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chrishanson68's picture
My Functional Karate Wake Up Call

Hey Guys, thought I'd share the most important event in my Karate Life with you.... https://youtu.be/V-d3NZBd-j8 ►SUMMARY: Sensei Miguel Harker, from Dynamic Karate Incorporated in South Africa, had asked me how I got into exploring practicality in Karate? The answer was very simple, getting beaten by a boxer in a friendly sparring match opened my eyes to training with resistance, athleticism, and to cross train in different energies. All martial arts have a function, a context, and they are all beautiful. The key is to recognize this function, and constantly find ways to improve. For me, the solution is cross training in other arts.

I hope you enjoy and can appreciate this event in some way shape or form.  I would very much like to know whether you can relate in some way to my experience?

Respectfully and with warm regards,


Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

I have some similar personal experiences sparring in the 80s and 90s. My Dojo was at the Police Athletic League, the boxers trained right before us and we had some crossover, my fist Karate teacher there was also a boxer at one time. I remember sparring another guy who had been a boxer, he was probably near 60 at the time and I assumed with my super cool flashy teenage karate I would do fine, he gently whooped me, but bad. I wasn't used to the kind of pressure he brought at all, nor the range, even though he was going slowly and fairly light.

I cross trained in Judo for about a year, and a more traditional form of Jujutsu (which included some newaza and grappling also, though not a ton) for five or six years. It really taught me I am not a grappler lol. It also convinced me that no self-defense minded Karateka should be without a basic knowledge of grappling for position on the ground.

My main Karate mentor/teacher encouraged me strongly to pursue cross training, as he is a Judoka himself. I think once someone is a Shodan for a while they should go explore other stuff if possible, it's been such a growth thing for my Karate, the Judo and Jujutsu improved my Karate immensely, opened up whole new areas I hadn't thought about.

I am actually going to do a bit of boxing after lockdown ends (that's very soon here), I have my gear ready. My biggest worry is really just fitness and some injuries/physical limitations, some of which are age-related. I don't expect to do well in actual boxing (whenever that even becomes possible with lockdown) since most of my longe range sparring experience is Karate-based. I plan on going in, soaking up what I can and seeing where it takes me. I keep my previous experience vague and just tell people I've done Karate a while if they ask about it, and that I am there to empty my cup and learn.

That's how I approaced Judo and eventually I got exactly what I wanted..like literally the guy whose skills I vibed with the most there just asked "what do you want to learn", then taught me lots of fantastic stuff. I got beaten badly in randori most of the time because it was against blackbelts, I sparred and grappled with non-blackbelts maybe three or four times, but it was amazing experience getting whooped by them. There was one guy who could do combo throws on me so quickly that it was almost like getting redirected into a new throw mid-fall, I was completely helpless...pretty amazing and he taught me a -ton- that was very relevant to Karate. My Karate today has a much better understanding of how important kazushi really is, both mentally and physically. They were all super nice and so open about teaching, I miss it sometimes. I really liked the ethos of Judo too.

A funny anecdote: At least against the new people (not the experienced ones so much because it was so much faster/tighter) my Karate blocking motions came in really handy with newaza where you start back to back. in particular the the hiki-uke motion against grips put me in a good position a number of times. cool moments because I did not expect my Karate to be terrible relevant in Judo newaza, and mostly it wasn't.

Personally I'm not interested in some hybrid art per se, I love Karate, have since I was a kid,  it is my main deal, particularly my Goju Ryu. I just think that eventually most of us reach points in our training where we can only go deeper by going wider. It's really pretty exciting to put on a whitebelt again (metaphorically or literally) and is probably an experience that should be continual in some sense. I am not a particularly skilled martial artist, but I endeavor to be a smart one, and one part of that is learning things that will bring deeper knowledge to myself and my students.

To a degree I think about it the way you do modeling for kids. I want my students to be lifetime martial artists and love what they are doing. I think limiting oneself only to a small group of people over the years is not the best way to do that, and we should be willing to make ourselves a little uncomfortable, as well as soaking up knowledge whereever we can get it.

Coming up in the Karate of the 80's, I do not like "closed Dojo" cultures and consider them anathema to learning as a lifelong endeavor. There is no better way to stall our own progress than simply remainign complacent and comfortable, and putting on blinders to all the experiences out there worth having.