Blatant Misuse Of the Karate-Gi
By Dave Lowry
The preference—I’ve indulged it—is to post separately, lest the engaging merriment of the “worst keikogi” thread be in any way interrupted. Still, wading through dazzling sartorial displays of those pinheaded congeners, the attention is arrested by the photo of Elvis—or “Ebbis” as he is more commonly known in the rustic climes of his most devoted followers.
It occurs that, well, there it is. The quintessential example of “American martial arts.” Has any one image ever summed it up more perfectly, more completely, more eloquently?
There is that couture nightmare of a costume—it is absurd to think of it as a keikogi or even a “uniform”—which captures it to large degree. It’s a silkier, more expensive version of the bath towel tied around the neck of the six-year-old super hero galloping across his back yard. A get-up in which to play pretend, to pose. It is to a real keikogi what the stripper’s pasties and fishnet stockings are to an adult, mature sense of sexuality.
And of course, there is the figure of Presley himself. Take away the mega-money and the grotesque, undiscerning attentions of his fans and you are left with one of a million of similar species: Homo vulgaris, the assorted Vinnies, Dwaynes, Ant’nys, and Bubbas who can be found hanging out in the parking lot at the 7-11, from Stumpwater, Alabama to the brownstone walkups of Brooklyn.
The desultorily-educated greaseball Mama’s boy whose pride in his hair is second only to that in his Chevy with its dual overhead carb, fuel-injector thrusters... A sad white trash apparition, desperately (and inappropriately) ashamed of his cornpone heritage, and so assuming a sense of exaggerated self-esteem, mistaking swagger for sophistication, sentiment for emotion, garish machismo for maturity. He is a trope, of sorts, for how many other pathetic losers, most of them less successful materially to be sure, but similarly acting out their fantasies of toughness and power? And of course, they’ve stumbled right into the karate dojo to embrace it all—even though the concept of karate as a transformative experience, as art, as ennobling, as a medium towards worthwhile social interaction and conflict is as foreign to them as calculus is to an ape. Karate for Ebbis and these clowns is in much the same category as the tumbling dice tattoo on their biceps, their silk jacket with the map of Korea on the back, the squealing tires left in their wake in hopes of impressing the girls.
It is almost an afterthought that, of course, his posture and poise reflect nothing other than a comic-book caricature of karate. If he has studied at all, he has learned only superficialities. Nothing of the art has become integrated into his body. Here’s a living cartoon whose mien and bearing says “karate” like a penguin says “dinner jacket.” You want a lesson for your next class, teachers? Juxtapose Presley’s epicene charade next to photos of real karateka in fighting stance: Kanazawa, Shirai, Higaonna, etc. Do a Power Point presentation. Point out their body alignment, the connexion between knees and elbows, positioning of the hips, carriage of the torso, relationship of the hands to the centreline of the body. Lesson? Hell, you could write a book.
It is not so striking as their preposterous outfits, but again as exemplified by “th’ King, babuh,” the sad creatures on this thread are so astonishingly, embarrassingly awful in their execution of stances or techniques. In a weird recapitulation of “it is better to look good than to be good,” they cannot even—this fairly boggles the mind–they cannot even stand like a martial artist. The peacockery of narcissistic man-child Mr. Presley is a glimpse inside the mentality of so many “martial artists” it’s depressing to think too much about it.
Pretentious, affected, so oblivious as a result of their own self-obsession and their real and perceived shortcomings as adults they would not recognise real budo if hit them between the eyes, they have, ironically, come to represent it. You and I laugh at these photos. We should. But we should remember that to a huge percentage of the general public, these fops and posers are martial arts.
Sort of makes you want to take up lacrosse or something, doesn’t it?
Author's note: A few years back, I started a thread in a popular martial forum called E-budo. The subject of the thread was a mastadonian collections martial artist wearing the most horrendous and hideous martial arts uniforms which I found and can still be found on the net. Many of "stars" that were mocked and lampooned on that thread are self-proclaimed masters of karate. The thread generated closed to a hundred thousands of amused and shocked viewers. Unfortunatelly, It was removed not only to protect the “innocents” but to save the bandwidth which was overhwelming the forum.
The thread caught the attention by one of my favorite Budo author, Dave Lowry Sensei. Lowry posted a separate thread in relation to the thread that I started . Lowry Sensei’s post was astoundingly well written and I thought the above article was worth preserving for the future generations to come.