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A lot is made of lineage in Karate: who is your teacher and who was his, etc.

It should be obvious that a great teacher, such as Anko Itosu knew a great deal. That does not mean that every student who learned from him became a great teacher. Having a great teacher gives the student a tremendous opportunity. Whether or not the student takes full advantage of that opportunity is up to him.

Also, a lot depends on how long and how intensely the student learned from his teacher. I practiced once with Shoshin Nagamine and had my photograph taken with him. That does not make me his student! I've trained with many teachers but have had only a few sensei.

It is possible to learn from a poor teacher (one with limited skills). If the student is very bright and works hard, he can learn. Hopefully, the teacher is open minded enough to encourage his student to consult with other experts.

It is pretty silly to brag about lineage. In an actual self-defense situation, it won't help you. The only thing that will matter is your training and skill.

A teacher cannot teach you everything. At best, it is said that a teacher can teach you 80%. The other 20% will be your own interpretation or creation. Also, it is said that you learn 50% when you are taught and the other 50% when you teach. Therefore, much of what you learn comes from your own effort and actions. And you might choose to emphasize different aspects of the art than your teacher did.

I feel that too much is made of lineage, often for egotistical and commercial reasons. Choki Motobu may have been your teacher's teacher's teacher's teacher, but that won't help you at all unless you train hard yourself. I had the good fortune to meet Motobu Sensei's son, Chosei, who still teaches his father's and uncle's (Choyu Motobu) arts. Although the style of Shorin-Ryu I had studied for many years was partially derived from Choki Motobu, I found that much of what we did conflicted with his basic teachings. Name alone means little or nothing.

If you trace your lineage to a famous teacher, study what he taught and how he taught it. Also study his teachers and contemporaries. Study as much as possible. Don't rely on lineage alone.


Charles C. Goodin