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Beyond Style 9: Style Glasses

Sometimes an emphasis on style is just an excuse to dismiss the excellent things that people in other styles can do. I don't know about you, but the conditioning feats of some of the Uechi-Ryu and Goju-Ryu people are pretty amazing and intimidating. I actually had Higaonna Sensei in my dojo and home. Meeting an expert who is so skilled and conditioned (have you ever seen his hands and arms) is both frightening and challenging.

Can I dismiss Higaonna Sensei's conditioning by simply saying, "Well, he is in Goju-Ryu and I am in Shorin-Ryu"? Heaven forbid, what would I do if someone with that kind of conditioning and strength were to attack me (not Higaonna Sensei, of course, as he is a gentleman)?

A style should not be a pair of glasses that allows you to ignore people outside of your own style. Karate is Karate. If someone can do something, I need to be able to either do it and/or know how to defend against it.

My first and third sons practiced Kendo. My first son was actually pretty skilled and did well in tournaments. When I attended Kendo tournaments, I was always amazed at the speed of the competitors. It made me think: "When I practice bo, I have to remember that I have to be able to defend against and defeat people this fast." I did not dismiss the speed of Kendo just because it was a different martial art.

Let me say this again, if someone can do something, I have to either be able to do it myself or know how to defend against it. I cannot simply ignore it because it is from another style.

This does not mean that I have to try to be as strong as a big Karate expert. We all have limits. Sometimes speed beats strength. Sometimes timing beats speed. And sometimes strength beats timing. It all depends. I have to be able to defend myself against unknown attackers with unknown skills and strengths, who attack without warning (and might have friends and/or be armed). It is certainly a challenging task!

We need to recognize how difficult this is and be realistic about it. We cannot only consider the limits of our own style. We have to consider all styles, and for that matter, attackers who have no style at all but are skilled at street fighting.

We have to take off the style glasses.


Charles C. Goodin