Okay, you’ve been studying at the martial arts School of the Upside Down Dragon. Or, maybe you’ve decided to start your own school, and you are going to call it the Nine Circling Wombats in Spring. The point here is that…what’s in a name.
A classical martial arts school might have a recognized name, like Shotokan, but that just means the garage of Gichen. Or maybe a generic name, like Karate Do Dojo, which says it is teaching karate in a school, but nothing else. But there is a deeper underbelly to this whole scene.
Uechi Ryu is considered hard core classic, but what is this thing called Pan Gai Noon? Pan Gai Noon is a system based on the three original forms taught in a Chinese system. The extra five forms in Uechi Ryu were taught, according to Mattson, for entertainment purposes.
That’s right, students needed to be entertained so that they didn’t leave the, uh, commercial enterprise. This seems like a shabby sort of a concept, but, apparently, it is a necessary one. And, in truth, while one could fault the school, and should, one also has to fault the students.
Or, to get back to Shotokan, while it is considered the ultimate legitimate karate school, Gichen Funakoshi apparently passed his authority in matters karate to a school called Shotokai. Apparently he passed his seal and other paraphernalia to shotokai, and Shotokan is (choke) an imposter. Well, one could argue which is legitimate, but both have a right to practice martial arts, and the truth will be found in the individual, not in the school.
But, to continue this profound discourse, kenpo is…not karate. Parker was versed in karate, see his first book, but his teachings ended up being based on Jimmy Woo Kung fu. He called it kenpo karate because nobody knew what kenpo, or kung fu, was.
Commercialism, and other influences, effect the naming of a school or system. Aikido went through a variety of names before being called Aikido. Karate, before being transformed into Tae Kwon Do in Korea, had eight different kwans, or schools.
I suppose the final thought on this is that naming a school can be fun, and it can mean anything. The truth of the art, though, is whether the system is solid, whether the instruct can actually get the student to understand, and whether the student actually has the ability to learn. This is a question beyond names, true to the heart of the matter, and what the student must consider when exploring the morass of grand and glorious martial arts school names.
Want to read about the fellow who actually kenpo karate? Go to:
and don’t forget to sign up for this martial arts blog in the top of the sidebar.