Monday, February 15, 2016

Karate Snobs and Secrecy

Guilty. Of the first at least.

There are definitely all kinds of karate snobs that range all over the spectrum. Even the biggest, clown wig wearing mcdojo hanshi sifu can be a snob, but let's be fair the snobs usually reside on the shiny hardwood floor side of things right next to their hand crafted Okinawa toilet paper. You know who you are. This can just be part of maturing through karate, but I think it sticks with some and it's just as much of a problem as a mcdojo.

I'll be the first to admit to doing this. My first dojo was very traditional, run by a very high ranking individual, who belongs to a very reputable karate organization in Okinawa. The dojo looked like many Okinawa dojo. Anything that wasn't super traditional to me was bogus. I'm still guilty of being a snob, but at heart I'm really trying to make people better. I want people to think, explore and learn. This requires permission and there are about 0 reputable karateka that I've heard of that do this.

They act like they're giving permission, but they really aren't. It's a giant "catch-22." It goes something like this.

"You need to explore what karate means to you under a qualified instructor."

I saw what you did there. Qualified can mean basically anything. Especially in karate. These people will basically call all karate bullshit, but then say that you have to find someone good who can teach it. Hmm, one of these things is not like the other. What kind of logic is that?

This is compounded by the fact that secrecy is still alive and well in karate. This is secrecy through omission. This is usually done for "moral" reasons. They don't want people to misuse it.  These karateka want to get to know you, feel you out for eight years and then start teaching you how everything actually works, but you have to get an invitation to their super secret dojo first. Sometimes they'll only teach the good stuff at certain times. My first dojo only taught good stuff at noon on weekdays. This makes a lot of sense if you live on a small island with very intense weapon bans, but means very little if you can go to your local Walmart and walk out with a shotgun in about 20 minutes, or a cheap utility knife at a gas station.

Karate takes a lifetime of practice. Wild slashing with a utility knife takes as much time to master as it does to get it out of the packaging. Which do you think is more dangerous?

These are great karateka and they'll be better karateka than I will ever be, but these actions push people to bad places. People are forced to pick the lesser of evils and then have to waste eight years before they figure out whether it's crap. They'll most likely be brainwashed by then anyway. Soft clap. Bravo.

I've got one thing to say to all of you.

"Fuck you."

The secret is that you have to do it all yourself. You have to learn on your own, you have to study on your own, you have to practice on your own, and you have to think on your own and most importantly you can't stop. You can't find a place you feel comfortable and stop. There is no stopping. There is only more doing. No matter how awesome your sensei is and no matter how great a teacher he is you still have to do the work. The sensei doesn't do the work for you.

The next secret is that it might not work and probably won't work, not because it's a bad martial art, but because you have very little experience breaking people. The kicker is that you're not supposed to get experience, because self defense is about keeping yourself safe. The criteria for success is not getting into fights.

Here's your permission from a non-reputable karateka. Go practice for fun. Find a kata you like and a little bit of space and practice, practice everything, think, study and think some more. You have to do the work on your own anyway. Cut out the middle man and keep your money. Practice for fun, fitness and problem solving. Kata is like a puzzle half the fun is figuring it out. Start slow there's no rush. It's literally supposed to take the rest of your life.

Here's a riddle for all the karate snobs:

If the worst mcdojo in the world keeps people out of trouble and keeps them out of fights, is it bad karate?