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"Catholic" Karate

I was raised as a Catholic (my mother attended Catholic school in Fukuoka before the war). Suppose I started each Karate class by having each of my students make the sign of the cross and recite a prayer? Before and after each kata we could say "Amen." There are many opportunities to integrate Catholicism into a Karate class. There are many opportunities to incorporate any religion into a Karate class.

I think that most readers would agree that it would be inappropriate to bring aspects of the Catholic religion into a Karate class. It would not be fair to students who are not Catholic -- and even students who are Catholic might not appreciate it. I would not like it if my children were in a class (such as dance or music) and were also being taught a religion. Honestly, I would get very upset. Religion is a private thing, something the family should do together.

Plus, I am not a Catholic priest. I am not qualified to teach Catholicism.

So here is my point. Some people integrate Zen into Karate. It might seem OK to some people. Zen has always been a part of Karate, right? No! Zen was really never a part of Okinawan Karate in Okinawa. Zen was a Japanese thing. When Karate went to mainland Japan, it was natural that some instructors there would incorporate aspects of Zen. It was part of martial culture on mainland Japan. But that does not mean that it was part of Karate.

Incorporating Zen into Karate is no different than incorporating any other religion. In my opinion, it is not appropriate to do so.

"Catholic" Karate would upset people but "Zen" Karate sounds so... Japanese.

To me, Karate is enough in and of itself. If something is missing in my Karate, I should train harder, not add something else. It is better to do one thing well rather than two things half heartedly.

Please don't get me wrong. I believe that religion is good. It is just that religion is a personal matter. I should respect my students' rights to believe or not believe what they wish.

And I should teach Karate to the best of my ability.


Charles C. Goodin