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Ryukyu's Kings

Everyone is aware that Karate developed in the Ryukyu Kingdom (see Names of Okinawa), a small country dominated politically and militarily by Japan and China. But it was a separate nation, with its own distinct culture.

Many of Karate's pioneers in the Ryukyu Kingdom were members of the royal, noble, and administrative classes. People in the kingdom were distinctly aware of the King and those who were related to him. To this day, Okinawans in Hawaii will speak about their close or distant relationship to the royal family line.

There is a myth that Karate was developed by Okinawan farmers and peasants. Japanese tended to characterize all Okinawans as farmers and peasants. When the Ryukyu Kingdom was abolished and its lands were annexed to Japan as Okinawa Prefecture, a period of forced assimilation ensued. The prefecture became the poorest in Japan.

So, depending on the time period you look at, Karate in Okinawa may have been practiced by royalty, nobility, ordinary citizens, very poor people (many of whom emmigrated to mainland Japan, the United States and South America to escape poverty and starvation), post-war people rebuilding a devastated land, or the people we see today.

But during the days of the Ryukyu Kingdom, Karate tended to be practiced by royalty, nobility and the adminstrative classes. They were generally the only ones with the time to learn and practice Karate. The poor worked all day in the rocky fields or ocean, and did not have time to train at night at someone's tomb.

Again, I'm sure that you are aware of this.

Here is my point. I do not like kings, or lords, or royal anything. I am an American. Here, there are no classes. Anyone can get ahead based on hard work. We believe that all people are created equally. We do not discriminate based on race, color, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation... on a whole host of factors. We live in a democracy.

I have nothing against Okinawa's kings. But I do not glorify them either.

Sometimes I will hear people talking romantically about the feudal days in Japan. They imagine themselves as samurai or lords. I will comment that had they lived in those times, they probably would have been peasants -- like the majority of people. They would have had to toil in the fields to feed the royalty and nobility.

A person should be judged by his or her character and personal accomplishments, not on his or her bloodline. Everyone is equal in my eyes. That means that no one is lower, and no one is greater. Put another way, to me everyone is equally royal and deserving of respect.


Charles C. Goodin