Sport Karate VS. Traditional Karate?

Just curious to see your feelings on modern sport karate and before traditional karate. You can dicuss the training, kata, kumite, kihon, ETC! Be brutally honest. Anything you like!

12 Answers

  • In sport karate the movement has been such that it is all becoming aerobatics and showmanship. Aerals do not a life survivor make. They have even lost the ability to do a real honest to goodness Kiai. Great to watch, Thats about it.

    In Traditional Karate there are multifaceted approaches to teach the student History, Theory, Principles, Motion, Sequencing, Geometry, Physics, Kinematics, and Practical application at varying levels of complexity.

    Kata teaches movement as it relates to your body, Kata teaches you the Geometry, the Physics and the Kinematics of the motion as it relates to the theory and practical application of attack and defense sequences. Katas are of various ages, In traditional Okinawan Karate, most of the higher katas roots came from China and are relatively old. The Pinans were created by Anko Itosu in the early 1900’s, and the various Traditional Kihon, Fukyugata katas were created in the 40’s to the 50’s.

    The older katas were created by people that had to defend themselves on a regular basis. The movements were practical, tried and true, for the most part. Sometimes moves were added to balance out the kata so the real applications could be hidden from the untrained eye. (there was a time when practicing Karate was against the law and practitioners had to train at night so they would not be seen, Katas were disguised as dance just in case they were seen training)

    Bunkai (breaking down) of kata is Theory, Principle, Physics, Kinematics, and Practical Application. Bunkai can be taught at many different levels. One simple explanation is that there are four levels of Bunkai. One – would be the most basic, easiest to see, explanation for the movement being broken down. Two – would be the closing of distance to take the practical application from punch, block, kick, attacks and defenses, to trapping range fighting, Three – would be closing the distance even further to include trapping, rips, gouges, tears, throws and pressure point applications. Four – would be the actual practical applications that the creator went through, or meant when the kata was created. Level four bunkai may actually have been lost through time. Not saying that we haven’t figured it our through extensive analysis, but we can not verify, nor do we have historical ties to prove that we are doing what the originator intended. There are other ways to look at the complexities and simplicities of bunkai.

    In Yakusoku Kumite we are taught how to move when being attacked, we practice muscle memory and combination sequencing that are applicable to street applications when used as a basis for training, and building upon.

    In Makiwara training we learn correct striking techniques, we harden the striking surfaces of our body to deliver the maximum damage with the least amount of effort. Makiwara helps to teach you proper Koshi. (Hip). Koshi is the basis for the power generation. Improperly done makiwara can have long term issues. You need to be trained by a true makiwara master.

    In Hojo Undo we train our bodies to be hard, to be able to take punishment.

    I could go on more but it is probably boring by now.

    In traditional Karate Do and Karate Jutsu you have a lifetime of study. In Modern Sport karate you run out of things to do when you can’t win trophies any more.

  • Sport Karate

  • These are “no-brainers” what they put up there are “promo” videos where the so callet MT fighter isn’t even really a muai thai guy or he was hired for that video. I’m not saying it is not statistically possible that one of these videos actually did happen, I’m also not saying it is not statistically impossible for you to spontaneously combust right now though. They perpetrate the notion that MT is not “traditional” because it is used today. They need some reason to insult it and the term “it is not a traditional martial art” is thrown around by teachers and students who fear that thier arts can’t and won’t match up to other arts that have full-contact sportative outlets, not because thier techniques are flawed, but many times because the way they TRAIN thier techniqes are flawed. Personally, I’ve never seen a problem with a TKD kick in theory (get off the MT vs. TKD style control for a second- if it ever crossed your mind), however when it is trained in a point sparring context then you are training it in a vaccum and unrealistically. THIS is what instructors seem to be so against.

  • As I see it there are at least three different things that have been called Karate collectively. In the simplest terms there is Sport Karate, Karate-Do, and Karate-Jutsu.

    1) Sport Karate… tournament show off

    2) Karate-Do … what most people thing of as Karate and practice

    3) Karate-Jutsu … The deadly art before it got watered down. Purely a maim and kill art. No frills, not designed to make you a better person, just efficient a life protection art.



    I see where one person made the comment “Traditional karate is of limited value in self defense.” Comments like that clearly show me that they have never seen the real art a few of us know as karate. They must be confusing Sport Karate or Karate-Do with the more realistic Karate-Jutsu. There is no caparison.

  • Sport Karate (as well as sport Tae Kwon Do and sport Judo) is a waste of time and effort.

    Sport karate is dancing. Karate is a martial art which has nothing to do with sports. The whole purpose of the martial arts is to neutralize violence using good technique, not to win trophys in front of screaching ticket buying $$$$ fans.

    So called ‘traditional’ karate is a long hard slog towards your black belt, think 6 years of tough dedicated training where you might not make it to shodan (the black belt is supposed to be earned).

    In a traditional karate dojo you spend years conditioning your knuckles and there should be buckets of sand, rice, gravel available for fist pounding, and there should be rubber tires chained to the walls for kicking and punching. There should be little blood spots on the tatami which you couldn’t remove by scrubbing with a toothbrush (like at my 1968 dojo). There should be no tall beautiful blonde women with painted toe nails or fingernails with 5th degree blacks on thrashing the air.

    So sport karate will get you killed in a street fight and traditional karate will allow you to defend yourself in a street fight.

  • I do nto care for sport karate for basicly one reason, and that is that the more sport oriented styles are where the majority of McDojo’s are. i am not saying there are not some of the more traditional styles that don’t have a few McDojo’s, but the vast majority are from sport karate. People who have no in depth knowledge make a style and teach it to make money, and the ignorence just perpetuates.

    The sport karate forms are flashy, and sometimes physicly impressive, but don’t rely on it for self defense.

    I disagree with cialono about karate’s effectivness for self defense, but then you can’t argue with a UFC nuthugger.

  • Both have their function and purpose and I think you have to keep them separate in your mind or with regards to teaching martial arts and what it is that you are trying to accomplish. I had several NASKA national champions in my school in fighting and kata. Some did the flashier kata and competed in the open kata divisions while others competed in traditional Japanese/Okinawan divisions. The ones that competed in the open divisions could do a traditional kata as good as or better than their open kata. That was because of the emphasis that I put on traditional training, technique and kata. I don’t think that some competition oriented schools do such a good job of that. At times at local tournaments some traditional oriented black belt would dis them or me and then I would have those students do a traditional kata. They would still win their divisions easily and usually put an end to any argument sometimes with the comment that they must practice a lot or that I must work with them a lot. They did and so did I.

    In regards to fighting there is a huge difference in some ways to sport oriented fighting, full contact fighting, street fighting and self-defense. While you can play the rules, use the ring, and get a point for a technique in sport karate it may not be the same way you would utilize that technique in other types of fighting or situations. Even in full contact there are some things that don’t carry over very well or you would use that you would not use in street fighting or self-defense. Techniques, strategy, distance are all different from one to the other and for each individually. Here again a lot has to do with the instructor and the standards that he sets and the approach he takes with this and his students. All my students know how to throw a backfist and also know that a jab in a street situation will probably serve them better and certainly will serve them better in full contact type sparring and why as well as know how to throw one. I have also had full contact champions as well that can do point fighting and kata as good as full contact. This does not come without a lot of work and effort, and attention to detail on everyone’s part. I might add that is a traditional type thing and starts with a student developing their basic skills and knowledge first to a very fine edge.

    One area that sport karate has brought about a positive change though is in regards to training and sparring equipment. Forty years ago you did not have safety gear or head gear with face shields. In the Chicago area they are now allowing face contact in the childrens divisions but making a cage or face shield mandatory in those divisions at some of the local tournaments. Things like stetching machines, water-filled bags, free standing bags, instruments for measuring how fast you react and measuring the power of your technique all have partly come about because of sport karate. At my school I still use some of the old and proven training methods like doing a kick in slow motion and holding it at extension for ten seconds and then retracting it slowly while retaining your balance. I blend old methods with the new ones that have come about as a result of improvements in equipment as well as knowledge of muscles, kinstology, plyometrics, weight training, and body mechanics to produce a much better and more capable student.

  • Sport karate is a game of tag.

    Lyoto Machida is the only mma fighter I enjoy watching. He is untouchable now but truthfully, if he studied under one of the old-school, or as I call them… “Classical” Okinawan branches like Kyudokan, Shinjinbukan, Ryukyu Kenpo, Kishaba Juku or Kenshikai (Hokama Sensei), he would be REALLY dangerous and not allowed to participate in the mma events.

    Kata is the DNA of the art. Kata is Kumidi, Digumi, Kihon… the whole essence of the art. If you learned the movement of the kata without learning what the movement means, you know nothing.

    I don’t use the term “traditional” as it is a misnomer. What is known as “traditional” today is the older methods infused with the sport mentality – you said be brutally honest!

    I don’t even use the term “karate”, but Toudijutsu.

    The Koryu Arts are the real deal… “Traditional” is not Koryu.

    This is a great question and says something about the asker.

  • Sports karate is just that, a sport, a dance routine, showmanship.

    Traditional karate is hard work and tough. If you study the right way and have the right instructions you will know how to protect yourself.

    We are traditional, when we spar it is done without protective gear, bare knuckles and feet. We train hard but we train the right way.

  • if i was to be brutally honest about my feelings towards sport karate YA would delete my account.

    edit:> i agree with what Jim R said.

    traditional karate is not limited, in anyway for self defense. i have used it for over a decade in self defense before i started cross training in other styles. and i had few issues.

    the only thing that is limited is the way a lot of people think of it.

    the techniques done in the forms of xma are mostly useless in self defense, xma is more gymnastics then martial arts.

    xma and mma are not martial arts.

    mma people retire after a certain age, traditional martial arts dont retire we train for life. one of my teach who is well into his 50’s still does full contract tournaments. and does excellent in them.

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