“Kungfu in a Karate uniform”

Considering the transformation from old Karate 唐手 to the Karate 空手 of today, Kinjo Hiroshi in his last book wrote that:

“Karate 空手 has become something which only in appearance is reminiscent of (old) Karate 唐手. Strictly speaking, (today’s) Karate 空手 has become something like the forms of Chinese Kungfu.”

While there is probably a variety of noble and not-so-noble reasons for this, I have to agree that in many instances Karate has become a kind of ‘Kungfu in a Karate uniform,’ something user-defined, school-defined, association-defined, self-perception-defined, wishful-thinking-defined etc.pp. It’s ME (US) and MY (OUR) intents, aims and wishes – or nothing! Examples for this are found in world dominating organizations like WKF, or among the Okinawan schools, as well as among the Western Karate movements and in countless individuals, all of which have been inventing and reinventing various Karate cultures since the 1950s and 60s – including sportive, combative, philosophical, physiological, quasi-medical and other cultures as well as businesses and mixes of any parts thereof.

Therefore Kinjo Hiroshi concluded that “… In its current form, there is no way around it that Karate 空手 is being criticized and dismissed by the circles of scholarship and logic.”

Let’s agree for a second and assume that logic is not the strong part of Karate. Let’s assume instead that the strong part of Karate is that everyone can define their own set of premises as logical explanations to describe their activities. Also, let’s assume that an unknown number of these explanations probably constitute a so-called false premise, i.e. an “incorrect proposition that forms the basis of an argument or syllogism.”

As can be read at Wikipedia,

“However, the logical validity of an argument is a function of its internal consistency, not the truth value of its premises.”

For example, here’s syllogism 1 that involves a false premise:

  • If there was violence in Okinawan society, Karate was used as self-defense. (premise)
  • There was violence in Okinawan society. (premise)
  • Therefore Karate was used as self-defense. (conclusion)

Was Karate the only self-defense? Was Karate only a self-defense? Okinawans trained applied self-defense, not kata? Only Okinawans knew Karate? Karate always existed in Okinawan society?

Here’s syllogism 2 that also involves a false premise:

  • A self-defense against violence named Karate existed in Okinawan society, just as self-defense against violence existed anywhere else. (premise)
  • A self-defense named Karate existed in Okinawa. (premise)
  • Karate is the same as self-defense anywhere else, at any time. Kata doesn’t matter. (conclusion)

Would it also mean that if you only train WKF Kumite Karate, you know the original self-defense named Karate? It is both Karate, isn’t it?

Or here’s syllogism 3:

  • If it is Sport-Karate, it is not useful as a self-defense. (premise)
  • It is Sport-Karate. (premise)
  • Therefore Sport-Karate is not useful as a self-defense. (conclusion)

Would you agree?

Cosmic Booknews https://www.cosmicbooknews.com/karate-kid-returns-cobra-kai

A rather weird presentation of Karate in Western pop culture media. Image source: Cosmic Booknews


Here’s syllogism 4:

  • Okinawan self-defense techniques were taught in the form of Kata. The names of persons were affixed to the name of the Kata. (premise)
  • Self-defense techniques were taught in the form of Kata. (premise)
  • The person named in the Kata existed and taught these techniques 300 years ago. Since that time there was an uninterrupted personal tradition of these techniques until only recently the techniques have been adapted for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. (conclusion)

The problem is, such arguments are logically valid, but quite demonstrably wrong, because their first premise is false (or too narrow, or fractional) – Okinawans may also have used different self-defense such as Jujutsu, or Kenpo, or Tijikun, Karamuto. Also, a sports Karate woman can probably defend herself successfully in the streets.

However, as Wikipedia explains,

“A simple logical analysis will not reveal the error in this argument since that analysis must accept the truth of the argument’s premises. For this reason, an argument based on false premises can be much more difficult to refute, or even discuss, than one featuring a normal logical error, as the truth of its premises must be established to the satisfaction of all parties. Another feature of an argument based on false premises that can bedevil critics is that its conclusion can, in fact, be true.”

In the online discussions I have followed there were also cascading sets of right and false premises mixed together, which makes it even more disadvantageous to even start a discussion.

Since it appears to me that the above is the exact reason why we have so many discussions about Karate online, logic would urge us to NOT participate in them. Instead, we should continue to do Karate as we see it. That is, as our very own “Kungfu in a Karate uniform.”

© 2018, Andreas Quast. All rights reserved.

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