Originally published on "The Shotokan Times" on October 4, 2019 Article by Jonas Correia and edited by Christian Tribowski
Last year we were introduced to a professional Karate league where renowned semi-contact karate athletes fought in full contact rules in a competition quite different from what we are used to see. The peculiarity of the event, known as Karate Combat, began with the format of the competition area which became known as “The Pit” and all the production and climate of the 80’s martial arts movies that still inspire martial artists today.
With all the professionalism of a big event, it did not take long to Karate Combat gain the visibility it deserved. You can find the previous fights an Karate Combat.
The event, divided the opinion of Karate practitioners. Some said that it was no longer Karate. Others said that this would be the watershed to rescue the name of Karate that find itself in the darkness.
Karate Has Lost Its Efficiency
That karate has lost much of its efficiency due to the constant rules limiting combativeness is not something new. But we know that competition is part of the development of a fighter, too. Even if it is in points rules.
However, what would have been wrong in the creation of a full contact rule which had been carefully planned so that art would not be miss-characterized? If we observe well, the absence of knee techniques, elbows, kicks in the thigh and uppercut shows how much the organizers have tried to maintain fidelity to the competitive characteristics of the art, or at least the common rules which we are accustomed to and not letting the event become another Kickboxing event or mma event.
Watching all this, I was enchanted by the possibility of entering the event. In less than an hour that I had discovered about KC on Facebook, I filled the inbox of Karate Combat with my emails to show my interest. I needed to fight there. But why? Some even asked me why, but I honestly can not quite understand the reason.
Karate Combat Is a New Challenge
If there is something that every martial arts practitioner that competes a lot have in common, is the taste for new challenges. Besides this factor which only a deep Freudian explanation would make the reader understand, I thought to myself, how would I not let myself participate in an event which had already entered into the contemporary history of karate? Why not give myself the chance to be part of this important chapter? I had done 3 Chinese Kickboxing fights (Sanshou / Sanda) in 2007. One of the Amador mma in 2009, and had competed countless times in karate tournaments. It was time for something else before my routine of father of 4 children at my 33’s made my competitive career even more difficult. I thought that was my last chance to do something really meaningful to myself before ending (or slowing down) my competitive career in karate.
Jonas Correia in a MMA fight in 2009
Karate Combat Requires Different Training Than Shobu Ippon
When there was the fourth Combat Karate event in New York (30 minutes away from where I live) I found a way to be around and see how it worked. This also gave me the opportunity to meet several people at the event. It was there that I was able to demonstrate my interest. The following month I was invited to fight. I had 3 months to prepare myself.
Full contact rule training is very different from traditional karate training. Since there will be no stop for point marking and the fight will continue after a well-executed technique, high intensity training based on mma training, and other contact sports became necessary. Three months seemed not to be enough time for this. Besides I have scheduled a trip to train at JKA’s Hombu Dojo for a week.
My First Fight in the “Pit”
The week of the event had arrived. We had to be in Hollywood a week before to do a series of medical examinations among other things required for the marketing and advertising of the event.
While all the fighters were already in position and keeping the form together with their coaches, I did not have the same luck. My coach could only come one day before the fight.
The day of the event arrived. I was confident. And I won the victory over my opponent Luiz Diogo from Portugal. However, I wasn’t 100% satisfied with my performance for particular reasons.
The feeling of ending a contact fight is very good, especially with a positive result. But the truth is that the adrenaline makes you to miss the fight. If someone asked me if I would fight again at that moment, I would certainly say yes.
Karate Combat Is Worth the Experience
I believe that all karatekas should experience full contact fights regardless of their idea of what karate should be. The truth is that in a full contact match, it is about You against your Lungs! Your opponent is just a detail.
In a real combat, often the breath outweighs the technique and many people overlook this factor of extreme importance. For those who believe in the effectiveness of karate as an art of self-defense, they must experience something of this kind in their life. Even though KC is a competition of limited rules, full contact rules teaches a lot about fighting under pressure.
Makiwara and Ikken Hisatsu as Foundation for Strong Karate
If you believe that Karate is enough, I advise you then, to hit makiwara every single day. I truly believe and practice the idea of Ikken Hisatsu. If you ever need to use your karate in real combat and do not have enough breath, be precise and straightforward. Because if you need to take more than 5 minutes to solve a real combat situation, it will be very difficult to succeed.
The truth is that a martial artist should not be close minded to just one idea. I believe that the practitioner must faithfully follow one path which he believes. However, he must be ready not to be surprised. Experiencing something different will not cause you to discredit what you have practiced. But it may help you to understand it better.
The Necessity of Karate Combat for Traditional Karate
I hope Karate Combat has come to stay. Not every karateka needs the KC, but Karate needed such an event.
Even though it does not please everyone, Karate Combat came at an opportune moment. Our art falls into oblivion of a world that has only eyes for mma, Muay Thai, Kickboxing and so on.
When was the last time you filled your classes with adult only? Why is karate nowadays limited or attracted only to children?
We can not wait for another Lyoto Machida to soften the wounded ego.
The truth hurts, but Karate has lost a lot of credibility as self-defense.
Save Karate Combat and / or any other attempt to do something bolder.
With your permission, I’m going to hit my makiwara! Oss!