Today’s Okinawan Karate – 2021 (April 2021)

The reputation of Okinawan Karate has fallen to an all-time low due to commercialism. What was once a true ART is now today’s SPORT KARATE.

Okinawa has become the breeding ground for commercial karate, just like most other places around the world. That includes the USA and OKINAWA; to put it simply, “Greed” has replaced the high moral value and standards of today’s karate.  

Okinawa, known as the birthplace of karate, has gone from a defensive / offensive Art of self-defense to a full-blown sport. 

Karate, once an “ART” has fallen to that of a SPORT based upon monetary greed. Money has become the basis of today’s karate. It was once the highly respected Art of self-defense which is no longer true.  

Money has taken over the once proud and hard-earned ranking levels in the Art of karate is now a fast and short way to make money, no longer are the titles such as Renshi, Koshi, Hanshi, or others based upon merit, time, ability, and skill. Today it is based upon the almighty dollar, fast and quick. The fast and short way up the ranking ladder in today’s dorm. 

America (today) has more “SO-CALLED-GRAND-MASTERS” than any place in the world. I jokingly say America has more Grand Masters (10th Dan’s) than white belts (beginners), ha, ha. Sad that it is almost a fact.

The TRUE ART of KARATE had but one Grand Master per style or system in the old days. There are many different styles of today’s SPORT karate, thus many, many so-called grandmasters, hell some Americans have even made up their own style/system and of course claiming to be that system’s Grand Master, MANY even call their style traditional. Ha…, if it hadn’t been so sad, it would’ve been almost funny.  

Based on my last three trips to Okinawa 1994, 2003 & 2007.

Okinawa has also fallen into the money-making scam of the Grand Master. Today there are reportedly over 135 (base on 2010 statistics) Grand Masters living in Okinawa, with 50 or less to 60 different karate styles; I ask how can this be? It is truly a sad day. The old days are gone since the death of many of the REAL Karate Masters, such as Soken, Nakamura, Nagamine, Chibana, Nakagato, Motobu, Shimabukuro, to name a few. 

These men were indeed Grand Masters which in turn had been trained by the “Legendary Masters” like: Chitan Yara, Sakugawa, Bushi Matsumura, Choto Kyan, and many others, of which most if not all have died during the 18th, 19th, and 20th Century, a lot of their sons have taken over their once all so proud legacy, but they are nowhere near what their fathers were in skill, respect and or ability. As a result, REAL KARATE has changed that much.

So, where is today’s traditional karate? Has it also gone the way of the past, or is it still alive? I would never say that all true Okinawan Arts of Karate are gone; I’m sure some are still in Okinawa’s back alleys are still holding onto their old traditional style of KARATE. Most likely, they are still in small dojos holding onto their orthodox teachings.

So, are there no real styles of karate today? Of course, there are, but they are far and few between. They are not the Mc-Dojo’s that are so ever common; they are small dojos clinging onto the past. Okinawan Karate started its downfall during the late 60’s and 70’s. The further one goes back in time, the more real the training was. This is not to say that all today’s Okinawan Karate is bad, not far from it. There are still true Masters and Grand Masters on Okinawa, but for the most part, the dojo’s on Okinawa are just like the dojo’s (schools) here in the States and around the world. Karate is big business.

The Korean Karate has all but dominated the United States in numbers, this is due to the commercializing of karate. For example: Take a look at the Olympics, which by the way, is “ONLY for the Koreans”! Why are they the only ones allowed to compete in the Olympics? There are many karate styles, other than the “Korean Karate,” that are better, stronger, and more real, but no one other than the Koreans can enter or compete. To me, this is “TOTAL BS.” If all the different karate styles were allowed to enter the Olympics (as it should be), the so-called Korean Olympic champions would get their asses handed to them. 

The Olympics as to Karate is a laughing joke. It is an embarrassment to all other styles of karate in the world.

Most of us traditional Karate-ka who trained in Okinawa back in the late 50’s and early 60’s are old. We are now in our 70’s and 80’s, and most of us have given up on training or teaching, if not altogether. Those of us, who are still training and teaching with a Small-Dojos mindset, have given up on that mindset of Large-Dojo long ago.

True traditional karate is a dying ART. Thus, real karate is being replaced with the sport Karate. However, some of us choose and hope to keep this true traditional karate alive. In my case, I keep it alive through my senior students, some of whom have been with me for over 50 years.

I truly believe that the day will come when real true (old) Okinawan Karate will only be found in places other than Okinawa. I hope I am wrong.