An extended response to 'Something to Kick Around'

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An extended response to 'Something to Kick Around'

Post  steve morris on Wed Feb 27, 2008 10:17 am

First of all, I'm locking this for the moment because I need time to get the whole post up before everybody starts jumping in to discuss. Feel free to discuss this on the main 'Something to Kick Around' thread, but bear with me here while I continue to post a series of sections of quite a long piece that I've been working on as the other thread develops.

There are a number of points that have come up on the other thread and I'll need time and space to work through them methodically. This is an area where there's a lot that needs to be cleared up, and the area of traditions, karate, and fighting is something that falls within my particular realm of expertise. It's something I've been addressing, privately and publicly, for over thirty years.

So, again, read this thread and discuss over on 'Something to Kick Around.'

I'm starting with a small section and I'll add more as I get it inputted to the computer.



Many of the so called "great Japanese masters" couldn't fight their way out of a paper bag unless it was a point competition. But because they have the "look" many follow them as if they were the second coming.

Tommy P, I agree that there a lot of so-called karate experts out there, both from the hardcore versions of karate as well as the softcore, and not only from Japan and Okinawa, who are regarded as living gods, or the absolute authorities on things martial.

I suppose it’s that authoritative air about them that really gets up my nose. Such a big production is made of the trappings: traditions grades, titles, exaggerated etiquette, the long discourses on kata bunkai and ‘technique’...and what do you get for your money? Training that bears no resemblance to the fight as I know it to be, and the so-called ‘fights’ that they have in their respective dojos and competition equally bear no resemblance to any fight I ever fucking had.

Kyokushin Kai and Daido juku are the two exceptions, but Kyokushin Kai has drawn heavily on Muay Thai. And one of the reasons for that is that in the early Sixties, a number of Japanese karate-ka took part in karate challenge matches against the Thais, gloves and no gloves. And they lost big time. One of these who lost in these early matches was Kurozaki Kenji, the meanest of the mean and feared within Mas Oyama’s Kyokusin Kai. Now you’ve got to put this into context. This was in postwar Japan, when organizations like Kyokushin Kai and individuals like Oyama and Kurosaki were not only involved in Yakuza activities, but also in Communist strike-breaking. As a result, the training of this period tended to be hard core. Guys like Kurosaki knew how to fight.

The difference was, the Thais could fight better.

Why? Because the training that the Thais were engaging in was more appropriate to fighting than the karate training that the Japanese were training in, whose purpose was mainly to develop blind obedience and an aggressive fighting spirit. The latter is important, but the Thais had the advantage of training methods that were supportive of the tradition of hardcore fighting matches in their country.

The reason why some Japanese eventually went on to beat Thais in the Muay Thai ring is because they adopted Muay Thai training methods and skills. According to Kurosaki’s website, after his defeats he and others went to Thailand to study Muay Thai. He brought back the training methods that the Kyokushinkai would subsequently adopt and adapt. Kurosaki, after again losing to the Thais in 1964 in Thailand, and realizing he wasn’t going to make it as a fighter, became a trainer instead. At his Meijiro gym he produced a number of great champions including Fujiwara Toshio.

Kyokushin Kai is a viable fighting force today in K-1 because of its Muay Thai component. However, the success of K-1 fighters often causes people to assume that the so called traditional aspects of karate (its kihon and kata) are the reason for Kyokushinkai’s success. But the strong fighting spirit of Kyokushinkai finds its expression through the modification of Muay Thai and not through the kumite that existed prior to the cross-pollination provided by the Thais.

There is a warrior ethos within Kyokushinkai that has been derived (and in many ways exaggerated) from Japanese Budo, that is not found within the Okinawan traditions or for that matter those of Fujian, the ‘grandparent’ of Japanese karate. Here are two clips of the late Peter Smit, one of the greatest fighters of all time. If all karate was like what you see in these clips, then there wouldn’t be a problem from a fighting perspective.
Personally I believe the first clip, showing Smit fighting Kurosawa, shows a great way to build that necessary psychological and physical base to fight with, and I use a similar approach in some of my drills and conditional fighting at Primal.

However, I do not teach my guys karate kihon or kata. I’ve got better ways of familiarizing them with the fundamental skill patterns and applications of fighting. Indeed, I would argue that Kyokushinkai would be just as effective, if not more so, if it wasn’t burdened with the kihon and kata of karate that my old mate Brian Fitkin of Kyokushinkai, another world class fighter, used to despise (when I knew him, anyway).
steve morris

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