Saturday, 24 June 2017

The Kungfu in our Karate

Hi, everyone.

Last week marked the end of a discussion that I have really enjoyed. Taijiquan has- just like much of China's other martial arts, really awesome forms to watch.

Having studied Jeet Kune Do- I am well aware that a lot of modern fighters don't care much for forms. Bruce Lee was quite frank about it. He did not like them. Whether he liked them or not, however, forms were used from as early as the 17th century to transmit the martial arts techniques we know today from one source to another.

Karate as we know it today is the result of Okinawan martial arts having been introduced to 20th Century Japan. Since that time Karate has changed and developed a lot. New schools have even emerged in this century.

Here in South Africa I have become aware of more than one school of Shotokan that has absolutely no affiliation with Japan. I currently attend classes at one of these schools.

These schools often show a neglect of traditional teachings that I find lamentable to say the least. I have witnessed a period in which Karate's popularity was declining because the public felt that other martial arts were a lot more effective for health, spiritual development and of course- self defense.

The efforts of teachers like Jesse Enkamp and Iain Abernethy have in the recent years proven most valuable in showing Karate's true nature to the world. I know that I for one became interested in Karate all over again as a result of that.

The largest part of these efforts consisted of explaining the applications of kata movements. These applications are often referred to as bunkai, but- as Sensei Jesse will tell you- bunkai actually means breakdown. So- I prefer the word "application". My first Sensei used it instead of bunkai anyway.

In spite of Sensei Iain and Jesse's spreading of the word a large number of Karate schools do kata that they do not understand. The very fact that a student learns a new kata without its application or purpose is actually a sign that something is very wrong in this day and age.

My project for the next couple of weeks is not going to be explaining bunkai, though. I might discuss bunkai in the course of what I am doing, but I am actually going to be taking a closer look at those techniques of Karate that are evidence of the influence Chinese martial arts had on the early development of Karate.

One of our Martial Arts Forums community members can tell you that Karate is not the only Japanese martial art that has Chinese roots. Shorinji Kenpo is the result of a Japanese General called Doshin So who learnt Shaolin Kungfu in China and developed a uniquely Japanese martial practice from it.

It is interesting to note that while Karate teachers on the internet have been at time ascribing up to 12 different applications to one given movement in a Karate form Shaolin practitioners have been practicing the same way they had for years without the need to debate or question the applications of the movements in their forms.

I trust that the posts for the next couple of weeks shall explain to us why...

I hope to see you all here again next week. Stay well, everyone!


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