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Guest Post: 100 Years of Karate

This Guest Post is by my friend, Joe Swift, one of the top Karate researchers and translators in the world. Joe resides in Tokyo, Japan. His research website is the Ryukyu Karate Kobujutsu Kenkyushitsu. He is the chief instructor of the Okinawa Karate Kobudo Mushinkan Tokyo Branch.

Several of his excellent articles are hosted at the Hawaii Karate Seinenkai website.

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I am sure that most karate-ka who visit this blog have heard already that finally, a confirmed photo of Itosu Anko has been discovered. (See Anko Itosu Photo.) It was in the hands of Kinjo Hiroshi Sensei, a man regarded by all who know him as "THE encyclopedia" of karate.

The discovery comes a mere one year after the centennial of the fruition of Itosu's successful campaign to get his beloved art into the Okinawa Prefectual school system as an official physical education course.

This got me to thinking, why now? Why after a century do was this photo of Itosu identified and made public?

Perhaps it is Itosu Sensei himself looking down on all karate-ka and telling us that the time has come to reevaluate what we are doing.

Itosu wrote advice and hints on the practice and application of karate, in his 1908 letter, now better known as the 10 Lessons. Indeed, it is here that we find proof of the existence and application of Tuidi (Torite) in Okinawan karate.

However, there is a point in his 10 Lessons that is more poignant and befitting of the times we live in. That lesson is numbered, appropriately, number one. This lesson tells us that even when confronted with a ruffian or a violent person, karate is useful as a method of NOT using one's fists and feet to destroy the attacker.

Kinjo Sensei once told me that the philosophy of Okinawan martial arts can be summed up in that one sentence: that karate is not an art of killing or destruction.

Oh that all of humanity would heed that simple lesson...

I hope that the discovery of such an important historical artifact as an actual photo of Itosu Anko drives all karate-ka, regardless of style or method, to reevaluate their art as we move farther forward into the 21st century.

Joe Swift