Friday, August 26, 2016

The Spirit of Okinawan Karate.

I once met an individual of Korean decent who was a Firefighter in his spare time,  but had taken a part time job with our Organization for the summer travel season.

At the time I was the Shift Lead for an Organization which sent Students abroad on International Education Oriented Trips all over the World and I was tasked with training this gentleman in our procedures and Case Management,  so we spent a lot of time chatting.

At some point this individual noticed our display for Japan, complete with the image of the Red Rising Sun, at which point he began talking about Korean sentiments towards the Japanese,  remnants from the occupation in World War 2.
Many Koreans,  evidently,  view that symbol in much the same way as most view the Swastika, a symbol of racist ideology, racial superiority,  and oppression.

Today we think of Japan in a very different light,  but it is true that, not long ago, Japanese Nationalism was aligned with Hitler because they shared similar ideals and identical aims.

Today we see Dojo that practice Okinawan Karate using Japanese customs, terms and phrases,  philosophy,  and practices; right down to the Gi and belts that are worn.

Many Dojo have displays of Samurai Katana, walls lined with Bokken on Weapon Racks, Shomen in similar fashion to Shinto Shrines, ect.
Little to nothing in this,  aside from the actual Art, seems to actually be Okinawan and this is not surprising considering the great lengths to which Japan went in order to suppress Okinawan language,  culture,  and Religion in order to make Okinawa more Japanese.

Most forget what happened to many Okinawans at the end of the war and it is a wonder the Okinawans would welcome assimilation at all, considering their treatment as second class citizens in their own country,  but many did promote assimilation, including many Karate Men of the time.
One could speculate on their motives, but who is to say?

The Japanese utilized their Education System in order to indoctrinate many of their colonial territories and it seemed to work,  even now there are not many Sensei who are knowledgeable in the Okinawan aspects of the art they practice and teach.

This is no fault of their own,  nor their Teachers,  many of whom grew up in an Okinawa that spoke Japanese and had adopted many of their customs.

Okinawa has somehow remained unique from the Japanese mainland and retained much of their identity, along with their close family/ancestral ties and Shamanistic Matriarchal Religious Practices and Customs.

The Okinawans have a concept called Mabui which is similar to Western concepts of Soul,  Spirit,  and Mana; it is the essence of a person and, according to their beliefs, it can be lost through various forms of trauma.
It is, they say, the reason for depression and anxiety,  among other things.

To regain one's Mabui can be as simple as sleeping in one's own bed or as complex as to require the services of a Noro Priestess in a Ritual depending on the severity of the loss.

It would seem that the Mabui of true Karate has taken a very serious hit along with the rest of the Okinawan spirit that is only now beginning to mend after many generations.
Maybe this is not even true as many seek out Karate in Okinawa only to find, what I term, tourist Karate as many great Karate Men have either died or left,  and then died in an adopted land.
Furthermore,  it begs to question,  is the Karate we now have the true Martial Way of Okinawa?
It would seem much has been fabricated and, fabricated in such a way,  as to make it more Japanese than Okinawan.
It makes sense when looking back on their culture as these are a spirited and,  traditionally,  long lived people who defeated the Mongols and were willing to fight to the last man against the Satsuma Samurai until their King begged them to remember that life was a jewel.

Would they not,  after all they have endured, guard closely the Mabui of ALL their cultural ways?
Their economy had suffered greatly, but many forsaw commercial opportunities that could support their families by teaching Karate, which capitalized more on the Japanese notion of Bushido and Bujitsu than it did on Okinawan culture,  for that is something sacred to them.
Even to this day outsiders are not allowed to even view Okinawan spiritual rituals,  this includes Japanese living in Okinawa.

There are many mysteries I do not think we will ever be fully privy to.
Do I feel that the form of Karate we have received is authentic? Sure,  but it's spirit has been swapped out and guarded against further transgression.

Below is a link to an interesting read,  one among many.
I hope you find it informative.

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