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Karate Orientations

Life and Death Karate sounds extreme and it is. Certainly it is not practiced by many people.

There are many different "ways" or orientations of Karate. They might include:

  • Children's Karate
  • Exercise Karate
  • Movement Karate
  • Sport Karate
  • Competition Karate
  • Performance Karate
  • Police Karate
  • Military Karate
  • Character Building Karate
  • Business Karate
  • Political Karate
Of course, there may be many others and combinations of the various orientations. My point is that there is not just one Karate -- there are many.

Each orientation is like a pair of glasses. The students in a particular orientation -- say exercise Karate -- view Karate through the lens of their own orientation. If such a student sees students sparring, he might ask, "is that a good exercise?"

A student in character building Karate (the general definition of "budo") might ask, "is sparring a good way to build character?"

A student in sport Karate might ask, "who is the winner of the match?"

A student in performance Karate (performing kata for show only), might ask, "why are they sparring at all?"

A student in "life and death" Karate might ask, "which student would survive the encounter?"

My point is that the student's perception will depend upon his own orientation. Different students will have different perceptions -- even of the same thing.

It is like comparing apples and oranges.

A student with a limited orientation will have a limited perception. A student with greater exposure to different orientations will have a broader perception.

The important thing to realize is that our own orientation will color our perception. I will view Karate through my eyes and experiences and you will view Karate through your eyes and experiences. What I do may seem strange to you and what you do might seem strange to me -- and yet we are both practicing perfectly legitimate Karate.

Five year old Karate is perfect for a five year old student! It is absolutely perfect and appropriate. It will not be the right thing to teach a 20 year old student, nor would it be right to teach 20 year old Karate to a five year old.

A grandmother (or grandfather) might only want to practice Karate for exercise, and that will be perfectly good for her (or him). A student who wants to participate in tournaments should find a school that specializes in the competition aspect of Karate. Each student must find a school that "fits" his or her desires and expectations.

Problems result when the student's desires and expectations do not match the school he or she selects. Some students, for example, might find themselves caught up in competition when they actually wanted to learn self defense. The opposite might also happen.

The longer I train, the more I appreciate different orientations of Karate. I might have my own orientation, but I can appreciate and respect others.

So how does this relate to Life and Death Karate? I guess that it doesn't really. Sorry about that. Writing about that subject touched a nerve, and I have not quite recovered from it. There are many different orientations of Karate, and that one. It does not mix well with the others.


Charles C. Goodin