T Nation

Is Karate in America like this?


Or is it better? Worse?

Reason I ask is Karate has a reputation of being total shit in America but I really have no idea what they do there.

That stuff in the video is your run-of-the-mill Shotokan tourney in Portugal and I think around the rest of Europe too. I honestly don't think it's as bad as people make it out to be.


What Karate looks like in the US is going to depend largely on what style of Karate it is (Goju Ryu is going to look completely different to Kyokushin Kai for example) and the instructor. Some is better than what you posted, some is worse.

But honestly, from a Combat Athlete/Martial Artist who is serious about combative (actual "Martial") skill/effectiveness, what you posted was actually pretty bad. I've seen worse, but any amatuer Muay Thai fighter, boxer, MMA fighter, or other even competent Combat Athlete would wipe the floor with any of those guys in that clip.


I agree, but not because of any weakness in the art. It appears that scoring in this tourney is based on a points system for strikes and take downs, not knocking out or submitting their opponent, so one of these competitors vs. a fighter of the type you listed above would be a mismatch of Fred Ettish proportions.

To the OP, I'm from New York and studied Ishin Ryu karate, an Okinawan/Japanese art, for two years, and while I liked the art and felt the actual instruction was good, the atmosphere and environment, and overall tone of the class, was soft and lacking in real challenge. It was kind of like meeting that person at a party who says "yeah, my friends and I do all this crazy stuff" and then you ask him what kind of stuff, and he just says crazy stuff, and he just stands there with a beer in his hand, and it's like that every time you run into him.


I actually wouldn't expect otherwise.

My kid (he's six) wants to take up a "martial art" after watching a ninjutso demonstration a couple months ago. I checked them out and their classes were ridiculous, I'm talking slow-motion roleplaying bullshit.

At first I was only considering Judo or "boxe educative" (educational boxing???) due to the pragmatism of those arts/sports, and I didn't even bother checking out karate because I thought it was just pushups and punching the air.

But now that I did at least they're sparring and I didn't even know they had throws. It doesn't seem all that bad for a kid to learn I think. Certainly better than Ninjutsu.

Heh, I guess I'll have him go to some trial classes so he can choose for himself.


Many US schools that advertise as "Karate" without specifying a style are in fact day care in a gi. They keep your kids in one room for a little while, tire them out, and teach basic good manners, but that's about all of the benefits. However, there are also some fairly extreme schools if you look hard enough. Kyokushin Kai, Shidokan, and Enshin all still have "knockdown" rules fights, IIRC.



And what Jim said as well.

Keep in mind "Karate" is a pretty damn big "catch all" term for "wears a gi, has a belt system" martial arts. You will get everything from this:

To what you showed in the clip.

A "karate" stylist could really indicate anything from the late Joe Lewis to "Rex Kwan Do". The former would be an amazing opportunity. The latter would likely be anti-help, i.e. you are better off just doing push ups.

In any event, this clip needs to be watched. Watch all the way for fireballs. There is a lot of talk about competition or RMA on this board. But down and roll the stick towards the opponent plus punch button transcends all.


Robert A

EDTA: I think I am missing something in the OP's video. Are the belts like the uniforms in sambo (so always red vs white)? Because generally a white belt is an absolute beginer and red is either a master rank or a high kyu in some schools.



That Shidokan highlight is BEAUTIFUL! that is true karate =)


Find a good mma instructor. If their good they will teach them useful techniques that carry over to real scenarios. Really all they need to learn at that age is proper technique and not some artsy shit that isn't practical. This is what I have learned in small dabbles in learning how to fight. I street fought out of necessity as a kid and the only thing that has carry over is direct straight forward mma or boxing for punching /conditioning. Bowing to sensei's are a thing of the past. They are all money making schemes even if they seem sincere.

Not to bash guys with back belts and who study the art and history of it, I too was very interested in that aspect as well. Just from my experience training specific aspects of martial arts is rewarding I would love to learn BJJ. But don't get caught by scammers with belt systemslol.


Well first people fight, not systems.

I'd agree that it was how and for what purpose those Karateka were training that resulted in their lack of actual combative effectiveness (and awful habits that would get them chewed up and spit out in a full contact match or real fight). But, what else do you call it when a school or trains people to perform in a certain way, other than saying that the "style" is teaching people ineffective or dangerous tactics (i.e. the "art" has some glaring weaknesses from a full contact/real combat perspective)?

Now, you could argue that it's just the individual school/instructor. But unless everyone at that tournament trained at the same place, then it seems like at least a decent amount of Shotokan schools in that area train similarly. Even if it was an isolated practice to that area it still speaks to my point about the variability of what one might find if they walk into a "Karate" school.

BTW, I know there are some legitimate bad asses and hardcore training that goes on in some Shotokan schools. I just don't really know how to go about separating the "art" from what is actually taught at many schools in the US.


Judo and boxing are both excellent, readily available, and fairly consistently high quality arts. Both place primary focus on combative effectiveness (within the rules of their sport but still), and if you are looking for an athletically based sport for your son to participate in that will also have good carry over to real world physical conflicts, then those are great choices.

In regards to Ninjutsu, the sad truth is that there is a lot of crap out there in the Ninjutsu world. But, if you can find a legitimate instructor (Robert Bussey's lineage especially) and understand that Ninpo is not a sport but instead a real Martial system (originally primarily utilized for espionage and sometimes assassinations, reconnaissance, etc...) and not a sport where you are trying to fight on a even playing field, then it can be a great art. I have a Black Belt in Ninjutsu and my instructor's instructor James Rosenbach (Robert Bussey's top student) is the real deal. One of his students also did pretty well in the MMA circuit, his name is Jeremy Horn.

That said, again your probability of finding a quality Judo or Boxing gym is higher than finding a legit Ninjutsu place.


As someone who had to go through hell to earn their Black Belt, and who can back up the belt with skill and teaching ability I take exception to your post. The really frustrating part though is that I completely understand why you feel the way you do. There are a lot of "black belt factories" out there who will essentially sell you a belt in as short of time as possible and are focused on profit above all else.

That said, there are also systems with belts that are completely legit. There are belts in the system I train in, but first in order to "win" them (we don't "give" out belts) you have to have the skill and knowledge to be deserving of the rank, then you have to go through a rank test which is designed to push you to and beyond your previously perceived limits as well as testing your ability to actually fight all the while also stressing respect, honor, self discipline, and other character traits that will make you not only a better fighter, but better person as well. This process is continued, gradually building you up into a more and more complete warrior/Martial Artist, teacher, student, and person until you eventually test for your Black Belt (24 consecutive hours) where you are essentially taken to the absolute max (similar to special forces training) and eventually come out the other side a changed (for the better) person, with a different outlook on all combat, and life in general (kind of like, "damn, well if I can do that, nothing can stop me from achieving what I want out of life").

In other words, when done correctly Belt systems can be highly, highly beneficial to the students, give them goals to strive for to help keep them motivated and give them milestones along the way to gauge their progress, and give others within the art some sort of indication of where someone is development wise so the students know who to ask questions to/go to advice for on their art.

As far as bowing goes, it is a show of respect, not worship, there is a difference. IMO it's no different than addressing a superior officer as "Sir" or a medical doctor as "Dr Soandso", which people don't seem to have such big hang ups with. Maybe it's a latent racially (culturally embedded, not accusing you or anyone specifically of being racist) oriented dig on the Japanese/Asians in general left over from WW2 (or even earlier) that people associate it with being somehow. "foreign" and therefore unattractive/off putting. Who knows, but I've heard similar critiques before.


Sento: well said. We see these threads a lot and it all depends on the instructor/school. I was forunate to train with The Republic of Korea Marines (ROK Marines) both in the US and Korea, and, to state that their version TKD was "ineffective" would be a joke. They were some of the toughest bastards I have ever been lucky enough to train with. The TKD of the ROK's is not for the weak. on the other hand, like Jim stated, most "Mall Masters" are nothing but day care centers and weight loss factories.

Perhaps we sure create a permanent thread where members could post their training gyms/ dojo's..etc. Vistors/members could consult the list to check where other members train, and know they are getting quality instruction. Examples would be Sento's school, Ranzo's, Irish...now, dont know if that is within the forum rules or considered free advertising, but, a reference list would be very benefical.


ROK Marines are crazy bastards, and their TKD is no joke. If you can find one who teaches the way he learned it's probably worth your time and money to take him up on it.


Very cool that you got to train with the ROK Marines. Yeah, most martial arts were originally designed to save your life and thus the training was intense and most likely pragmatic. If it didn't work, you either didn't make it back to teach others, or your side lost and the other more effective sides tactics and skill sets were the ones that got passed down to the next generation of soldiers/warriors. It's really only been since the gentrification of martial arts that you have started to see things that are so far removed from reality.

IMO, the really sad part is that the general public doesn't know the difference and so either buys the Snake Oil, or lumps all Martial Artists and Black Belts into the same illegitimate group.

That would be very cool to have a directory of gyms of forum members. If I were going to list one though I'd list my instructors as it's a relatively short drive down the interstate from mine and there is not a single person on this board that would not be totally blown away by his depth of knowledge and skill. I mean, I fully believe that I could teach anyone here valuable things as well; but why go learn from Luke when you've got Yoda right down the road? I would of course come down and train if any of you were going to be in the area though as it's always fun to put a face to the screen name. :slight_smile:


Yeah I agree with what you posted, I wanted to point out that some are scams, for instance I was walking by one near a friends house and some people stopped the owner in the parking lot to ask him questions. No joke the first thing that popped out of his mouth is I am a businessman. That is not the type of person I want teaching myself personally. I agree with the system you trained under, sounds like a legit system and it is important to teach attaining goals and putting your body through great deals to achieve them. I find it more functional to cut the crap out of martial arts, you respect your instructor how you would respect everyone else. I am very respectful to people in general, I do not intend to be an ass by the post but it is truthful, you should shop around to find the best fit for your own goals.


I don't know what questions people were asking him, so that could have been a totally legit answer or it could have been a total red flag.

Here is the counter argument:

If you are not at least somewhat business savvy, your school will likely fail (especially in this economy) and no matter how legit your skills are you won't have a space, the equipment, or the time to teach it to anyone.

It would be awesome if we were all independently wealthy and could just do whatever made us happy with no concern for supporting ourselves and our families and had all the resources we need or want to make that happen. The reality of the situation though is that Martial Arts schools (just like the really good Boxing, Judo, or even wrestling facilities) are businesses. Businesses require funds to maintain (or improve/grow) and the instructor needs to make at least enough to make a living.

IMO, as long as the instructor is providing the students with what he/she is promising in return for the students' money, then there is no issue if the instructor is successful/makes money off the deal. The only issue arises if the instructor is either flat out not providing what is promised, or providing something other than what is promised.

Would you say, "Hey, that Carpenter is running a successful carpentry business; that's not the type of carpenter I want working on my house."? I wouldn't but maybe you have some sort of hyper aversion to successful people. If so, then cool, different strokes I suppose.


Since we have very little natural weaponry and techniques like punching and kicking are very much unnatural and have to be repeatedly hammered into the brain, one could argue very easily that :
"systems, not people, fight"

But I readily admit that some clips look awesome and badass.
Also, the diversification of nondeadly martial art popculture led very much to the wide, modern arsenal a student of the game can tap into today.

So maybe finally today, systems don't matter as much as people?


Oh hey! I do Isshin Ryu!! Nice to finally see someone else one here who has done.

[/quote] So maybe finally today, systems don't matter as much as people?[/quote]

I might hafta agree with Schwarzfahrer ^^ I would argue that you could take almost any style, and depending on the instructor, make it very powerful and useful for a "martial" situation: Such as the difference between American TKD and South Korean TKD. I know people who have trained both, and those who learned in South Korea or directly from Korean instructors have a much more powerful, street smart, fighting style as compared to your typical WTF TKD.


I would just add that your students also make a difference. It has been my experience that If I ask to much of students they will quit coming to class in favor of whatever else they like to do that makes them feel good about themselves. I would love to have a room full of people who were dedicated to becoming bigger stronger and faster.

Some students think that there are some secret moves, or something, to martial arts that will make them a killer of men or something and when they find out that they have to push themselves and do things over and over they quickly drop on out or start believing in something else.


Yes, the ancient chinese secret.
I get angry every time esoteric martial arts cling to that belief.
if you practise this form, your chi will manifest one day!

The "real" secrets are that much simpler, but irritatingly harder to explain.

Getting a hang for distance during a fight and dictating it.
Understanding and using your own physical capabilities.
Leading or breaking and rythm.
The magic of setups.

Of course, some arts like BJJ have got a million little tweaks and tricks that add immensly to technique.
Still, hardly secrets