I love the arguments against sport karate, it’s destroying martial arts; it’s watered down martial arts; it’s gymnastics. If sport karate is your only experience in martial arts, I agree that your martial arts may be limited, but it is still a martial arts experience. If sport karate is what you like doing, keep doing it! We take martial arts not just to pass down tradition but because we like to do it. If you have a passion, follow it. Sport karate can be a very positive experience to competitors of all ages.
There are several major positives to sports karate:
- Conditioning. To be a successful sports martial artist one needs to have the discipline to train and to keep up conditioning in addition to knowing your technique. Adding conditioning to training is something that is missing from some martial arts and I think it is valuable.
- Competition. Going up against your peers can be very motivating. Wanting to win will push the ambitious person to train harder so they can stay on top. Motivation to train is easy to lose. Having a source of motivation is positive.
- Judging. Competitors may be shaking their heads at this one. If you have competed regularly, you have been in poorly judged rings and this experience can stick in the mind. I have also been in some really well judged rings (and that doesn’t necessarily mean a winning ring for me). The judges were experienced and let us know what was good and bad about our performance after the judging was complete. Being judged by a qualified independent martial artist can be educational.
- Camaraderie. If you compete regularly, you will see the same people every few weeks. You are competitors in the ring but friends outside the ring. As you get to know each other, you will find yourselves giving each other feedback and you may even train with each other once in a while.
- Exposure to other styles. Many tournaments are multi-style. You will see Japanese, Chinese, Korean and even Philippine and Brazilian. In weapons I am primarily a bo competitor, so I love the opportunity to see a variety of staffs, sticks, swords and other weapons. There are also different open hand katas; point, continuous and hybrid sparring as well as grappling.
These are all valuable to the competitors as martial artists. Adjustments may need to be made to make sport karate viable for self-defense but it offers a lot to the practitioner.
If you want to be well rounded martial artist, you may need to add more to your training. I train in traditional martial arts, sports martial arts and defense oriented martial arts. Each has its place in my martial arts experience. I try to use my sports martial arts to not only give me enjoyment and a chance to compete against my peers but as an opportunity to experiment with my other styles. Martial arts are a very broad set of disciplines and there is no reason why you shouldn’t study more than one in your martial arts career. If you don’t participate in sport karate, check it out. You might find a new facet to your martial arts experience.