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Why Study Traditional Karate?

Updated: Oct 2, 2019

Physical Fitness and Self Defense are the obvious reasons that people think of when asked why they study martial arts. While it's true that both of those attributes can be gained from any type of martial art, there's something truly special about traditional karate that is sometimes misunderstood, and often unknown.

Traditional Karate originated in Okinawa...

All styles of martial arts are not necessarily 'karate', despite the fact that a Karate marquee can be found above so many schools around America. Karate has it's roots in Okinawa and shortly thereafter was brought from Okinawa to mainland Japan by Gichin Funakoshi. If you're searching for a traditional karate school, you'll want to be sure you're not signing up for Tae Kwon Do, Kung Fu, or any other art that originated elsewhere.

Traditional Karate is based on practical and useful self defense...

While it's fun to see the extreme and animated performances of high kicks, jumps, and flips, karate is at it's heart a form of training practical self defense techniques through prearranged patterns of movement called "Kata". These katas are forms learned over time, practiced to proficiency, and abound with applicable self defense techniques that can be performed as "Bunkai". In Bunkai, the karate practitioner learns to use the movements that they have practiced over the course of training in a way that can be used to defeat an opponent.

Traditional Karate teaches peaceful living in balance with those around us...

The culture of the dojo (karate school) plays a big part in this tenant of traditional karate. Instructors who make peaceful living a part of their teaching are truly guiding their students in the way of the original intention of karate, and is referred to as 'budo' or Martial Way. One of the most important things an instructor passes on to their students is their view on fighting. We believe in and want to live in peace, but we'll fight if we have to in the event that we find ourselves in danger. Dojos that encourage students to have confrontations that lead to physical combat are misleading and misinforming their students and do a disservice to traditional karate.

Traditional Karate teaches respect for self and others...

Respect and Courtesy are shown through the karate bow.

Students who learn traditional karate should be learning that the most important movement in Karate is the 'bow'. The bow is a symbol of respect and humility and is an outward representation that demonstrates the heart of a truly traditional karate school. When the bow is properly taught, students learn that they play an important role in the world around them, but that others are just as important in the fabric of our society; the karate student learns through their training in traditional karate, that they should value and respect their relationships both in and out of the dojo.

Traditional Karate is great for teaching good character traits...

A traditional school should be emphasizing to students how important the choices they make in life are. The foundational principles of traditional karate are based on hard work, honesty, integrity, patience, respect, and perseverance. These traits are not just spoken of at a traditional dojo, but should also be modeled by the instructors so that students get a firsthand look at what it means to be a true karate-ka (student of karate). This is one of the reasons that traditional karate is such a great platform for children to be exposed to; the character traits that lead children to success are ever-present in a good traditional karate school.

Traditional Karate is an Art, not just a Sport...

One of the coolest things about traditional karate is it's multi-faceted approach to learning. While sports are a great way for players to get fit and have fun, traditional karate takes physical fitness and fun to a level that is rarely found in team sports. The repetition and patience required of a traditional karate student develops a calm and focused mind; students of karate learn to trust the journey of training as they gain strength and balance, and they begin to appreciate the journey more and more as they level up through the belt ranking system. The success that students find in karate is a direct result of their individual hard work and dedication to a goal, it's how the student of traditional karate begins seeing the fruit of their labor and it's where a karate student learns that their choices play an active role in the successes of their future .

Traditional Karate is for everyone...

Regardless of age or physical ability, traditional karate can be practiced by anyone of any age because it focuses on self improvement over time rather than comparisons between students. The only person a student of traditional karate should see as their competition is the person they were yesterday. This approach to self improvement is liberating because it allows the student to take their focus off of how they compare to others, and instead put their focus on noticing and appreciating their improvement and success. It's part of the reason a student of traditional karate can find the patience and motivation to reach the long term, difficult goals that are built into the practice of karate.

Traditional Karate has a long and interesting history...

There are few hobbies that can enrich a person's life like traditional karate is able to. Because of it's long and interesting history, karate is one of the few vehicles of learning high quality life skills that has it's roots in the ancient teachings handed down from generation to generation by highly respected and revered masters of the past.

Anyone who wants to dive into learning about the rich historical events that helped shape traditional karate will find a unique and amazing story that stretches back through many generations. A traditional style of karate has it's own place in that history and an instructor of traditional karate should strive to teach their students to appreciate and honor the traditions of those before them. It is what gives traditional karate it's 'heart' and makes it such a unique and rewarding endeavor.

~Sensei Jen Davenport

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