Thoughts on International Education
Musings on Japanese and Ryukyu Budo
Thoughts on International Education
Usually, I do not like to explicitly point out specific places or people regarding misinformation on Chito Ryu, especially if they are not expressly tied to Chito Ryu. Still, the so-called `history` at the site (https://www.hakuakaikarate.org/history.html) is so poorly researched and checked that I must, in good conscience, draw attention to significant inaccuracies in its presentation of Chitose Sr`s history. Firstly, Chitose Sensei Sr did not serve in China. Instead, in World War 2, he worked in Kumamoto as a civilian and helped with the `national guard` during the latter years. Eyewitness accounts from his family certify to this. Indeed, there are no photos of him in military costume, among their collections. Secondly, while he worked with some karate groups on the mainland in the late 1920s and 1930s, he mainly lived on Miyako-Jima teaching karate and working with Kyan and Jyuhatsu. Thirdly, he did NOT change his name to Chitose Tsuyoshi until AFTER World War 2 - the adoption of this name had nothing to do with the other name changes he made in the 1920/the 30s.
Indeed thus far, I have found no evidence that Chitose Sr ever served in the Japanese Imperial Army. I must point out, however, such a lack of proof is not sufficient in and of itself to make a definitive statement. In Japan today, discussing wartime actions remains a taboo among those of a certain age. However, as research by Mario Mckenna and others (see, for example, https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20181217/p2a/00m/0na/018000c) has pointed out, draft-dodging among Okinawas was not uncommon and indeed may have been the norm. Due to a combination of ambivalence towards the national conscription law and an awareness of the racism they would face, the majority of draftees were not overly keen (that is, putting it mildly) to follow in the footsteps of Yabu-Sensei.
Even on the mainland, there was a keen awareness of the inequality prevalent in the conscription law. For example, for those who could afford the 280Yen, they could buy an exemption. At the time, 280Yen was approximately half a months salary for a general, so it was a substantial amount. Footsoldiers made about 9 yen. Thus on the mainland, the conscripted army was mainly composed of poor farmers sons until mid-way through the Taisho period. Still, others, such as Kyoda Jyuhatsu, were too short to meet the minimum height requirement of 150 cm.
Another common way of reducing the draft impact in Okinawa was to graduate as a teacher, thus reducing conscription to 6 week stint in the army. For others, the option was to go to the mainland and disappear. Perhaps this may have contributed to Chitose`s name changes during the 1920s and 30s. However, this is only speculation and must not be interpreted as truth. Indeed in Okinawa, he kept using his official name during this period, thus suggesting the name changes on the mainland were done for other reasons.
I have contacted the site owners and will let you know if I hear back from them.
Bad history = ignorance and betrayal of Chinen and indeed the life he lived with his family on Okinawa
It is a privilege and an honor again to be able to present some thoughts from Mr Peter Giffen. Always articulate. Always thought provoking.
The Purpose of Traditional Karate - by Peter Giffen
I didn't want to post this during the Olympics, to disrespect the fine young karate athletes participating. But now that we are done, here we go:
With the Tokyo Olympics underway, karate is in the spotlight. I hope that its debut makes a good impression with viewers and helps to build memberships in dojos worldwide hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
While modern karate competitions are exciting — especially with rules that provide scoring incentives for competitors to execute high kicks — I think the karate masters who founded the different styles, and the todi practitioners before them, would little recognize their practical methods of self-defence in these contests.
Yes, the young competitors are highly skilled athletes who should be admired for their physical abilities and determination. But the danger is, people will perceive that you need to be an elite athlete in order to do karate effectively. This may have been what happened when judo appeared in the Olympics 1960s. Some experts argue that the Olympics harmed rather than helped judo’s growth, and branded it more as a sport than martial art.
Karate is not just for young athletes. It developed as a civilian method of self-defence, with highly effective techniques, including hand strikes, kicks, joint locks, chokes and throws. Anyone, any age can gain increased self-defence skills through regular and committed practice.
But the key is to stay true to karate’s purpose as a traditional martial art, and not get distracted by modern variations and attitudes. We have practitioners who just like to have a bit of exercise and perhaps socialize a little bit with other members. We have regimens like Tae Bo, which strip away the combative aspects of karate and turn it solely into a cardio exercise. We have parents who want to make their children a little more disciplined.
All these uses of karate are good, but you don’t need to water down the art to receive the benefits. The exertion required to do a martial art properly hones the body and focuses the mind. And yes, if adults want to get together after a workout because they feel a joint sense of relief for surviving a gruelling workout, that’s fine too.
If you want to become an elite athlete, that’s also good. But after your competitive career is finished, don’t just sit in a chair, looking at your past medals, and say to yourself, “Ah, those were the days.” Continue to practice and continue to grow outside the structure and rules of tournament karate. Be a coach, if you wish, but cultivate a personal practice of traditional karate that draws on your discipline as an athlete.
Traditional karate requires rigorous training so you can execute techniques properly. You must also train the mind to be focused and calm, so you can perform effectively even when pressured by a dangerous situation (such as being attacked) or a deflating one (you feel lazy and uninspired). You must continually push your boundaries and strive for self-mastery.
I have students who have come to me and say they don’t like violence or the idea of hurting other people. I say, good: You should train yourself every class as if you were going to fight for your life, or someone else’s. But then you should conduct your life in a way that you never have to use your skills.
If you practice in this way, the old masters would be much more likely to recognize their karate in you than in the rules-bound contests of Olympics karate.
James M. Hatch
International Educator who happens to be passionate about Chito Ryu Karate. Born in Ireland, educated in Canada, matured in Japan