I enjoyed that read as well but there are bit of discrepancies - not with the article itself but some of the information that is out there about Mas Oyama's early martial arts training. A lot of the information out there on the topic when cross-checked is a bit iffy.
1. Mas Oyama never studied shotokan under Gigo Funakoshi. Mas Oyama enrolled into Waseda University in 1946 (the official date). Gigo Funakoshi passed away in 1945.
2. It also means the rumour of Gigo Funakoshi being beaten up by So Nei Chu can't be true either has he had long since passed away before even meeting Oyama.
3. There's no evidence that Mas Oyama studied directly under Gichin Funakoshi. In fact if anyone has read Gichin Funakoshi's autobiography; "Karate-Do My Way Of Life" - he makes mention that he began focusing on spreading karate giving lectures/seminars across the country and left the university/clubs in Tokyo to his senior students to instruct day to day, while he would at times would oversee their instruction - he mentions age catching up to him & being too busy. By 1946, Funakoshi was 78 nearly getting to 80 - I think it likely that he may have stopped teaching on a day to day basis by then.
4. Oyama said of Gigō. . . “Funakoshi’s son became a real karate fighter. Very strong. I like. He use to tell me ‘karate is kumite’” - This can't possibly be true as Gigo had never met Oyama as he had passed away in 1945.
5. There's no evidence that Chojun Miyagi ever instructed So Nei Chu and it's extremely unlikely he was. Chojun Miyagi only went to mainland Japan three times in his life to give demonstrations - he was based in Naha Okinawa & hated travelling. Neither Gogen Yamaguchi or So Nei Chu had any direct lineage to Chojun Miyagi - the only connection was through Murata Takeo (Yamaguchi's goju ryu instructor) but no-one knows how long he trained with Miyagi or even if he did at all.
6. What we do know is that So Nei Chu & Yamaguchi did attend demonstrations/seminars when Miyagi did come to Japan but that can't be described as being his student.
7. “1st Japanese National Martial Arts Championships” - there is also no evidence at all that Mas Oyama attended or won any tournament or if he did what type of tournament it was. A lot of information is available from this period but there are no articles or newspapers or any sort of information about a national karate tournament.
8. According to IKO Sosai's wesbite Mas Oyama started training Judo at Sone dojo in 1951 on assistance to do so by Masahiko Kimura.
Nothing wrong with the article - as it's just relaying information already out there. A lot of the information out there though is not right. I don't know how there is so much discrepancy I guess when someone becomes a cult figure or legendary - information becomes distorted and dramatized.
It's a quirk of human nature that some have to have someone to idolise. The bigger the story the more adoring they become, even when demonstrably false. Never understood it myself. I've respected many but worshipped none. We're all human.
Mas Oyama's story and ability has been twisted and exaggerated for years. He was a charismatic instructor and at his peak a very powerful man. Enough said.
. . .He taught me that karate and religion are inseparably united. . . Yeah, whatever. Magical thinking like this gets in the way of learning anything, same with idol worship.
I think Karate is whatever you need it to be. For me it provides an avenue of self improvement much like religion (it's weird how dirty that word has become). I know I've become a much better person through martial arts training but I know others who aren't so particularly better (imo).
I think it would probably be more appropriate to say karate & spirituality at least for me are united.
For many others it isn't though - and I don't think anything's wrong with that either.
I think for Mas Oyama it probably was - but that doesn't make it true for everyone else.
Maybe we lack the vocabulary to accurately describe our experiences or perceptions. I don't doubt that you feel that Karate has made you a better person, Azam. Personal improvement is a journey you decided to take. If you chose triathlons or historical European martial arts, it wouldn't be a surprise if you found the same sense of well being.
I can also get on board with the spiritual, though I don't subscribe to it myself. When I go on runs I too reach a zen like calm and clarity of mind. Is this spiritual, or some kind of endorphin rush?
Karate and religion intersect as a venue for bring people together, not a bad thing. That karate brings people together for something a bit more tangible is probably a better thing. The two are similar, and not in a good way, in that dogma stands in the way of progress. It keeps people in an infantile state of never being worthy. Ten thousands of repetitions of empty gestures is equivalent to equating someone's fantasy to objective reality. Thanks, but no thanks for the woo. I'd rather we get together for problem solving than preserving old, unproven ideas.
I appreciate that Oyama did make a big deal about proof in combat, as Gary mentioned previously, and also note that he fell short in other areas. That's ok. We are all human, and therefore should/ could improve what is within our grasp.
Here's a bit of Oyama's early training that very few know. Oyama's ideas about training were partly based on what he had read as a young man about ninjas. I've kept mum about it for a while because I was there, and I earned it. That is to say, I was in Japan training with old dudes who trained under Oyama, and this is what they told me after training and over beers because that's what a Friday night in Japan was all about for me. Anyway, "Guys," Oyama said,"we must train so that we can do this," and he demonstrated a rafter pull-up. A rafter pull-up involves using a pinch-grip, thumb on one side and the flat of four fingers on the other side of a roof beam. Oyama explained that if ninjas could do this feat of strength, Kyokushin karate guys should be able to as well. Well, nobody at the dojo shared all of Oyama's ideas about strength training, because obviously rafter pull-ups are not part of kihon. So there you go, a beer soaked legend about the man.
On a similar note. One of my early instructors could stand in Yoi dachi with his fists pointing forwards and about six inches in front of his body. He'd then tip forwards and fall face down to the woodblock floor, catching himself on his knuckles with a hell of a bang. He did this without extending his arms, just holding them rigid.
As a fifteen year old I was well impressed by his confidence and self discipline, but I could imagine no practical application.
He then explained that "they do this in Japan" so we'd have to do it. Cue a lot of smashed faces from some and extended arms and bust up knuckles from the rest.
Why did we follow unsafe practices so blindly? Must have been mad.
Why did we follow unsafe practices so blindly? Must have been mad.
Not mad, just too trusting, too credulous, too timid to call bs. I think it also stems from a desire to belong to a group, which is natural. If the group happens to espouse some bs, the logic circuit in our brain is circumvented by the stronger impulse to remain in the group.