When Did Karate Fail!
It’s a very common opinion, these days, that karate doesn’t work.
In this article I will tell you why it doesn’t work, and when it stopped working, which may help you make it start working again.
Mind you, there are other reasons than what I detail here, but the reasons I detail here are probably the most important reasons, specifically, the reason which was put in place by the founders of karate. A deliberate but unintended consequence of a very bad decision.
The King (emperor) of Okinawa was commanded by the emperor of Japan to live in Japan. This was a political expedience.
The problem was the Okinawan bodyguards suddenly lost their jobs.
They became wood cutters, dock workers, school teachers, and so on.
Did they stop their training in karate? Probably not. As any student of the art knows, it is the monkey on the back, a joy that is almost impossible to give up. It would not be given up easily.
Thus, the art was taught at the homes of the bodyguards, and the students were probably tough kids, or kids that wanted to be tough.
It wouldn’t have died out, and it would have remained fairly pure. But purity, as this article presents, can be a myth.
About 1900 Gichin Funakoshi had a bright idea: let’s teach karate to the school children!
Karate made small bodies strong.
Karate instilled discipline.
Let’s not, however, teach little Johnny how to rip somebody’s throat out over lunch money.
Thus, the great dumbing down was begun.
There was, however, something worse that was happening.
Karate is a CCS. A Closed Combat System. This means it is a set number of techniques, and development through the inspection of other practices is discouraged.
Karate actually became a CCS years earlier when the system was codified into forms.
Forms make it easier to teach. Forms make it easier to remember the random but physically similar techniques.
Forms doubtless caused a surge in ability as it focused training, and lifted up the lesser students.
And there was a wonderful mindset created through Karate. A zen mindset that made a superior human being.
Up until that time Karate had been, to coin a phrase, an OCS. An Open Combat System. They took techniques wherever they could find them. Trips to China, shipwrecked sailors, talking with some friendly fellow in a bar, and ending up in an alley testing out these ‘extra’ techniques.
Now it was a Closed Combat System, a system which refused data from other sources, and the children were being deliberately dumbed down, and that was the one two punch that sealed Karate’s demise.
It didn’t happen suddenly. In fact, as the art spread new blood kept it alive and quite deadly.
But, eventually, it was no longer the province of the ‘tough guy’ who wanted to be tougher and who was willing to suffer the bruises and blood and a few lost teeth of those early practices.
Then it became sold.
One could accuse Gichin Funakoshi as the first person to commercialize Karate. After all, he sold it to the school system.
But when the Americans, with their capitalistic greed (hey! I’m just sayin’!) the game was all over.
McDojos sprouted in the strip malls of America.
Forms were put aside for kid’s games so the parent’s could be kept happy. Which was, is, probably the cruelest trap of all. I want my child to defend himself, but if he gets a single bruise I’ll sue you!
Nowadays it is difficult to find a real version of Karate.
Oh, it is out there, altered, pushed by the fanatic who doesn’t give a golden tu_d if you get a bruise.
But mostly you will find…MMA.
Hey, advertising. And the Gracie Brother’s creation of the UFC is the greatest advertising ploy since Bruce Lee.
We’ve had 30 years of advertising with the big buck tournaments. It has replaced boxing to a great extent. And it’s made some people rich.
Sometimes good, often bad.
Want to know how to tell when an art has gone CCS and has started to die? If not in the physical working then in the virtuous mental attitudes? The Virtue that used to be the coin developed by years of intense and unwavering training in the Martial Arts?
It is…My Art is better than yours.
I saw this happen when Karate, was in its heyday, spreading through the US and the world like wildfire.
Suddenly other arts came along, and to get students instructors would wink about another art or school and imply, or say it outright, ‘My art is better.’
And it fed the ego of the student.
Now it is happening in MMA. Not a week goes by when I don’t see some ego driven, bully boy type of child say, If it doesn’t work in the ring then it doesn’t work!
Which certainly explains why, when SEALs go to work they always end up on the ground, wrestling around and looking for arm bars.
MMA is not an art. It is a sport. An art self improves, a sport attempts to prevail over another human being. And the truth is that you don’t become better by making someone worse. That is the bully lie that has infected many MMA teachings.
That is not to say there isn’t art to some of the techniques.
But it doesn’t matter because as long as the bullies can beat up the karate man, and people of other disciplines, the lie will be accepted as the truth.
It is not MMA. It is MMS. Mixed Martial Sport.
Mind you, I am not attacking the art of Jujitsu, or other MMA based arts. Effectiveness is to be appreciated and studied. And to the extent that it becomes art i love it. But I am pointing out certain attitudes and how some misguided people degrade the art.
And, hopefully, this will create an understanding that will improve the arts on all fronts. Don’t degrade other arts, make yourself better by making others better.
Don’t like what I’m saying? Then change your sport. Or, better, change your mind.
But the truth is that when a system becomes CCS, when data is refused to be inputted, either because of commercial interests, or children running around screaming ‘My Art is Best!’, then that art has gone over the cliff and is heading for the spiked rocks below.
Really don’t like what I’m saying? Order a course in Matrixing, open your art up and accept the superiority of a true OCS…the ultimate OCS. A system that doesn’t take from all in random bits and pieces, trying to be OCS but only marginally succeeding, but rather aligns all the data so you can make the right choices…in combat, or in life.
About the author: Al Case has been studying the martial arts since 1967. He wrote articles and had his own column in Inside Karate magazine. He has written over forty books on the martial arts, including ‘How to Fix Karate,’ which is a two volume, 400 page book going into and fixing every move from the most important eight forms of Karate. It includes FIVE HOURS of video instruction.
And have a great work out!
Don’t forget to check out the interview
How to Fix Karate! (volumes one and two)
volume one is at
And volume two is at…
‘The Last Martial Arts Book’ has 11 ratings for 5 stars.
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find the book/course that is right for you,
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