July 30 , 2010


Karate History in a U.S. community


For several years, I have wanted to write the history of karate in Southeastern Massachusetts. However, there always seemed to be other priorities that distracted my focus. In 2009 I retired from my position as a police detective, and having been retired from the armed forces, I now had no legitimate reason not to devote as much time as possible to such a good karate idea—well, except for a brief period of hospitalization due to a serious surgery that kept me hospitalized for twenty-seven days and then at home for three weeks under nurses’ care with months of recovery. Karate history, in general, is, in some cases, somewhat obscured, including in the United States. I am willing to bet that not many people have thought of or proceeded to put in writing any historical account of karate in specific communities of the United States other than the Armed Services Judo and Jujitsu Academy in Pensacola, Florida, and the paper Helium by Can Tran. There are a number of historical writings as to how karate was introduced to the United States; however, I have not come across any historical account that takes us from Japan to the United States and to a particular community. There are also a number of historical accounts, but only pertaining to individual organizations or instructors. For this reason, I decided that this may spark the interest of other practitioners of martial arts to write factual accounts to the best of their abilities so that other young martial artists may draw some knowledge from these written facts or events. Even if this does not occur, at least the Shotokan practitioners can have some guidance as to the historical facts, at least in a certain US community. The reason I emphasize the Shotokan practitioners is because I have a greater involvement with the Shotokan system of karate. Perhaps this can be used as the basis of historical research or studies, especially among the college clubs and even dojos. I hope to keep your interest from beginning to end as I will cover a short history of karate in general and Shotokan karate to the history of karate in Southeastern Massachusetts. This will also be useful in recognizing specific individuals, masters, and instructors that deserve the credit and acknowledgment since karate remains a sport with less recognition compared to other sports. As Gichin Funakoshi often reminded his students, “The spirit of karate-do is lost without courtesy.” Therefore, this written account expresses the acknowledgment of those who brought karate to us, beginning at the grass roots of the communities, for this is how it manifested to national participation. This is one courtesy we often forget; it is like not knowing, or forgetting, where we come from. So often I have come across karate practitioners that are black belts and instructing karate classes and they do not know much, if anything, about how and where karate began and how it spread to all parts of the world. Sure, if you should ask any person with some karate interest as to where karate originated and how it spread, they almost always give the basic knowledge that it started from Dharma in India to China to Okinawa but not a whole lot more than that. In Japan, karate is a culture, not just instructions on how to kick and punch. As to this, I quote Funakoshi’s writing: “The ultimate aim of Karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of the participant.” Through this, there are a number of dojo kun to be followed, and the five most important are the following: seek perfection of character, be faithful, endeavor to excel, respect others, and refrain from violent behavior. These are usually found posted on a wall in the dojo. Additional dojo kun will be listed at the end of the book in both Japanese and English.
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