Karate is no supralevel. It is a subspecies, but of what?
Of art, sport, or science, or all of it? Actually, both consumers and providers claim that everyone is free to use it in whatever way you like.
For example, science and martial systems are heterogeneous and relatively independent areas, which overlap only marginally. Notwithstanding, on the internet martial systems are increasingly compared to science. There is even the notion that martial systems are tantamount to science. As if martial systems both in their historical origin, their development and their present manifestations would fully meet the requirements of a science. They don’t. However, in this way, the significance of science for martial systems is greatly overvalued, especially with regard to earlier stages of their development.
Or, for example, take the performance of both traditional and modern kata: they appear as a performing art. If adding a competition framework with judges, points, winners and loosers and an international organization, it becomes a sport. Add la emoción and you have the cheese dairy of marketing. Still: karate is no supralevel.
Karate – soberly considered – should be viewed unemotionally as a system of martial techniques. The term “martial” is typically used within the context of systems that are not solely defined by their actual current practicality. Rather, such systems often carry a lot of “ballast” which doesn’t actually add anything in terms of combative objectives. Moreover, it is about technology in sense of a special skill in any area of human activity, not about science.
In any case, karate is no supralevel, but one amongst a large number of martial systems.
Martial systems are based on “combinatorial evolution.” That is, they are creative combinations and derivations of what was already known. Because this is so, there is an interdependency and constant update between all of the martial systems that are accessible (for example, via Youtube, Hollywood flics etc. BTW, I just saw “The Accountant” and is has some good “karate “moves).
And because this is so, karate also further evolves by combinatorial evolution. Karateka all over the world imitate all sorts of other martial systems, such as jūdō, jūjutsu, aikijutsu, boxing, wrestling, MMA, Jiu-jitsu and whatnot, and claim that the techniques thereof are – they must be! – the same as in original karate.
As a nice pun, Martin Cassel rethorically asked: “Shouldn’t that be ‘combatorial’?”, which is quite funny.
All the other martial systems are used to restock the technical content of karate in an open-source-like movement. At the same time karate’s original name is maintained, as are its uniform, its ranks, its terminology, historical narrative etc. That is, the martial system of karate increasingly redefines itself towards an open-source, all-inclusive collection of all sorts of martial techniqes. Don’t forget ukemi and groundwork!
Any martial system can be described by varying sets of parameters largely predefined by the desired outcome. That is, they are free to be created, recreated, defined, redefined, optimized, specified. They may be activities embedded in professional pratices, such as in the police, the military or in any security occupation. Or they may be private enterprises or even amateur activities. They may be provided a terminology and a combative and/or historical narrative, placed within a cultural, historical, national or religious framework. They may use prescribed uniforms and have a hierarchy with various ranks, authorities, competencies etc. They may be increased or decreased in technical content, in meaning, sublimed by a value system, a philosophy, or managed as an opportune activity, a business, etc. They may be given any organizatorial structure, as a business, a sports association, a family tradition, an entertainment troupe, theater, a government-subsidized cultural activity, an art and so on.
Tradition with its tendency to fixation somewhat precludes the above requirements for innovation and optimization. This is and was karate’s problem not only since Bruce Lee’s “Liberate Yourself from Classical Karate.” And people are getting there, diminishing actual traditions to mere sidenotes while presenting all kinds of their very own “combinatorial creations” as “karate”.
Because from a technical viewpoint, the quintessence of a martial system – such as karate – is its ability to capture reliably controllable mechanisms of effectiveness within the medium of causality and through the continuous process of combinatorial creation and ultimately combinatorial evolution.
And because this is so, a computer will probably soon calculate the best martial system every invented.
Karate is no supralevel. It doesn’t even make sense.
© 2017, Andreas Quast. All rights reserved.