Introduction
While addressing the problems associated with indiscriminate learning, turn-of-the-century French Mathematician and philosopher, Henri Poincare, wrote, "Science is built upon facts much in the same way that a house is built with bricks; but the mere collection of facts is no more a science than a pile of bricks is a house" (Poincare 1).

 

I believe that Poincare's observation was not limited to his era or to mathematics. In fact, I believe it can be likened to the indiscriminate way in which karate has been learned in modern times. Despite producing a new era of brilliant competitive fighters and kata competitors, modern learners continue to learn kata without understanding the fundamental nature of its defensive themes or application principles. “This is like learning a song in a foreign language; unless one can speak the language in which the song is being sung, the meaning of its words will forever remain a mystery."

 

The Old vs. the New (The Art vs. the Sport)
If there are any doubts about what new athletic heights karate has ascended to these days, all one need do is attend any local tournament to see just how many brilliant competitive fighters and kata competitors the modern tradition continues to produce. There can be no argument that the karateka of today, when compared to those during the era in which the tradition was pioneered, have redefined the apex of physical athleticism. However, one question that begs to be asked is, "Does the competitive tradition, or its corresponding rule-bound training methods, adequately address the same defensive issues the art was originally developed to meet?" I believe IT DOES NOT. More importantly, however, how many misguided learners actually think they’re getting the original art when, in fact, they are not?

 

This controversy between sporting authorities and advocates of the art continues on purely because of misunderstanding and inflexible mindsets. Simply put, failure to recognize the difference between karate’s original defensive intentions (locked hidden in all the moves of kata) and modern day training methods (developed by and for rule-bound based, reverse punch/front kick tournaments) is one of the biggest conundrums in karate today. While we are certainly discussing two sides of the same coin, what separates these two schools of thought is not nearly as important as what could bring them together. Unfortunately, pride, insecurity and protectionism remain at the forefront of such resistance.

Neither side denies the fact that most competitively trained athletes could probably handle themselves adequately in a potentially dangerous street confrontation. Competitively trained athletes are in great physical condition, possess an impressive arsenal of impact tools (kicking, striking & punching) and can quickly muster up an aggressive behavior. That they are no strangers to mutual confrontation, means they are better prepared than the average person to meet an attacker head-on in the street. However, being seized or tackled (an issue which happens during street encounters, especially if one decides to resist) requires a completely different set of application principles and defensive strategies.

 

Effectively defending oneself against the habitual acts of physical violence (HAPV), such as a clinch, tackle and/or a grappling situation that has gone to the ground, demands completely different training methods than are found or used in rule-bound (modern karate) training. Ask yourself this question, “Does my style include effective defenses against being seized in a bear-hug, put in a head-lock or being choked to death? Moreover, what the heck do I do when I am thrown to the ground?”

The truth is that no one in a real-life confrontation is going to attack you with a well-controlled reverse punch, nor are they about to stand still while you perform your secret "pressure-point" knock-out defense. Someone trying to cause grievous bodily harm is more likely to provide little or no warning before attacking you, and be brutally relentless in his or her assault. Believing that the old one-punch-one-kill theory, held to be gospel in traditional karate circles, is an effective deterrent is as naïve as believing in the Easter Bunny or that “chi-based” remote knockouts actually work.

 

If you are not among the growing numbers of learners already questioning such issues, then perhaps this presentation may compel you to note the obvious differences between the art and the sport. The important thing to realize when reading this work is to understand that it is not intended to critique the sport, discredit an instructor, slander a style or disrespect the Japanese. It is a sincere attempt to draw your attention to the not-so-obvious-differences that separate the modern tradition from the old ways.

 

It's difficult to move beyond the prevailing mindset that the Okinawan pioneers had all the answers. I often hear comments like, “Well, that’s the way Shimabuku did it,” or, “That’s what sensei taught,” or, “It says so in the book(s).” While no disrespect is intended to any of the pioneers, and my observations are purely academic, I believe this kind of blind faith does little to provoke critical thinking.

 

If one is capable of thinking “outside the box” it quickly becomes apparent that seizing, grappling and other related habitual acts of physical violence are the contextual premise of kata. When this defensive context is realized, five things become apparent: 1. The anatomical attack location is identified. 2. Its associated tool of impact is revealed. 3. The angle of energy transfer is established, and, 4. The direction of that energy transfer is also established. The 5th element of the formula is the intensity of energy transfer, which is determined by circumstances and outcome. This is why it is so important to seek out the oldest or most original kata, as the modern interpretations (shite-gata: i.e. standardized kata for competitive purposes) have been altered for their outward appearance and not inner defensive value; Form not function.

Knowing this truth, it should then come as no surprise to learn how & why modern karate's newly established rule-bound outcomes necessitated the development of corresponding training methods to support the competitive arena in which they would be used. By understanding how the defensive objectives, originally used by progenitor pioneers, were so diametrically opposite to the rule-bound outcomes on which modern karate was/is based, I hope that it will become crystal clear to readers not only why old-school training methods were/are so different, but also why they have all but disappeared: Koryu Uchinadi represents our campaign to revive the best of these old-ways.

 

Historical Pretext
It has always been the structure of the human body, its unique functions & common anatomical weaknesses which have ultimately dictated how seizing & impacting, along with the corresponding biomechanics which support the transfer of both low intensity and higher velocity kinetic energy, best impedes motor performance; the dispassionate aim of self-defense. Despite what is being taught by a myriad of different schools, styles and systems throughout the world today, these principles are irrevocable and must be completely understood by all before the art can ever be mastered.

 

Based upon this universal truth, man has continually pursued different ways through which to improve his understanding of these immutable principles of self-defense. Through generations of empirical observation spiritual recluses in the monastic sanctuaries of ancient China were able to identify and catalogue no less than 36 different habitual acts of physical violence (i.e. standard forms of attack) that plagued the plebeian society in which they dwelt. From these offensive themes came as many as 72 different variations surrounding confrontation and the subsequent struggle, which often ensued. Resolved to living in harmony with nature & their fellow man, spiritual recluses embraced pacifism and believed that if and when the ego could be controlled, the need for physical violence could be reduced to a chance encounter. Hence, the remarkable training methods they developed (despite the combative ways that may have been used during certain periods of Shaolin history) were governed by the non-lethal defensive outcomes they sought to achieve.

Built upon immutable anatomical principles and corresponding laws of nature, a plethora of individual techniques were configured into 18 composite exercises (hsing in Mandarin, Chinese; kata in Japanese) which came to represent the Shaolin standard through which a total of 108 offensive themes could be effectively countered. Historically, this phenomenon represents the foundation upon which karate unfolded.

 

Kata is the inter-related thread from which the fabric of all karate traditions is woven. Ritualized physical emulation is a mnemonic concept, which evolved before written language, and has long served many ancient cultures as the most effective way through which to persevere & pass on important ideas. Profoundly influenced by the culture in which such a phenomenon evolved, training methods ultimately came to reflect the signature characteristics of those people who popularized such practices. However, at the core of such practices, the offensive themes are always exactly alike. Varying ways of seizing & corresponding tools of impact can address a whole plethora of habitual acts of physical violence because the human body is unique. However, nowadays, this fundamental message has been long forgotten due in large part to the ambiguity of its evolution, as well as the emphasis placed upon the competitive arena and those training methods which support its rule-bound outcomes.

 

This generation has seen the growth of a number of independent movements aimed at re-discovering the original purpose of kata. The International Ryukyu Karate Research Society is one such movement dedicated to re-discovering, analyzing, improving and imparting the original principles on which kata is based. The emphasis on the modern competitive aims & objectives has given birth to corresponding training methods with aims and outcomes unlike those for which kata were originally derived. Such modern training is therefore not the original practice or purpose of this tradition. Koryu Uchinadi has rediscovered the practical two-man drills (tegumi), which actually link fundamental technique to its original defensive themes and corresponding principles of application.

 

Through lengthy historical analysis the Society has discovered that this kind of training more closely resembles the early practices used in old-school karate thus bringing the learner closer to understanding the defensive themes present in kata.

 

It is through studies like this that the Society has discovered how & why the original art of karate has become all but obscured. In this field of research, we’re unique.

 

Tegumi
What's the sense of learning a whole new vocabulary if one cannot yet write the alphabet? If karate was compared to the English language, we could say that kihon waza could be likened to the ABC's. Based upon this assumption, it would be fair then to compare kata with sentences & paragraphs as they are built in the same way. If that comparison holds any weight, then bunkai-jutsu would have to symbolize the meaning of such grammatical compositions. Carrying the example a little further, we would still need a way in which to conjugate the tenses and impart grammatical principles; Tegumi, a lost practice in modern karate, is a classical practice which links basic technique to its defensive theme & application principles.

The “secrets” contained in kata are represented by our ability to interpret the building blocks of the paragraphs – the meanings of the phrases and sentences which make up the paragraphs. These “building blocks” in fact represent the systematized responses to acts of aggression formulated by the Monks of Shaolin. Instructional DVD's Now Available

 

Moral Philosophy
Karatedo cannot exist without a body of moral philosophy to govern the behavior of those who embrace its empowering practice. Learning karatedo without its corresponding philosophy creates a terrible imbalance, which is usually reflected in attitude, character and behavior.

 

Spiritual Introspection
One can never get beyond the immediate results of physical training without looking inward. Karatedo teaches that the source of human weakness is internal, not external. Hence, the journey must always be inward, not outward. Discovering that the source of human weakness lies within reveals the location where our personal battles must be first fought and won before inner-harmony can ever be achieved and the living of daily life improved.

 

Fundamental Principles
The fundamental principles upon which the theory & application of karatedo rest can be explained in both Western science & Eastern tradition. This, for the most part, makes up the pedagogy of Koryu Uchinadi©, and, to quote Motobu Choki, it is what the Society refers to as "Our-Karate."

 

Training Methods
Training methods must always reflect its corresponding outcomes, or an imbalance is bound to materialize. Aims and objectives must be supported by corresponding training methods. The training methods used in Koryu Uchinadi focus upon application principles and link fundamental technique directly to their corresponding defensive themes.

 

Acknowledging its Parts Helps Better Understand the Whole
Karatedo can be many different things to many different people, and embraced in many different ways. We believe that by recognizing its parts the ambiguity in which the art is shrouded disappears and one can better understand the whole. The Society holds the position that karatedo can be 1. An interesting alternative to conventional Western physical fitness, 2. A challenging rule-bound sport, 3. A form of self-defense limited only by one's understanding of its defensive themes and application principles, 4. A way of improving daily life (i.e. a ritualized empowering defensive, holistic and therapeutic tradition punctuated with moral philosophy, and highlighted by introspective practices as a single study,) & 5. A rewarding and meaningful occupation.

 

Stereotyping: "Dispelling Myths"
One of the greatest myths that exist in Karate today is the belief that the Okinawan/Japanese pioneers of modern karate were omnipotent & knew everything there was to know about the Chinese art (Ryukyu Kenpo Toudi-jutsu) they reinterpreted. The plain truth is that they did not. One needs only to study the true history surrounding this phenomenon and its subsequent evolution, and then compare & evaluate these legacies, in order to discover the limits of their independent interpretations. However, we in the West love to hear the stories of the little old-master etc. Moreover, in nearly forty years of training, it has been my experience that Western learners tend to place their Japanese/Okinawan teachers on pedestals that they would never even consider for occidental counterparts. Another of the biggest myths perpetuated in karate today maintains that, "If you're not getting it from a Japanese/Okinawan sensei, then you're simply not getting the "REAL McCOY"… and that's simply NOT TRUE!

Now, just before I offend anyone with my comments, or am branded something I am not, let me clarify my point: "In my opinion" no one race or nationality has a monopoly on understanding or teaching this art, least of all the Japanese. Yet, in the same breath, no one is saying that there are no great Japanese/Okinawan teachers. However, isn't it about time that we recognize the excellent occidental teachers who have discovered new paths of understanding where our oriental teachers could not? Anthropologist Joe Campbell once said of this kind of stereotyping, "An oriental expert of an oriental tradition will, by virtue of his race/nationality, always command more respect in his field than his occidental counterpart." The truth is that mastery of this art transcends race and nationality, (and) this is the message we need to convey rather than perpetuating a myth to the contrary.

 

"The skill of any able teacher lies not necessarily in the transfer of information but rather in awakening the mind of the learner."

Every generation produces innovators who, in an effort to keep their traditions a living experience for the people they serve, reinterpret the immutable principles upon which they rest. By doing so, more innovative 'methods' of imparting the same principles (& accomplishing the same outcomes) are established. Such a phenomenon is surely the product of humanity and not any one culture.

Styles, Sport and the Old-Ways

As a veteran open-competitor, field-researcher, published author and professional teacher, I see modern styles, the sport and its original old-school infrastructure as interrelated parts of a larger whole. I have spent years studying and developing a simple way through which to integrate these universal principles into the infrastructure of any dojo curriculum. What makes learning the defensive themes and application principles so comprehensive is that there is no negative impact upon the signature characteristics of one's style. That way the threat and fear commonly associated with change is removed and a learner can better understand their own kata.

The Society is genuinely committed to making this information, which might otherwise remain hidden as it had from me for so many years, available to anyone who has a genuine desire to learn.

 

Learning to Fish for Yourself
When I think about the negative influence that protectionism & political animosity has upon learners, who might otherwise have arrived at different outcomes knowing the truth, I am reminded of an interesting story that I would like to share with you.

The story is about the villagers of an ancient kingdom who were completely dependant upon the local governor for their daily sustenance. Each day, for generations, the head of each household was required to go to the governor's mansion with their tribute and in return receive a fish or two to feed their family. Sometimes it was never enough and yet they had to make due with what little they received. Families who sought more or complained were often punished and ostracized. As long as anyone could remember the governor and his ancestors had always maintained total control over his people in this way. One day, a traveler from a far away land appeared in the village. Sympathetic to their problem the stranger promised to teach the villagers how to fish for themselves. When the governor was informed of the man's intentions he publicly laughed and ridiculed the traveler saying that such an idea was preposterous. Privately, however, he ordered his men to do everything possible to prevent the stranger from accomplishing his mission. When the villagers finally discovered how to fish for themselves, they became independent and stopped paying un-necessary tribute. However, because the governor & his ancestors had been the rulers of the village for so long, no one ever challenged his authority and just accepted that it was the way things were meant to be and continued to support him. However, when it was later discovered that the governor had, in a self-serving effort to protect himself & his position, secretly tried to slander & ostracize the traveller, the villagers lost respect for their leader and withdrew to establish their own village elsewhere.

 

When the governor lowered himself to such depths he caused the villagers to question his integrity. By not challenging his actions, the villagers would have been left with no other alternative but to question their own integrity!

 

Origins of Mind-Set
Molded by time and shaped by experience, it's certainly no secret that martial artists have varying ideas about what's what & who's who. In fact, to say that some martial artists are opinionated would only be to state the obvious. Let's not forget that special interest groups and the old-boy network are just as much a part of this tradition as they are to politics. After all, the martial arts are big business these days. Amidst the workings of this wonderful tradition, woven firmly within its political fabric, there exists a particular mindset that not only impedes the learning process; it undermines karatedo as an art.

 

I don't think anyone has to study political science or epistemology to understand how & why special interest groups, with their self-serving agendas, contrive & perpetuate such preconceptions. Greed, profit & control has long provided ample motivation for such behavior, even if it does come gift-wrapped in sheep's clothing. I suspect the reason why otherwise decent & honorable people continue to support such nonsense is purely naivety, fear or both. Enthusiasts who simply take things at face value or accept the word of self-serving cynics have long occupied this tradition.

 

After years of searching it became evident to this writer that the answers I sought could not be provided from these "accepted authorities.” No longer willing to tolerate, 1. Political manipulation, 2. Emphasis on personal servitude, 3. Widespread narrow-mindedness, 4. Ignorance, 5. The old-boy network, 6. The special-interest group and closed-door mentality, and 7. Out-dated teaching methods (I am not referring to accepted traditions but rather unsound & incoherent practices), I stepped outside those circles in an effort to seek out the true history, evolution and technical application of karatedo.

 

Migrating to & residing in Japan for so long, my efforts in the field brought me into personal contact with the most recognized & accomplished authorities of karate & kobudo. At the time, no other researcher had successfully attempted an undertaking of this nature. While I cherish the valuable moments & wisdom many authorities unselfishly shared with me, sadly, it also became quite evident from which source the narrow-mindedness had originated.

 

By publishing the deductions of my independent studies, I began to cultivate an international following of like-minded enthusiasts. These new and important theories compelled many enthusiasts to question existing "truths" and look more deeply into the history and technical theories of our tradition. In doing so, by questioning existing "truths" I openly challenged the old-boy network, special-interest groups and closed-door mentality. I never thought for a moment that introducing my theories, within this highly political landscape, would be easy or without adversity. I was right.

 

Having become a victim of groups or individuals who defend opposing suppositions, I can only now truly appreciate the enormous resolve early pioneers must have had when introducing their teachings into a far more inflexible landscape than what presently exists. Nestled comfortably in ignorance & greed, the weapon of choice, in this surreptitious conflict, is sophistry "the practice of using arguments that seem believable but are actually false & misleading" and innuendo. What objective does any of this warrant, the non-believer asks? Simply put, the objective of this effort is to cast doubt and discredit any source that challenges the veracity of unchallenged authority. Of course, this especially includes the control & power of the old-boy networks and special-interest group mentality.

 

Amidst the most common preconceptions I’ve dealt with over the years:

1. If you're not with OUR GROUP (or one that we condone) you're nothing and will never amount to a hill of beans, and we’ll make darn certain to perpetuate this conviction wherever our special interest group can levy influence.

2. If you question OUR authority (even though we don’t have the answers!) we'll ostracize you (usually behind your back, of course) and make darn certain to perpetuate this conviction wherever our special interest group can levy influence.

3. Only WE are the experts, or those that WE support, so why even bother trying to be something you can never be? And we’ll make darn certain to perpetuate this conviction wherever our special interest group can levy influence.

4. If you didn't learn it from US, you're a fake, phony and fraud and we’re going to discredit you everywhere our special interest group can levy influence.

5. "Because master so & so told me so...it MUST, therefore be true! However, even if it isn’t we’re still going to use it against you because, “How could you know more than MY MASTER?” Incidentally, we're going to make darn certain to perpetuate this conviction wherever our special interest group can levy influence.

6. If you’re not OKINAWAN or JAPANESE, what could you possibly know about karate or kobudo? We’ll make darn certain to perpetuate this conviction wherever our special interest group can levy influence.

7. If your group is not HEADQUARTERED in Japan/Okinawa, like ours is, then you’re simply not “authentic.”

8. Be careful down there because the MASTER could fall off the pedestal we've put him on and squash you :-) <Just testing to see if you’re still reading this page>

9. We'll continue to vigorously cultivate our nepotistic chokehold, self-serving double standards & hidden agendas hoping that you'll be unable to rise above them. If you do, however, then it will be necessary to distance ourselves from you in order that our smear campaign might have a more effective impact on discrediting you. We’ll make darn certain to perpetuate this conviction wherever our special interest group can levy influence.

 

Amidst this pretence, I found it particularly disturbing that one could be so seemingly respected & admired when supporting this or that special interest agenda only to be slandered, discredited & ostracized by the same group for discovering & siding with superseding truths. I wonder if that is what compelled Bushi Matsumura to say, “To all those whose progress remains hampered by ego-related distractions let humility, the spiritual cornerstone upon which karate rests, serve to remind one to place virtue before vice, values before vanity and principles before personalities?"

 

It is apparent to me that our tradition is plagued by the very philosophical issues it seeks to eradicate. As deeply as I search, I simply can find no honorable qualities with the inflexible mind-set mentioned above. However, I did find the following example quite amusing, especially when related to the narrow mind-set so prevalent in the so-called martial arts.

 

Genesis of Policy
"Start with a cage containing five monkeys. Inside the cage, hang a banana on a string from the ceiling and place a set of stairs under it. Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana. As soon as he touches the stairs, spray all of the monkeys with ice-cold water. After a while, another monkey makes an attempt with the same result - all the monkeys are sprayed with ice-cold water.

 

Pretty soon, when yet another monkey can't resist trying to climb the stairs, all the other monkeys aggressively try to prevent it. Now, turn off the cold water, remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and immediately wants to climb the stairs. To his surprise and horror, all of the other monkeys attack him. He tries again and is attacked again. He realizes that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted.

 

Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and replace it with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer too, takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm. Again, replace a third original monkey with a new one. The new one makes it to the stairs and is attacked by all. Two of the four monkeys that beat him up have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs, or why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey.  Why not? Because as far as they know that's the way it's always been around here!  Wasn't it the late Bruce Lee who said, "What would it be like if we only ever did what our critics would have us listen to or believe?"

 

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Patrick McCarthy
Standing together in support of common goals

 

Notes

Note #1: It is simply preposterous to think that all Okinawan or Japanese karate/kobudo teachers are incompetent, because they're not, and no one is saying anything of the sort. However, assuming that nationality or lineage alone makes a master is simply not true and perpetuating this myth impedes the learning process. I remember Grandmaster Nagamine Shoshin, one of Okinawa's greatest pioneers of karate telling me, "We have just as many fakes, phony's & frauds right here in Okinawa, as you do in the West."

Note #2: When discussing eclecticism and change within the modern landscape of karatedo, the notion of revisionism is usually greeted with a fairly pejorative reaction. Such recourse, however, is not completely unexpected. Many organizations that employ esoteric, ambiguous or dictatorial practices use such recourse in order to counter criticism to de-legitimize/discredit anyone arguing a different point of view. There is nothing new about such tactics and many old professions have long used them. It should come as no surprise to see the same things occurring within Karate. In fact, you would probably expect it even more considering the way in which certain individuals have been deified by the followers of certain traditions, and the considerable financial interest tied up in marketing their wares and status quo: If you control the license to practice or levy influence in special areas, anyone operating outside that license must be observed as a threat.

Note #3 If you have a concern about something someone else told you, especially if it casts doubt on someone's character or credibility (whether it be the detractor or the intended victim), which is too often the case in our tradition, I hope you'll remember the monkey story and not hesitate to ask for verification rather than simply accept it as truth. Lest we be no better that the culprit, please remember, there's always two sides to every story.