Friday, December 7, 2012


Last March I started taking karate lessons with two other female ALTs in my city. Our teacher is a really cool old man who is fluent in English and works on the US naval base. He's been all over the world and has many neat stories. He grew up in Okinawa where he started studying karate around junior high school. He's since achieved his 6th degree black belt in karate and his 4th degree in another Okinawan marital art called kobudo.

In the 1400s there were several forms of martial arts being practiced, but when King Sho Shin took control of the Ryukyu Kingdom, he banned weapons.  Kobudo uses household, farming and other tools as weapons. Think of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, those are the weapons used in kobudo. With weapons being banned, new forms of martial arts arouse, empty handed ones. (Karate or 空手(空: open 手: hand)).

Eventually three main forms of karate emerged: Naha-te, Shuri-te and Tomari-te. Each has it's own kata (choreographed pattern movements). From these modern karate was developed.

There are many styles of modern karate, each focuses on different kata and techniques. Further, mainland karate varies from Ryukyu karate. The dojo I practice under, 真券 shinken  ("true fist") is based in Okinawa and stems from Naha-te.

One main rule of karate, but especially Okinawan karate, is that in the real world, you only ever fight if it's in defense of youself or a loved one. Step one: Avoid fighting. Step 2: If you have to fight, end it quickly. Mainland karate usually calls for more hits, but in Ryukyu karate you want to finish your opponent in one hit, even if it's just a block or counter-attack. Pretty cool.

In October we passed our level 3 test, so we received our brown belts. Within the next year, we need to pass level 2 and level 1 so we can try for our 1st degree black belt. So far we haven't done much actual fighting, mostly kihon (basics- punching, kicking, etc) and kata.  We will have to fight for the black belt though, literally.

In our karate training we are also learning many easy but painfully effective self-defense moves. I personally think these moves are way cooler than regular karate. With just a small movement you can break a hold and have your opponent on the ground. It's cool.

Last August we started kobudo, the martial art that uses weapons. We are using only bo, but we've seen the other weapons in action and boy, do they look deadly!

Sorry, it's a picture of a picture. But don't I look mean?!
What I'm really trying to say is: you probably don't want to mess with me ;)

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