Karate Thoughts Blog

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Sorry 'Bout That

OK, I realize that sometimes I seem a little sarcastic, dark, perhaps even twisted. Or maybe I seem schizophrenic: one minute writing about Karate techniques and values, and the other putting Itosu Sensei in a time machine.

It is just that I meet many people, some of whom are the best Karate people you could possibly hope to meet, and some who are... colorful in their interpretation of Karate. The people I meet are part of the pallet with which I write.

I will try to stay more on the positive path because I realize that writing about bad situations -- such as the over commercialization of Karate -- accomplishes very little. Traditional people tend to get together and talk about the woes of commercialism and commercial people probably get together and take about how "old fut" and weak the traditional people are. Neither position is entirely correct.

And I am sure that if Itosu Sensei did appear today in my dojo, he would wonder about out Pinan and Naihanchi kata. I am certain that he would ask who changed them. My friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata, learned from Chosin Chibana who learned from Itosu Sensei. When I observe Nakata Sensei's Naihanchi and Pinan, I am pretty sure that they have changed very little from Itosu Sensei's time. Chibana Sensei learned from Itosu when Itosu was elderly and Nakata Sensei learned from Chibana Sensei when Chibana Sensei was elderly. Chibana Sensei and Nakata Sensei tried very hard to preserve their kata.

My own kata have taken a less direct path through more generations of Karate teachers since Itosu Sensei's time. Some of my own teachers have been know to experiment with techniques -- so have I. If my Sensei tells me to change a movement in a kata, I will do so until he tells me to change it back. No problem. The kata are not like the Ten Commandments to me. I will experiment with kata for movement's sake, but not for tournment's sake. I care about how a kata "moves", not how it looks to other people.

And I also interpret each movement in a kata as representative of a range of movements... not just a single movement with a single interpretation. Each kata movement represents a range of movements, each of which has a range of interpretations.

So who is modern and who is traditional? Compared to Nakata Sensei, I must seem very modern. And yet, I think of myself as being very traditional (or at least I am trying to be so). It all is relative. Traditional or modern, commercial or teaching for free.

We all are practicing Karate.

I don't have a time machine and cannot summon Itosu Sensei. Fortunately, I have many senior friends who can share their interpretations and those of their teachers.

I will try to write more positively... at least a little.


Charles C. Goodin