Owning Your Own Karate

In my last writings I touched on Bunkai, and how as our Knowledge and understanding of our Karate changes and grows, so does the application of what we study. I am continually intrigued reading articles all over the globe telling me to “Own my own Karate”. Hell, I thought I did. Does that mean we have to all see things the same way? Or just to do things our own way?

Neither of these are the case of course, and Im sure that what these ownership statements are getting at is that as Karateka, we should be responsible for our own training and growth in our chosen art.

Many people are happy following their teacher, and learning what they can from him or her. Does that mean that they are not owning their own Karate? Of course it doesn’t, it just means that they have found where they want to be in their art, and are happy there. Now that’s ownership!

Sensei John Jarvis said to me some time ago at a difficult time in my career of Goju. "Find a teacher you can trust, and stick with him” ... wise words indeed, and yes, I did.

As we grow in our art we are encouraged to look deep into our Kata and come to understand and practice the Bunkai within. Now that's where the problem starts, and where egos can get in the way.

We must practice of course, however, as Im sure you all know, if we practice bad techniques, well, we will get very good at them and that’s not what we want at all is it?

Practice your Kihon and grow from there, and you will be surprised where it leads you. The fact is it has to work. What would be the point of it if it didn’t? Find a partner to work with and make sure what you are doing is effective. If you are finding that it isn’t then you may have to adjust it to suit your size or stature. Ask if you're not sure. Im sure you are surrounded by a Dojo full of people who can help you.

The fact that they have decided to turn up in the first place tells me that they have made the choice to “Own their Karate”. It's that simple really.

Do not ever think that you have Bunkai that is “yours”. To do so would be arrogant. So who’s is it I hear you ask ? If I “own my own Karate” then mustn’t my Bunkai be my own? No it mustn’t. No matter what we do or how we apply our Kata, are we really that arrogant to believe that someone else before us has not done the same? It is merely the Bunkai that you prefer to use, that’s all. And you prefer to use it because it works right?

I had a wonderful chat with a good friend today who runs his own Ju-Jitsu club here in Dunedin, and we ended up laughing at each others techniques. Why? Because they were similar, not the opposite as you may think.

At the end of the day there are only so many ways to skin a cat. Maybe he “owns my Karate” or do I “own his Ju-Jitsu”? (stated whilst my tongue was firmly planted in my cheek.)

Mike Dalton