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Beyond Style

I will have to write much more about this, but I have come to the point where I do not think about Karate in terms of style. Good Karate is good Karate, and the same is true about bad Karate. The style rarely makes much of a difference. What counts most is the dedication of the student and the hard work he puts in over a long time.

My Sensei teaches the Kishaba Juku form of Shorin-Ryu (as do I). However, I think of him as an excellent Karate Sensei (and person), not merely the head of a juku or style.

Practicing a certain style is helpful and necessary up to a certain point. But beyond that point it can be too limiting, and often too political. Like I said, good Karate is good Karate. If a style teaches good Karate, then it is good. If it does not, then what good is the style?

I am not saying that we should practice every Karate kata and every Karate technique. I am comfortable with the kata I practice in Kishaba Juku. However, what is important is that these kata embody good Karate, not that they are practiced in a certain style. After all, all of the kata practiced in my "style" are practiced in other styles. The unique thing is how we perform the kata (body mechanics) and our interpretation of the techniques (imi or bunkai).

I was training recently at a Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai session. At one point, I started to compare techniques with another member, who teaches Goju-Ryu. Our techniques were amazing similar. In fact, some of my techniques were more similar to his than to other Shorin-Ryu members. So what does that say?

Don't get me wrong. Style has its uses. But what style did Bushi Matsumura teach? What style did Kanryo Higashionna teach? Before you say Shuri-Te or Naha-Te, remember that those are geographic descriptions, not styles per se. It would be like me saying that I practice Hawaii-Te.

When you really come down to it, Karate is Karate. A skilled Karate instructor can read my movements and kata like an open book. And the same should be true vice versa. There really is no mystery. Like one of my sons commented when observing a student who was doing particularly well: "You don't get like that by accident."

Good Karate is the result of hard work. A good style helps you to get to "good Karate."

Again, I will have more to say about this.


Charles C. Goodin