Monday, July 4, 2016

School Boy Karate and then Some

 There is a great tendency to employ sloppy generalizations about the past of karate that distorts what actually happened. Like or dislike what Japanese karate has become, as you wish. But be accurate about the people involved.
One example is those who refer to the karate taught by Funakoshi Ginchin in Japan as ‘school boy’ karate, which it was decidedly not.
If use of ‘school boy’ karate is at all correct it did happen on Okinawa itself. From a suggestion by Itosu  karate on Okinawa was taught alongside schools. And many were the instructors who did so. Of course initially it was thought as a draft preparation study.  A karate study for a most specific purpose. And those practices developed for use in the schools did find their way into the regular karate programs.
Then while Funakoshi Ginchin was formerly a school teacher who also taught karate on Okinawa, when he was asked to go to the Japanese mainland he decided to remain and devote himself to his art.
At that time on Okinawa there was no controlling structure defining karate or even formally approving anything. The instructor was free to follow their own consequences as to how and what they shared.
Funakoshi broke more new ground in Japan. He (and Mabuni) took karate into the University system, Understanding the leaders of the future were going to come from there. They would become Government administrators, Naval Officers, etc.. It this he was supported by many powerful Japanese. Karate would become a tool for their use, in a sense just as it was used on Okinawa.
I suggest there were many things happening all under the name of Funakoshi, which is a convenient label for the movement he started taking karate to Japan.
In this he was hardly alone, as many Okinawans were in the process of doing so. Of course his efforts made quite a splash as it goes.
1. He did demonstrate karate before the Crown Prince.
2. He did demonstrate karate on Japan proper.
3. This demonstration impressed Kano Sensei, and he was influenced to remain in Japan.
4. His original students were made black belts in one year.
5. He did publish a text on his karate for his students, then republished it, and later published other texts on his karate. For the most part he was first in this, beginning the karate publishing industry.
6. He very shortly began promoting karate within the Japanese University system.
7. He promoted individuals to become instructors of those programs, moving from school to school,
8. Individuals who were trained by him left his program to run their own programs, (Such as Mutsu), some returned to Okinawa and studied there adding to their knowledge. They promoted their own programs, wrote books about karate.
9. He developed a central school, where the programs could share what they were doing.
10. It was student university instructors who experimented and developed competition programs. (Once people become instructors they tend to spend more time in their own programs, and become less involved returning to the Central Program to further their own studies.
11. His son and others, undertook studies with other instructors and changed karate that they were teaching. I suspect he was older and went along with the changes.
12. Those ‘students’ trained with individuals like Mabuni Sensei, and other Okinawan instructors. They also studied in China returning with what they learned some of which was incorporated in Shotokan.
13. The Shotokan program had a Board of Directors many of who were connected with the Japanese Martial Establishment.
14. Many survived the War, others did not. After the war, reestablishing the program in the Universities, and the Headquarters, Funakoshi role as he was much older became more ceremonial and he was known to just teach basics.
15. In the post War years, control passed on to others. Factions arose in the Shotokan and members split with the JKA to form new groups.
16. The changes of the Shotokan JKA continued to evolve.
I would suggest this is only a partial list of what happened. There were many people involved. It just became polite to attribute the Shotokan JKA to Funakoshi.
The JKA did not evolve in a vacuum. Other university programs participated, such as Mabuni Shito-ryu, Japanese Goju-Ryu, the Wado-Ryu and others. What occurred became a shared group effort.
Not realize that there was nothing like this occurring in Okinawa,  in those years. This was entirely new ground. In Okinawa, the instructor was more the way, each program individual in orientation.
I suggest it easy to suggest that Okinawa was more authentic. However I believe the reality is more complex. In time Okinawa would undergo change and growth on its own. Many of the things that occurred in Japan would be repeated in other places, mostly because those new places did not see what was going to happen.
Of course Funakoshi Ginchin did take charge of the initial request that he present Okinawan karate to Japan. Then he ran with it and in no small part initiated the changes that would be coming.
Today change is continual all over the place.  The entire issue is very complex, too complex to really discuss simply.
The contrast to those practices from Okinawa are there, But then change kept coming there too.
Much of that change was due to America returning Okinawa back to Japanese control in 1972. Probably making adoption of Japanese practices to karate more reasonable. Then as the idea of Karate spread to the world, many other forces became involved in what karate became.
I recall a discussion that on Okinawa in the late 1970s there were No Okinawan dojo focused solely on children. But by 2010 there were literally hundreds of schools for children. Just one example of change taking place……

No comments: