Kodoryu and Mr. Johnson, while an impossible obscure system in my area. has certainly been drawing a lot of discussion.
Itís ranged from various interpretations of historical events, claims and counter claims about who better represents the future of karate, and a lot of discussion that is based on Ďif you donít read the book you arenít qualified to discuss itís pointsí, and then refuse to share the detail behind the points.
I have to be honest Jimís sending me his copy to read is becoming much more interesting than looking at the book on a shelf. Of course after 500+ books, I realize how transitory their value or relevance is and becomes.
Most of the discussion, even points I like, rests on quick arguments and very little source to back them up, which makes for moving topics and little resolution.
I have to be honest I donít know a great deal about the ins and outs of European karate. Outside of following itís topics on discussions and seeing some video clips. I have translated a bit of Habsetzerís works on the Bubishi, and Tokitsu Kenjiís ĎHistoire du Karate-doí but that is only one glimpse into traditions I donít know.
It does appear the origins of the European karate resides a great deal in the Japanese schools. In the states I suspect we cover a wider range of systems, from Japanese to Okinawan to everything else, but Iím ready to be corrected about that.
A Karate stands there are vast differences between many of the Japanese approach to karate studies as opposed by the Okinawan approaches. Trying to pick sides ignores the reality itís not approaches but people who make the systems work. Iíve trained in the states by good instructors in many systems from many different origins.
The hasty generalizations being slung about donít reflect good practitioners Iíve seen in many arts.
My own system originate on Okinawa, but except for historical study Iím not focused on Okinawa or anyplace, just the faith my instructors shared with me to continue my studies.
A long time ago I spent a short visit to Belgium and among the happy place I saw, I also had occasion to spend the 4th of July in a cemetery for the American WWII dead who shed their lives helping free all Europe. We ought to focus on the larger picture than twaddle about systems that is irrelevant. Yes irrelevant, with the distances involved we canít do much more than talk, and perhaps on lucky occasions get to shake hands for a few.
Iím really looking forward to Mr. Johnsonís book, first to see how he sources his history and historical basis for his discussion. Perhaps those issues which wonít be discussed till someone actually reads the book will be resolved at that point, and perhaps they wonít.
There has been too much distortion to consider seriously any work that hasnít made a good faith effort to do better than the past publications.
Book publishing isnít about making money from the books. If you talk to someone in the Martial publishing scene, except for a few rare books, the real money is in Bruce Lee. The magazines learnt that lesson decades ago and kept putting him on the cover to keep sales up. The martial book publishers know the same thing. Thatís why publishers keep coming up with Bruce Lee texts, thatís where the cash is.
That may make the JKD folks happy but does little elsewhere.
The place the money does reside is in clinics, and if a book helps bolster clinic performance it does help the cash flow. Clinics are nice, lots of cash that might be under reported for taxes, etc. Of course Iím not suggesting that about this, but I have seen what others do.
Now the underlying assumption is quite interesting, logical analysis showing several empty hand forms were first weapons forms.
Here are a few observations.
1. I really want someone to show me Okinawan or Chinese sources doing anything remotely similar to these forms with weapons. A long time ago I saw some Chinese sai forms, and donít recall their similarity to the Okinawna sai kata, but I may be losing it, for it was a long time ago. But Iíd rather see than read it, a personal preference.
2. If there is a strong argument, I think the most interesting place to really get it on would be at George Mattsonís Ueichi discussion forums. http://forums.uechi-ryu.com/
You understand if you really believe something the most fun is to go toe to toe with those folks and make them understand what theyíre missing. Why be shy about it, go to the proís. Of course they may take exception that their Uechi Sanchin technique isnít for actual use. But it shouldnít be a war of words, one should train with them to see if thereís any validity to their point of view. My own thoughts on this, as there is a lot of Uechi in New England, I consider them extremely formidable and credible karate-ka, understand some of their training approach and accept their Sanchin kata as a strong weapon in its own right.
3. Now letís see Iíve only been training in Sai, Bo, Tonfa, Kama, Stick, Tanto, and Tai Chi Sword for over 30 years, and in several systems of study. In addition to my studies (which anyone who wants to take the time can dig out of the archives here on their own), I have serious friends who practice weapons in many styles, Chinese, Japanese, Okinawan, Indonesian, etc. I began with Sai (Chantan Yara No Sai kata as a brown belt), and have some understanding what Sai can be used for. Viewing Mr. Johnsonís sai kata at YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TsXj8NJHSxg
Iím less concerned with his historical argument than I honestly believe heís making less than stellar choices for the sai techniques heís using with the form. If I was translating Ueichi Sanchin (or retro analyzing it) into Sai, I would choose to do the form with closed position solely. The stability of the sai being my foremost concern. Just keeping it in out position, IMVHO, violates what Sai is to be used for. It comes out to strike/cut/slash, but doesnít stay out because it makes the opened sai a target to strike if another weapon was involved. Perhaps I donít know much but I would never choose to interpret Uechi Sanchin Sai in this manner. It more resembles public performance than usage intent. Again only my private opinion, but how I would teach it if I felt such a need.
4. I think the historical relevance of the Sai as a weapon is likely lost. The time people were running around with weapons that the use of the imported Ďsaií (imported from all SE Asian cultures including China), especially as there was little free metal to make sai on Okinawa, was needed is in dim history. We soundly know the Okinawan militia was a failure in the 1500ís to stop some Japanese Samurai. That some police officers choose to carry sai as a badge of authority, and likely used for simple crowd control if needed, must be placed in context. At the time karate appears to have jelled (say 1850ís) there was little need to stop armed attack, and prior to that is lost, except perhaps in legend.
5. If there is a case made that karate mutated from actual Chinese Study (a case Iím really 50/50 about), itís obvious that as there are no really similar Chinese kata that anyone has come up with (or theyíd be selling the video tapes everyplace), either the Instructors who trained the Okinawans were so bad they didnít know how to teach them to do it right, or the Okinawanís were so bad students that they didnít remember what they were taught, or the Chinese were so distrustful of the Okinawanís they purposefully taught them incorrectly., or the transmission of the Chinese arts into the Okinawan hands was 100% correct. If you donít like those options pick a few more. Beats me what the true answer is, the operating word being ĎTRUEí, not Ďanswerí.
Believe me Iím waiting for the mail, day by day. This will be interesting, perhaps Iíll even try and make a FightingArts.com article out of this. Who knows.
Times change, the variety of details in the arts is infinite, and as all that is fixed is the underlying desire to make oneís studies work as best they can, change occurs.
How Mr. Johnsonís discussion holds up will be seen.
And the beat goes onÖ.
PS check out the new Beatles album ďLoveĒ, itís very interesting and totally off topic, as if Love has anything to do with the martial artsÖ.