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Karate Science: A Critical Commentary about this Subculture

The picture shows a karateka and several equations. It represents Karate Science.

Karate science has become very popular in recent years. However, Jonas Correia criticizes that too many karateka focus to much on theorizing instead on training. The consequence is a constant decrease of fighting power of the Shotokan karate community.

Some weeks ago, I came across a post where someone argued the difference between kime and force when applying a certain technique to break a board. The argument in question was illustrated with the image of the profile of a board, with imaginary lines simulating the direction from which the force would come and where it would end. Beside that the picture also showed a variant of the equation that represented the antithesis.

Along with all this, the picture comprised numbers and letters , which if you were not a good student of physics classes in high school, you will never decipher. After I saw the post I had to read the comments and saw that there were some supporters of this analysis. The showed that they had also been good physics students in high school, they counter-argued that theory.  Those, who came to debate the final result based on calculations and equations, I call “Scientists of Karate”. They belong to the subculture of “Karate Science”.

Karate Science and its Origin

Every self-respecting Shotokan karateka has studied Nakayama’s books. They show scientific explanations about the human body by applying human bio-mechanics. The books analyze the relationships between bio-mechanics and karate. They are the foundation of Karate Science. This approach should guarantee the technical excellence of an art that is constantly evolving.

However, not everyone is a scientist or interested in evaluating complex calculations to reach a conclusion with no direct practical value. Some of these theories are interesting. But they do not have the power to change the training routine of a Karate community.

What causes the existence of Karate Science?

In harsher words, I regret to inform you that our habit in claiming theories around our art, has created a generation of “karate scientists” and this is even regrettable. The reason for this is due to the fact that we are always in constant competition with those who have become more learned, who read the most books. But this competition is a false hunt for more efficiency and effectiveness. It tries to legitimize fighting power of Shotokan karate in regard to other martial arts. Or karateka seek to show that their way of doing Oi-zuki this or that way is better. And some only want to show off.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a book writer and I constantly research. But I leave the study of these theories with the head instructors of the organization I belong to. My role is limited only to train, train and train.

The Negative Effects of Karate Science

However, we do not need to make Shotokan better at its boundaries. We do not need better theory. The theory is already highly developed. For the most karateka the complexity of the theories is already to high. They need handy concepts instead.

Most of the Karate Science proponents I have seen, have had a weak training routine compared to those who care little. I believe that this is the biggest reason that the Karate community may have weakened in numbers and in technical quality.

  • The picture shows Jonas Correia training in the JKA HQ. Jonas criticizes Karate Science subculture.
  • The picture shows Jonas Correia at a tournament. Jonas criticizes Karate Science subculture.
  • The picture shows Jonas Correia at a tournament. Jonas criticizes Karate Science subculture.

A good part of the practitioners theorize too much and practice less. Some have gained fame and prestige within the Karate community (mostly online), for the simple fact of knowing how to argue in an expert tone. Many of these have never even stepped on a koto in their life, or had any experience with a real fight. But they claim to have the knowledge of the most efficient way to land a punch. His followers are quick to call him a sage, a master, Shihan, or worst, Hanshi!

The Path of Pragmatism

A football player trains enough to dribble opponents and kick the ball into the post. Ready! This is enough. The player does not waste his time studying the weight of the ball in relation to the direction and strength of the wind influencing where the ball will land. Coaches and sports scientist might do that. The player, however, sees the ball and kicks it forward. Isn’t that his goal? The soccer player trains extensively, so that any influence of the wind or weight of the ball becomes an insignificant factor.

This same analysis can be used in Karate or other combat sports. You cannot theoretically prepare for keiko. Nor can you substitute vigorous and rigorous training with reading books to become able to defend yourself against one or more opponents. Of course, some theories might be better on scratch. However, one has to execute them. Therefore, serious Shotokan follows a simple rule: Pragmatism first, theory second! The truth is that no one will give you a PhD in Karate theory, so don’t break your head to long – go train!

Disclaimer: All opinions expressed by external authors are solely their current opinions and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Shotokan Times and their respective editorial staff and management. The external authors opinions are based upon information they consider reliable, but neither The Shotokan Times nor its affiliates warrant its completeness or accuracy, and it should not be relied upon as such.

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Online Karate and the Corona Virus: Will Virtual Lessons become the Norm?

The picture shows a online karate class.

Since the outbreak of the Corona-virus, online karate classes and lessons have mushroomed. However, online karate was a taboo for every “serious” karateka. So, will this development change the way we teach and think about karate training in the future? What will we gain what will we loss by moving karate online? By Jonas Correia

A New Phenomenon

Online karate classes are rather new. However, the internet has been offering us the opportunity to take online lessons and online courses in several other areas. Many students graduate at renowned universities by doing online classes. One could attend a four week seminar about Antibiotic Stewardship at Stanford University through the platform Coursera. The platform Udemy even offers a course in “natural running“. The only requirements of the course are: “Two legs and a desire to move with speeds faster than walking!” Therefore, online lessons and courses are longer considered taboo.

But what about online karate lessons? Are they still taboo or legit?

The First Online Dan Rank Test

A few years ago, a certain Shotokan Karate federation conducted an online black belt exam with one of its members in Brazil by using a webcam. The news caused a lot to discussion on social media. Some people called the student and the examiner (a Japanese master) a charlatan and impostor.

The fact of conducting a rank exam via webcam ended up discrediting the organization. Due to other controversies it had already lost credibility among many karateka. However, conducting an examination via the webcam was the last straw for the sky to collapse. Online karate exams and classes were taboo back then.

Karate at Rock Bottom

All those who had felt indignant about what happened, said that Karate hit rock bottom. Including the author of this article many condemned (and still condemn) an online karate exam like it was conducted in the mentioned case.

The individual who passed the online Shodan exam through the webcam, now teaches seminars. He claims to have studied “ancient karate” through books and the internet. Under those kind of circumstance online karate classes lead to McDojos but not to more and better students. A online karate provider advertises his program with “Earn your black belt today!”

YouTube as Online Karate Learning Tool

Twenty years ago, those who owned VHS Karate tapes were privileged. Today, almost everyone has access to the biggest library of karate videos in history of mankind: YouTube.

YouTube has long been an aid and analysis tool for many karate practitioners. To date, no online platform has brought us closer to high-level instructions than YouTube. It helped us to understand karate better by the free and infinite information it provide – without having to get up from our couch. It even generated sarcastic saying that someone learned karate from a “YouTube Master”.

Online Karate Classes on the Rise due to Corona

The corona-virus arrived and most of the dojos had to close their doors temporarily. Many of the karate instructors had to adapt to virtual classes. They have to do this on the one hand to keep their students (mostly children) active. On the other hand, they have to offer some classes to not loss students and go bankrupt.

The stocks of the Zoom application, which allows you to hold conferences between several people at the same time, rose rapidly due to the need to bring people together – whether in karate or any other activity. It will continue to rise until they find a solution for the corona-crises, so that people can finally meet face-to-face again.

For reasons of extreme necessity, those who have always condemned online karate classes, had to adapt. They had to give in to a practice they never imagined doing. The author of this article himself had to improvise, so that his students (mostly children) would not lose their shape and/or forget what they had already learned.

Will the Future Bring more Online Karate?

Corona now changed the way we think about online karate classes? Will the use of online karate classes be accepted? What are its benefits? Maybe you can help for short periods of time, for instance, when somebody hasmust go on a business trip but usually trains regularly in a dojo. But what if online karate training becomes a long-term habit? What effects will it have on students, instructors, and karate? What if this becomes a way for malicious instructors to profit from the unsuspecting?

We cannot foresee all ramifications. However, Karate is a martial art where physical contact and exchange is of fundamental importance. Even if one does not practice full contact karate. There will be no chance for anyone learning karate in its entirety through videos. Online karate is not a surrogate for the experience of facing an opponent or receiving or delivering an Oi-Zuki.

Anyone who uses this tool to permanently and replaces face-to-face classes (except in cases of extreme need) does not serve its students, himself, and karate in general. So it is essential that the instructors make people aware, especially their students, that online karate lessons are only an exceptional tool. It should only be valid in rear occasions like the one we face currently: The Corona-outbreak.

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Is Shotokan Karate Effective? About The Effectiveness Paranoia

The picture shows children fighting is sport karate gloves. Thus, we ask the question:Is Shotokan effective?

The effectiveness of Shotokan karate as self-defense has caused plenty of discussions in the last decade. But is effectiveness even important? Are we paranoid when it come to effectiveness? By Jonas Correia

A few weeks ago arriving from Brazil, I had to go through the USA immigration. The immigration agent asked me what I was doing in Brazil. I replied that I went to compete and see my family. Asking me what I practice, I promptly answered: Karate. He asked me if I taught my students how to defend themselves from grappling and submission techniques. I said no, since most of them are children and barely learn the basics of karate. I didn’t find it necessary to teach techniques like the ones he mentioned.

He Questioned My Effectiveness

The truth is that he seemed to be a jiu-jitsu sympathizer and even questioned the effectiveness of my teaching method. Believe me, this conversation happened during my reentry in the US! I looked at his gun at the waist and said, if we are going to think about effectiveness obsessively, I should teach them how to fire too. He smiled. I mentioned that most jiu-jitsu schools only focus on competitions these days. But they also do not prepare you to face two opponents at once.

What does Effectiveness mean?

The point of this text is not to discuss the effectiveness of Jiu-jitsu or Karate. Because we can be the strongest of fighters and a simple microscopic virus can knock you down. So what is your perspective on effectiveness? How many martial arts masters have ever been shot? And how many martial arts masters have died from drug or alcohol use? How can someone who can’t beat himself get into a discussion about effectiveness? Wouldn’t being effective mean everything that makes you survive longer?

The Effectiveness Paranoia of Shotokan Karate

Whenever people ask me about the most effective martial art, I answer: the most effective is the one that makes you happy to be training. The rest is brainwashing and repetitive marketing.

Is Shotokan Karate effective?
Our authors, Jonas Correia, in Berlin. Jonas has an incredible fighting record. Fighting in shobu ippon, 8-point fights, and Karate Combat.

But the paranoia about the effectiveness of certain martial arts has grown so incalculably. As a result, even great masters get carried away with it. It is disappointing to come to a dojo and encounter the abundant collective narcissism that has become a kind of sect. We see this thinking within Karate organizations as well. Due to different founders’ perspectives, the arts constantly change and their style may be totally different in the future.

Train, Whatever Makes You Happy

The best thing to do is to humble down, and recognize the qualities and defects of the martial arts you practice. That makes it possible to turn yourself in an effective fighter. But if you do not care much about it, train whatever makes you happy.

I believe we should think less about issues like this. However, we should train to improve ourselves to become better practitioners. Nothing is perfect and totally effective. Better to learn it this way, to than become disappointed later.

The more we talk the less we train.


Disclaimer: All opinions expressed by external authors in the commentary section are solely their current opinions and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Shotokan Times and their respective editorial staff and management. The external authors opinions are based upon information they consider reliable, but neither The Shotokan Times nor its affiliates warrant its completeness or accuracy, and it should not be relied upon as such.

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The Olympic Dream of the WKF is Over! And rightfully so

The Olympic Dream of the WKF is over

The Olympic dream for Karate is over. And the decision by the french Olympic Committee was right. A commentary by Thomas Prediger

The Olympic Dream of the WKF is Over

It did not last long – the Olympic dream of Karate. Last Friday, the organizers of the Olympics 2024 in Paris proposed to the IOC to remove Karate from the shortlist. The Shotokan Times reported about the decision. Instead, Breakdancing and Skateboarding should be included. This is especially sad for all Karateka who sacrificed so much to make their dream come true. Karate at the Olympics will only be a brief intermezzo.

For some it appears as if the participation of Karate at the 2020 Games in Tokyo would have been an acknowledgment to the host country Japan. But it is striking that in France, the country with the largest national World Karate Federation (WKF) section, Karate was excluded. The reason for the rejection of Karate might lay deeper and within the WKF itself.

WKF does not Represent the Global Karate Community

The WKF was recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1999. Since then, it is the sole representative of Karate at the IOC. Like no other organization the WKF has claimed to represent the global Karate community. However, this is not the case and it might be that the committee in Paris realized this. Too many countries and associations did not want to follow the WKF way of Sports Karate. Although it was the only way to the Olympics. Especially, more traditionalist associations had difficulties with the 8-point system, gloves, and foot-protection. Not everybody dream t the Olympic Dream of the WKF. The bureaucracy (e.g. at tournaments), the imposition of WKF rules on national competitions and associations, the stark similarities between Sports Karate and Taekwondo, and the gradual commercialization and exaggeration of competition were the straw that broke the camel’s back

For many, the WKF has become unattractive. But it did not do much to open itself to other opinions, rules, and standards. Maybe it was hubris after the recognition by the IOC in 2016. Or it was managerial dilettantism. We do not know. The rejection, however, has shown that the WKF does not speak for the global Karate community. It is just one association among many. And its future has become uncertain – since last Friday.

Opener Picture: Crumbling IOC by Elhan Numan

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Karate Combat and the Commercialization of Karate

Karate Combat promotes itself as the only full contact karate league world wide. This claim made us curious and we had a closer look. What we found was commercialization in the first place. A commentary by Dr. Christian Tribowski

If some of you have thought that Karate in general has become very commercialized in the past two decades, you might be surprised by the latest step on the capitalistic ladder. Karate Combat, a full contact Karate League, was launched this year.

Format of Karate Combat

It follows a pretty simple format: Two Karateka fight in a pit-like ring for a few minutes. The referee does not stop the fight: if one of the opponents scores a point – the fight goes on. At this point, it clearly distinguishes itself from Shobu Ippon kumite. Even on the ground the fighters can attack each other for five seconds. The rules prohibit hooks and elbow strikes. Gloves  are mandatory. The opponents should use long tsukis and keris like in Shobu Ippon kumite.

What was most astonishing for me about Karate Combat was the excessive and conspicuous presentation of status and economic power. Big cars, incredible venues like the Acropolis, naked bodies, and apparently an exclusive audience are part of the production. The main sponsor, as you can see on the ground of the pit, is Bitcoin. To get an own impression have a look at their YouTube channel.

Karate Combat as Retro-Futuristic Spectacular

Vice Sports called it “retro-futuristic” because it shares similarities with some 80´s martial arts movies. This similarities led me to the following association: The general setting and aesthetics of the scenery reminded me about the movie Lionheart with Jean-Claude van Damme. The movie depicts a wealthy upper-class that organizes illegal bare-knuckle fights for their entertainment in Los Angeles. JCVD takes part in these fights to raise money to help his brothers family.

Focus on Monetization

Karate Combat, on the other hand, follows the law and is not a fight to death. Although, the similarities with Lionheart cannot be overlooked it shares more traits with the modern boxing industry. Like professional boxing it focuses on entertainment and commerce. Bitcoin as the main sponsor must have paid a considerable amount of money, because Karate Combat streams the fights on the internet for free. The “domain name, which we can only imagine costs more than all the fighter’s purses combined”, as Vice Sports noted, must also been paid. A non-profit could not effort this production. In addition, the website lists a variety of partner companies like amazon prime, YouTube, Dailymotion etc. Hence, the commercialization of Karate has gone a tremendous step further.

Shotokan Serves a Different Purpose than Karate Combat

Everybody is free to watch and visit Karate Combat events. However, everybody should be aware that making money is not the true value of Karate in general and Shotokan. To put the Do into practices it is. While money serves as a necessary means in any professionalized system, even in Karate, e.g. professional instructors must make a living and associations need money to develop professional structures, the maximization of profits as a major purpose contradicts with the values of Shotokan Karate Do.

Shotokan cultivates humility, solidarity, perfection of one’s character, truth, respect for others and etiquette, endeavor, and impetuous courage in the first place. Everybody who puts money and entertainment in the center of their Karate loses the positive outcomes of this life-long journey: mental freedom and balance, empowerment, humility, enlightenment, empathy, friendship, a sense of belonging, solidarity. Karate Combat, instead, encourages the satisfaction of egoistic short-term goals like immediate consumption and spectacular.

The Shotokan Karate Do community, thus, should work harder than ever before to stress and foster the traditional values and positive effects Shotokan has on individuals and societies.

What do you think? Please comment below the article and discuss with our author.

Note: The boxing ring picture of this article was shoot by Joel Muniz on Unsplash.

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Rodrigo Rojas: Disputed Funakoshi Cup Champion 2017

Rodrigo Rojas has shown incredible skills during the 14th Gichin Funakoshi Cup in Irland in 2017. Unfortunately, his victory was overshadowed by his lack of etiquette. A report and commentary by Dr. Christian Tribowski

First non-Japanese Victory since 1998

In 2017, the ground shook. The earthquake of that day changed the landscape of traditional Shotokan Karate for the next decade. Rodrigo Rojas from Chile broke the winning streak of the dominating Japanese Karateka. It took place in the kumite competition at the 14th Gichin Funakoshi Cup, the official JKA world Championship in Limerick, Ireland. Since 1998, no non-Japanese won the JKA world championship. And nobody expected Rodrigo Rojas to change this. However, he did and the surprise was huge.

Rodrigo Rojas Behavior caused Criticism

Right after his victory over Okada Yasunori many critics raised their voice. The most of them revolved around Rodrigos behavior during his fights. While nobody accused him of unfairness. Most of the commentators criticized his way of dealing with the judges and his way of celebration when he scored a point. Both, how the critics described it, were not bushido-like but rather cocky. Exaggerated cheering after scoring and head shaking after several decisions of the judges were perceived as disrespectful and a shame for traditional Shotokan Karate Do.

We do not know Rodrigo. We do not know his intentions, his character, upbringing, convictions, or his way of live. And it is not in our aim to judge anybody.

Rodrigo Rojas also Fights in the WKF and Karate Combat

However, whether somebody agrees with the critics or not, the case of Rodrigo Rojas reveals the deep differences between traditional Shotokan Karate Do and Sports Karate like it is practiced within the WKF. Rodrigo himself has been fighting in the WKF for several years now. He is also part of the highly commercialized Karate Combat tournament.

Do less important in Sports Karate

In both organizations athleticism, medals, and sponsoring contracts are more important than respectful behavior. As everybody could see during the last WKF World Championship in Madrid, many fighters behaved in a cocky and emotional way. Apparently, Sports Karate does not put much energy in the education of the mind, manner, humility, moral consciousness, spirit, and Do.

Shotokan Serves Ethical Purpose

For us, however, Shotokan Karate Do empowers people. Shotokan helps them to reach their full physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually potential as human beings and free them from negative influences. It also civilizes the world and guide people in a non-violent, respectful, and humble direction. All that happens when they follow the 20 Precepts of Gichin Funakoshi. Do is paramount for us. This is our Way of Shotokan.

If you agree or disagree leave us a comment below and let us discuss. Oss!