By Al Case
One would think it inconceivable, that Karate Masters would deliberately hide their best self defense techniques, but it is true.
Gichin Funakoshi began teaching karate to the Japanese in the 1920s. While the Japanese received this new martial art with glee, the old Okinawan Masters were less than pleased. In fact, they came together and made a ‘secret pact’ not to teach the real martial arts.
One of the students of the time Shozan Kubota, remembered learning Karate from Master Funakoshi, and being surprised by the two styles that were being taught. There was the style taught during the daytime at the local university, and then there was the vastly different style taught in the evening.
When Mr. Kubota wondered about this discrepancy he was told that Sensei Funakoshi was not supposed to be teaching the evening karate. That Funakoshi was bound by secret pact to hide the real teachings.
The exact phrase concerning this situation was revealed by a saying: ‘Even if you teach the kata, don’t teach the actual techniques.’
This situation was re-inforced by Master Kenwa Mabuni, who separated his instruction into ‘the original form,’ and ‘the other form.’
As to why this situation occurred there is a theory.
The Japanese had contended with the Chinese for decades as to who actually owned Okinawa. Eventually, to settle the matter, and to stifle any discontent on the island, the Japanese ordered the Emperor of Okinawa to give up residence on Okinawa and move to Japan.
Now we must ask ourselves: would the Okinawans teach the real karate, an art that had proved effective in defending themselves against samurai, to the people who had stolen their emperor?
It is likely not, and this could easily be the reason the real bunkai applications of the traditional katas were not taught.
This situation has drastic consequences to modern practitioners of the art. Over the last few decades students have often become discouraged with karate.
The art has split into two: freestyle and kata.
Students then ask why is there such a disconnect in the art.
And, as students become instructors, they begin looking for the real art. Aware of why they are looking or not, they are dissatisfied, and they begin doing things like discarding form training, searching through other arts for combat workability, changing the forms, and so on.
This situation results in the following types of concerns. Are you studying a style with watered down techniques? Are you studying the real thing? Are you studying a style that has been changed because of ineffectiveness?
This is an interesting question which is rarely voiced, but very real to modern karate students.