HOW TO CHOOSE A KARATE CLUB IN EDMONTON
You might think this will be an extended advertisement for our dojo, but depending on what you’re looking for, there may be a different club which would suit you much better. If you’re looking to learn karate in Edmonton, you have the good fortune of there being many clubs to choose from, some of which are excellent, with very good sensei. There are also a few bad ones, so you should take care and check out the possibilities as best you can.
In 2023, an obvious choices you have is between places which have strong COVID protocols for classes, like mandatory N95+ or KN95+ masking, and those that don’t. There are very few of the former, including ours, and many of the latter. Our approach to COVID is required by interpretation of the tenets of karate-dō, but many karate instructors think differently. If you don’t want to wear a mask or think that the pandemic is over or not something of concern, you should go to one of their clubs.
If you want to be an MMA fighter and dream of being in the UFC, you shouldn’t be considering karate at all. While there have been some high-level professional MMA fighters who had a karate background, like Georges St Pierre and Lyoto Machida, as in every serious sport, if you want to get good at MMA, with its specific goals and rules, you should train in MMA. Look for good muay thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu clubs. For a muay thai coach, you cannot do better than Gasper Bonomo at Kamikaze Punishment. I trained with him for years. Before the pandemic, our dojo paid him periodic visits. Training by constantly hitting pads is tremendous workout.
If you want to do full-contact bare-knuckle fighting, there are very good Kyokushin karate clubs which will suit you. Kyokushin produces some really tough fighters. We spar in our dojo, but we prohibit contact to the head because we think concussions are very bad for long-term physical and mental health. We want to be still doing karate in our 80s, not suffering from CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) or concussions (even one can be seriously damaging). But if you really want to hit someone hard and get hit, go to Kyokushin (that style also does low-contact sparring; you don't have to be a knock-down fighter).
If you’re interested in sport karate and want to win medals in tournaments, there are many clubs you can choose. Not ours, though. Even before COVID made tournaments as risky as any other crowded indoor event, we were not oriented to them. We only entered one as a dojo, and while we did well in it, our emphasis has always been on practice, not competition, and that remains true today. There’s a difference in priorities. This is not a denigration of sports karate, which has some tremendous karate athletes. It’s just that we don’t practice karate as a sport or a competition.
If you think kata is a waste of time and useless for fighting, we’re not the dojo for you. Krav Maga or Jeet Kune Do might be a better fit. We teach traditional Okinawan karate, and the heart of that tradition is kata. In our dojo, we take get so much pleasure and learn so much from doing kata which have been passed down to us over centuries. We seek the embodied connection with our traditions.
If you are interested in the traditions of karate, then really avoid clubs where instructors say they are sensei. In Japan, no one ever calls themselves that. "Sensei" is used only as a sign of respect for others. Likewise, "sempai" is about a relationship of seniority between two people generally, not just in the martial arts. Someone is normally sempai to one person and kōhai (junior) to another. It never means a certain rank, such as a blue belt, or an assistant instructor status. Likewise, avoid clubs that fetishize the belt, like saying it should never touch the floor or never be washed. Both of those contentions would be thought ludicrous in Japan. Edmonton is not Japan or Okinawa, but if Japanese terms or conventions are used here, anyone with genuine regard for the culture will make the effort to use them correctly.
If you want to get a black belt in three years going to classes twice a week, you'll get disappointed at our dojo. It takes much longer with us. Seibukan karate is difficult and demanding, and requires a great deal of training. Moreover, if you’re very focused on rank, you won’t be happy with us. Our focus on is practice. Rank comes at its own measured pace. Be leery of clubs which have a great number of ranks and frequent gradings, because they generally use frequent testing fees to drive profits.
If you’re a gifted athlete and want to train only with other great athletes, try some club that advertises itself as a center for high-performance sport. We welcome anyone with a good soul, regardless of whether they’re strong or weak, young or old, supple or inflexible, fast or slow, very muscular or overweight, naturally graceful or clumsy. We take people as they come, and help them make themselves better.
Finally, if you hate Muslims or immigrants, if you don't want to be around people from different ethnicities or cultures, if you think gays or trans people are unnatural, if you refuse to use someone’s preferred pronouns, if you think there is only one acceptable form of family, if you women should be subservient to men and the ills of this culture can be blamed on feminists, if you think that Christianity or any particular religion should suffuse all aspects of life, including karate, please go elsewhere. We welcome all kinds of people, but we have no tolerance for hate, bigotry, or narrow-mindedness.
Karate comes in different forms and pursue different ends, according to different values. You can learn about our dojo's values, practices, and classes throughout this website. But in Edmonton, you have a great range of alternatives. So be scrupulous, ask questions,avoid clubs with instructors who were kicked out of their previous ones (because there are some), reflect on what you want from karate, and find the club which can give that to you. Best of luck.