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Paul Anderson
Paul Anderson's picture
Karate in Okinawa post 1920s

We all know about how certain Karate teachers moved to Japan from the 1920s from okinawa taking knowledge about Karate as a fighting system, and then it was modernised in Japan into what we see today.  What I don't know much about is what happened to the Karate-ka in Okinawa from the 1920s onwards, the masters who chose to stay there and teach in their back garden. 

We have on one hand a number of people who must have received teaching from Itosu etc that stayed in Okinawa and taught the next generation of Okinawans.  If we then flick forward to present day to my eyes all of the Okinawan Karate I see looks just like the sportified Japanese styles that were created in the 1920-1950s.

What happened in between?  I would have thought there would have been some kind of surviving students that know Karate as it was taught 3-4 generations previous?

I've been thinking about this for a while, but it was reading one of Karatebyjesse's posts that made me post this http://www.karatebyjesse.com/?p=12675 He presents some interesting comparisons to Kung fu forms to Kata that I have not seen previously.

miket's picture

Simply put, World War II and the Battle of Okinawa happened with literally tens of thousands of Okinawans killed or forced into suicide.  Then, post WWII, there was the Allied ban on all martial arts which (from memory) I think lasted at least five years post war.

I didn't read the article completely, (the tone kind of put me off), but I got to the point where the insinuation was made that Okinawans did not go along with the rising militarism of early 20th Century Japan.  This entirely contradicts a great deal of the early history of early karate, its introduction into the Okinawan public schools, and its pursuit of DNB validation.  Itosu, in his own words, offered karate up  for strengthening the national health, specifically for the purpose of preparing young men for military service.  Early karate was, from one perspective, very tied up in the militarism of Japan.

And, without at all meaning to deliberately attempt to refute an article I haven't read in its entirety, a lot of people HAVE looked into the 'obscure' roots of Okinanwan karate.  Patrick McCarthy and IRKRS, for one.

The idea that karate was derived from an eclectic combination of SE Asian fighting arts presented in the article (I also saw the trade routes photo and a reference to Siamese [Thai] boxing) is almost certainly true.  Again, McCarthy would be a guy who has looked into this area extensively if you want to folllow-up.  The situation in historic Asia was much more fluid than we typically give it credit for.  For instance, I was just reading about the first settlers of Hawaii who ethnologists believe crossed the Pacific in dugout canoes from Tahiti and elsewhere-- sometime between 500 and 700 AD.

Also, FYI, this topic was discussed fairly extensively on the old forum if you want to do a keyword search there.

I would here assert that the 'modernization' of karate you refer to was a Japan-wide (i.e. inlcuding Okinawa) phenomena post war, and that it is the same modernism that affected other traditional feudal fighting arts as they evolved from early forms of self-defense orinetations more towardrecreational sport orientations.