|Was karate ever meant to be a group activity?|
Even when karate became available to the general public in Okinawa, training was conducted privately, in the sensei's back yard, or in out of the way places that were less likely to attract the attention of others. A far cry from today's approach to karate, for sure; but which way is best....the smaller, closer, engagement with your teacher, or the larger and less personal experience many now engage in?
I guess it all depends on what you're looking for from karate, and even more so, on what you're prepared to go through in order to find it. Regardless of which approach you're taking, a sense of clarity and honesty are needed to progress toward whatever it is you expect to gain from your training. That so many today suffer from a separation of thought and action, is no doubt responsible for the general mediocre quality and character of a great many karateka. In a group, you can hide!
I hear the word "Traditional" bandied around all the time, but how many who use that term are honest enough to admit their tradition is not yet a century old? How many Shotokan folk, for example, believe they are doing Funakoshi sensei's karate? How many Goju people believe Miyagi sensei would recognize their kata as the patterns he practised? Millions...that's how many!
Karate can not be branded, it's just not possible; your karate is as individual as you are, it's yours....for good or bad. You're not doing Shotokan, or Goju, or Wado, or any other brand name you care to think of, you're just doing your karate....well, or not so well. Really, if you can't get your head out of that tiny little box marked "style", you're destined to experience nothing better than a single bird in a flock, or a fish in a shoal; they too fly and swim, but only in the direction decided by others.