What prompted me to write this article was when a teenage girl and her father strolled into my previous dojo in Los Angeles, California. The father whose face swelled with pride because his daughter had decided to continue her karate training after their old dojo shut down.
However, certain issues came to light when it became apparent that the “karate” school his daughter had previously attended was obviously a made-up or “fabricated” style of karate. The particular style did not have any recognizable techniques found in Japanese or Okinawan karate-do. In fact, It was a "American" based martial arts fabricated by an american that advertised itself as "Traditional Japanese Karate".
To make the matter worst, Dad produced a certificate that was to affirm his daughter's karate credential. The certificate presented was horrific ! It contained amalgamation of Chinese, Japanese , korean and some asian writing I don't even think exist. One of the kanji on the certificate was "love", and up to this days I am still shaking this vivid memory out of my head.
Finally, the father asked me if her daughter could retained her "brown belt" and move on up from where she left off. I said " No, she needs to start over again as a white belt " Dad insisted that his daughter has been training for over a year to get her brown belt and just few months away to black belt. This statement left me totally flabbergasted, 14 months to Black Belt ? wow ! After a lengthy and tiring conversation, he finally gave in and decided to have her start again. “ I really wished I knew the difference” the dad explained.
This scenario plays itself over and over again in every Japanese / Okinawan Dojo througout the US. The only way parents or prospective students can understand and avoid such embarrassing scenarios like the one above is to do their homework before they do their legwork. Being in un-recognized and non-verifiable “karate” school can equate to spending 3-4 years in law school and finding out that the school was non-accredited. You lose time, money and worst of all, a false sense of accomplisments and security !
The Bottom Line
For decades Korean and American “created” karate schools have misguided the public by using the word "Karate" in place of or in conjunction with their name. This of course is purely a marketing strategy, thus taking advantage of the uninformed general public.
The hard and painful facts is that many of these made up arts have little or no understanding of the particulars and in-depth knowledge of the Okinawan /Japanese bugei (martial arts).
If I sell you a car that’s branded and sold as BMW , however I “neglect” to honestly inform you that it has a Hyundai engine on a Ford Pinto chassis. Would you honestly believe that you are driving a BMW ? Of course not ! From the outside its may look like a BMW but it sure would not run or drive like a BMW.
The heritage of the term “Karate” does not belong anywhere or to anyone but in the Okinawan and Japanese culture. The art itself cannot be and should not be construed as an American, Korean, Chinese, Pilipino, Thai, Burmese, Nigerian, Laotian, Cambodian, Ethiopian ...etc. systems of "karate".
In order for karate to have any ligitmacy, It must be established in Okinawa or Japan and recognized by the goverment of Japan as well as the Okinawan goverment. Karate is unregulated here in the United States. There are many schools that uses ligitimate sounding Japanese names as well as pseudo "Japanese" organization to make themselves look ligitimate to the unsuspecting public.
They will tell how their art can be traced all the back to ancient gods of the atlantis . Don't fall for this lies. Remember " Caveat Emptor " or "Kainushi No Kiken Futan" , In plain english ~ Buyers bear the risk ! Just ask this simply question - " Who in Okinawa and Japan can I contact to verify the validity of your "karate" style ? "
In this day and age if left unprotected, true karate of Okinawa and Japan will forever lose its rich heritage. False martial arts masters and frauds are everywhere, promising you everything you want to hear, while taking your money and time away from you.
If you are in such a group you may want to do some research to find out how legitimate your oranization is, unless of course your ok with being part of the group that is perpetuating the deceit and lies.
Now, before you bombard the poor host of this site with "Hey ! What about the Gracie Jujitsu or the Brazillian Jujitsu ?". Well, first I am not writing about Jujitsu or Jiujitsu. How the Japanese Jujitsu community feels about it is entirely up to them. My article is based on the blatant missued and abused of "karate" in general.
About the Author: Mitz Matsukaze is a contributing freelance writer for the alljapankarate.com website. He is a former yudansha in Shorinji Ryu Karate-do and currently training in Matsubayashi Ryu Karate-Do.
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