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SOCCER and KARATE: Histories and Development Going in Different Directions

By Sensei P. McColl
August 2002

The past World Cup has brought many interesting and exciting views to the world stage. This observation maybe another view point, albeit personal.

In the beginning the "keeper of the game" (soccer) was England. They had taken their national pastime to all parts of their colonial empire. While doing so they kept a strangle hold on who could participate and how the rules were disseminated. For example in India the local populace were only allowed to watch as the British soldiers played. Was the game above them?

In Argentina the rules were only printed in English.

Change was imminent, as the British Empire was slowly loosing it grip on the colonies. They began to allow more freedoms to the locals.

In one momentous occasion a local champion, bare footed, Indian squad faced the top British regimental team. The on looking crowd was dozens deep, no stadiums or big screens here. This facilitated the use of pigeons to pass the games progress to those in the back, strange but true!

The result was the first defeat of a British side! The significance of this would become historical to scholars of this new worldwide passion.

What in any way shape or form has this to do with karate? Please be patient with me.

What happened in soccer over the next 50 or so years was the transfusion of each individual country's spirit, culture and attitudes. The game did not change, it evolved. It took on an Argentinean, Brazilian, German, Japanese whatever country, national identity. The structure, the basics, the rules, the fundamentals and the appearance remained unchanged.

Karate has spread throughout the world but has remained inexplicably tied to the Japanese national character. There may be a couple of reasons for this:
1) the belief that the art requires a strict adherence to the Japanese mind set
2) a reaction to the open, North American, eclectic version of karate

Whichever reason you choose it has its participants trying to think, act, and become like the originators of the art. Yes imitation is the highest form of flattery but all you become is a copy of the original. I'm not suggesting we all rush out and try to reinvent karate, as seems to happen all too often in the open concept dojos. What I believe is that we maintain the precepts of the art; development of the individual as a complete person physically, mentally and spiritually, not just as a fighter.

So let us strive to maintain the fundamentals, proper stances, good strong basics, and the practicing, analyzing and understanding the traditional katas. Through this we will develop martial artists who are "artists of life" throughout their lifetime. They will have substance and an understanding of their art. This will allow them to infuse their art with their own personality, (national, spiritual and cultural), while at the same time evolving karate worldwide.

The purpose in transposing these observations in to written word is to allow my students to see my direction as their sensei. Any offence taken or inferred is the responsibility of the reader. There is far too much "dogma" already and hence I am not really willing to debate this observation. If you agree with all or part, great, if not, great. We as martial artists, should be concerned with the growth and strengthening of karate, not changing it to meet our own limitations.