Thursday, March 10, 2011

(Faux) Okinawan Black Belts?

  In day's past (late 50's, early-mid 60's) individual's (usually those in the military), while doin' their time in Okinawa, would study “karate” (while they were deployed there). Having listened to those individual's describe their training, and hearing Taika's descriptions of providing it, I'm glad I wasn't a part of it. And Not for the reason's commonly given.
  A common deployment time (for military person's) could be for 9-14 month's (this obviously could vary, but none-the-less was not that long of a training period). During those (few) months, the majority of attending individual's would earn a Shodan ranking,...9-14 month's. There's only 2 conclusion's that one can draw from that.
#1, that training was really intense and informative,
or #2, that training was superficial and generated some income for the local's providing that training.
  I'm not saying that the training received wasn't valid, only that it wasn't all that it was cracked up to be. I'm sure the bragging rights associated with being able to say you trained in and/or received your Shodan in Okinawa would sound very impressive (to us “locals” back in the state's). But when investigated, that training was often (very) limited. Having spoken with several individual's who have done so (and are honest about it), I tend to believe that the latter reason was more probable than most are willing to admit to. 

 One also has to keep the fact that these individual's were in the military. It's not like they had all day, every day to go to those instructor's and study from them (they also had their military commitment to deal with, LOL). They may very well have had many evenings available(?), but they still had to get back to base by the required times. 
  No doubt I'll receive a lot of flak about making that statement, but considering the individual's I've heard this from (and did as described), I tend to believe it. I also believe the greatest problem that people will have with it (the statement), is that they presume it to be a challenge (to their knowledge/authority). It (really) isn't. I have no doubt that the individual's that they studied from, were valid, knowledgeable instructor's. Taking the situation from their (the Okinawan instructor's) viewpoint, they only had those individual's for a limited time. The presumption being (from their perspective), that the individual would continue their study, and improve upon those motions taught (during that limited time period). They were (only) taught the basics (which are the general requirements for Shodan) 
  This again goes back to the assumption being made for the knowledge associated to having been presented a Shodan ranking (be it from whoever/where ever). The majority of that assumption, being made by the individual's involved. Having listened to Taika talk about (some of) the instructor's in Okinawa, I'm (generally) not impressed. It reminds me of (damn near every) Korean instructor that I've ever met (they're all of some high rank). It's (more) like, they got off the boat/plane and their rank jumped 4-5 dan (or what-ever level's are referenced as in Korean). Though it's popular (if not a habit, LOL) to slam American's for being superficial, we are not alone in that regard. 
  I don't (really) know, if that same training methodology still permeates the Okinawan schools (not having been there myself). I assume that with the influx of (non-military) foreign student's it would prove to be impractical (if not transparent) to continue that speed-danning practice. Considering how many of the older (and knowledgeable instructor's) were killed or died during time period of WW2, there was (surely) an adjustment period (to establish who, knew what, and was still alive). It was during that time-line, that Taika sought out knowledgeable instructor's to learn the (oldest) form of the kata he now teaches. 
  As I stated, having listened to some of these old school student's(who studied in Okinawa during their military stint), and then, having heard all the details, I am not (necessarily) impressed by their having done so. I'm not saying it (probably) wasn't a great experience, but I don't necessarily believe that they learned anything beyond what is presently taught today(by often, those same instructor's). I know how much Taika's instructional methods have evolved in the past 30 years. He has (obviously) had to adapt his teaching methods from how he used to do so (in Okinawa).   
 What/how he teaches today, is vastly different from what was taught (even 10yrs. Ago) earlier (even in my own studies with him). To believe that those individual's who (only) studied for their brief (military) posting in Okinawa garnered the same amount of instruction/information is disingenuous (at best). 
   Keep in mind, that I'm NOT saying that those individual's that have (trained and received their Shodan in Okinawa while in the military) are Fakes. I am saying, that having done so is not a reason to justify any greater knowledge/ability than someone who has (only) studied elsewhere. Yes, it was (possibly) more intense, but intensity does not equate to quality/quantity. Their situation would have required a greater intensity(given the limited time available), but only so much can be shown/taught in a given time frame.
  For (certain) individual's to claim that (only) because they've studied, and possibly even received a Shodan (while on active duty) in Okinawa, is not a validation of what-ever they may claim (knowledge wise).
  So, are these individual's Faux? (Fake?), no I don't necessarily believe so. Are they possibly less knowledgeable?... possibly (I'm sure that would need to be decided on a case by case basis). The only things that would influence my own decision (in regards to studying from them) would be how long were they there, whom did they study with while there, and what other instruction have they received (and from whom?). Basically, no different from anyone else out there teaching today.



Narda said...

I think you've minted a new term:'speed-dan'. :)

Anonymous said...

I believe Sensei Logue began his study under Taika while stationed on Okinawa; although, I don't know what rank he achieved during his time there or if standardized ranks were even assigned by Taika at that time. You probably knew that already, but it does add perspective.