Friday, October 30, 2015

Those that think they practice

In karate, there's always a tendency to separate one's dojo from those other dojo that don't practice right. The mcdojo and the dojo, the modern and traditional, Japanese and Okinawan. All of them feel they are practicing the "correct" way. One big distinction I find is those that think they practice bunkai and those that don't. Take note that all of these schools usually accuse each other of basically being McDojo.

Those that don't practice bunkai are sometimes called Punch, Kick, Block, or PKB. It's pretty self explanatory in that they believe everything in kata is either a punch, a kick or it's a block to a punch or kick. It's just as ludicrous as most other explanations. These schools usually have as many kata or more as others and they practice all of them for rank testing. They usually call themselves traditional, just like every martial arts school in existence. Why they believe they'd need 20 different kata making up what they believe to be very different scenarios for what's essentially three techniques I'm not sure. This is usually the type of school that the "real" traditional schools hold their nose and point at. "They don't get it," the others say. I don't agree to this interpretation of karate either, but at least it's more consistent. Their training methods are clearly only focused on punching, kicking and blocking and while it doesn't match up to the kata, you can still be pretty effective with just punching, kicking and blocking.

The karate schools that usually poo poo the above type of school are the ones that think they practice bunkai. What's the difference between these schools? Almost nothing. They practice several different kata, usually around 20, and all their drills are focused on punching, kicking and blocking. The only real difference is their acknowledgement of different interpretations, sort of. This type of school will fawn over bunkai wizards, go to seminars and camps, and the grand master may at one time or another show the super secret meaning of one portion of the kata. Do they ever practice these interpretations? Almost never. The basic punches, kicks and blocks are the same as the above school. Even if a school recognizes a block as something better and greater, they still teach it the wrong way. The drills are still defenses against karate attacks and any different applications either don't work or are practiced so sporadically that they are of no use. Bunkai is usually just used as proof that karate works and that the kata aren't just meaningless dances. "See karate works because that other guy practices it that way. Now more air punching and high kicks," they say.

It's even worse when these schools save their garbage for the "advanced" ranks. They have to keep you coming through the door somehow. I've never understood the logic of spending four to five years teaching people the wrong thing, or in this case "the basics," just to turn around and basically say that what they've taught you isn't the real thing. You'll spend the next few years trying to train out all the bad habits you picked up. The high block you've been practicing at the wrong distance and for the wrong reason is really a limb clear and a strike, good luck retraining yourself.

The real amazing thing is that people are usually so brainwashed by this point that they don't even question it. If the same thing was done with any other subject, you'd just laugh.

Imagine if you were taught math the same way. You spend five years practicing how to write the numbers. They even teach you arithmetic, but 2+2=5 and 1x0= 10. Upon perfecting the "basics," you graduate to advanced arithmetic where you keep practicing as before except sometimes 2+2=4 and 1x0=0, but only sometimes. What would you learn? Basically nothing.

If a school is going to teach the application of kata, it should be done as the student learns, starting with fundamental concepts and building on them in a way that the student can use them creatively. All drills and exercises should tie back into those fundamentals and one should not have to learn one way and then unlearn it to learn the correct way.