ARTICLES & COMMENTS
Comments on Karate
by Chris Thomas
In the 1930's, the powerful karateka
Motobu Choki lamented that karate was becoming a weak and useless
art. He decried the changes being introduced which were designed to
make it more 'acceptable' to the Japanese public. I believe that
Shimabukuro Tatsuo was cut from the same cloth. Though I have often
heard Shimabukuro called an innovator, I believe that he was really
something of a reactionary. Isshinryu karate bears all the ear-marks
of old style Okinawan tode-jitsu. Instead of accepting the new
karate-do of the public school curriculum, he insisted on teaching
an art that was functional and effective. He developed his karate
teaching the military -- Japanese troops first, then later, U.S.
It seems today, that Motobu's fears
have been realized. Karate has become a weak and useless art. Flash
and glitz have replaced function and application. Even Isshinryu, an
art based on the practical, has been reduced to politics and
prettiness. This makes a man like Harry Smith enormously important.
He learned Isshinryu in the beginning, and so, provides a
significant historic link to the art's roots. But more than that, he
learned Isshinryu in its original context. After his initial
training with Shimabukuro in the late 50's, he returned in the 60's
as part of Operation Phoenix. He was trained again by Shimabukuro,
but this time for the raw purpose of combat. He learned the
Isshinryu that Shimabukuro intended, the art of the "one punch kill"
(ikken hisatsu), and he has taught Isshinryu that way ever since.