BY MAKOTO GIMA – 1977

KARATE’S KARA MEANS EMPTY

52 Showa (1977)

I am a person of pure thought, not considering money, honour or position.  I live with the knowledge of duty for development of karate from this time I commenced karate training in my childhood in Okinawa.

I believe that changing the word ‘karate’ was a good idea, from meaning ‘Chinese hand’ to ‘Empty hand’.  “Kara” does not mean ‘nothing’ but means ‘no limit’ – like a blue sky.  For example, even weak people can be made stronger by studying and training the art of karate.

I remember Shihan A. Itosu and Mr. G. Funakoshi were both  unhealthy in their childhood, but by devotion to karate they became strong, healthy men and lived a longer than average life.

I, myself, had a weak constitution and was physically as out of shape as my aged father.  Now I am over 80 years old and have been keeping in good health since I commenced karate at the age of fifteen.

One of my greatest memories is of the time Mr. Funakoshi (then aged fifty-three) and I (aged twenty-six) were invited in  1922 by Judo Grand Master Jigoro Kano and Kodokan to do a demonstration.  At that time, I was a student of Tokyo Shoka Daigaku (Hitotsubashi University) and living at Meishojyuku dormitory for Okinawans.  The only kata I knew with confidence enough to do at an open demonstration was Naihanchi (Tekki).  I was trained in Heian katas as well but not to the same degree of efficiency.  Even Mr. Funakoshi had only one favourite kata he could do with confidence, Kushanku (Kanku).  He didn’t practice Heian katas very much because he was not a graduate of Okinawa Shihan Gakko (named directly for Itosu Shihan).  So, we decided to do our own favourite kata for the demonstration.  His Kanku was undoubtedly very good and the name was changed from Kushanku to Kanku later. 

We were both under a lot of tension being in front of over two hundred Judoka, because Kodokan was named the Mecca of Japanese Martial Arts during that period, and after all, this event would make it possible to introduce the development of karate in mainland Japan.

When Grand Master Kano accepted karate, it meant the Japanese Martial Arts world did the same.  I think Mr. Kano had great power of observation understanding the soul of karate correctly.  

The following is a list of people who helped in the development of karate: Professor Kasuya J Kano, H. Nakayama (Kendo), Admiral R. Yashiro and Count S. Goto around the Tokyo area. In other areas, C. Motobu (1924), and K. Mabuni (1929) at Osaka. In 1928 C. Miyagi (Goju-ryu) started instruction at Kyoto.

The new styles of karate born in Japan such as karate-do from karate-Jyutsu (Chinese hand techniques) are good –  the development looks like the cogwheel of a watch, and I believe if Master Itosu and other Masters were here today , they would be happy to see such advancement. I do however worry about modern karate nowadays because karate-ka adhere to victory or defeat and have an inclination to neglect ‘Kata’.  Kata is a basic form which Grand Masters trained and trained and then completed.  I think it would a good idea in a tournament match that only those contestants who passed the kata match be allowed to enter the kumite match.

Karate was already regular curriculum at Okinawa Shihan Gakko in 1910 under Shihan A. Itosu and Shihandai K. Yabe.  For five years I did my karate training there and practiced mainly Tekki and demonstrated it during physical education courses, and tournaments and every Fall sports day.  

I believe that attaching and importance of acquiring good basic techniques makes the next jump easier in all things.

All that I have noted are fragments from my memory.  I wish earnestly that all karate lovers understand and devote yourself to the true karate-do spirit.