Training in traditional martial arts is different than sports or other types of leisure activities. It comes with an underlying sense of martial imperative that is not present in other activities. Training in the martial arts is serious. Traditional martial arts draw upon the rich history of military and civil defense training. During peaceful times, the training is applied to the inner fight of self-control and a clear mind. The mindset is built through a time-tested curriculum passed on from instructor to student.
The approach is classical—similar to ballet. The practice is encoded in individually practiced forms, called kata, that have exacting standards. Kata look like a performance, but are really an individual training tool. Some kata are very old, and their origins go back hundreds of years. Others are more recently formed in the last 100 years by the masters who looked to bring karate to the world. The kata have techniques that can be drawn from them and applied through what is known as bunkai—or analysis of the kata. The bunkai are practiced with partners and have elements of combat. We have also adapted modern sport-style sparring, or kumite, to a traditional approach. Our sparring is not for tournament fighting, but to condition the mind for unpredictable situations. These three components comprise the basic curriculum of the dojo.
At Traditional Karate of Bellingham, we train in a particular style of Okinawan/Japanese karate called Shito-Ryu. The style was founded by Kenwa Mabuni in the early 20th century. Shito-Ryu is a combination of two instructors’ unique styles: Anko Itosu and Kanryo Higashionna. Since the development of Shito-Ryu, karate has been transmitted throughout the world. In subsequent years, American karate has been heavily influenced by sport, and many aspects of traditional training were not emphasized. The emphasis on traditional bunkai was brought back in this dojo by preceding instructors at Pacific Martial Arts; today we continue the exploration as Traditional Karate of Bellingham. While martial training was at times limited to the warrior class of old, we feel that the traditional training has an importance to today—and to the average person. In an age of technology and abundance, it is easy to forget that hard work and discipline have their rewards. Self-improvement becomes a core aim.