Shotokan: Why I still love it
First things first, I am a complete convert to Shorin-Ryu.
After spending time in Okinawa training at the Shimbukan under Sensei Akamine I could see why Shorin-Ryu was not only a natural progression for me in terms of style, but that the method also allowed a greater expression of power and technique.
However, I have not, nor will I ever abandon my knowledge of Shotokan. Why?
Aside from what Jesse Enkamp describes here...
It is how Shotokan develops your mind, your body and your spirit with each technique.
The first and most obvious is Spirit - the fact that many Shotokan Dojo still to this day train you till you drop.
Doing so breaks you down time and again, so that each time you get up you rebuild yourself stronger than before.
Countless times I have seen Shotokan practitioners injure themselves, deplete their energy, grow an ever increasing list of aches and pains, and yet still put in the sweat and anguish at the behest of their Sensei.
I do think it can be excessive for those older Karateka to continue this way, but you can’t deny their spirit is lacking.
The second is the training of the mind.
Shotokan Kata definitely gets you thinking.
Despite the fact that the Kata are a simpler version of what Funakoshi learnt, which was even a simpler version of what came before, this simplicity allows greater freedom of interpretation, which allows a great amount of study on the part of the student.
Is it a strike, a defence, a grab, a throw??…. Only practice, experience, and a little trial and error will guide you to the answer.
Just look online for the amount of heavy debate over how an action should be performed for defence, or how a movement in a Kata is wrong/ correct, and you’ll get the picture of the continual battle within the mind of many a Shotokan Karateka.
The final reason has to do with the body development that Shotokan provides.
People often criticise Shotokan for its lack of Hojo Undo, lack of weapons training, lack of anything more than the drills up and down the hall.
It is precisely the way that Shotokan is designed that allows those elements to be left aside for the majority of one’s training, at least until advanced levels.
The deep stances work the legs, long and exaggerated movements force development of muscles for good balance and stability, as well as working them harder than you would in a more natural and relaxed stance.
It requires you to work correct alignment for techniques to have the most effect, it requires you to work at long distances when stepping and turning, which is the bain of beginners and advanced Karateka alike.
The Kata have been adapted to include more dynamic movements like jumping, spinning, kicking high and moving whilst balancing on one leg.
So if you don't have weights at home, or cannot use a gym, or outside isn't conducive for other forms of training, and your time allows you only enough for the 2-3 sessions per week at the Dojo, well Shotokan has got you covered.
My bonus personal favourite for why I keep my Shotokan training going is the fact that I am able to cross reference my Kata from Shorin-Ryu to gain a better understanding of the applications - a bit like reading the same book in two languages, and getting a better appreciation for both ways of saying the same thing.
Do you love/hate Shotokan, or like me cross train in two Schools of Karate? Leave a comment below and let me know :)