|My final Jundokan training - Montreal, May 2014|
Held aloft as a sign of strength and authenticity; large gatherings of karateka (seminars) have become the measure by which karate associations now judge their success. The myth that because they are large in number they are also 'doing the right thing' by karate is a deeply held belief among association leaders, and even more so among their followers.
The juggernauts now clambering to own karate, while impressive in what they can achieve in terms of public display, suffer from the same basic flaw: an inability to be consistent. The very process of building a karate association, sets the groundwork for it's eventual failure. Values are inevitably abandoned in favour of 'making progress', and 'like minded' karateka soon find themselves at odds with each other. Not one single karate association I am aware of has ever survived intact for more than a few short years....not a single one!
Names of karate associations may remain unchanged, but even the most cursory look into their history reveals the often cavernous cracks and splits that have been papered over in an attempt to project consistency; for without the impression of unchanging guardianship the argument associations make, that they have something of value to offer the karate world, becomes untenable.
Budo karate exists as a result of ideas like 'ingyo' and 'kenson', that would, if karate were still practised widely as budo, lead to Intoku. Karateka should simply go about their training without fuss or fanfare and pass on their karate to others without charging ridiculous amounts of cash. They should give more than they take; and refuse to share their karate with people of questionable character. A karate sensei should be recognised, not by the huge number of followers he has promoted, but by the small number of students able to meet his standards of behaviour.
|Okinawa Budokan - 2008|
The image above fits in well with the idea of 'success' in karate these days, and yet the individuals making up the gathering are only allowed to be karateka at the discretion of their leaders. Dependency is so deeply built in to the mind set of karateka and karate associations now, that neither seem able to exist without the other. As associations have assumed ownership of karate and that assumption remains unchallenged, the bedrock of karate, the dojo, no longer stands at the centre of learning for karateka.
A reluctance to change, even when the situation is toxic to the learning of budo, only serves to underwrite the authority karate associations assert over their members. And yet, how many adults reading this would admit to being 'owned' by their karate association? Uncomfortable as that may feel for many, every time a wrong is excused or a falsehood is left unchallenged within your association, you give your leadership a stronger grip on their authority over you.
As a student of human nature, and karate, it has become clear to me that history often fails to credit the really important figures responsible for our evolution; and instead, merely records the exploits of those who made the most noise....