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It is always a good exercise to take account of our motivations as karate teachers and practitioners. Why do we continue on, year after year, teaching and practicing karate? Yes there are a lot of easy, canned answers: cultivation of character, preserving the traditions of the past, to learn to be able to defend oneself, to confront our responses to violence, force of habit. I am sure I am leaving many out.

I don’t think most people scrutinize this carefully. For a variety of reasons, answering this requires us to consider who makes up the community of people to whom we are responsible towards. When the answer is ambiguous it becomes nearly impossible to understand the extent of our responsibilities, and thus what it is we should be doing. The ‘why’ question becomes easier to address when we are clear about what we are doing, and equally important, about what we are not/ should not be doing.

There are those who regard themselves as hard-core ‘traditionalists’ for whom preserving tradition seems to be the ultimate objective. To these people the most important obligation is to ones predecessors in these arts. Of course it is useful and proper to give credit where it is due. We have an obligation to make sure our historical claims are accurate, but that seems like the extent of our obligation to the dead.

Many times in the thirty-plus years I have been involved with martial arts, I have seen abusive and insensitive behavior justified by appeals to tradition.

As a younger black-belt level instructor, I remember struggling with ethical dilemmas that should not have been complicated, however, my judgment was clouded by the imagined relevance of some mumbo jumbo associated with tradition.

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Here are a few background pictures from the weekend in Rocky Mount. Of course the really interesting stuff involved people, but the space we trained in was really quite beautiful as well.

Matt over at the Ikagi blog has posted an interesting interview with Forrest Morgan, author of the book “Living the Martial Way.”

Among the topics that Mr. Morgan addresses, this particular statement caught my attention:

“Would you want the U.S. Army trying to defend the nation with swords and spears? What would you think if the U.S. Navy refused to equip itself with state-of-the-art warships because wooden sailing vessels are more “traditional”?  Even the less archaic, non-classical, traditionally-oriented martial arts, such as karate-do, aikido, jujutsu, etc., systems that strive to maintain their customs, training methods, and techniques unchanged from the late 19th or early 20th century, are usually not directly applicable to most 21st century threats without some amount of modification… “

Read the entire interview here.

So you teach classes at a local gym, or you are a senior student at a club, and one of the students has to bow out because he is feeling nauseous and you notice that he is rubbing his shoulder, stomach bug and a shoulder strain you think? Maybe, but it could be a heart attack. What are you going to do?

Our society is aging, and it seems likely that at some point many karate teachers will find themselves faced with a student who needs care quickly due to a heart attack or injury. Many facilities now have Automatic External Defibrillators on site and they are not difficult to learn to use. The Red Cross offers affordable classes in First Aid, CPR, and AED across the country. Being prepared before a crisis seems pretty martial to me.  Get certified, it is the responsible thing to do.  Here is a link to the Red Cross Page, click here and sign up.

I found Bob Patterson’s blog post regarding chi interesting and thought I would share it with our readers.
Here is an excerpt:

“Martial Development has a challenge for skeptical martial artists: Prove that chi is scientifically impossible. Naturally, since I consider myself to be an open-minded skeptic and a martial artist, I had to take a crack at this one.

First, while it is my intent to provide a skeptical view of chi it is not my intent to disrespect proponents of chi. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I am happy to listen to anyone’s point of view, theories, etc., but I will not accept them at face value. I won’t believe something just because you say something is true. I usually need a little bit more evidence than that.”

To read the rest click here.

I thought some of you may be interested in seeing the following two videos of Morihei Ueshiba:

First from 1935

The second is a compilation from much later in Ueshiba’s career

Kempeitai: Japan’s Dreaded Military Police” by Raymond Lamont-Brown
First published in 1998 by Sutton Publishing Limited
ISBN 0750915668

Speculation regarding the involvement of martial artists of the Showa era in war crimes (or the facilitation of war crimes) in the Sino-Japanese war, and Second World War has been generating a great deal of interest among contemporary western practitioners of budo for a number of years now. Aikido’s Morihei Ueshiba, and Shotokan’s Yoshitaka Funakoshi (assisted by Shigeru Egami) both taught unarmed combat at the Kempeitai training facility at Nakano.

The kanji for “bu” is a compound consisting of two elements: at the bottom left is a character meaning “to stop”; above and to the right is a character meaning halberd (or arms);  put together the idea conveyed is “to stop arms”. However historically naive, this is the idea of “bu” that first drew me in and it still resonates deeply with me.

Looking carefully at how it is that civilized, educated people, be they the Japanese Kempetai of the Second World War, or be they American military officers at Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib,  can become so callused and brutal should be of interest to anyone with a serious interest in bushido.

This deeply disturbing book provides little information concerning the involvement (or lack thereof) of prominent martial artists of this period.  This book paints a damning picture of Showa era Japanese policy towards POW’s, and towards non-Japanese people though out Asia who were unlucky enough to find themselves under Japanese control. The conduct of the Kempeitai is particularly disturbing.

The author’s father was detained by the Kempeitai on 5, March, 1942 making this personal. Lamont-Brown’s outrage at the sadistic and outrageous abuse of prisoners and indigenous populations throughout Asia by the Kempeitai is palpable throughout the book.

Lamont-Brown describes the systemic brutality of the Kempeitai prior to the second world war in Manchuria and Shanghai, as well as throughout Japan’s war with the Allied powers.

Here are a few excerpts that illustrate the focus of this book:

From page 8:

Historians endeavoring to research Japanese Second World War studies in general, and Kempeitai activities in particular, have long come across the two main ethnic characteristics to thwart their success: namely, ‘Tactical Myopia’ and ‘Strategic Amnesia Syndrome’. For decades the Gaimusho have had a blinkered attitude to such events at Taisho Iwane Matsui, commander-in Chief of the Central China Area Army’s ‘Rape of Nanking’ on 13 December 1937, in which 300,000 Chinese nationals were slaughtered and maimed, and actively discouraged all who sought to build up a picture of Japan’s role in the Second World War. Only since the 1990’s has the Mombusho allowed new textbooks to give anything like detailed accounts of the Second World War from any point of view.

From page 43:

June 1945 saw the position of the Japanese forces in Burma turn precarious. For some time British paratroopers had been teaming up with local guerrillas to harry Japanese positions at Tenasserim, between Moulmein (the city-port capital of Mon state) and Dali Forest. Shosho Seiei Yamamoto,  Chief of Staff to the 33rd Army under Chujo Masaki Hondo ordered a group of soldiers from the 3rd Battalion the 215th Regiment and OC Moulmein Kempeitai to sweep Kalagon and kill as many British paratroopers and dacoits (Burmese bandits) as possible. By 7 July they had occupied the village and and all the inhabitants were rounded up to be interrogated by the Kempeitai.  Although Women and children were raped and beaten, no information about the resistance movement was elicited and the Kempeitai ordered  the whole village to be massacred. The people were taken tied up, in batches of five to ten, to a nearby group of wells. There they were blindfolded and bayoneted into the wells, alive or not. On that day the 3rd Battalion and the Kempeitai killed 600 villagers.

I will include one last excerpt, from page 151;

Chusa Oishi quickly and meticulously divided Singapore into manageable sub-divisions under Shosa Tomotatsu Iyo and Chusa Yoshitaka Yokota, who commanded the screening of all civilians and characterized Chinese suspects as ‘undesirable and anti-Japanese’; and decided who should die. Soon Kempeitai lock-ups were bulging with suspects, and during 17-24 Febuary 1942, the Chusa Tsuji monitered every step of the killing programme, berating the Kempeitai if the numbers of the Chinese slaughtered seemed to fall. In all some 5,000 persons were to be murdered in Singapore in the ‘Tsuji holocost’.

Because of the profoundly disturbing nature of this book I will refrain from using our usual light-hearted rating system and simply recommend that you take the time to read it.

Follow the link below for an excellent article by  Alex Bennett of the International Research Centre for  Japanese Studies:

Excerpt (page 53):

However, a more martial interpretation of bushido came into vogue again in the militarist 1930’s, and many Japanese soldiers read copies of the aforementioned Hagakure, or Bushido on the way to the front. In the aftermath of WWII, bushido fell into disfavour. Foreign and Japanese critics alike blamed bushido as representing all that was most loathsome in Japanese wartime behaviour. Many Japanese renounced bushido as part of the misguided militaristic ideology resulting in Japan’s defeat and shame, and as unsuited to their new post-war democratic society.

The thing with bushido is that it always has been, and always will be, open for interpretation. There is no one ‘school of bushido.’ Recent history has
shown that this makes the idea useful and potentially dangerous at the same time

Click Here.

Follow this link to Nitobe’s  often cited work ” Bushido, the Soul of Japan” (full text included).


I’ll let this one speak for itself…the bottom caption just kills me. It’s amazing what we can find when looking through old cornball MA magazines…

"Try to see yourself as you truly are and try to adopt what is meritorious in the work of others. As a karateka you will of course often watch others practice. When you do and you see strong points in the performance of others, try to incorporate them into your own technique. At the same time, if the trainee you are watching seems to be doing less than his best ask yourself whether you too may not be failing to practice with diligence. Each of us has good qualities and bad; the wise man seeks to emulate the good he perceives in others and avoid the bad."
Funakoshi Gichin


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