Thursday, February 23, 2017

While walking today

While waking today I started thinking of what was happening on Okinawa just a hundred years ago.
Teaching karate as an after school activity had not been going on for maybe 2 years. [ unfortunately I do not have access to my library and I have to rely on memory. ]
It came about because of several suggestions Itosu Sensei had made to the School Board. I believe part of it was because there was some logic that it would help those who would have to serve in the Imperial Army, to have some training too.
An observation, I understood the sense behind that. Even in Pennsylvania a part of High School Boys Gym Class was instruction in marching. The Gym teacher had been the same teacher my father had had. [He was also an amateur Gettysburg Battle Historian.] And I am sure those practices began long ago preparing boys to serve in the Armed Services. In the 1960s they were still part of the classes.
Okinawa realized they were very much a part of Japan. For one thing the Japanese controlled the school system. I recall several recruits with karate training had found their previous training helped their service. So a link was made for the rationale behind karate being offered in the schools. Not so much for just fighting, but being educated enough to know how to follow orders in basic drilling. Prior to that the Okinawans were more used for services.
So perhaps some expectations for the karate program were also for that.
Now Okinawans I am sure were like people everywhere, talking about everyone else, especially if they were not your group.  I imagine  there were those who thought it wouldn’t work.
Back in 1979 when I first started a program through the Boys Club, for young people, many times senior instructors approached me and asked my why I was doing that, In their opinion Karate was for adults and there were the serious students to be found.
I had my logic, I used to walk around Scranton at lunchtime at the Bank where I worked. What I saw were a great number of dance schools for young women. Many of them. Parents found a reason of their own for the young women to take dance. It occurred to me that karate could have such a purpose. Of course I didn’t believe Karate was just for young men, and I was the first program to open that Boys Club to young women too. They ended up half the class.
I tried to point this out to many instructors, they never believed me. While many taught some children, few did so exclusively then. I could see tine day most schools would teach children if they wanted to pay their bills.
Enough memories back to Okinawa.
Now prior to the school experiment, if you did not belong to the right group, you did not get the chance to learn karate.
As they did so they also proved others could learn karate. Over time many instructors held school karate classes. And it seems karate gradually opened its doors to other students.
A greater impact than many take the time to consider I am sure.
Before long, Okinawa would choose to show karate to the Crown Prince, there and then a demonstration in Japan.
Several Okinawans (among them Funakoshi, Mabuni, Hiagonna, and Motobu) took things a step further. They believed Karate could be shared with the Japanese, and took the step to include it in University programs. Which also led the groundwork for sharing Okinawan karate around the world.

Of cousse that led to other changes, A instructor group considering teaching karate to the Okinawan people as a group activity. Commissioning the development of forms to be used in such activity.
There were many changes compounding each other. The Masters meeting in 1936, changing the name, more uniformity between programs, adopting formal uniforms. And many others.
The war and the abuse of the Okinawan people stopped many of these activities. But a ground work of change was made. One that would continue to this day.
And teaching school students became the first step.
But 100 years ago, did anyone believe that would be possible.
It was a long walk for me.


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