Myth Busting

Historical and cultural naivety within the tradition of Karate have aided unchallenged myth to evolve into widespread misunderstanding. Nowhere is this misunderstanding more evident than in the West. Here are a few comments challenging the misunderstandings about karate, styles, rank, Kyusho, and kata, along with a couple of other issues. - Patrick McCarthy 


 

Origins?
Is there any truth to the claim that Karate is an ancient art handed down on stone tablets from God-like creators or Samurai warriors with unquestionable pedigrees, similar to that of Japanese Koryu-based traditions [i.e., Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu, Yagyu Shinkage Ryu, etc.], never meant to be altered or changed and, most importantly, ONLY available through the direct transmission of limited Okinawan/Japanese sources and or their "accredited" representatives? 

The truth be known, modern Karate [i.e., traditional-based and rule-bound sport karate; e.g., Shoto, Shito, Wado, Goju, Kyokushin, etc.] and its unending list of authentic-like representations, are eclectic disciplines which trace their origin through Okinawa to China and the old Kingdom of Siam. Originally known as two separate disciplines during Okinawa's old Ryukyu Kingdom, modern Karate is based upon Kata [, Hsing in Mandarin Chinese], a holistic form of human movement based upon the solo performance of fighting technique in unique choreographed routines, and Ti-guwa [手小], a plebian fighting art of percussive impact introduced to the island from the old Kingdom of Siam. Embraced in Okinawa's old Ryukyu Kingdom Period, by various people [not peasants], at different times, and for several reasons, what we now know as Karate only started to take shape at the dawn of the 20th century under the guidance of Itosu Ankoh. Bringing out from behind the closed doors of 'secrecy,' Itosu succeeded in introducing a modified interpretation of Kata into the public domain. Used as an abstract form of exercise in the school system, during Japan's radical period of military escalation, Kata literally became a political tool through which to funnel physical fitness and social conformity in support of Japanese Nationalism and her war campaign. 

Informally introduced to the mainland of Japan in 1917, and formally in 1922, Karate training became popular amidst university students and young salary men in both Kansai and Kanto. Reflecting much of its Okinawan cultural characteristics, as Karate gained popularity at the university-level and within private companies, the Dai Nippon Butokukai [DNBK] authority took notice of its foreign [read unacceptable] differences. Ultimately, the prevailing power of Japanese Budo and its shikata culture had a profound influenced upon the foreign practice. By December of 1933 the "Okinawan art" had undergone such significant changes that the loosely practiced discipline had become uniquely Japanese. With the focus of attention on basic skills [Kihon-waza], the solo performance of fighting technique in unique choreographed routines [Kata], and rule-bound sparring, using only the hands and feet [Kumite----affectionately referred to these days as 3K Karate] the modern tradition of Karate has changed little since its pre-war inception. 

In spite of the propaganda describing ancient lineage, samurai pedigree and or exclusive ownership, Karate became part of Japanese Budo culture established in Dec of 1933. Its many interpretations are taught by various sources many of which have political ties to Okinawa and Japan while others, equally as credible, have not. Finally, whether an interpretation does or does not have a political connection to Okinawa, or Japan, has little bearing upon quality, authenticity, and or functionality.


Omnipotent?
What about the rumor that Karate is not a complete fighting art but rather a simple discipline of punching and kicking, haphazardly established by intrepid aficionados during Japan's pre-war romantic occupation with chivalry? 

As I explained above, Karate is a percussive impact-based discipline. While only the hands and feet are used as tools of scoring points in its rule-bound competitive arena, as a self-defence, the inclusion of elbows and knees make Karate a formidable fighting art. If, however, by being a "complete art" one asks does it use weapons and ground-work etc., then the answer in no, [modern] Karate it is not a complete art...irrespective of the propaganda to the contrary. 


Styles?
There seems to be an endless list of styles, each claiming to be the most original, purest, best and strongest, etc. Are they merely variations on the common 3K-theme or is one actually "better" than another? If so, why?


If there were ever an award for either the most naive or elitist comment then this would have to be it! Political/financial power mongers, pedigree bragging snobs, and or youthful fighters usually make comments like this. Whenever I hear such conceit I am reminded of a quote by the late master of the art, Konishi Yasuhiro; "Karate-do aims to build character, improve human behavior, and cultivate modesty; it does not, however, guarantee it." 

Tracing it roots back to other fighting arts in China and SE Asia, Karate is an eclectic tradition less than 100 years old, which can hardly be called "original." Hence, claims about this or that style being "ancient" are exaggerations or outright misrepresentations. A rarely discussed issue reveals that the development and refinement of most modern Okinawan karate styles are the product of being reverse influenced by Japanese 3K interpretations. The name, uniform, belts, dan/kyu system, teaching titles, 3K-based training system, and rule-bound competition format, are entirely Japanese. The "nobody-can-be-better-than-the-master" mentality, which is also prolific within Japanese fighting arts in general, is Confucian-based.       

Everyone has an inalienable right to think what they're practicing is "better" than what another is practicing, learning or teaching. It's only human. What I find naive about most folks who say that they're learning/teaching and practicing an "original" or "ancient" style of Karate today is their willingness to blindly accept the propaganda about lineage and pedigree or omnipotence. Few have little or no idea that karate styles, however unique the propaganda may be, are little more than the reinterpreted product of 3K-based practices.  

As far as "best style" goes, well, it's actually a relevant term and I'd probably want to ask, "best for what?" Simply put, there is no "best" karate. The term is foolish at best and self-serving at worst, usually aimed at attracting supporters. "Fighting" has to do with individual attributes and not "styles." If such a thing was true then everyone and anyone who embraced such a style would be "deadly," to coin a phrase.  

Many Karate styles can, to a greater or lesser extent, trace their origins back to some pioneer. I think that keeping this heritage alive is vital to the legacy of our art, especially when it is done tactfully with historical accuracy. However, propaganda that such and such a modern style is the exclusive quintessence [read superior] of one or all of its pioneers is simply naive or a blatant misrepresentation. 

A few considerations at the forefront of understanding the nature of styles should include historical study [to understand how styles unfolded], cross-training [a concept all pioneers embraced], critical thinking [as a fundamental tool for eliminating ambiguity and misrepresentation], body mechanics [the transfer of kinetic energy], fundamental anatomy, applied science and HAPV [to understand what is universally common in the application of fighting technique] and pedagogy [to understand how such commonalities should be imparted according to common outcomes]. There are many old sayings which underscore the value if this advice --- the following are a couple I'd like to share with you: 

"The further back one looks the further ahead one can see;" "How you do something is how you do everything;" "It's not the style, it's the person;" "Think outside the box;" "I always keep six honest friends, they taught me all I know; they're What, Why, When, How, Where & Who." "You cannot solve the problem with the same kind of thinking that created it;" "There are three kinds of people: Those who make it happen, those who let it happen & those who ask, "What happened?" "All of us are working together in a spirit of real co-operation in which there is no authority: it is our interest in the teachings which brings us together and helps us to work together;" "People with clenched fists cannot shake hands."


Did the Okinawans Hold Back the "Secrets"?
Is there any truth to the theory that the Okinawans never really taught the Japanese the inner-meanings of Karate [that they purposely held back 'the secrets']?

This myth is similar to the naive belief that Karate was developed by peasants in the cover of nightfall during Okinawa's old Ryukyu Kingdom in order to overcome the despotic Satsuma Samurai occupying their island. No one is suggesting that such a thing is beyond the capabilities of peasants [as such history elsewhere has been written in blood] but it's simply not the case here. The Satsuma Samurai remained unchallenged in the Ryukyu Kingdom until the island fell under the jurisdiction of the Meiji government and ultimately became an independent prefecture called Okinawa.

The so-called, "holding back of secrets," is yet another myth. Such talk best serves the romantic notion that Karate is something more than its obvious value as a brutal discipline of percussive impact. I am particularly amused when reading the fanciful opinions put forth by the chatroom 'authorities' who not only proclaim to actually know such secrets but also exercise exclusivity over them :-) Please read the rest of this article to grasp a better understanding of the history of Okinawa's fighting arts.
  

 

Accreditation?
Is there any such thing? What is its origins? Is one credential 'better' than another? 

Unlike Nihon Koryu-den [classical Japanese traditions], which uses the Menkyo [certificate] system, delivering its Mokuroku [curriculum/syllabus] across systematized progressive levels of learning----[Nyumon (Entry level), Shokyu (First level), Chukyu (Middle level), Jokyu (High level) ]----and only through Jiki/Ku-den [direct/oral transmission] saving the Okuden [secret transmissions] for the Deshi [disciple] best suited to carry on the Ryuha [style], who receives the Menkyo Kaiden [certificate of full proficiency], Karate has no such history. Prior to the development of modern Karate there was no official ranking system as we know it today. To the Uchinanchu [Okinawan people] rank and position was roughly based upon the Chinese-family seniority system used in Quanfa, as they respected them as their mentors in the fighting arts [Quanfa, i.e. Kata and application practices--Qinna].

It was Japanese Shikata [
仕方] culture that compelled the Karate movement to bring its un-systematized practices into line with local accepted Budo standards. With the assistance of the DNBK [primarily karate enthusiasts within their Judo section] during the mid-to-late 1920's and very early 1930's, the Karate movement made significant improvements to their otherwise plebeian discipline; They established their own standard practice uniform [dogi/], replaced the use of the sash with the belt [obi/], replaced the use of the Chinese-based prefix [Kara/Tou/] and old-school suffix [jutsu/] with ideograms [kara/sora/ & do/michi/] which better reflected the Zen flavor of Japanese Budo and Yamato spirit, they established the ippon shobu [一本勝負] rule-bound method of sport fighting to test both technique and fighting spirit, and adopted the dan/kyu [/] system, to evaluate their participants. 

The dan/kyu System
First established by Kano Jiroro [1860-1938], the dan/kyu system was actually based upon the handicap structure established by Honinbo Dosaku (1645-1702) as a professional ranking structure for the game of Go. Dosaku's dan ranking structure lasted until 1883 when the Hoensha (the leading organisation of Go at the time) replaced it with a kyu-ranking system. The kyu ranking structure was abandoned eleven years later due to complaints from professional players and the old system was reinstated. The accepted theory is that Judo pioneer, Kano Jigoro, established the dan/kyu ranking system based upon this history.  

The First Dan Accreditations
Kano awarded the first Shodan ranks in 1883 to his two most senior students; Saito and Tomita. By 1886 the innovator required his yudansha to wear a black obi to hold their practice kimono closed. Kendo supported Kano's dan/kyu system by awarding their first shodan ranks in 1883. Later, in 1907, Kano formally introduced the official practice uniform and modern-style belt. The idea of different coloured belts, representing various kyu grades, was not developed until the mid-1930's by Kano's student, Kaiwashi Mikonosuke, who was sent to France to teach judo. By 1908 Kendo's curriculum had completely standardized as had their ranking structure. Based upon Kano's dan/kyu system it was successfully introduced into Tokyo's school system. By 1917, and with the support of the Monbusho [Ministry of Education] and the **Dai Nippon Butokukai [DNBK],
, Kano's dan/kyu system [employing 10 dans and 6 kyus] became the national standard used throughout Japanese Budo.

The Dan/Kyu System in Karate 
An aristocrat and an educator, the celebrated innovator of Judo [Japan
’s first modern fighting art], Asia's first representative of the IOC, and an experienced world traveler, Kano was an influential and highly respected member of Japanese society. To say that his pedagogical innovations helped get the karate movement recognized on the mainland of Japan would be to grossly understate his influence. Funakoshi admired this man of vision, sought out his guidance and liberally applied his innovative contributions thereby improving the overall image of Okinawa’s plebeian fighting art.  

 

The Dai Nippon Butokukai
Established in 1895, the Dai Nippon Butokukai [DNBK] was Japan's sole organization responsible for overseeing both modern and ancient [Koryu] fighting arts. Additionally, it accredited teachers and issued rank certification. Its authority was abruptly ended in 1945 when the DNBK was cited as being a source of militarism and officially closed down. As Koryu-based traditions did not have a history of using the dan/kyu accreditation structure [only teaching titles; Tasshi & Hanshi---later changed to Renshi, Kyoshi & Hanshi], such rank was the exclusive domain of Budo [modern fighting arts; Judo, Kendo, and Naginatado, etc.] of which Karate-do had become a part in December of 1933.  

With Nippon Karatedo as a new Japanese Budo, the DNBK requested that *schools, styles & teachers formally establish a common standard through which to use the dan/kyu system and register themselves.

Karate's First Dan Certification 
Two years after his arrival on the mainland, and more than a decade before a formal grading structure had even been established in Karate, Funakoshi Gichin awarded the first Dan certificates to his karate students. Without recognized accreditation himself, and much like Kano did with his Judo students before him, Funakoshi presented Shodan accreditation certificates to seven of his students on 10 April, 1924. Ohtsuka Hironori, Gima Shinken, Tokuda Anbun, Professor Kasuya, Hirose, Akiba, and Shimizu must have highly valued their certificates as Funakoshi charged them each 5-yen for their accreditation---the average wage in Japan during that era was 50 yen per month. Beyond the oral testimony of students like Ohtsuka Hironori, Gima Shinken and Konishi Yasuhiro, etc., who maintained that Funakoshi only taught kata, not "fighting," one is left to wonder about what criteria he used to accredit those seven recipients.

As such, Kano's dan-kyu system, and the technical competencies concept he'd established for grading his Judo students, served as the informal template through which karate's early ranking structure was loosely based.

New Age - New Rules - New Organization
When Japan unconditionally surrendered in 1945 its fighting arts were banned. When the ban was finally lifted
in the early 1950's Japan's martial art's community struggled to get reestablished. The war had consumed many of its leading martial arts authorities and new leadership, differences of opinion, and foreign occupation all played a role in reshaping the direction of Japan's fighting arts. Some of the lesser-known fighting arts, as well as several of the smaller karate groups, formed loose knit groups and interacted with each other. There were [and still are to this day] those who were content to remain completely independent. Seeking to duplicate the credibility of the Butokukai more prominent groups joined forces and established the Kokusai Budoin [aka, International Martial Arts Federation; IMAF]. In the same way that the Emperor had presided over everything in Japanese culture, including the DNBK, the IMAF recruited [in name only] a member of the Emperor's family to chair [i.e. a titular position] the newly formed organization, hence, establishing the guise of credibility through association. Senior martial art authorities, such as Mifune Kyuzo [Judo] and Nakayama Hakudo [Kendo] were recruited to oversee the Judo and Kendo divisions of the IMAF while Ohtsuka Hironori [Wado Ryu] took charge of the Karate section.  

In spite of the one-style harmony that Judo and Kendo had successfully cultivated in the pre/post-war years, personality conflict, conceptual and philosophical differences prevented the independent factions of Karate from achieving the one-style-fits-all-mentality in early post-war Japan. This did not prevent various pre-and-post-war interpretations of modern Karate from continuing to use varying aspects of the dan/kyu accreditation system to their own benefit. In the decade which followed the ban being lifted from Japan's fighting arts Kendo and Judo were successfully resurrected and found their way back into the public school system with the full support of the Monbusho [Ministry of Education]. By the time Judo was introduced at the 1964 summer Olympic Games, in Tokyo, Karatedo had generated a large enough following to support its own governing body...FAJKO [The Federation of All Japan Karatedo Organization/Zen Nippon Karatedo Renmei]. 

The First Karate Organizations

Few excelled beyond the political prowess and business acumen of Nakayama Masatoshi in his bid to build a successful school when he established the Nihon Karate Kyokai [Japanese Karate Association; JKA]. By 1957, the same year they held their first national championships, the JKA surfaced as the technical and political example by which all others would follow for decades to come. Wado Ryu, under the guidance of Ohtsuka Hironori, Shito Ryu, led by Mabuni Kenwa, and the Goju Kai, headed by Yamaguchi Gogen, successfully formed productive working relationships with each other and went on to gain national recognition alongside 'Nakayama's' JKA. Lesser known styles such as Kenyu Ryu, Nippon Kempo, Kushin Ryu and Tou'on Ryu did little to attract much national attention in spite of establishing loyal followings, while other styles like the Kyokushin Kai went on to generate huge publicity and worldwide followings. 


* In spite of the current DNBK tracing its roots directly back to the pre-war organization of the same name it is a different group no longer with any government authority to oversee the Japanese fighting arts. In spite of its [paid] titular association with Higashi Fushimi Jigo and Jiko, making it on the surface appear as if it is connected with the Emperor [which it is not], rank certificates and teaching titles issued by the DNBK are done so through a "recommendation system" and generate sizable revenue for the Kyoto-based ["non-profit"] group. 

* Most of the so-called "original" schools and styles we see today were not actually established until the 1930s and 1940s; Shorin Ryu, Shotokan, Wado Ryu, Goju Ryu, Shito Ryu, Kenyu Ryu, Uechi Ryu, Motobu Ryu, Matsubayashi Ryu, and Kushin Ryu, etc. 


Who Accredited the Pioneers of Karate?
Were they Samurai and what criteria was used to accredit them in the first place? 

It was the DNBK who accredited Karate pioneers like Funakoshi Gichin & Funakoshi Yoshitaka [Shotokan], Miyagi Chojun, Higa Seiko, Shinzato Jin'an, Yagi Meitoku [Goju Ryu], Mabuni Kenwa [Shito Ryu], Ohtsuka Hironori [Wado Ryu], Konishi Yasuhiro [Shindo Jinen Ryu], Kinjo Kensei & Ueshima Sannosuke [Kushin Ryu], Tomoyori Ryusei [Kenyu Ryu], Yamada Tatsuo [Nippon Kempo], Yamaguchi Gogen [Goju Kai], Nagamine Shoshin [Matsubayashi Ryu], Sakagami Ryusho [Itosu-ha Shito Ryu], etc. 

Many believe these pioneers of karate styles were actual Samurai warriors. Is this true?
 
No it is not. In spite of early Okinawan practitioners, such as Yabu Kentsu and Hanashiro Chomo, serving in the Japanese Army, and a one or two of the Japanese pioneers of karate tracing their family roots to a Samurai lineage, karate pioneers were not Samurai. 

Accreditation Criteria
Much like the culture in which the DNBK was established, criteria used to accredit candidates seeking Budo recognition was subjective usually requiring little more than a recommendation [from the right person] and a physical demonstration at the annual Butokusai [festival of martial arts]. To this day no record has ever surfaced adequately explaining the criteria required to receive DNBK accreditation.   


Re-enactors vs Fighters?
How about the MMA-based criticism that traditional karate is virtually useless when encountering the brutality and unpredictability of street violence? That, in spite of their fierce dedication and loyalty to the master, traditional karateka are merely a bunch of weekend warriors, like Medieval re-enactors; playing out a fantasy of harmless combative-like rituals, rule-bound fighting practices or competitive mock battles?
 

There is much truth to this criticism. In spite of traditional karate having produced many fine athletes and worthy tournament fighters over the years, too much focus upon incongruous rituals, pedigree and etiquette has reduced many traditions to re-enactment status not unlike the ritualized practices of Medieval re-enactors. Sadly, the only ones who cannot recognize this are the enthusiasts arguing the contrary! 


Kata?

Were they forged in the celestial furnace of Heaven or simply the product of mere mortals? Were they meant to teach fighting skills, culminate the lessons learned or represent hollow rituals used in dojo curricula by martial art re-enactors or by competitive athletes in tournaments?

To better understand these choreographed routines one must first recognize their contextual premise. What I mean specifically is how and why kata function, less they simply be meaningless forms of human movement. Without its contextual premise kata are reduced to little more than overly ritualized forms of shadow boxing; i.e., combative-like rituals with little practical value. Understanding this dichotomy, the late Dragon, Bruce Lee, told us that in order to truly develop functional fighting skills we MUST "free ourselves from the classical mess. "Yet, in doing so, by ignoring kata altogether we have not only distanced ourselves further from the art itself we have seemingly taken on a fight club-like mentality with little or no regard for its holistic underpinnings and traditional values. 


Here are a few of the many kata-related comments I've collected over the years from various authorities: I think rather than render an opinion myself perhaps it's best if you be your own judge as to who knows/knew what about kata. 

"The various Kata were created by Masters and experts of the past whose names are largely unknown. The methods of attack and defense that they used in creating these Kata were born, forged and tested through personal experience. ----- originally there were no written records relating to Karate, so perpetuation of a Kata depended entirely on the personal recollections and skills of those who practiced it. It is only reasonable to assume that lapses in memory or misunderstanding of Kata would have contributed to errors in transmission. - Funakoshi Gichin

It would take at least a year to master Naihanchi and Kusanku. - Funakoshi Gichin's reply to a question asked by Kano Jigoro after the 1922 private [Kata] demonstration at the Kodokan by he and Gima Shinken. 

"Even in the forty years that I have been practicing [Karate], the changes have been many. It would be interesting to be able to go back in time, to the point when the Kata were created, and study them. - Egami Shigeru

"Clapping your hands together above your head can cause your assailant to launch a sudden and uncoordinated kicking attack." - Nakayama Masatoshi  

Kyoda Juhatsu did not teach me any kata application. He said it was entirely up to me to figure-out what the kata meant and how to apply it. - Kanzaki Shigekazu

"Our teachers did not give us a clear explanation of the forms from old times. I must find the features and meaning of each form by my own study and effort by repeating the exercises of form through training." - Chitose Tsuyoshi

"It must be admitted that when compared with the judo kata the karate kata tends to appear monotonous and lacking the latter's spectacular appeal and dynamism." - E.J. Harrison  

“I had occasion to speak frankly with my old teachers and discovered that they had only been repeating what their predecessors had told them." - Kenji Tokitsu

"In Okinawa I don't think bunkai is as important as in Japan. In Japan everything is bunkai, bunkai, bunkai and I think this stems from the judo person asking the karate person many things." - Nohara Koei 

Master Tomoyose dropped a gem of information at last summer camp. In front of a crowd enthusiastic Uechi-ka, he was asked why the other 5 kata were developed. ... He proceeded to tell us that after WWII they were all so poor that it was often a struggle to find the money necessary to feed their families. One of the things they could do was hold karate demonstrations and charge spectators an entrance fee. Problem was, they'd do 3 kata, some breaking, some sparring and they'd be done ... the spectators were miffed because they felt that they had not gotten their money's worth. So Kanei Uechi, R. Tomoyose and their contemporaries got together to develop additional kata so their demos would be longer and people would be willing to pay money to see it ... ! " - Bruce Hirabayashi - Uechi-Ryu.com discussion forum 


Quanfa pioneers responsible for establishing early ways through which to impart their lessons found success using mnemonic-like physical rituals. By recreating the kind of violent scenarios common to their society and era, quanfa teachers introduced learners to real-life contextual premises and prescribed fighting techniques through ritualized two-person drills. Using the safety of a practice venue learners rehearsed their prescribed fighting techniques against passive resistant partners until growing familiarity, indomitable fortitude and physical skill afforded them combative functionality against unpredictable aggressive resistance. Separating the two-person drills into identifiable attack scenarios and prescribed response sequences, quanfa teachers successfully established solo-reenactment models and called the ritual practices Hsing [ Kata in Japanese]. By linking together individual models into collective routines quanfa innovators developed unique and complex solo exercises through which to not only culminate the lesson imparted but also express one's individual prowess while strengthening their overall mental, physical and holistic conditioning. 

Introduced to Okinawa during the later part of its Ryukyu Kingdom it was the simplification process in its school system that ultimately witnessed the old art and its contextual premise-based two-person drills, fall quietly dormant. With the focus upon form over function kata became a vehicle through which to cultivate physical fitness and social conformity in support of Japan's war efforts during a radical era of military escalation.
Kata practiced in modern karate have been so affected by the simplification process, and the reverse influence of pre-war Japanese Budo culture, that their introduction and practice throughout the 20th century has been without a contextual premise. Not surprisingly, my insights have been ridiculed by some and opposed by others before a general consensus argued such conclusions were self-evident. For a while there I almost believed there was a prize being awarded for trying to discredit my work. Because of this, I came to better understand Shopenhauer's "Three stages of truth." 

Formula Simplified
#1. Each act of physical violence is methodically introduced to the learner in order of distance and simplicity [i.e. kicking, punching, trapping and clinching distance]. There are 36 habitual acts of physical violence and no fewer than 72 variations on these common themes.

#2. The acts of physical violence are taught first [and individually] so each learner can understand why it's dangerous and which prescribed defensive tactics are possible.

#3. A single prescribed application is practiced with a partner back and forth at passive resistance, before variations are considered, thereby promoting familiarity with both the act of physical violence and its prescribed counter. Once an acceptable level competency is accomplished the attacker is instructed to gradually increase the intensity of the attack until the two-person scenario can be performed with aggressive resistance and confidence about understanding and effectively negotiating unpredictability is established.

#4. Learners are then asked to practice the prescribed application by themselves in solo re-enactment rehearsals. Shaped into template-like rituals these solo rehearsals become the individual composites which, when linked together into choreographed routines, become something greater than the sum total of their individual parts -- kata.

#5. In spite of the diametrically opposite way that kata are taught today, I believe this formula represents the way they were originally conceived and passed on.

 

The fact that kata can be, or have also been used as, a holistic mechanism through which to strengthen the body inside and out, a form of meditation in motion, an abstract form of physical exercise, a creative form of shadow boxing, a platform on which to hone and express one's technical skills, a tool through which to impart a school's curriculum, and or a creative competitive routine, is testimony to how wonderfully accommodating this abstract practice truly is.

Rediscovering this lost contextual premise awakens a sleeping Dragon and breathes life back into an otherwise dormant ritual. When I finally worked out how mnemonic mechanisms not only culminated the lessons already imparted but, when linked together, clearly offered something greater than the sum total of their individual parts, the mystery was solved. Sadly, some disbelievers need these words to be uttered by an Okinawan to ring true. For those of you who don't and are interested in learning how to better understand kata, the way I believe it was originally conceived, please read the Habitual Acts of Physical Violence Theory [HAPV Theory], and its corresponding two-person drill concept, as the formula with which to put the fight back into kata. 

"Truth will always be truth, regardless of lack of understanding, disbelief or ignorance." - W. Clement Stone, 1902-2002


Kyusho-jutsu?
Is attacking anatomically vulnerable structures, in an effort to impede motor function, a 'secret' only known within a single Martial Arts group? Is such a thing even a viable practice? Does one have to understand Yin/Yang, the 5-Element Theory and or TCM concepts to grasp its teachings? Are TCM principles, as they apply to Martial Arts application practices, exclusive to a single group, or can they be learned by anyone? If so, can they also be identified, understood, and systematized into a simplified learning curriculum using applied mechanics and Western medical science? 

There are so many "masters" today out there flogging their sake oil to the naive learner that I hardly know which is sadder; the naive participant who believes that they too will be able to apply the tricks in reality-based self-defence or the unscrupulous salesmen misrepresenting the "fighting" arts. 

I am particularly fascinated by comments such as, "Well, I've been on the receiving end of master so & so's energy transfers and, boy, nothing comes close to his power!" My all time favourite is the volunteer who stands before the pressure point "expert" waiting to get KO'd and believing that with some training they too will be able to do the same thing in the chaotic unpredictability of all hell breaking loose against some 115KG angry asshole who is about to take their head clean off! I wish the entire martial arts community would come together to rid our art of these charlatans --- alternatively, I'd love to see more of these pressure point clowns perform the same technique successfully against even a moderate threat. Here's my favourite.

The entire idea of attacking anatomically vulnerable structures is an invaluable adjunct to any fighting art and every functional discipline most certainly possesses such knowledge. Steeped in Chinese culture it shouldn't be surprising to learn that the quanfa-based knowledge that originally describes the attacking of anatomical structures has been historically transmitted through TCM-based learning [TCM = Traditional Chinese Medicine]. Historically speaking, such knowledge had been traditionally passed on through direct transmission within the Chinese martial arts community, by Acupuncturists and or students of Acupuncture and or other TCM-related practices. Recently, however, especially with its rise in popularity, there have been many excellent publications in English which describe the identical theory using western medical science. Amidst the many fine publications, I would personally recommend the work of my colleagues
Dr. Michael Kelly, Rand Cardwell and Bruce Miller to help eliminate the ambiguity of this once secret practice and understand its relative simplicity and practical application.

Kyusho-jutsu taught in the public domain
In 1994, after a year of negotiating, I finally accepted an invitation from the
president of Australia's national karate federation to relocate from Japan to Australia for the expressed purpose of developing an instructor's accreditation program. Originally planned to be delivered through the Seikukan, it was the Australian College of Natural Medicine that ultimately hosted the groundbreaking course as an undergraduate program through its Faculty of Health Sciences. After more than two years of researching and writing the course, the Australian College of Natural Medicine applied for and received its academic accreditation after meeting the stringent criteria set forth by the Ministry of Education. Having researched and written the two-year diploma program myself I was also asked to oversee the delivery of ten of its twenty-two subjects. In addition to my own credentials [submitted to and confirmed by the Ministry of Immigration, Ministry of Education and the school which hired me] the College  sponsored and paid for an additional study semester for me so that I could obtain the Cert IV accreditation from the Australian Qualifications Framework necessary to teach at the college level. 

Included in subjects MAT 101 thru 104 was the delivery of competencies surrounding the knowledge of attacking anatomically vulnerable structures [written by me and loosely based upon the research I had conducted during the years of translating the Bubishi]. Teaching outcomes included  anatomical terminology, identifying anatomical locations [bones, muscle, connective tissue, membrane, viscera, and nerves, etc.], understanding basic anatomical function, medical implications [after the fact], bio-mechanics and the transfer of kinetic energy, application formula & principles, resuscitation and injury management. Although I had never studied TCM in college, nor had I formally apprenticed under a recognized master during my several trips to China, I was fairly well read, gained a solid grounding in two and a half years leading up to gaining our accreditation and had an entire faculty of support behind me. Arguably, the ACNM is Australia's leading institute of TCM. I make mention of this because I also employed TCM-based [point location] terminology to identify precise anatomical locations used in weekly quizzes and scenario-based self-defence drills. This was supported by the learners growing knowledge of the Yin/Yang and 5-Element theory, also part of MAT 101 & 102, and complimented by other course subjects. 

Government recognized accreditation of tertiary-level programs in Australia last five years before needing to be updated and and renewed. The Diploma of Martial Arts Instruction program ran two years beyond it first renewal date until the college informed us they were pulling the plug because it was, as they so kindly put it, "challenging their profit margins!" Without hesitation, I proudly say that the development and delivery of the college program was the single most rewarding learning experience of my life with the fighting arts. To say that I learned something about the fighting arts that is simply not available elsewhere would be to grossly understate the experience.
 


In response to unscrupulous attempts to discredit me 
I am not a recipient nor have I ever been associated with a non-accredited degree scam developed by
Harold Mayle and offered through some PO Box in Hawaii listed as the, "Euro Technical Research University in Polemikology," which once cited Richard Kim as its dean. 


Mutual Admiration Society?

How about the internet chat-room "know-it-alls," with literally thousands of posts, most of which have the stench of self-importance, or trash everybody else's school, style, skills, and or character, except that of their "like-minded" pals? 

As much as I would like to address this question, I think it pretty much answers itself. Simply put, the fighting arts aren't much different from other hobbies or pursuits of interest in that they attract enthusiasts from all walks of life; usually, a big mouth, disrespectful attitude, and rude behaviour are sure signs of character weakness and low self-esteem and say far more about the personality of that person, his or her style, school and lineage than it does of the intended victim. 


Understanding the term Koryu Uchinadi and what it represents
Some people would have you believe that only an Okinawan or a Japanese can establish a Karate "style." The fact that their own traditional style may have been reduced to little more than a system of overly ritualized practices, which has lost touch with its original defensive purpose, is of little consequence when compared to fact that their lineage
can be traced back to an Okinawan or Japanese! That form and lineage are more important than function and simplicity is exactly the same criticism that drove Bruce Lee to break away from what he called, "The Classical Mess." 

Koryu Uchinadi brings together the fighting arts of Okinawa's old Ryukyu Kingdom into a coherent single study while not losing any of its original function. A name originally recommended by my Okinawan teacher, Kinjo Hiroshi, for the expressed purpose of representing the system of core-practices I brought together to better understand the nature and application of Okinawa's old fighting arts.  


Ideogram  Selective Pronunciation Interpretation 
Ko ... old, ancient
Ryu ... stream, flow, passage [of time], style, school
沖縄 Uchina ... Okinawa [i.e. the Ryukyu Kingdom]
di ... Hand/Hands; i.e. Fighting arts

古流沖縄手
Koryu Uchinadi

Koryu Uchinadi represents a highly functional and methodically systematized 
way of learning, practicing and teaching the old-style fighting arts of Okinawa.


Keeping alive the spirit of the Fighting Arts
What is the true spirit of this cultural heritage?

Learning to mimic the performance of ritualized techniques is not what karate is all about. Basho cautioned us, "not to follow in the footsteps of the old masters, but rather to seek what they sought." I am absolutely certain that his lesson is far more in line with the spirit and aims of the pioneers then it is with the conceit associated with one's "style" being the ONE & ONLY CORRECT WAY!" Truth does not conform to style --- style is an interpretation of truth, and so many styles are simply incomplete, ineffective or just plain impractical! Nor is Karate about the perfection of one's character as it is our imperfections that make us who we are. Karate is not exclusively about fighting either but rather learning how to overcome an adversary without resorting to physical violence. The greatest adversary of all is oneself.


The Bubishi?  
What is it? Is it of any value? Who is responsible for producing its first English translation? What about the clowns who criticizes it?

Undated and unsigned, the Bubishi [lit. Martial Provide Ambition] is an abstract collection of writings, hand-brushed in old Chinese script [probably from 19th century Fujian or Okinawa] discussing a wide variety of topics; ranging from quanfa history, anatomically vulnerable targets, tactical strategy, and moral philosophy to prescribed application practices to identifiable violent scenarios, escapes and counters, herbal concoctions and remedies. Passed down from at least the time of Higaonna Kanryo and Itosu Ankoh, the document has subsequently been handed down through both mainstream lineages of these pioneers.  

Credible pre-20th century documents detailing the history and evolution of Karate are virtually non-existent. Up until the writing of Funakoshi Gichin's [unchallenged] first book on the art, in 1922, and the few pre-war publications which followed, all we have are a haphazard collection of rare writings; e.g., a single quote by a 17th century Ryukyuan statesman, Junsoku, dated 1683; a brief passage in the 1761 Oshima Hikki; abstract comments from visitors of various 19th century foreign ships [Hall, Mcleod, Bettelheim, Perry]; a copy of an 1867 program outlining a demonstration of the fighting arts at Ochayagoten; a letter written in 1882, and a motto written in 1885, by Matsumura Sokon; the 1904 testimony of Noma Seiji; a single page from a book written in 1905 by Hanashiro Chomo; and a letter to the Ministry of Education written in Oct of 1908 by Itosu Ankoh. 

Knowing that the Bubishi was used by karate pioneers such as Funakoshi, Mabuni, Miyagi, and Shimabuku, etc., only reinforces the historical significance of this document. That its historical importance was finally identified, and translated into English [and subsequently into French, German, Russian, Czech, Italian and Spanish, etc.], and welcomed by a worldwide audience further testifies to its overall value. Certainly far from being the definitive text on Karate history, the Bubishi, nonetheless, provides tremendous insights into what the pioneers considered most valuable. If nothing else, just the lack of historical documentation itself is enough to place enormous value upon a manual such as the Bubishi. To anyone genuinely interested in the history of karate the contents of the Bubishi are like a window into the past. All one need do is let go of the pre-conceived notions and modern "style-based" propaganda to see what is clearly evident.

The first English translation of this work was produced by this writer [Patrick McCarthy].

Clowns? Denigrating the value of this important document simply shows one's ignorance. 

BTW, Charles E. Tuttle will be publishing a revised edition of my Bubishi, under the new name, "Classical Manual of Combat," in early June '08 ... in hard cover. 


Opposition?
What about those who oppose KU, you and all you represent?

I try not to focus too much on people's negativity. There will always be people around who oppose innovation and ready to use whatever influence they can to discredit others. Right or wrong, good or bad, everyone's entitled to their own opinion and it would be inconsiderate not to respect an individual's right to voice their point of view, even if it's not the same as mine. That said, genuine criticism is always a welcome gift, it's the unscrupulous bottom-feeders, whose only intention it is to denigrate the credibility of another for the sake of protecting their own inadequacies, which force us all to take protective measures. In my experience most of the unscrupulous stuff comes from those with a hidden agenda.


"Look at me!"
With all the published photos of you and well-known instructors, how
do you respond to the criticism that your entire website has "LOOK AT ME" written all over it?  

Is this criticism? Hmm, rather silly isn't it? Isn't the entire idea of having a professional website in the first place to draw as much attention to it as possible? What kind of business sense would it make by hiding the website or perhaps not even publishing it in the first place? How silly is that? There are two ways to look at such things; I like the way Prof. Shinzato summed it up here.  


"Original" Contextual Premise of Kata?
You advertise, 'resurrecting the "original" contextual premise of kata,' on your website. How do you respond to those who vehemently oppose such a claim?

That's simple, they either don't understand such a premise, don't want to understand the premise or are rivals with an agenda. Either way, they're welcome to try and prove me wrong. I'd love to see them produce evidence to the contrary rather than some lame excuse about, "oh, no one knows such a thing!" The truth is, I only care about the poor frustrated souls who are tired of learning preposterous application practices against equally ridiculous attack scenarios because the Japanese/Okinawan "master" says, "it's the correct way." The HAPV-theory [and two-person reenactment practices] is the original contextual premise and I suspect that opposition to this simple yet highly effective practice is probably because its success has ruffled some feathers. 

Even ignoring the term "original," few need look any further after contrasting the HAPV contextual premise with "existing" traditional kata application practices [that's assuming a style even has such a thing...many do not, even worse are those who say such things as, "it's up to the student themselves to figure such things out!" How intelligent is that?] as the results are unequivocally obvious.