Challenging your Karate School!

Posted by: John W. Zimmer
Under: karate, martial arts
7 Sep 2014


Many of you have watched the Karate Kid or heard about challenge matches Bruce Lee had to endure from the Chinatown Kung Fu masters, and are probably wondering in this day and age – does that ever really happen?


Well more than you probably think. The challenges come from other schools, various kind of fighting arts, and what I encountered a lot was fighters creating their own martial art that wanted to test.


Before we get started, here is a scene from the karate kid were Mr. Miyagi issued a challenge.




At the time the movie, “The Karate Kid” came out – I owned a karate school in El Cajon, California. Funny thing is – I was already used to people walking in off of the street and challenging us to matches. The motivation was a bit different sometimes. The school was near a biker bar so we had our fair share of drunk bikers (with beer muscle) thinking because they rode a hog – somehow that meant they were bad. We re-educated them as needed.


There were was a rash of “Masters” that had created a new style they wanted to try out against someone. We were happy to oblige after they signed a freestyle waiver. We had a couple of other schools that bad mouthed us so I called them up and asked about it… usually they clammed up but on one occasion I was set to drive over with my sparring gear to teach an instructor a lesson. That never happened though becuase the master of the school – called me up and apologized for his instructor’s mistake and told me he would handle it. It would not be good for either school to have a battle.


But the challenges I most enjoyed were the other karate stylist that wanted to pit their art against ours. They were fun because at least they could fight! I recall one tough Navy guy that came into our main school (Tracy’s Karate back then – now American Kenpo Karate) and wanted to fight our best fighters. This was a smaller gentleman that was polite but insistent he could beat our best fighters. Dick told him to come back to a Tuesday night group class when the animals fought after (Tuesday and Thursday were the normal sparring nights).


The Navy guy was a black belt schooled in Wadokai, a Japaneses style. To be honest most of these challenge matches ended badly for the challenger. The would get beaten easily because at the time our school had some of the top tournament competitors in the region.


So the Navy guy started fighting our guys and showing us a lot of good sweeps we were not used to at the time. This Navy guy weighed less than me so he must have been about 130 pounds (he was shorter than me too). The Navy guy soon got a big head and started challenging us to a point contest and then beat a couple of our best fighters by racking up the points for  his sweep and drop punch (you can hit a grounded opponent within 3 seconds).


I had been watching the point fights after sparring him earlier and figured out that I did not want to let him inside (I still did not have an effective counter for that move). You see it was easy to dismiss this little guy as not a threat and then get swept off of your feet and punched.


I challenged the Wadokai guy to a sudden death match. Meaning first point wins. You see he was pretty mouthy at that point and he took the bait (had had done well against me in regular sparring).


The match started and I got on my bicycle and back peddled. Every time he came in at me I was either not there or engaging in a serious clash. So he did not get any clean strikes on me.


I just watched my critical distance and attacked out of range with side kicks and such – escaping at angles. And the little Navy guy got mad – I did what I could to egg him on. And then he did it – He got too close to me without doing something.


I launched a direct angular attack – an inverted lunch punch and got out of Dodge! I scored! I bowed out and walked away.


Funny the Navy guy wanted to go 2 out of 3! Had he stayed respectful I might of entertained that but since he had not – I just smiled and told him I beat him fair and square. :)


I am interested how you handled challenge matches so please comment if you have had this experience!

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One Response to “Challenging your Karate School!”

  1. Dr. J Says:

    No, the closest I’ve come is where I challenged my former teacher after being at another school for a while. I had beaten everyone of lower black belt rank than him in normal sparing earlier.

    He adjusted my attitude like you did to challengers at your dojo!
    After all, he was a very good teacher!

    Honestly, I appreciated the lesson he taught me from the moment I got up off the mat to this day :-)