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Early Criticism of New Standardized Karate

Back in the early 1900's, some of the instructors and students who knew the "old" form of Karate, might have criticized the new standardized form of Karate as "children's Karate" or "baby Karate".

However, Itosu Sensei helped to introduce the new standardized form of Karate to the public school system of Okinawa for a reason -- at least in part to preserve the Ryukyu/Okinawan art of Karate in a prefecture that was administered and dominated by Japanese (who greatly preferred Judo and Kendo in the schools).  And Itosu Sensei had a certain respectable stature.

And when you think about it, the new standardized form of Karate was for children!

So if the old timers criticized the new standardized form of Karate, they probably did so quietly and realized that it was an expedient.  The good reason justified the standardization, at least at first.  After all, the school students could learn the new standardized version and later, when they became older, learn the old way.

Except that the new standardized form of Karate became prevalent and the old way became harder and harder to find.

But over the years, I have heard the new (1900) standardized form of Karate referred to as "children's Karate" or "baby Karate".  Or sometimes the critic would just make a hand motion to express "what can I say?"

But one of the most biting comments I personally heard was to the effect that the Karate people practice today is not the true, authentic Karate.  This was told to me by a long retired Goju-Ryu instuctor.  At the time, I felt a little hurt and insulted but turned the comment around:  "If instructors like you do not teach the true, authentic form of Karate, how are students like me supposed to learn it?"

But now, years later (that fine instructor, one of the most skilled I have ever met, has since passed away), I find myself agreeing with him more and more.

One last thing, many Okinawan instructors back in the 1920s and early 1930s felt that it was inappropriate to teach "authentic" (old style) Karate in mainland Japan or overseas (except perhaps to Okinawans), and that it was barely acceptable to teach the new standardized form.  Thus it was that early Japanese Karate students who visited Okinawa were largely either not received or were criticized by Okinawan instructors.  Chotoku Kyan was an exception in this regard, perhaps because he had been educated and lived for considerable time on mainland Japan.  He received and explained things to Miki Nisaburo and Mizuho Mutsu (both Japanese) from Tokyo Imperial University.  Mutsu visited Hawaii in 1933 (with Kamesuke Higashionna, an Okinawan).  See the Hawaii Karate Museum Newspaper Archive.


Charles C. Goodin