Friday, 11 July 2014

When size really matters..?

Some of Okinawa's better known karateka - early 1960's ?
I really like this photo, because it shows a number of Miyagi Chojun sensei's students posing for the camera, even though they no longer trained together. I like it also, because the number of students is small, and because that's the way it always was before foreigners got their hands on karate and infected it with their own agenda.

As far as I know, karate on Okinawa has never been united; at least not in a formal sense. For the most part teacher's taught what they knew to the small number of students who came to their dojo seeking instruction; when the men in this photograph began training, I doubt there was anyone teaching karate in Okinawa who would have foreseen the huge gatherings that we see today.

In over 40 years of training, I have yet to encounter authentic karate being practised in huge numbers. Within some of the global karate corporations that exist today, there are small pockets of authenticity, I've seen them, but they exist in spite of the organisational structure and doctrine, and not because of it: it's an irony that is not lost on me.

Size matters in karate, the bigger the number of students the shallower the education, and the more diluted the system becomes. So...where did this idea of attracting as many students as possible come from? Why, from the businessmen of course; the folks who see in karate an opportunity to make money, and lots of it!

Size matters in karate....but perhaps not in the way that many of you might imagine.