We love karate there are so many great things about it but equally there are many techniques and practices that simply don't make any sense any more. This is what has lead both laymen and fellow martial artists to openly mock karate as "Not working". Common Sense Karate's mission is to look at karate with fresh eyes, to look past the dogma and indoctrinated mindsets in karate and embrace what is effective and worthwhile, to cut through what is passed off as traditional and hold on to the truly traditional purpose of karate.
Our goal is to identify and keep what makes karate great and what made us the most popular martial art in the world, and lose what doesn't serve us.
While karate is still one of the most popular martial arts on the planet, we have passed our heyday, in fact we now have a reputation of "not working" Why has our reputation crashed so badly? Why can we no longer attract adult students while kickboxing, MMA and Krav Maga clubs are filled to the rafters with adults? What will happen to us in the future if we don't fix and what can we do to change course.
What is training in your club preparing your for? And is it the covering the most important lessons and skill sets that karate-ka should learn?
Karate-ka often have a niggling fear that their karate won't work when they need it- in an actual self-defence situation. This video explains some common self-defence myths and why frequently those fears and doubts are justified. And we also run a quick self-assessment of whether the karate your learning is indeed preparing you for self-defence.
Most karate schools label themselves as traditional karate clubs, but is the karate that they teach truly traditional? Find out what makes a club "traditional" and what practices that are frequently passed off as traditional are actually modern. And more importantly why would you instructor try and pass off modern practices as traditional.
Itosu and Funakoshi are the grand father and father of Modern karate. It was their foundations that changed karate from a little known art practiced only by a handful of people on a relatively small island to the worlds biggest martial art. They were masters of change and understanding the true nature of their goal, purpose and intent, lights the way of the direction karate should take in the future.
Seek not to follow in the footsteps of the masters but rather seek what they sought.
Let's discover what Itosu and Funkakoshi were seeking.
Iain Abernethy is not only the world's foremost expert on kata bunkai but also a huge advocate of the return of practical ways karate. He is prolific in his insights of both practical training methodology but also the history and morphology of our art and the importance of practical application. Below is a link to one Iain's video on how kata training should relate to practical self-defence skills but it just an example of work, his website is a treasure trove of information and paradigm shifting ideas.
Karate-ka love this video of Kata sequences and Bunkai being used in MMA fights and other competitions and demonstrations. It demonstrates the skills learnt in kata have highly effective practical application. But is practicing kata enough to be able to use those techniques when it actually matters?
Starting with this great article and video on layering training to avoid training scars and finishing with the extensive library of the Applied Shotokan youtube channel, learn the practical application of karate's most popular style. This is not just about learning clever bunkai but a from the ground up pragmatic approach to karate training.
In 2014 after close to two decades of “traditional” karate which had both its merits, but equally intolerable flaws Jason Smith started Shinkyu Martial Arts, he was joined by many including Amandeep Singh Chodha who later became his partner in running Shinkyu as their full-time careers and life’s work.
Karate’s purpose for the first four centuries was for self-defence. But just over a century ago karate started on a path that would lead most schools to turn their back on on this most fundamental and traditional aspect of karate. Most clubs including those that fervently claim to be “traditional” (like our old club) don’t follow this highest value goal of karate. Instead they teach modern hyper stylised points sparring which evolved as a sport and they place most of the emphasis of their grading (and therefore training) on performance aspects of kata (set forms). This kind of training is the focus of majority of karate clubs today.
Sadly this kind of training is wildly incomplete for preparing students for self-defence, worse it breeds false confidence and bad habits which can make things worse in self defence. Any instructor who actually studies how to deal with real violence knows this. Any instructor who has studied the history of karate knows that most of the practices of points style sparring and performance focused kata are also modern and not traditional at all. The focus on these practices is also the reason why many laymen and other martial artists say things like “karate doesn’t work.“
The problem, for most of us, is we invest a lot of time and effort into those so called "traditional" practices. Jason was at one stage a high level tournament coach, training both points fighting and performance kata very successfully. Karate-ka also tend to be indoctrinated into various mindsets like "don't question your instructor" or "of course karate will work for self-defence - just look at how fast we punch and how strong we kick" or "this is traditional and should not be changed" and other fallacious thinking that hides the ineffectiveness of many of karate's practices. We would know both of us taught karate that concentrated on points fighting and performance focused kata for 15 years before finally becoming so disillusioned with them it became intolerable.
Enter Shinkyu. Rather than being a complete departure from traditional karate, Shinkyu is a return of the old, truly traditional ways of self-defence focused training. In our karate style we still teach kata, but we teach with it’s original purpose – to reinforce self-defence techniques and principles, rather than teaching kata like a dance.
But we didn’t stop there. Our goal has always been to prepare our students for self-defence. In order to do so we looked past our karate backgrounds and studied some of the most effective martial arts on the planet to make sure that what we pass on was cutting edge – the most reliable, effective and realistic techniques and strategies we could learn. We studied and adopted techniques from Krav Maga, MMA, Kick Boxing, Judo, Brazilain Jujitsu and even a little Akido.
We are not alone. Over the past decade or so there has been a growing movement of practical karate, focusing on self-defence aspects of training and returning karate to its functional roots. This movement continues to grow, as the benefits of self-defence focused karate become increasingly self-evident, and karate exponents like world renown kata bunkai expert: Iain Abernethy extolls the value of the return of realistic and holistic karate training. At the same time points fighting and performance focused kata training continues to justifiably be mocked, which gives karate as whole a bad reputation.
Common Sense Karate is our contribution to the practical karate movement. While the wave of practical karate is inevitable as it is simply common sense, there is a risk that karate will shrivel to a husk before we regain our reputation as a credible art. Our hope is to help Karate-ka both understand the importance of the return of the old ways, as wells as help them along with practical tips of how they can change and adapt their training to become more practical.
We run our own club - Shinkyu Martial Arts- with classes in Essex and East and North London. Or alternatively you can book us for a Seminar, just call us for details.