Something that is brought up a lot is my choice of training. While I have studied Aikido and Shotokan extensively in the past, and am actively training in Kali, Aikido, Boxing, and Jujitsu, my training of choice has been the Red Dragon style of American Karate. When I tell people that, the two general reactions are “What the heck is that” or “Why? Isn’t XXX style better?” I wanted to take a few minutes, and around eight-hundred words, to address what my training consists of.
American Karate is one of the most misunderstood practices in all of martial arts. The reasoning for that is two fold – first, it has never presented itself very well. Oft-times you’ll see an American Form Karate school billing itself as a place where you can learn pieces of many different styles (5 styles, 10 styles, 20 styles!). They’ll bill themselves as a buffet of martial arts – pick and chose what you want to learn. With these buffets you’re given a taste of cuisine from all over the world, but you’ll never find yourself full.
The second issue is the instructors themselves – and generally goes back to the “founder” of whatever the school is. In an attempt to be everything to everyone, most of these schools very much become a random mix of unrelated techniques mashed together with little rhyme or reason. You’ll see these schools tend to focus on kata (or forms) alone, with little attention paid to the reasoning behind any of those forms. Sure, these schools make kick out some amazing tournament champions in the open hand or weapons katas, but they are little more than dance school halfheartedly disguised in martial arts uniforms.
A prime exception to this is my own training, and the reason why goes back to the words of Bruce Lee:
“Be water, my friend.”
Bruce Lee’s comments on style being unimportant are often as misunderstood as American Karate is. Fights are chaotic messes with no rules. In those chaotic situations, style goes out the window. What works and, more importantly, how you’ve been trained to address the chaos, is all that matters.
In a fight, you must be fluid and adaptable to any situation.
That is the essence of American form karate. When trained properly, a student is able to flow through the techniques they’ve trained in based on the situation. They are no longer anchored to a single style or rigid form of thinking. Because of the training methods found in American form Karate, a student is trained in the strengths and weaknesses of each style and in practical or “street” fighting applications of those techniques.
Being trained in other styles is an important factor missing from a lot of martial arts training, much of which will focus only on attacking/defending against their own style. Not so with American form Karate.
Like water, during a fight you will see a martial artist flow, crash, and fill the spaces left by his opponent. At long range, a student might utilize the long kicks and defensive-postures of Taekwondo to keep someone far enough away to make an escape. To maintain that distance or, if needed, to close it, the fighter may transition to his Shokotan training – even pulling out some methods he learned in point fighting sessions. Dodge, block, defend. Wait for the open to move in or retreat.
At the middle range, muay thai knees, elbows and kicks are often paired with the strikes, defenses, and footwork of American boxing, before the RDK fighter slips in an entry from Silat or Kali. On the inside, the use of Wing Chun’s unique form of blocking and striking paired with Boxing and Karate can be used to destroy the guard of most attackers.
From there, to gain control of the situation, the takedown arsenal of a Red Dragon student is vast – Judo, Aikido, and Kali can all come into play to move the fight to the ground, where Judo, Jujitsu, and Aikido can be used to end things quickly.
That is the essence of American form Karat: a style where style itself is unimportant, and all that matters is having the right tools for the job and the correct training to use those tools in the most efficient manner possible.
There is no such thing as a perfect martial art, and none is fool proof. There is no such thing as a universal, catch-all style that will create an unbeatable fighter. However, with intensive training in American form Karate, a student has the potential to come out on top of any encounter.
While I do love exploring other styles, I haven’t yet found a better way of putting them together than what we do at RDK.
If you want to find out more, drop me a comment down below, send me an email, or come by the studio for mat time with the Karate Geek!
-Mat Nastos, The Karate Geek
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