J A P A N K A R A T E - D O G E N B U - K A I O F M I N N E S O T A THE DOJO KUN OF THE JAPAN KARATE-DO GENBU-KAI. Hitotsu. Rei setsu o omon zuru koto! (Be courteous in your manners). Hitotsu. Tadaashi kokoro o motte seiken to suru koto. (Have a strong sense of justice). Hitotsu. Kageki naru gen do kooi o tsusushima koto. (Be responsible for your words and your actions). Hitotsu. Ai Shinji te waseru koto. (Respect one another). Hitotsu. Kyudu no seishin o okuta zaru koto. (Karate is to build your spirit, to give your the strength to be sucessful in reaching your life's goals). Questions and Answers About Karate-do and Japan Karate-do Genbu-kai of Minnesota.Contents
01. What is karate? What is the difference between karate and karate-do?
02. Why study karate-do?
03. Who Should Study Karate-do?
04. Aren't there different styles of karate?
05. What's the difference between karate and Tae-kwon-do? Or Kung-fu?
06. What style is taught by Minnesota Genbu-kai?
07. What about karate tournaments?
08. Is karate effective for self-defense?
09. But I'm only interested in self-defense. Aren't all the other parts of karate training just a waste of time?
10. How qualified are the MN Genbu-kai instructors?
11. Every school claims to have black belt instructors, but when we come to watch the classes we see lower ranked "Assistant Instructors" doing the teaching. Is that the way this school is?
12. I've checked. Karate lessons are way too expensive.
13. But can a low priced program be any good?
14. There seems to be a lot of bowing. Is karate-do a religion?
15. What about uniforms? Do I need one?
16. What about the emblems on the uniform?
17. What do the different belts mean?
18. How do students get the ranks?
19. If karate is an empty handed art, why do some students use weapons in training?
20. What is a typical class like?
21. When I watched a class the students all seemed to be shouting. Why is that?
22. I hear the students calling the class instructor Sensei. What does that mean?
23. I've read about lots of benefits from karate training for children. Are they real?
24. How do I know my child won't use karate training to hurt other children?
25. How old should my child be before beginning?
Karate is one of of the "martial" or fighting arts from southeast asia. It originated in Okinawa as a system of self-defense based on the native Okinawan fighting art called "Te" combined with fighting techniques learned from China. Before 1880, karate was a secret art. Once it became public, the excellent physical condition and character of karate students led to karate being included in the physical education clases of Okinawan schools. While karate is known for punching, kicking and striking techniques, it also includes grappling and throwing techniques. Around 1920 karate spread to Japan. In Japan, it was greatly influenced by the Japanese philosophy of Bushido ("the code of the warrior"), which stressed the need for proper character to be a good leader. Karate became known as karate-do, "the way of karate". This is what we usually mean when we say karate.02. Why study karate-do?
Karate-do is excellent for self-defense and physical conditioning. It strengthens and stretches all the muscles of the body while providing aerobic exercise. People can work and learn at their own pace - either in a formal class, or on their own - with very little space or equipment. Most people find that karate training builds concentration and self-discipline. Karate can be practiced by people of all ages and all sizes.03. Who Should Study Karate-do?
Karate-do training is for anyone interested in a way of maintaining lifelong physical and mental fitness while learning self-defense skills. Some examples include: Professionals looking for stress relief, and fitness on a flexible schedule. Former athletes looking for a life-long way of keeping fit - endurance, strength, flexibilty - and a way to keep competing with minimal risk of injury. Children looking for a mental and physical challenge - whatever their athletic abilities are. College age women who want to learn self-defense skills. College students who are bored with kickboxing, or who are tired of the wear and tear on their bodies. Anyone who has watched a martial arts movie and said "how hard can that be?" Children who need physical fitness, but who don't do well in team sports. Families interested in an activity they can all participate it. Parents concerned about the violence their children see in the media, and are looking for a way to deal with it. Individuals who have already discovered the value of martial arts but are looking for an organization that better meets their needs.04. Aren't there different styles of karate?
Years ago, karate was taught in secret to one or two students at a time, who had proven their character was worthy of learning a deadly fighting art. You could not "buy" lessons, even if you were able to find a teacher. Each instructor taught things a little differently. About a hundred years ago, karate began to be taught openly. Karate techniques became more formalized and the styles received names. This led to the many styles of karate that exist today. There are eight major syles of karate - four Okinawan (Shorin-Ryu, Okinawan Goju-ryu, Uechi-ryu and Isshin-ryu) and four Japanese (Shotokan, Shito-ryu, Japanese Goju-ryu and Wado-ryu). When the founders of these styles died, their senior students continued teaching their own students in a way true to that of the founder. This lead to separate organizations, each with its own leaders taking responsiblity for what is taught and whom is authorized to teach and to grant rank.05. What's the difference between karate and Tae-kwon-do? Or Kung-fu?
Tae Kwon-do is a Korean fighting art that looks very similar to Japanese karate. Kung-fu (or Gung-fu) is a term meaning "hard work" or "skilled" that is commonly used to lump many Chinese fighting arts together.06. What style is taught by Minnesota Genbu-kai?
We teach Shito-ryu karate-do. Shito-ryu karate is a style of Japanese karate, founded by Kenwa Mabuni, who was a senior student of both Master Itosu (the founder of the Okinawan Shorin-ryu style) and Master Higoanna (the founder of the Okinawan Goju-ryu style). When Master Mabuni died in 1952, his senior students carried on his teachings, through their own organizations. One of those students, Master Ryushu Sakagami, named his organization the Itosu-Kai. Shihan Fumio Demura, one of Master Sakagami's senior students, came to the United States in 1965 and worked to promote Shito-Ryu throughout the world. In 2001, Shihan Demura formed the Japan Karate-do Gengu-kai. We belong to this organization, which currently has over 20,000 members in more than 30 countries. The Japan Karate-do Genbu-kai is also affiliated with Shihan Shigeru Sawabe's organization called the Shubo-kai. Shihan Demura has been training in the martial arts for over 50 years and was All Japan Champion in 1961. He has also been named twice to Black Belt Magazine's Hall of Fame, once as karate instructor of the year and once as martial artist of the year. Sensei Demura travels around the world teaching karate and building the quality of the organization. In 1996, Sensei paid his first visit to Winona and taught seminars at the YMCA that were attended, not only by Genbu-kai members, but by martial artists from other organizations and other states who wished to expand their knowledge. Sensei Demura visits annually in July. Shihan Sawabe was the senior student of Master Sakagami and has been training in karate for over 55 years. He has also been Chair of the Federation of Japan Karate Organizations, Chair of Japan-Karate-do Rengo Kai,07. What about karate tournaments?
Tournaments let a student see if they can perform at their best in a stressful situation and compare their skills with others and improve from what they learn. We encourage our students to compete but do not require it. Most importantly we teach that winning meant you were better that day, but you need to train hard to keep at that level. Competition is usually done in fighting (called sparring or kumite) and in individual forms (called kata). Kumite is done under rules designed to maintain safety, while providing as realistic an atmosphere as possible. Kata competition is scored on a point basis - like figure skating or gymnastics - with emphasis on proper execution, balance, timing, power, and intensity. Our tournaments are based on the rules of the World Karate Federation, with minor modifications.08. Is karate effective for self-defense?
Yes. Karate was developed for self-defense and protection at a time when escape and calling 911 was not an option. It teaches how to escape from attacks of violence and develops the striking power to deal with attacks. The art of Okinawan kobudo teaches how to use common objects as weapons for situations where they are necessary. More importantly, karate-do teaches how to anticipate and avoid violent attacks whenever possible.09. But I'm only interested in self-defense. Aren't all the other parts of karate training just a waste of time?
The best form of self-defense is learning how not to be attacked - by being aware of possible attacks and dealing with them before they happen, and by presenting the appearance of someone who is very capable of dealing with an attack. Training in karate-do develops this. "I knew this might happen and I am prepared for it". But when you are attacked, you have to deal with the "adrenalin rush" that clouds judgement, and impedes coordination. Simple techniques, practiced many times, with the proper body dynamics, are the best way to deal with this problem. One needs to practice the techniques with a variety of partners, of different ages and sizes. And then keep those reflex actions honed - even when you don't have a work-out partner. Training in karate-do develops this also.10. How qualified are the MN Genbu-kai instructors?
Sensei Fumio Demura, the Chief Instructor of Japan Karate-do Genbu-kai is one of the world top martial instructors and is very concerned about the quality of the instructors teaching in the organization. Instructors are tested before they are certified and may lose their certification should they not measure up to his standards. The Instructors of Minnesota Genbu-kai have been tested and certified by Sensei Demura and Japan Karate-do Genbu-kai. The senior instructors - Fritz Speck, Dave Evenson, Rich McCluer, Bob Pflughoeft - all began training in the 1970's. Our younger instructors - Nick Duchateau and Seth Johnson - have been in karate for over ten year. More importantly our instructors are still students and are committed to becoming better instructors. They train regularly, and attend special seminars under Sensei Demura and other top instructors. They have spent years learning and practicing what they teach; not watch a video tape and begin teaching whatever the latest fad in physical fitness is. But don't take our word for it; ask our students. Or try it for a class and decide for yourself.11. Every school claims to have black belt instructors, but when we come to watch the classes we see lower ranked "Assistant Instructors" doing the teaching. Is that the way this school is?
Absolutely not. Our classes are always scheduled to be taught by experienced black belt instructors. And when the scheduled instructor is unable to teach, our substitutes are normally equally qualified.12. I've checked. Karate lessons are way too expensive.
We feel very strongly that the benefits of training in karate-do be as affordable as possible. We work hard to keep our costs down and to provide as many hours of quality instruction as possible.13. But can a low priced program be any good?
Compare the facilities, the classes and the qualifications of the instructors. Then decide for yourself if that claim is true.14. There seems to be a lot of bowing. Is karate-do a religion?
No. Karate is not a religion. Karate is a Okinawan/Japanese martial art and we try to teach it following the traditions and language of those countries. This puts students in the place of previous generations of students and forces them to concentrate to begin learning the language and customs of Japan. These customs are common to karate all over the the world. Bowing is part of the Japanese culture. It is how the Japanese greet each other, show respect for each other, and thank each other - just as we may use a wave or a handshake. In karate classes, we bow for those same purposes. There is no worship involved - only a show of respect in the way of a different culture.15. What about uniforms? Do I need one?
The uniform worn by karate students is called a gi (pronounced like the last syllable in doggy). It was adopted by Japanese karate students who modeled it after the uniforms worn by Judo students. A gi is not required for YMCA or our college classes students and we recommend beginners do not rush into purchasing one until they are sure they are interested. A uniform is provided for students when they first enroll at our main dojo. We ask that uniforms be white with no emblems other than the Genbu-kai patch. Whatever you wear should be clean. Students like the uniforms because they are loose and flexible, and the students feel they "look like a serious student". See your instructor about purchasing one, or check at the KidSport Pro-Shop.16. What about the emblems on the uniform?
Different organizations usually wear emblems on the uniforms to identify their members. It can be purchased for $5.00 and is not required. We encourage families to look for ways for the student to earn the patch, whether by achieving academic or behaviour patterns or through household chores. It should be a privilege and not a right. The patch uses the emblem of the Genbu-kai organization. It is the family crest of Shihan Demura and of Master Sakagami. The black letters are kanji (hieroglyphic characters, originally from China). The first characters indicate "sun" and "source" which mean Japan. The next two characters are for "empty" and "fist/hand" which means karate. The fifth character is "do" or "way of". The next symbols are for "Genbu", and "kai" which means organization. Taken together they mean "Japan Karate-do Genbu-kai", the name of the organization we belong to.17. What do the different belts mean?
As students progress, their improvement, and our expectations of them, is recognized by ranks. Each rank requires a test. A students rank is displayed by the belt they wear. The number of ranks, the skills required for it, and the type of belt worn at that level varies with the organization. Some groups use the same belt system for adults and children. The Japan Karate-do Genbu-kai does not. The ranks are divided into kyu and dan ranks. Kyu ranks are lower and begin at 9 and count down to one. Dan ranks come after kyu ranks and begin at one. First dan (Shodan in Japanese) in an adult rank is a first degree black belt. The kyu ranks are: Rank Child Belt Adult Belt 10 White White 9 Yellow White with One Stripe 8 Yellow one stripe Orange 7 Yellow two stripe Orange with One Stripe 6 Purple Green 5 Purple one stripe Green 4 Purple two stripe Green 3 Blue Brown 2 Blue one stripe Brown 1 Blue two stripes Brown Dan Ranks Red Black Ranks give students goals to shoot for and one way to measure their improvement. As students improve, they are motivated more by their own effort and improvement and less by the external recognition of a belt. While most groups are consistant in the rank structure, the belt colors for each rank vary between organizations. The above chart is only for our organization.18. How do students get the ranks?
Students are tested for the ranks, normally by a panel of instructors. Testing is designed to be a learning experience. Students learn where their weaknesses are. They learn that success doesn't come easy but requires hard work and the need to keep trying. There is a minimal fee for testing (which depends on the rank) but helps to pay our organization membership dues and to purchase the belts and certificates for each rank. Kyu testing is done by local instructors. Dan testing is done by Sensei Demura. Progress depends on the skill of the student and how often and how hard they practice. Normally 9th kyu takes about 3 months to achieve. Sixth kyu takes about another 9 months. Third kyu normally takes another 15 - 18 months, with another 2-3 years to reach dan ranking. Five years to reach probationary shodan (called shodan-ho) is very good progress.19. If karate is an empty handed art, why do some students use weapons in training.
At the same time Okinawans developed an empty handed fighting art for self-defense, they developed a fighting art using weapons. This art, called kobudo, is unique because what it uses as weapons were common tools - usually for fishing or farming. While it is unclear where this art began, it became more developed during the time Okinawa was ruled by the Japanese Satsuma clan. Some speculate it may have developed to allow the Okinawans to defend themselves against the Japanese samurai. As the empty handed art of karate became public, kobudo training was neglected and began to die out. A few individuals preserved this art and passed it down to their students. Sensei Demura was fortunate to train directly under one of them (the legendary Master Shinken Taira) and we are fortunate to to have Sensei Demura pass the training to us. Kobudo training is beneficial to students because it builds strength and coordination. Kobudo is taught on Saturday mornings at our downtown facilities and during Sensei Demura's visit. We also practice "kobudo kumite" or practice fighting using kendo armor and/or padded weapons. Japanese karate was influenced by other Japanese martial arts. Training in those arts is helpful in learning karate. For this reason advanced students study Toyama-ryu batto-do, the art of cutting with a samurai sword. Students learn basic techniques using a wooden bokken or a non-sharpened sword and advanced to a shinken (a "live" blade or real sword. Test cutting ("tameshi-geri") is practiced to evaluate the effectiveness of the technique. Batto-do is taught and practiced at our downtown facility on Thursday nights, with permission of the Instructor.20. What is a typical class like?
Karate training is composed of three parts. Basic or kihon training teaches the techniques - how to stand, block, punch and kick - first one technique at a time, then in combinations. Kata is prearranged combinations of technique, practiced individually. Kata is the dictionary of karate and teaches the students self-defense techniques. Kata allows the students to practice alone and uses the technique of visualization that modern sports psychologists are using to improve athletic performance. Kata practice has similarities to traditional Okinawan dance, so the student could practice "under the noses" of the foreign rulers when training was forbidden. Kumite is training with another student and teaches the student to apply the techniques against an opponent. A typical class begins with a ceremony. Students show respect for the teachers - both the one present and the ones who came before -, their seniors and each other. This is done through Japanese formal bow. The ceremony also helps students prepare mentally for the training by giving them a separation between karate class and other activities. The class then goes through a warm-up. Then training is based on kihon, kata, kumite - perhaps learning new techniques, perhaps polishing ones previously taught. Class ends with the recital, in Japanese, of doju-kun and an end-of-class ceremony. Doju-kun are the principles of the dojo. It is a formal pledge by students that karate is only to be used in the proper way.21. When I watched a class the students all seemed to be shouting. Why is that?
The shouts the students do while punching and kicking is called a kiai (pronouced Kee eye). The kiai is for many reasons. It forces the student to exhale at the proper time, helping them to learn breath control. It helps the student to learn when to focus all the muscles of the body, important in developing power and body strength. And it can serve to focus mind and body on the complete intent of the technique, overwhelming the opponent with strength of spirit.22. I hear the students calling the class instructor Sensei. What does that mean?
Sensei is the Japanese word for teacher. It literally means "One who has gone before" and is a sign of respect. Other titles you may hear include Shihan - meaning master teacher - which we reserve for Sensei Demura in our organization, and Sempai which means Senior. We often use the title Sempai or Mr. or Ms. for black belts, partially out of respect for them and their accomplishments, but primarily to remind them that their efforts serve as examples for all the students.23. I've read about lots of benefits from karate training for children. Are they real?
The benefits of karate training at all ages are very real but they don't happen by magic or overnight. They require time and energy. Karate helps children exercise and focus their attention in a way they find enjoyable. Good karate instructors are good role models and emphasize the essential traits of budo - courtesy, responsibility, fairness, respect for authority, hard work - in a way children can relate to. Karate lets children progress at their own pace. They do their best and improve without feeling they are "hurting their team" if they don't learn as quickly as someone else. All students participate, not only the "stars". As students become more experienced, they are expected to be good role models and to help the newer students. The best students are expected to behave the best and work the hardest - both in and out of karate classes. Exceptions for inappropriate behaviour are never made because a student is a "star".24. How do I know my child won't use karate training to hurt other children?
This is an issue that always concerns parents and has concerned karate instructors ever since karate became public. There are really three different ways that traditional karate deals with this issue. First, is that the proper use of karate is emphasized. Students need to know that improper use will result in expulsion. Second, is the realization that karate training does not make a student into a "deadly weapon" overnight. Karate techniques depend on learning how to focus the power of the body. Until this skill is learned, children are probably more likely to hurt each other playing with techniques they learn watching TV than karate techniques. By the time they can use karate techniques, the discipline and control taught along with the techniques should prevent improper use. Third, is that the techniques taught are matched to the maturity and character of the student.25. How old should my child be before beginning?
The age really depends on the student. The child should know left from right and be able to be away from a parent and participate in group activities. Usually 6 or 7 works well, although we have had some students begin at 4 1/2. If a parent is unsure, we suggest they try one class and see how it works. Pre-School children have a shorter attention span and don't have the same spatial skills and coordination of an older child. They may benefit from a class intended for this age group. It is worth noting that there is no upper age limit to karate training. It is not unheard of for students to begin karate training in their 50's or 60's or 70's. At the Japan Karate-do Genbu-kai headquarters school in Santa Anna, CA, there is a gentleman who received his first degree black belt at age seventy-four. He is now over 80 and still trains.