Friday, 3 August 2012

Authenticity - v - Celebrity

Mario McKenna sensei
In this, the 200th post on Shinseidokan dojo, I want to highlight what it is to be an authentic karateka, as opposed to being a famous one.

For some time now the karate world has been changing from what it use to be: morphing in to something else. The slow but deliberate shift away from authenticity by many karateka is clear as they push ever-harder to reach the shining glow of celebrity. The rise of the "International Master" and an ever-growing number of people who are only too willing to abandon their own research in favour of following the latest Messiah, has taken karate out of the dojo and placed it squarely on the stage of entertainment.

Mario McKenna sensei is about as far removed from this (celebrity) approach to karate as it is possible to get, and because of that he is in my opinion somebody worth paying attention to. His knowledge and skill in both karatedo and kobudo is real, his research in to the Okinawan fighting arts is significant, and his contribution to the literature on karate and kobudo is honest, important, and expertly delivered. All of this he has managed to achieve without basking in the limelight of fame that others have cultivated, and continue to cultivate, with such insidious results for the future of karate.

There is a paradox in the world of karate; the humility of teachers who are valuable, often hides them from those of us who want to learn. The noise and vulgar industry of the attention hungry seminar master, is all that many experience when they go looking for a teacher. Showmen rather then a sensei are far more common now, as authentic karatedo, the way of karate, slips ever further back in to the mist of history; but perhaps in some strange way this is no bad thing.

I've never met Mario, although we have corresponded and exchanged a few ideas. Recently a friend of mine in Spain, Juan Luis Cadenes de Llano Bajo, interviewed Mario and published the results on Shotokan Karatedo, a web resource run by another friend of mine Victor Lopez Bondia. I've now received permission from all three involved to make that interview available to you; what a great way ( I think ) to bring the second century of posts to a close The interview can be read in English here, and Spanish here.