique to achieve `ippon'.

Quality instructors are those that teach true karate as BUDO, as I have just explained above. I understand that many who read this will probably still not understand what I am talking about. Furthermore, those who deep down know what they are doing, is not true budo karate, will possibly feel agitated.

That, of course, is not my problem. This blog in part exists to show true budo karate, by a Westerner, who has practiced karate for many years in Japan.

The original man I was referring to, in my post, is merely one of many people teaching/demonstrating drivel. However, he makes a useful example, as what he is doing is being laughed at by Japanese exponents; yet, sucked up by Western practitioners...

This shows a HUGE DIFFERENCE between Western and Japanese understanding/practice/application of karate. To be honest, this is probably my biggest point in this article.

I hope this clarifies my original post. Osu, Andre