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Classifying karate instruction

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  • Classifying karate instruction

    There is an amazing panopoly of karate instruction out there. I've been trying to get a general picture of the way to best classify the various modern American karate systems, but the whole thing is so balkanized and varied that it's proving a difficult project. I've got the barest beginnings of a generalized framework, but nothing I'd like to expose to criticism yet: instead, I'd like to throw some of what I deem to be my more solid observations out here for comment, inviting criticism on any individual point- as well as fishing for similar observations from those who have been doing this far longer than I have.

    -The knockdown systems all seem to have much more in common with each other than they do with anything else.

    -While thoroughly hybridized with boxing and frequently not called 'karate', American kickboxing owes enough to karate in its historical roots and modern technique to demand classification as a karate in a general framework.

    -Similarly, most of the Korean systems owe enough to karate technique and pedagogy to require placement somewhere in the framework.

    -Systems that identify as Okinawan tend to have a greater emphasis on makawari work and other impact conditioning.

    -Schools that do not spar at all tend to be either fraudulent or very specialized in purpose (i.e. geared more towards women's self-defense courses than karate as a hobby or lifestyle).

    -Schools and systems that make a policy of training full-out with full-body armor- Redman suits and the like- tend to be geared towards a single group or small number of groups of security professionals, possibly due to the high initial investment involved. They tend to be thin enough on the ground not to form federations and set up sparring rules or tournaments that cover wide geographical areas, coming together on an ad hoc baisis or not at all.

    As I have invited criticism and comment on a number of quite disparate obervations, please try to keep the original purpose of this thread firmly in mind to avoid one smaller issue overwhelming the whole. I'm trying to paint with a very broad brush, here: if you hold up a single person, a single school, or even a single style as counterexample to one of my general statements, but admit that it is true as a general rule, you miss the point. Also note that my primary goal is to classify how modern karate is taught in America, and am interested in history only insofar as it directly relates to that.

    A few things in particular I'm interested in:
    Are there geographical differences in the mix of schools? I know areas that have seen a lot of Asian immigration have a lot of schools, and there are some kinds of instruction that you can find practically anywhere in the suburbs- but are there any surprising and interesting hot spots, like the black karate scene in Harlem in the 60s and 70's?
    Are there any large federations of unusual homogenity or heterogenity?