The truth is, though, that I both practice Shotokan karate almost exclusively and I practice martial arts as inclusively as possible. My martial arts resume isn't overly broad, beginning in the mid-1980s as a young teenager I trained in Moo Duk Kwan Tae Kwon Do (essentially Korean karate) for nearly five years before switching to other Tae Kwon Do schools and freestyle karate for a few years. I practiced judo for a few semesters in college. And I dabbled in mixed martial arts and grappling during the first blush of the Ultimate Fighting Championships in the 1990s. However, I have never strayed too far from a pretty mainline karate syllabus as the base of my training and since the mid-1990s that base has been in progressively more traditional Shotokan karate practice.
So, what makes the way I practice martial arts unique? What is it about Shotokan that allows for free expression (in other words, as I enter my third decade in the martial arts why am I not bored with Shotokan)? Well, here's my answer. I believe that Shotokan is platform, not a set of techniques. It isn't 16 kata (or 26 or 30 or whatever your association tells you). It's not Funakoshi's nine throws or a perfect front stance/reverse punch combo. Shotokan is a system that strives for perfection of form, almost unhindered efficiency and an aesthetic based in the Japanese concept of shibui, austere elegance. If I keep these traits in mind, then any technique I apply can be a Shotokan technique, any practice I engage in becomes Shotokan practice. Back in the late 1980s I cross-trained in taijutsu, a Japanese style unrelated to karate. The taijutsu techniques I have retained in my practice I express as Shotokan techniques, not because taijutsu isn't relevant or useful, but because I interpret them through the Shotokan filter that I have internalized through long exposure.
My Shotokan includes conditioning drills and some sweeps and throws that are not included in other schools' Shotokan practice. I have seen other Shotokan karateka include very fast boxing-like skills in their curricula. I've seen still others focus on the practice of kobudo, traditional weapons. We are all practicing Shotokan karate, though. We are working off of the same platform.
I welcome you, too, to develop your own Shotokan practice with us. Whether you want your child to join us in our Orono Youth Martial Arts program or you are seeking an opportunity to train as an adult contact us and try a class. There is plenty of room on the platform for you to develop your own practice, as well.