The Karate that exists today is the most recent development in a long history of martial arts. There are really multiple versions of karate. Every Japanese school has its own slightly different take on the methods and training. In some ways there is an even bigger difference between Karate in the Western countries and the Karate taught in the East. Comparisons on these differences can be interesting.
- Orientation to Process or Goal.
There is the old question- it is about the journey or the goal?
In the West we are more concerned with the goal. Or we are concerned with reaching the goal and overcoming the obstacle. This does have some relevancy in all cultures. But in the Eastern countries it is more about the journey. Martial arts are about the path. The suffix ‘-do’ that is affixed to so many martial art practices (Judo, Aikido …etc.) means ‘path’ or ‘way’. This refers to a spiritual journey, and that is the point of a lot of martial arts practice.
- Questions vs. Practice
Our culture in the west likes to ask questions. And this is usually a good thing. But the East is more focused on simply doing something because they trust that the teacher. They expect the practice of martial arts exercises to lead to good technique, and don’t ask how or why first. This is the path to self-discovery. We discover the answer by doing.
As the Ancient Greeks said – there is no royal path to learning. This means that actually doing something is necessary to gain an understanding. Personal insight is very valuable, and questions have a place. But progress requires participation.
- Culture vs. company
Martial arts is part of the culture in the east, and is learnt as one might learn manners, language and other aspects of culture. Hiring a professional teacher is rather like us hiring a professional mentor. It is a little odd. The martial arts are certainly taught, but the schools do not have a ‘pay for the qualification’ mentality as known here.
Children who practice karate can acquire the respect for authority, hierarchy and dedication that is behind the martial arts practice. This is less something that it directly enforced than it is a mental or spiritual attitude acquired through participation in a group.
The self-discovery and progress made while on the martial arts path are good spiritual practices that can be applied to all parts of our lives.
Consider Taekwondo (TKD) or Karate as a means of self-improvement.