Category Archives: Okinawa

Evidence Based Practice in the Fighting Arts: Appraisal and Suggestions

The practice of martial arts has come to be diverse in terms of the wide range of  arts and schools available and in terms of the population that is involved. Physical fitness and talent may only be required to a small degree, or they may be paramount to success. Students may be dedicated about conditioning, or they may be “weekend-warriors” whose primary physical activity is a class.  An instructor may be qualified in a technical realm but not be a good source of information in others, such as the nature of violence. The need for Evidence Based Practice (EBP) is just as high as in any other vigorous physical activity, yet appeals to tradition, history and authority and “experts” often lead students and practitioners to accept dubious information or ignore new information, which can have consequences on a number of levels. For this discussion, the practice of the various martial arts can be divided into two realms: non-competitive recreational (i.e., oriented at self defense, fitness, cultural pursuit, etc.) and competitive (amateur or professional competition). Most of this discussion will focus on the recreational realm.

What is EBP?

Briefly, evidence-based practice can be seen as a tool for:

  • finding evidence to support decision making and for analyzing the quality of the available evidence
  • distinguishing low quality sources of qualitative and quantitative information from high quality sources
  • promoting critical thinking and synthesis of the literature
  • recognizing that best evidence may change over time

Evidence-based practice is a key feature in modern medical education. In the above diagram of EBP components, it doesn’t take much effort to exchange “patient” for student and “clinical expertise” for instructional expertise

It’s also important to recognize what EBP is not:

  • A cookbook approach to training and decision making
  • Not based solely on hard evidence- empirical experience, intuition and active experimentation have a role. EBP considers personal experience, judgment, values, etc. alongside information from objective, quality sources.
  • Not restricted to RCT’s and meta-analyses

Failures of EBP in the Fighting Arts

An extreme example of a lack of critical thinking and evidence-based practice can be found in  the cult of personality that has developed around Ueshiba Morihei, founder of the Japanese art of Aikido.

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Linked Article: The significance of the Matsuyama study group

Garry Lever has posted an excellent discussion on the roots of Goju Ryu over at the Goju Kenkyukai blog. This is one of the more sober looks at the history of any karate group out there. Karate in general suffers from the effects of unnecessary myth-making and mysticism; as a result the histories of different practices and individuals are badly garbled and left open to some pretty silly stuff.  I think Garry hits this one head on- forget trying to pin down direct sources and secret transmissions; it’s more likely that Goju Ryu has it’s roots with a bunch of guys who knew a few things about fighting skills, getting together in the park to train. Hmmm…now why does that seem so familiar?

Check it out there

2010 Japanese Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden

If you watch closely you will see two short clips from the TKRI demonstrations at the Missouri Botanical Gardens this year. Nice job guys.

Traditional Karate: Stumbling Block, or Useful Distinction?

Note: I would like to acknowledge the enormous contributions of my teachers and training colleagues to my thinking on this matter: most notably Robert Miller in his essay “Modern Karate: A Reconsidered Pedagogy”; Dr. Gillian Russell’s essay “Epistemic Viciousness in the Martial Arts” and David Campbell for providing a solid sounding board for my inchoate, all-over-the-place musings.

“Traditional Karate”: A Problem of Definitions

Over the past couple of years, an increasing level of conversation has developed amongst karate practitioners about what karate is. As practitioners of the fighting arts learn more about each other via books and the internet, and the rise of mixed martial arts has provided a yardstick for the superiority of this technique or that, the standard answers are becoming more and more inadequate. This process of reckoning is acutely noticeable on online discussion forums.  If you throw the question of “what is karate?” onto a discussion board, the replies will cover a very broad range of interpretations and practices. Some replies will take all facets of training and the contingencies of fighting into account and evaluate them carefully, while others will staunchly defend this major brand name or that as “the” keepers of correct tradition.” In an age where ideas and methods can be accessed at the click of a button and information is more available than at any other time in history, many karateka still insist on wearing blinders. Some who engage in these conversations become very distraught at the suggestion that their school of choice is not recognized by all as being the best (epistemic viciousness at its best), while others actively pursue new perspectives.

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Thank you, Charles Goodin!

A while back we posted an announcement about the creation of a karate section in the University of Hawaii’s Hamilton Library. Charles Goodin has been the impetus behind this development, and the collection consists of hundreds of volumes that he graciously donated from his personal library. Yesterday, Goodin posted several links to the library’s newly established Okinawa Collection. The most exciting feature is a collection of complete digitized versions of many old and rare texts by authors such as Mabuni and Funakoshi.

Visit his blog here for more information and links.

Thank you, Mr. Goodin!

An'ichi Miyagi sensei

Senior Goju Ryu exponent An’ichi Miyagi sensi passed away on Monday April 27th. Miyagi sensei  was one of Chojun Miyagi’s last and most notable students. As a teacher he  produced a legacy that includes Goju Ryu maestro Morio Higaonna. Our sympathies go to his family and students.


An interview with Morio Higaonna about his teacher is available here.          More information about An’ichi Miyagi sensei is available here.

Recommended link: Okinawa HDR

I followed a link from one of our visitors to a site called Okinawa HDR. The site features some gorgeous HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography of Okinawan landscapes, people and culture. There are some jaw-dropping, vibrant and haunting images here, and it’s easy to spend and hour or more getting lost in them.

Check out Okinawa HDR here

This link takes you to the photos