I was in a hotel at the weekend and while flicking through the channels waiting for the bath to run I came across a report on Russia Today on the Russian team’s success at a recent Kudo international championship. Every time I see this stuff I find myself totally engrossed by it and I started to wonder if this is the future for competitive karate generally?
For those who don’t know about Kudo (AKA Daidojuku) you can find out more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daido_Juku
I wonder if the competitive format they use, or variations on it, will become more widely used in other quarters of the karate world and what effects that could have?
Essentially Kudo is a karate / judo mix, but I feel the type of competitive format they use has much more to offer the traditional karateka than the standard format of competitive karate does. While it can be argued that there is no need for any form of karate competition, if we are to have one I think it should not run contrary to karate itself.
Modern competitive karate has moved a long way from the combative art of karate that spawned it. Indeed, if it were not for the shared name you could make a good case for them being entirely separate and unrelated disciplines. The Kudo competitive format is closer to the traditional art (still different, but a lot closer).
Whereas modern competitive karate only utilises a very small proportion of karate techniques, this format utilises knees, elbows, head-butts, throws, locks, chokes, groundwork, etc. It would therefore seem to be an ideal format for the traditional karateka who also wants a competitive format that does not run contrary to core practises of the martial art of karate. It would also see more and more people return to the kata as a source of functional technique and hence the gap between kata and competition would also be reduced.
Whist this is “fighting” and not “self-protection” there is nevertheless a far greater crossover between the Kudo format and the physical aspects of self-protection than there is with the standard competitive format. Again, this would seem to make it a more suitable format for those who want to maintain the self-protection elements of karate and also engage in competition.
Another big plus is that, to my mind at least, the Kudo format is far more exciting to watch. A major downside for those who work so hard to reach a good competitive level is that no one outside of competitive karate cares. I hate to see such hard work, dedication and athleticism go unacknowledged.
Go to any standard karate competition and the only spectators are other karateka or the family and friends of those competing. If people want recognition and sponsorship then karate competition needs to attract the attention of the general public, possibly even television. I think something like the Kudo format could perhaps do that, whereas the standard format has had decades to do so with no success.
Another potential plus is that the Kudo format develops some of the skills needed for people to move into the professional mainstream world of MMA. Currently if you become a karate champion what do you do with that? It’s exactly the same with Judo. However, just as amateur boxing can lead to pro-boxing, the Kudo format would seem to be a good preparation for professional MMA. This would therefore potentially see skilled and dedicated fighters get some financial reward for all their efforts, especially as MMA continues to grow ever larger.
And while talking about MMA, there is no doubt that it is hugely popular with the general public and is here to stay. While the current competitive format is met with public apathy, I think that people may see the Kudo format and decide that this “karate thing” is something they would like to do (having the excitement of MMA but being safer due to head guards and other restrictions i.e. controlled punches only when on the floor, etc). Whether they compete or not, if something like this became the standard competitive format I feel we would attract more people to karate. Conversely, I have found the current competitive format is off-putting to people as it is very complex, difficult to understand (i.e. “why did the guy who was knocked down win?”) and it does not seem “real” to them.
All just some initial thoughts, but I’d be prepared to bet that this will indeed grow in popularity and that a competitive format along these lines could well become the standard competitive karate format given enough time as we see more and more return to wider ranging form of practise. I also think karate generally could benefit from that.
I’ve put a couple of clips below. One is a “show reel” where the Kudo competitions can be seen from 1:37 onward. Notice how much kata methods are in there among all the throws etc. The second clip is an actual bout.
So what do you think? The future of competitive karate?
All the best,
Kudo Show Reel (Fights Start at 1:37)