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"Old Style" Karate

Yesterday, I spoke to the widow of one of Hawaii's first post-war Karate Sensei. Near the end of our conversation, she said, "Thank you for preserving the 'old style' Karate."

Aftewards, I thought about what "old style" Karate meant. I have used the term myself. I guess that what constitutes "old" depends on your frame of reference. I think in terms of the 1920s and 1930s -- the days when Kentsu Yabu, Choki Motobu, Mizuho Mutsu, Kamesuke Higashionna, and Chojun Miyagi came to Hawaii. They taught some of Hawaii's earliest students, such as Seishin Uehara, Thomas Shigeru Miyashiro, Taro Azama, and Kiyoshi Kiyabu.

Others might consider the 1950s and 1960s to be "old style." These where the days when GIs and government workers returned to Hawaii after learning Karate while stationed in Japan and Okinawa.

Others might think of the days when the early Shotokan instructors come to Hawaii, starting with Kiyoshi Aihara in the late 1950s, and followed by Hirokazu Kanazawa, Masataka Mori and Tetsuhiko Asai in the 1960s.

In my mind, "old style" Karate was value based -- character was the goal, not only self-defense skills. "Old style" Karate was not commercial or sport based -- these "innovations" came later. Actually, the commercialism of Karate gave rise to the sport aspect. If Karate is a business, you need to promote it, you need to get the public's attention. Tournaments are a good way to get and keep students.

In "old style" Karate there was no tuition (or it was very inexpensive, almost a token) and there were no tournaments. Karate was a private matter. Masters were know for their expertise in certain kata or aspects of the art. Students would often be referred by their Sensei to train with other experts. Karate was not a business. There was no issue of losing business.

In Okinawa, Karate experts -- the very best of them -- were know as bushi. I wrote an article entitled Okinawa's Bushi: Karate Gentlemen. I hope that you will read it. Okinawa's bushi were the "old style" Karate masters.

You do not have to be old to be "old style." And an old person could be very commercial and sport oriented. It all depends on the person.

I sincerely hope that the "old style" of Karate will be preserved -- that traditional values will continue to be taught. I am trying to do a small part through the Hawaii Karate Museum, the Hawaii Karate Seinenkai, and my dojo, the Hikari Dojo.

Each of us , in our daily lives, can practice and preserve "old style" Karate.


Charles C. Goodin