Originally published on "The Shotokan Times" on March 27, 2020 Article by Jonas Correia and edited by Christian Tribowski
Since the outbreak of the Corona-virus, online karate classes and lessons have mushroomed. However, online karate was a taboo for every “serious” karateka. So, will this development change the way we teach and think about karate training in the future? What will we gain what will we loss by moving karate online?
Online karate classes are rather new. However, the internet has been offering us the opportunity to take online lessons and online courses in several other areas. Many students graduate at renowned universities by doing online classes. Therefore, online lessons and courses are no longer considered taboo.
But what about online karate lessons? Are they still taboo or legit?
The First Online Dan Rank Test
A few years ago, a certain Shotokan Karate federation conducted an online black belt exam with one of its members in Brazil by using a webcam. The news caused a lot to discussion on social media. Some people called the student and the examiner (a Japanese master) a charlatan and impostor.
The fact of conducting a rank exam via webcam ended up discrediting the organization. Due to other controversies it had already lost credibility among many karateka. However, conducting an examination via the webcam was the last straw for the sky to collapse. Online karate exams and classes were taboo back then.
Karate at Rock Bottom
All those who had felt indignant about what happened, said that Karate hit rock bottom. Including the author of this article many condemned (and still condemn) an online karate exam like it was conducted in the mentioned case.
The individual who passed the online Shodan exam through the webcam, now teaches seminars. He claims to have studied “ancient karate” through books and the internet. Under those kind of circumstance online karate classes lead to McDojos but not to more and better students. A online karate provider advertises his program with “Earn your black belt today!”
YouTube as Online Karate Learning Tool
Twenty years ago, those who owned VHS Karate tapes were privileged. Today, almost everyone has access to the biggest library of karate videos in history of mankind: YouTube.
YouTube has long been an aid and analysis tool for many karate practitioners. To date, no online platform has brought us closer to high-level instructions than YouTube. It helped us to understand karate better by the free and infinite information it provide – without having to get up from our couch. It even generated sarcastic saying that someone learned karate from a “YouTube Master”.
Online Karate Classes on the Rise due to Corona
The corona-virus arrived and most of the dojos had to close their doors temporarily. Many of the karate instructors had to adapt to virtual classes. They have to do this on the one hand to keep their students (mostly children) active. On the other hand, they have to offer some classes to not loss students and go bankrupt.
The stocks of the Zoom application, which allows you to hold conferences between several people at the same time, rose rapidly due to the need to bring people together – whether in karate or any other activity. It will continue to rise until they find a solution for the corona-crises, so that people can finally meet face-to-face again.
For reasons of extreme necessity, those who have always condemned online karate classes, had to adapt. They had to give in to a practice they never imagined doing. The author of this article himself had to improvise, so that his students (mostly children) would not lose their shape and/or forget what they had already learned.
Will the Future Bring more Online Karate?
Corona now changed the way we think about online karate classes? Will the use of online karate classes be accepted? What are its benefits? Maybe you can help for short periods of time, for instance, when somebody hasmust go on a business trip but usually trains regularly in a dojo. But what if online karate training becomes a long-term habit? What effects will it have on students, instructors, and karate? What if this becomes a way for malicious instructors to profit from the unsuspecting?
We cannot foresee all ramifications. However, Karate is a martial art where physical contact and exchange is of fundamental importance. Even if one does not practice Full contact. There will be no chance for anyone learning karate in its entirety through videos. Online karate is not a surrogate for the experience of facing an opponent or receiving or delivering an Oi-Zuki.
Anyone who uses this tool to permanently and replaces face-to-face classes (except in cases of extreme need) does not serve its students, himself, and karate in general. So it is essential that the instructors make people aware, especially their students, that online karate lessons are only an exceptional tool. It should only be valid in rear occasions like the one we face currently: The Corona-outbreak.