I have seen, and been asked this question countless times, from beginners to non-practitioners alike….
I believe this question, while innocent enough, is simply one of inexperience, although I have seen numerous inexperienced but honest attempts to answer this question from different angles…The fact of the matter is twofold…Today, people speak of “street-fighting” as if it is some quasi-mystical, indomitable offensive/defensive “art”…
….It is not….
A “street-fighter” is what you and I were, as well as every other martial artist was, prior to beginning training in our chosen arts.
A “street-fighter” is simply someone unskilled in fighting disciples… there is no “course” there is no “curriculum”…
Now to qualify my last statement…
While a “street-fighter” is unskilled in fighting techniques, they might be a tough guy (or gal) who can take a punch, and who may be “skilled” in the “street-fighting” techniques of pulling your hair, sucker punches, kicks to the crotch, swinging a stick ,etc… as well as the possessors of outright muscle…Many years ago, I grew up in Glasgow Scotland, one of the roughest cities in Europe, and where “street-fighting” cut its teeth. “Street-Fighting” ranged from smashing your enemies face in with a rock, picking up a broken bottle and slashing him (or her) with it, swinging a stick with nails driven through the end at any accessible part of your opponents body, to slashing them with a hidden razor, etc…However, none of those “techniques” fall in to the area of undefeatable, or else you and I would never have chosen the discipline of a martial art, and we would all be “street-fighters”…right???
… And don’t forget… Any martial artist can also revert to pulling hair, sucker punches, or otherwise using any other “technique” of the “street-fighter”, if his or her skill level in karate, judo, kung-fu, or any other art, is not up to the task of defeating his or her opponent… Your opponent may be bigger, stronger, faster and meaner than you, and may have had a few more fights than you, so are neither surprised nor stunned the first time they take a hit ( I have seen many “martial artists” stop dead in their tracks like a deer in the headlights, the first time they get hit).
The difference between you and the “street-fighter” is that once his (or her bag of dirty tricks is empty, he may as well put his hands in his pockets and go home, or perhaps lie down on the ground, because if he didn’t get you in the beginning with the cheap shots, then his repertoire of tools is used up, and he is now at your mercy…
This is of course, assuming that the “martial artist” in this “street-fighter” scenario is any good to begin with….I know black belts who shouldn’t be on the same training floor as some white belts…
It all depends on the person….
As for one form of karate over another.. there is no answer… and no, it does NOT come down to “full contact” tournaments or “full contact” training etc… regardless of what anyone tells you.
If someone skilled in the use of a martial art uses full contact in an encounter with you, and they target specific areas of your body… they WILL kill you… That is not a question… That is a fact… So how can anyone then tell you that because of “full-contact” training, this or that style is better?
The very plain and simple fact of the matter is, that the purpose of karate training is to either kill or permanently maim your opponent as quickly as possible…Period!
If you attack my and attempt to use lethal force against my loved ones or I… I want you to die, not them or I… That is what real karate training is all about… not pads and tourneys to rack up points and trophies for shallow strikes that got a point faster than the opponent, but which in a real life application wouldn’t have stopped or injured a real aggressor in any way… Sure … there is sport karate these days.. but I am not talking about, nor interested in sports karate, nor are you I believe… I am talking about real karate… real application; having the real mindset to be able to do damage when necessary and willing to take it to the final deadly outcome when and if necessary.
Putting pads on both yourself and your opponent in a tournament only does one thing…it allows you both to flail at each other with poor technique, as both opponents know that they are protected with pads and won’t really sustain any life threatening injuries… and with that in mind, technique, and I mean true, proper “killing” technique, goes out the window rapidly.
Am I advocating the unbridled and unwarranted use of force? NO… Most definitely not! The true practitioner of karate, or any other martial art for that matter, will strive above all else, to build his or her character to the point of extreme self restraint, control of their emotions… controlling the urges that the undisciplined “street-fighter”, or shall we simply call them “thugs”, or baser criminals, simply cannot seem to control within themselves. There is the thought of no first strike in martial arts, because it is supposed to be used for “defense”. This is a reason why older, more seasoned, traditional karate-ka will tell you that karate is a way of life; for its concepts of controlling one’s self, extend outside the dojo, and into all aspects of one’s daily life. Traditional karate from the beginning NEVER had full contact kumite training, as true practitioners from the beginning trained in karate to kill or permanently maim their adversaries. This type of training cannot be duplicated in a ring with pads. Which is why traditional Shotokan karate does not practice full contact sparring etc… as it actually DETRACTS from your skill level, it does not add to it…. Again, I do realize that there are sports karate clubs out there that practice Shotokan; but they have bastardized the style to make it fit the sports requirements… i.e.: shallow punches to increase the speed to get a point, which in reality would not inflict any real injury. Or, they flash up the kata(s) to make them look fancy for judges, whereby changing the imbedded techniques (bunkai) and reducing the real-life effectiveness therein, etc…One other statement I’ve often heard sputtered from the uninitiated, and which I’d like to address, is this: “… Joe-street-fighter-guy states that he likes karate except, for one thing… it is “one dimensional”, and lacks any practical application for self defense in a “real street” scenario”
… Have they not watched even ONE Chuck Norris movie???
To respond to this I can tell you that I for one, would be the first to drop karate training (or any other martial art) if it actually had no practical purpose! Think about it… I can jog up and down the street all day long for physical health if that’s all karate does for me. Karate does quite a bit move than improve ones cardio! So its obvious that this persons statement is truly unenlightened, and completely without merit.
Karate would not exist today if the prior complaint had any truth in it, as all the original practitioners of karate would be dead through their actions against the Samurai warlords the art was originally developed to defend against. Therefore, who would have survived to teach it if it really did have no practical application for self defense in a real “street” (real life) scenario?… and who would really want to learn karate if it actually doesn’t work and they would be killed or seriously injured when using it to defend themselves or loved ones?.. and where would they have found a living teacher?
As for being one-dimensional – how so? Karate bunkai (application) focuses sustained attacks against every part of the human body as target areas, while utilizing every possible part of the body that can be used as a striking tool, such as fists, fingers, palms, knuckles, forearms, elbows, knees and feet. Bunkai also incorporates everything from punching, kicking, and blocking, to chokes, locks, throws, and take downs etc… with the subject of your attack succumbing to your will in the form of being pacified, or maimed, or killed, with the specific outcome depending solely on your particular frame of mind at the very instant that you apply your defensive or offensive technique…So one dimensional??? I would have to strongly disagree…As you can tell I am a traditional purest, a Black Belt for many years now with the SKIF (Shotokan Karate-Do International Federation). I am a student of, and trained personally with Hirokazu Kanazawa Kancho, who was an original student of Gichin Funakoshi, the very person who introduced Karate-Do to Japan from Okinawa.
It is very hard these days to find a purest (real traditional) dojo, but if you are truly interested in learning the art form as it was from the beginning, with “No Changes” (as some people like to imply or outright suggest it has *all* been changed), I would highly recommend you follow up my words above and scout out an SKIF dojo.
The most important nugget of truth regarding karate styles, or any other style of martial art, that I can share with you is this: Please remember, the colour of your belt doesn’t make you better, it is your attitude, ability and perseverance. Styles are a matter of preference. Two people in totally different styles, could be exact matches against each other, it all depends on your attitude, ability, knowledge level, and perseverance.
Karate-Do means “The Way of Empty Hand”. This implies that all we have in any situation in life (be it a conflict or tea drinking), is ourselves, and what God gave us. There is therefore, no better style. Your particular art is contained within you. It all comes down to your willingness to take it as far as you are mentally, emotionally and physically capable of doing.