When I was just starting out in my karate training, my instructor taught a lesson that had a major impact on me. He explained that at its heart, karate is about fighting and what works. And he emphasized that a karateka should be willing to adapt and to use what works, even if it isn't something that's part of the tradition. As an example, he showed some very basic collar chokes that could be used if the fight ended up on the ground, and explained that even though they weren't usually taught as part of his (3K-style) of karate, we should be willing to use them if we had to.
I later came across a quote that meshed well with that lesson. The quote was:
"One must not lose sight of the fact that Karate is 'all-in' fighting. Everything is allowed: every effective method (in no matter what other form of combat sport) exists in Karate, redirected under the dramatic conditions of a man’s desperate fight for life, using the means given to him by nature. This is why Karate is based on blows delivered with the hand, the foot, the head or the knee. Equally permissible are strangulations, throwing techniques, locks (though certain typically Karate methods are unusable in either boxing or Judo). This is one of the fascinating things about taking up Karate; this sensation of mastery over all the effective techniques brings an inner peace and calm which is difficult to find in combat sports using arms, or in those which contain the limitations and restrictions of a sporting objective." Henry Plée
With this in mind, I've always felt like karate had a major advantage of being able to evolve and absorb the best of other styles . . . that the core aspects of karate were its mindset and its purpose, rather than an untouchable curriculum that had been passed down through the ages.
But in today's world, it's not always clear where karate begins and where something else begins. We have 3K karate, we have point sparring karate, we have new karate hybrids (i.e. Karate Combat https://www.karate.com/about/), we have Olympic karate, and we have bunkai-oriented pragmatic karate. At a certain point, the term "karate" could theoretically become broad enough to encompass virtually any kind of empty-handed striking art. And maybe this is a good thing?
Yes, you could try to resolve the ambiguity by just pointing at definitions or at the original meaning of karate (i.e. China hand/empty hand). But I tend to think that there's more than one right answer, and it seems to me that it could be an interesting topic for conversation. Thoughts on this?