Sammy Smith Karate
In general, to be specialized in something means that you are known for doing one specific thing. For example, orthopedists are doctors that specialize in the bones of the body. Orthopedists even have specializations within themselves (some specialize in knees, some in hips etc). When you are specialized you can spend more time studying and excelling in that one area instead of focusing on multiple areas where your focus will be more widespread.

The same can be applied to martial arts and competitions. There are several different styles in martial arts. I have a black belt in both Kenpo karate and Tae Kwon Do. These two styles although they are both martial arts they are totally different from one another. From my experience Kenpo uses a lot of parries and fluid movements to get to the end attack which is very quick (but impressively dangerous). In Tae Kwon do there are a lot of blocks and kicks that are linear and straight to the point. Chances are that if you are a Tae Kwon Do practitioner that you have amazing kicks!

In sport karate competitions there are a lot of different divisions (each also having different rules and qualifications). There are the CMX divisions (creative, musical, extreme) for both weapons and forms. There are also traditional forms and traditional weapons. To go even further, in the 18+ adult divisions creative weapons and traditional weapons is separated by bladed and non-bladed weapons, and traditional forms is broken down by style of the form (Kenpo, Korean, Japanese, soft style). If you are just starting to compete it is always encouraged to get experience in as many divisions as you’d like. When I began competing I did almost every division I could; I did all the CMX and both traditional divisions. Even though I was successful in both (CMX and traditional), as I continued to compete, I learned that I liked the CMX divisions a little more. There is nothing wrong with liking traditional divisions over CMX ones, it’s all preference. (Also something important to keep in mind is that it is possible to be successful in both CMX and traditional divisions at the same time, as well as forms and sparring- there have been several competitors that have proven this to be true).

My recommendation to competitors starting out would be to try everything and decide over time which you like better. This advice goes for type of division and choice of weapon as well. I am known for nunchucks, but I have used both kamas and bo staff throughout my competition career. However, at some point it is encouraged to find what you like and to stick with it this way you can start to build your reputation and become recognized (and specialized).

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