The title of today’s post poses an important question: Can you have honor while simultaneously hating another person/thing? The easy answer would be no. No you can’t. And the reason is quite simple. At its core, honor suggests a level of respect that you can’t achieve while hating something. This brings us to the question of whether you can respect a person or thing while hating them, but I don’t want to fall too far down the rabbit hole. Rather, the subject of today’s post is to focus on a strange phenomenon that I’ve seen in the martial for decades. I’m talking about the tendency to dislike and/or hate styles that are not our own. And it happens much more than one thinks.
I first ran into this phenomenon in the late 90’s, early 2000’s when I met a guy who had mutual friends within my small group of associates. We got to chatting one night and it was discovered that he also studied karate. I was a brown belt at the time and somewhat in the prime of my physical abilities, such as they were. But we got to discussing karate in greater detail and he revealed that he studied a style called Kyokushinkai. For those who may not be familiar with this style, it’s one that was developed and founded in 1964 by Masutatsu Oyama and loosely translates as “the ultimate truth,” making it less than a century old and one of the youngest styles of Japanese karate, with the exception of its own off-shoot styles.
When he asked what style I studied and I answered Uechi-Ryu, he asked if that was a style descendent from Naha-Te. I replied that it was and he sniffed and hitched his pants up and said, “Kyokushinkai incorporates Naha-Te as well…” He went on to explain the premise of his style involved constant, full-contact training to overcome the fear of being struck. I was always one to prefer learning to effectively block to PREVENT being struck, but that’s just me. But he showed a visible level of disgust at the fact I would study anything but the style he was in, and his bravado showed that he thought very little of MY karate.
Now, don’t get me wrong… Kyokushinkai is an effective style of karate, despite the fact that Master Oyama created it by bastardizing and combining elements from Shuri-te, Naha-Te, Tomari-te, Goju-Ryu, Shotokan and Shito-Ryu. Quite a colourful soup bowl, which rather goes against the whole premise of “One life, one love, one style” that most Okinawan karate practitioners believe in. But the style even practices Sanchin, one of the basic katas associated with my style, proving that most styles of karate share a background or ancestry that can be measured.
There’s a big difference between feeling one’s style is the better one and openly disrespecting and disliking another. I sincerely felt that the other martial artist disrespected my years of training and hard work with his belief that his style was “superior” and “the only real school of karate.” The boasting and the bravado went against what I was taught as a martial artist and what’s more, ended the friendship before it truly began. He might have been a great guy, overall. But when the first thing you have in common becomes a thorn in your foot, it’s a little hard to carry on.
Truthfully, one needs to understand that there is no such thing as a “bad style.” Simply a style that’s better suited to the practitioner. There are plenty of reasons why I would never practice Tae Kwon Do, but it can be easily argued as an effective martial art. In fact, one of the few combatants who genuinely rang my bell but good, was a practitioner of TKD, and he was more than quite good. The same can be said of any style, unless you refer to one of these jokers “knocking” people out by waving a hand at them… That shit’s crazy! But I digress…
A good analogy that I’ve enjoyed using to explain this to others, is one that I’ve used in martial arts circles and in my professional life. Imagine you’re installing a new bathroom in your home and the time has come to run water lines into your shower. In order to do the necessary plumbing, you’ll contact a plumber versus an electrician. By the same principle, you’ll contact the electrician to install your lighting and electricity as opposed to letting the plumber do it. Both are trained professionals, capable and necessary in their respective fields. But what they do is inherently different. Neither one is better than the other; just different.
This analogy applies to the martial arts, as well. All schools, styles and types of martial arts are different. No one style is better than any other; just different. I’ve been studying Uechi-Ryu for 33 years, this year. But I’ve trained and practiced in Kobudo, Kenpo, Kendo, Judo and Tae Kwon Do. No one will ever convince me that any of those styles are better than mine. But I can respect that they’re just as good, in their own way and offer a different perspective into an art I’ve studied for most of my life.
This is why it’s so important to respect other schools and styles and to understand that if you tried it and didn’t like it, it isn’t because it was inherently bad. It simply wasn’t for you. This is without including the whole McDojo element in the equation, of course. But if one is to have true honor and respect, then genuine dislike and hatred for other styles can’t be something one permits oneself to feel. After all, this isn’t a bad, old-school kung-fu movie. Dojo rivalries were never really a thing on Okinawa, and that’s where karate was founded. It would be reasonable to think that it should exist today, either. ☯