Friday, 8 February 2013

Tattoos in the dojo

Tattoos - once the mark of criminals and firefighters in Japan
Marking the body with ink, once a pastime exclusive to pirates and other nare-do-wells, is now wide spread and infinitely more acceptable. In the old Ryukyu kingdom, women had their hands tattooed with large geometrical shapes as a sign of their maturity, however the practise was "discouraged" by the Japanese who thought it barbaric.

A gold star if you can read this!
I'm not sure how it has happened, but many of the karateka training at the Shinseidokan have tattoos; even some of the women who have trained there in the past, had discreet markings, in out of the way places. 

A full sleeve
These days it seems you can't step into a cage to fight, or train in BJJ, unless you have oodles of doodles....and a goatee beard. But tattoos are not the sole property of the modern prizefighter, like authentic karate training, tattoos were around long before the first of them entered a cage and flexed their muscles.

I've had tattoos since I was 16 years old
As befitting my lifestyle at the time, my teenage years saw the first introduction of ink under my skin. I never had a girl's name or a sporting team's logo put on me, so I have nothing to regret. The upper part of both arms display designs I am happy to have, and to show; although some of my seniors in Okinawa continue to give me sideways glances whenever I'm training without my gi-jacket.

Tattoos often begin small, then grow into something much bigger
You don't have to have tattoos to train at the Shinseidokan, they're not compulsory! But I find it interesting that of all those who have come through the dojo door, and stayed for any length of time, most of them have chosen at some point in their life: to face the needle......ehm?