the Editor's Pen...
The John Edwards Column
an official announcement dated March 18th, 1999
and signed by the General Secretary of the International
Olympic Committee, (IOC) Juan Antonio Samaranch,
the World Karate Federation was accepted as the
governing body for karate. Practically speaking
this means that Olympic Karate is on the horizon
and may even be announced at the Olympic games this
year in Sydney, Australia.
from being the disaster many had predicted, this
may be the best thing for classical karate in years.
Finally there will be a clear separation between
karate as a practical fighting art, and karate as
a competitive sport. The grey area that exists at
present will disappear and, hopefully, just like
when we woke up on January 1st, 2000, and found
the world where we had left it the night before,
an immense feeling of relief will spread through
the classical karate movement.
since sport karate was proposed its value has been
questioned by some of the wisest heads in the karate
movement. Chojun Miyagi, Kenwa Mabuni, and Chotoku
Kyan would have none of it. Gichin Funakoshi was
firmly against it but was finally persuaded by his
student Masatoshi Nakayama, to allow it and even
he would live to regret his actions. According to
Teruyuki Okazaki sensei, "many years later, we all
can see how right Master Funakoshi had been, and
Nakayama Sensei in later years began to feel quite
guilty; 'if I die I cannot look Master Funakoshi
in the eye' he used to say. Now most people who
enter tournaments are there to win medals and money;
they are there to seek fortune and fame, and to
feed their egos. Not everyone of course, but a vast
karate, free now of its younger cousin, will develop
in its own way-chart its own course. Over the past
five years we have seen it grow steadily, increase
its share of the market, and, more importantly perhaps,
develop its influence to a point where classical
karate now dictates what products, books, magazines
and videos are produced. Dragon Times is a perfect
example of this trend. Our last three issues achieved
a sell-through (ratio of numbers sold to numbers
printed) of an unprecedented 75% in the Borders
Books and Music chain, the highest of any martial
trend is gaining in momentum. The specialist publishing
houses, tired of the financial failure of books
by "eclectic" martial artists are now concentrating
on volumes by recognized experts; the larger, legitimate
video houses like Tsunami and Champ will work only
with top quality classical instructors; there has
been an upsurge in sales of the high quality equipment
normally favored by serious karate practitioners,
and a new worldwide internet information service
has been registered, and will soon go online to
cater exclusively for the traditional martial artist.
fair to say that sport karate needs classical karate
and not vice versa. Without the numbers, and the
knowledge of the classical movement-to say nothing
of the revenue it generates-it may be difficult
to sustain the sport karate movement without massive
amounts of sponsorship from outside sources.
there room for the two types of karate? Clearly
there is. I believe that classical karate will continue
as it did before and actually go from strength to
strength. Standards have improved a great deal over
the past four of five years, and we are blessed
with any number of excellent senior instructors,
either resident or regular visitors. The quality
of the media that serves traditional karate is improving
also and if we could actually get Discovery or the
History Channel to consult genuine experts before
producing martial arts programming, the lives of
many of us would be complete.
future of Olympic karate in the U.S. I believe,
is somewhat less predictable and certainly less
secure. Many senior karate masters have publicly
expressed their opposition to it. A former senior
international coach resigned last year, his talent
will be sorely missed. Olympic karate administrators
are already discussing changing the kata for competition
purposes which will alienate droves of traditional
stylists. This act alone will create a vacuum of
uncertainty that will deter publishers and video
producers from investing money in Olympic karate
for fear their products will be obsolete before
they reach store shelves. Any activity that is not
supported by magazines, books, videos, DVDs etc.
and the advertising revenue they generate, must
inevitably have a tough time of it.
is happy with sport karate's proposed new rules
and therefore decisions will be contested frequently,
in public, and to the detriment of the sport's reputation
and public image. The dream of massive amounts of
sponsorship from multinational conglomerates will
remain a dream because sponsors only support activities
that make them money and they know from the Olympic
Taekwondo debacle that they won't make it here.
the biggest hurdle to the development of sport karate
is the structure of the Olympic movement itself.
The IOC only recognizes one governing body worldwide
for each sport, in this case the World Karate Federation.
The WKF selects one governing body from each country
to represent all Olympic karate practitioners, so
if you don't belong to the governing body as determined
by the WKF in your own country, you have no representation.
To further complicate the issue, the fight to become
the governing body of a country is often so bitter
that it leaves great dissatisfaction in its wake,
and political turmoil that often will not go away.
all takes so much time, energy, and money that karate,
and more importantly karate students and instructors
become increasingly less important to the politicians
until finally they are viewed as a necessary nuisance
only to be tolerated because of their financial
support. An example of this was the plight of a
famous (and very successful) European Olympic athlete
who complained about competitors being put into
cheap accommodation miles from the sports stadium
while politicians lived in a five star hotel within
walking distance. He insisted they change places
and he got his way, but was never selected to compete
for his country again.
time will tell of course. What is most important
is that, freed from the need to pretend it is anything
other that an effective method of self defense with
philosophical under pinnings, classical karate can
now get on with the job of developing its following
while maintaining traditional methods and standards.
And don't forget that as only a minority of the
karate community will ever belong to an association
that is classified by the IOC as a "National Governing
Body," in numerical terms, classical karate proponents
will always be in the majority!
would recommend for your attention the article in
this issue by Kiyoshi Yamazaki sensei (page 4).
From it, I am sure you will gather, there are those
who are willing to embrace the Olympic movement
in order to preserve within the new form, the values
of the traditional karate movement. I can think
of no better person for the task, and wish him well
on his endeavor!
All Hope Ye Who Enter Here?
internet is a wonderful thing and has changed the
lives of us all. It convenient, fast, and until
the politicians find some way to tax it, almost
free. It is also filled to capacity with useless
and inaccurate information, nowhere more so that
when it comes to the martial arts.
responsible martial arts groups, set up to share
information across the internet often publish information
that causes one to wonder at the ignorance of its
members, many of whom claim very high dan grade.
I offer the following as an example of erroneous
material and its propagation across the Web.
member of a martial arts chat room asked about the
origins of karate to which another replied that
Bodhidharma, the Indian Buddhist teacher, taught
it to the monks at the Shaolin Temple. Really! Another
said that he had heard that as well, and yet another
that it was in one of Funakoshi's books. That settled
it of course. Shotokan karate came from India via
China and was 2,000 years old! A myth had become
a legend, a legend history, and an opinion cast
is nonsense of course. Regular readers of Dragon
Times will remember Harry Cook's article on the
subject that proved conclusively that the source
of the Bodhidharma and karate connection was a purely
fictitious novel published less than a century ago.
The article is available on our website (www.dragon-tsunami.org/Pages/
Shaolin.html) If people are willing to accept that
a Buddhist monk who lived in the sixth century was
responsible for a style of karate, Shotokan, that
didn't exist until the early 1950s, clearly they
will believe anything.
far as martial arts qualifications are concerned
it's difficult not to believe that there are people
on the internet telling some real whoppers. According
to Japanese and Okinawan authorities there are a
handful of genuine tenth dans in the world, all
are single discipline, and most over seventy tears
old. Yet we have individuals in the US claiming
multiple tenth dans and eights dans, Menkyo Kaidens
in this and that. I am indebted to the reader who
pointed out that we now have people claiming to
be 11th and 12th dans. Ahh, progress.
if it takes a lifetime for naturally talented professional
instructors like Mifune, Hayashi, Higaonna, etc.
to reach high dan grade how, one wonders, can an
amateur achieve so much more, in so much less time.
sort of thing has become so pervasive that we complained
to one of the largest internet search engine companies
with whom we work regularly, and asked them to at
least verify the information they publish. They
said they felt their duty was to publish anything
and everything and let the public decide what was
legitimate and what was not. Caveat Emptor, as the
Romans were fond of saying, let the buyer beware.
It seems we have made little ethical progress in
the last two thousand years.
were all really irate about this and decided that
action was necessary. Then we discovered that a
group of like-minded people had already started
a database (apparently at the suggestion of the
same mighty internet search engine company) to publish
legitimate martial arts information. We promptly
volunteered to help.
result is karatedata.org a service designed to provide
accurate information on a variety of martial arts
subjects to internet users. This will include historical
and technical data, lists of clubs, a dan grade
register, bibliography, events schedule, and much
more. The quantity and quality of the martial artists
involved in this project is such that we are sure
it will become an important institution in a relatively
short time. At this moment in its early stages,
as the database grows it will be possible to do
research, decide which seminars you really should
attend, and even go to cyber meetings with senior
instructors on the internet.
personally decided to get involved with this project
because I speak to our customers on a daily basis
and am acquainted with the frustrations. Parents
ask me why it takes so long to get a black belt
with a certain (authentic) teacher, when the club
down the road can promote little Jimmy to black
belt in nine weeks. The implication being that the
real dojo wants to milk them of money over a long
period, while the dojang round the corner has a
superior training method that turns twelve year
old boys into invincible fighting machines during
a Summer vacation.
tell them that there are two ways of looking at
this. On the one hand, many people can play chess,
but few would want to challenge a Russian grand
master if their life depended upon the outcome.
I then ask the hypothetical question, would they
want to be treated by a doctor for a life threatening
illness who had graduated from medical school in
behalf of us all at Dragon Times I would like to
thank you for your continuing support that is pushing
this humble publication to the front of the pack.
Not only did customers respond positively to our
request for more subscribers, but sales of Dragon
Times though Borders Books rose over the past three
issues to 75% which is exceptional when one considers
that the "market leader" is barely achieving a 50%
has allowed us to cram even more material into this
issue as you will notice, to take on a new writer,
and to make plans to further improve Dragon Times
and expand its activities. However, there is still
a long way to go. We have not come even close to
our target figures for sales or subscribers, and
we still need the help of readers who have supported
us so loyally in the past. Please encourage your
students and friends to subscribe. It's a small
price to pay for the wealth of information our writers
provide. Ask you local bookstore to stock Dragon
Times-Borders Books and Barnes & Noble and already
do; buy a subscription for your dojo so new students
can see the sort of material we publishing, and
hopefully, subscribe themselves; ask you local librarian
to subscribe so that it's available to the people
of your town.
mission of Dragon Times is clear. To provide valid,
accurate, and useful information on the martial
arts. It is produced almost entirely by volunteers,
supported by the very best writers, and has the
confidence and support of the best instructors in
$10 for four quarterly issues, or $18 for eight
including postage, we feel it is exceptional value
for money and invite you to join the growing number
of dedicated martial artists who read, enjoy, benefit
from and support this publication.