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Karate competition, for or against?


Competition-Karate-for-or-againstThe Karate Competition, for or against?

Is the competition is a good thing for Karate? This is a broad debate and it is not clear to have a clear opinion on the issue.

Some time ago, I was interviewed by Antoine Thibault of the Art of the Way and we briefly touched on the subject of competition in Karate :

Here is the answer I gave him:

My opinion on the competition in Karate:

"I have long wondered about the good or not the competition in karate and especially when I launched the petition to defend the entry of Karate at the Olympic Games.

I think competition in karate is just a small part of karate, we go out of the martial art to get into the sport. For me karate has many facets and many karate people practice it differently and in the end very few practice martial art as a whole

; Some go to the club as if he were going to a gym or any other recreational sport. They do what the teacher says, move, sweat and that's great because they are fun, but they never really think and they evolve very slowly ... and usually only stay a few years.

Others come to compete. They are often young and competitive, as they have been taught since they entered school. This is great too because they are fun too and Karate as a sport is very good for the health and for the blooming of the body. They develop through the competition essential virtues for life. The sportsman's code is not so far from our code of honor and our young people need these clashes to forge themselves.

I am often given the example of Judo by saying, "Did you see the Judo competitions? It has nothing to do with the way of flexibility! Yes, maybe the competition distorts the original martial art, but that does not prevent most Judo clubs from practicing traditional Judo, practicing Ju-Justu, and so on. And I think most judokas are not competitors. Some have been, others will never be. In short, everyone practices as they wish.

In any case, competition or not, I think that in all martial arts, few will practice art in the noble sense of the term; many will practice it as a sport, or as an activity that is good for the body, the head, and others will be passionate about the competition. Who is right ?

This competitive spirit is not new, it is a bit of man's own; Our elders, challenged themselves to test their abilities to fight. The dueling season is over, but some still need to compete with each other and the competition can satisfy their desire.

To conclude, I do not think that the competition is a bad thing for karate (or other martial arts), it allows by the mediatization to make known our disciplines to the general public, even if it is only a small one facet a little (much) denatured. And the fact that a maximum of people enter a dojo, even if it is through competition, is rather a good thing for humanity, I think. "

All martial arts are not intended for competition

In fact, whatever the martial art we practice, competition remains a delicate subject. Indeed, although some disciplines seem to exist only through the competition, like many collective sports, the martial arts are not all intended to express themselves in the context of a competition, at least originally.

Remember tournaments and tournaments: it was already an occasion to celebrate feasts and to honor the deities. From the Greek fight to boxing, we have plenty of historical evidence that allows us to see the importance of these controlled confrontations.

However, martial art is by definition an art of war whose constant quest is to improve combat effectiveness in order to defeat an enemy. The Japanese etymology (Budo, the way of the warrior) makes it possible to insist on an essential element: the Way. Unfortunately, the Western term does not account for the spiritual dimension embodied in this practice. Originally, the martial arts are meant to kill but also to forge the practitioner spiritually. There is a certain philosophy, a code of honor, a morality and rules of conduct that "educate" the disciple and make him a complete warrior. If we seek to practice a traditional martial art such as karate, it is not only for the purely sporting aspect, but also because there is a spiritual dimension through which everyone manages to express themselves, emancipate themselves. Following a code of honor means doing everyday intellectual work, which is as hard as technical and physical work. A martial art is not only a sport: it is more than that. That's why we can ask ourselves to what extent the competition does it have advantages for martial art? Is there a risk of distorting his original spirit and impoverishing it? Without seeking to make martial art a more noble or prestigious practice than another, it is a question of seeing how competition can blur the line between martial art and combat sport.

The competition has a playful and symbolic dimension.

Since the rules of combat are close to the code of honor (respect, humility, self-control ...) the confrontation between two opponents can illustrate and work these fundamental aspects. In addition, this is an opportunity for practitioners to confront each other without jeopardizing their physical integrity: the rules and possible protections allow to concretely work a combat situation without major risks. The regulated framework of a competition thus presents the advantages for the athlete to have the opportunity to compete against an opponent by obscuring the aspect "survival", whose outcome is often fatal. Let us add that such an event makes it possible to set objectives necessary for the progression.

A competition makes it possible to project oneself in time and to organize one's training according to the objectives that one settles down. This encourages the practitioner to practice more seriously, more consistently and consistently. This is a positive emulation for martial practice as a whole. Moreover, let's not forget that karate competition takes several forms (combat, kata and break in some styles) among which the criteria and requirements are different. It offers the opportunity to learn how to manage stress, test one's technique, learn humility (accept defeat and outer decision) and gain a "sense of combat". In this, she stays in the mind of Budo.

illustration-karate competition

When the competition completes the martial art ....

As long as the competition has a pedagogical function and remains a means, the martial art is not in danger. However, as soon as it becomes an end in itself, there are risks that the martial art will be distorted. Everyone is free to register for a sporting event if only to try the experiment, but you must be aware of the limits of the competition.

In karate, it is enough to observe the (necessary) rules of combat to realize the impoverishment of the style, the changed forms, the limited shots, the very format that adopts the fight ... It is clear that the art -martial can not be limited to what is expressed in a competition, even if one would like to erect a code of honor. Standardization and simplification are essential for the setting up of competitions (even within the MMA). It takes rules, so limits for the martial art to enter a competitive environment, it seems common sense, but it should not that the teaching of a martial art is dependent on the criteria of the competition . Karate can not deliver all its wealth when it obeys such requirements. Especially since the competitions have a spectacular dimension that often dictates the course of a fight (time, weight categories, counting system points more or less important depending on the blows etc.).

But it is true, the establishment of competitions offers some media coverage and allows to know the sports. Today Karate has all the criteria to become an Olympic discipline, which could give it a certain legitimacy and increase its influence (although it is not to be pitied). However, it would be good if such a sporting event, meant to promote karate, does not mean the impoverishment of style. The rules of competition should not condition the forms of martial art.

Competition is not devoid of any interest, on the contrary, it has a non-negligible pedagogical function in the sense that it allows confrontation in a healthy and regulated environment. Also, it makes it possible to evaluate its margin of progress while setting objectives. While some say its usefulness is limited, no one can deny that it remains a way to improve the practice. If the art-martial can not be reduced to the format of a competition, it is up to the teachers to choose to transmit a complete teaching, a teaching close to the original spirit that knows how to adapt to the modern era.

Karate at the 2020 Olympics!

Whether or not we recognize the legitimacy of competition in karate, the Olympic Games are a real global showcase of the sports that are represented. Therefore, I invite you to sign the online petition that I myself created to support the application of karate at the 2020 Olympics!

Indeed, in June 2015, the Tokyo-2020 working group selected 8 sports (baseball / softball, karate, bowling, climbing, surfing, rollerblading and wushu) among 26 candidates. IOC members will make their final decision in Rio in August 2016.
It's not too late to act! Join the people who have already signed this letter-petition:

Yes, I support Karate's candidacy for the Olympic Games

Tell me what you think of the competition in a comment below:

  • For you, is the competition going against values ​​and philosophy conveyed by the martial arts and especially Karate?
  • And if you are a competitor what are your motivations to go fight at karate competitions?

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  1. Maria Esther Ruiz Alfaro at

    Hola muy buen día, el día de ayer 13 of octubre of 2018, hubo a torneo in the Ciudad de México, a participant that usa nits there susent slows stiletto gogles ,, especiales con aumento, no one allowed it participar con ellos, sin There is no good, because we lost the committee, there is a bug in the reglamento y no encuentro that diga that no esta permitido. El niño esta desmotivado y molesto y nosotros preocupados.
    ¿Qué se puede hacer?

  2. A survey of the practitioners gives about 18% of competitors (see link), which contrasts with the communication of the FD or it is only question of that ... .In what I noticed, there are young practitioners, then a period of latency (study, marriage, professional life) and a return many years later, to fill a need for exercise. So 2 types of practitioners.
    But as the federation is attached to a ministry of youth and sport, it is mainly question of competition is normal.
    Sport is good for your health? it is costly in this respect and 900 000 accidents in 2008 have been counted and costs in billions. The search for performances and medals takes precedence over health and long-term problems (sportsman retired at age 30 because worn). Not to mention the consequences that will manifest out of practice.
    In my opinion, there should be a karate and even ways of practicing sports, distinct for the older ones, who will benefit from skills and follow up from a ministry of health. I noticed that some ways of practicing low do not succeed to everyone and that stuck to the level of the back (curved).

  3. I am personally VS karate at the Olympics (just look at what the taekwondo drift) and absolutely afflicted by the rules in many "athletic" karate competitions with gloves, foot protection, chest protectors sometimes, without the principle ippon shobu, or we are reduced to the "touch" .... It's dismaying! All the essence of karate, which is a martial ART and NOT a sport, is emptied with this kind of drift! In some federations or schools, young people are too keen to approach karate as a sport, with the main goal being competition with protection ... Ridiculous! Karate comes from Budo traditions, is must keep the spirit of "A sudden, A life! In the real world, we do not have the leisure to make "points" ... No, we may have only ONE chance ... ALL training of karate, which is based on the THREE pillars Khion, kata, Kumite, is focused on this principle of the INTENTION which must be TOTAL on an attack, a defense, a counterattack .... Explain to people that in fact, in the compendium, we do not care about that, and that the goal is to make keys ... This is in my opinion a drift ... The karate competitions must be limited to either the competition kata, either in terms of Kumite, the rules practiced in JKA ... Look at a Kumite JKA or there is almost no protection (only recently small mittens) and some Kumite WKF, etc .... It's day and night. In a general way, everyday, in the dojo, never the course must be directed towards like end, the competition .... Only to want to do the show, show, entertainment, with lots of money, sponsor, star system, it can only degenerate! Karate is above all a fight against YOURSELF! Do not forget ...

  4. Yes to the competition for the mediatization and so that the minots as they say in Marseille can be forged to adversity.
    After the problem is that everything that is effective martialally has been removed for the just sanitized side of the comp.
    So yes to kyokushinkai uechi ryu or wado where his tape a minimum for real because without a minimum of assaults and shots as much learn to swim out of the basin but hey at a time it takes water anyway ...
    to the wise hello !!!

  5. Hi Bruno
    I really want to see karate at the Olympics. Karate is not only kumite competition but also kata and artistic and acrobatic presentations.

    The kata world championship often leaves a big impact. It is very successful. It is very beautiful and really a festival and a celebration of art and competition of emotions and joy without risk or brutality.

    I prefer to see the Karate kata competing at the jo and see reforms in the laws of kumite to minimize the risks.

  6. The competition has its virtues, especially those of humility and get to know each other better. Practicing since 40 years of which 5 years of competitions, I consider that this one must be only a brief passage in the life of a karateka at the risk of turning away from the essence of Karate. If this one is so decried today for its inefficiency it is because of the sport aspect which has now taken over in the practices of club. As Bruno says it is a showcase for karate but a showcase of discount. yet there is everything in Karate and it is now reduced only to gyaku, mawashi, uraken and ura-mawashi. The karatekas jump like dancers, without support, they wear gloves, slippers and plastrons. Of course, it is to protect the famous mortal blow !!! The Olympics will be a mirror to larks

  7. Karate has no place in the Olympics Taekwondo has started and uses the same techniques as karate or vice versa, current fights, positions and attitudes are a copy of Teakwondo. Karate is more of a martial art with non-television techniques! I do not see katas that would turn more to gestural demonstration like the gym or figure skating, except that karate is an art to defeat one or more opponents. We had a chance with Karate contact,
    helmet, protections, boxing gloves! yes in this sporting context of combat with rules of boxing, the event would be credible, but fights of classic karate or Katas, would have no credibility! because the uninitiated sports world would understand nothing and the uninitiated world even less.

  8. As I already had the opportunity to write it to you I am against the competition in Karate. I am a former student of Master Roland HABERSETZER and I adhere to his philosophy of Martial Arts. I suggest you read his latest book on this subject:
    However, I really appreciate what you do for karate.

  9. Hello,
    The competition to confront the unknown. Learn to respect rules and arbitration.
    Select the competitors, who participate, by the competition and not by the arbitrariness of the teacher.
    In this case yes for the competition.
    His pedagogical virtues are obvious.

  10. Good evening, Bruno. At some point I think we have to spend a little bit more to know each other and determine our own level. This is the way too. Not having the spirit of competion, it will be I believe it a bad time to have passed. That will make me fall or improve my technique. Now I am orange belt, I know my katas to the blue thanks to your videos. I work my explosiveness but I still have no kiai unless he is silent as the archer? I dunno. Too bad I could not be part of beta tester ...

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