The Queen's Journal Tuesday, March 11, 1975
by Gary Vienneau and Ken Fuller
In the last few years there has been a great upsurge in the public awareness of the formerly mystical oriental martial arts. To those who watch T.V.'s Kung-fu, or follow the "Chinese westerns' and even the comic book scene, the Kung-fu King or karate expert has taken over from the other super heroes of our time. Unfortunately the media's approach has resulted in the average person obtaining a rather slanted view of what to many dedicated people has become an important and real as" of. their life. This article was written with the intention of clarifying some of the basic misconceptions concerning karate and presenting an up to date picture of the art at Queen's today.
The karate method of unarmed combat derives from one of the oldest oriental fighting arts in existence. The first primitive form of karate to be developed (Originated in China about fourteen hundred years. ago from the teachings of Bodhidarma the founder of Zen Buddhism. Bud-
Buddhist monks, whose religion prohibited the use of weapons, relied upon this primitive form of unarmed combat to defend themselves from armed aggressors. Under the tutelage of Bodhidarma, the monks of the Shaolin Temple, in Honan Province, became renowned throughout China for their courage. fortitude and prowess in the martial arts.
As teaching of this original method spread and developed it came to bear the name of it's origin and was called Shorin ji Kenpo. It was this method that eventually reached the Ryukyu Islands of Okinawa and was further refined during the Japanese occupation of Okinawa in the fifteenth century when the Japanese overlords, the Satsuma clan, forbade the islanders use of all weapons.
This action provided intense impetous to the expansion of the imported kenpo system and as well led to the development of alternate weapon systems of which the wooden nunchaku (nunchucks) or famous whirling sticks of Bruce Lee have become most well known. Training in karate, however, was always conducted with the utmost secrecy in Okinawa with no one teaching or practicing openly as is done today.
With the beginning of the Meiji period (1868-1912) karate gradually became more public and was introduced into the physical education program Okinawan normal schools. In 1902, this lead to one of the founding fathers of modern day karate,
Gichin Funakoshi, beginning a series of public demonstrations. In the, rainy spring of 1922, upon the invitation of the Ministry of Education, Funikoshi-san travelled to Japan to give numerous demonstrations of the techniques of his art.
The Japanese populace, with its vast history of budo and the ways of the samurai class, were greatly impressed with the effectiveness of these techniques and their popularity (quickly spread. This wide acceptance in Japan soon gave rise to numerous schools and variations. Each new school and each new variation added to the art of karate and tended to improve it.
One of the more recent and most practical of karate practiced in Japan today is called Kenkokan Karatedo. This particular school was founded in 1946 by "Shinan" Kori Hisataka. During his early years Dr. Hisataka studied and at both kenpo karate and Okinawa-te.
In the course of his studies he found certain weaknesses in the original forms which disturbed him and therefore attempted and ultimately succeeded in creating a form.
To augement the strength and effectiveness of his karate form he made a careful and analytical study of all the Japanese martial arts. At the same time he also studied the natural and instinctive fighting methods of wild animals like the tiger, the bird and even the quick snapping attack of the snake. He eliminated what he considered useless and impractical in other karate techniques. and finally emerged with a karate form which measured up to his own high standards.
Kenkokan Karate is presently practiced by members of the Queens University Karate Club under the leadership of Sensei (Instructor) Peter Liappis and Sensei Gary Vienneau, both certified black belts in this style. They received their black belts from Sensei Shigeru Ishino, 4th degree black belt who resides and instructs in Montreal.
This All-Japan, Shorinjiryu Karate Champion (1967) and Outstanding Karate Player of Japan (1968-69), is a graduate of Nihon University in Tokyo and has been instructing Kenkokan Karate in Canada since 1969. With clubs in Canada, the U.S. and Japan, Kenkokan Karate is becoming an internationally respected form of the martial arts.
Kenkokan Karate is a practical composite of striking, punching, kicking, throwing, holding and choking techniques. Additionally technique the style also includes training with a wooden bar (staff) and protective shields in order to sharpen reflexes and increase the student's speed. This fighting forrn has been taken from the art of Kendo or samurai fencing and is only for advanced students or those who have attained the degree of black belt.
Practical application of these karate techniques revolves around three areas of training exercises, which in turn are categories for tournament competition. These are Kumite, Kata and Shiai. Kumite is pre-arranged fighting form, executed by two or more players. It is practiced to develop technique, endurance, karate form and a sense of judgement and timing. This type of competition is unique to Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo as. most other styles only compete in Kata and Shiai.
Formal exercises, or Kata, are a systematically organized series of offensive and defensive techniques performed in a set sequence. In addition to the perfection of form, such factors as vigour. power and attitude are also taken into consideration. Each formal exercise must be viewed as an organic unit and there must be a smooth flow from one technique to the next. As in a diving or gymnastic competition, Kata as well as Kumite are judged by means of a point system.
Shiai, or free sparring, is the heart of karate as it is an actual fighting contest between two persons. Each must both attack and defend while attempting to get in a "killing" blow by means of an appropriately placed punch, strike or kick. If this "killing" blow is delivered to the mid-section, the blow must actually strike the specially designed fiberglass protection worn by the fighters. blow is exact, powerful and well timed, it will be considered an "ippon" and the match is over. If the "killing" blow is delivered to the face or neck, the blow must he stopped short of the target, but close enough so that if followed through it would actually strike the target. Such well-executed techniques are awarded "wazari". Accidental or intentional contact can result in disqualification, if serious enough, otherwise it is scored as a minus point in the case where the winner is determined by points or "wazari".
Karate is practiced in bare feet in a training hall called a "dojo". The karate costume, or dogi is comprised of a lightweight top and pants bound by a belt whose colour denotes rank. There were two basic grading systems, ng systems. one below black belt and one for black belt ranks. In Kenkokan Karate there are seven levels or "kyu" before the achievement of black belt. There are ten degrees or "dan" of black belt, which may be achieved with the tenth indicating mastery of the system both physically and spiritually. Each level, above and below black belt rank, has certain requirements, which must be met, and these, along with tournament competition participation, determine advancement through the levels.
In teaching Kenkokan Karate, the founder has also given consideration to the psychological aspects of the art. As the student builds a strong body, a body scientifically geared for self-defence he finds himself gaining in confidence and respect. He acquires the poise necessary for controlling himself in dangerous situations and does not fall prey to the fear or excitement, which affect someone who has not been so rigorously trained. The student's general state of mind becomes placid and his tendencies toward fighting or brawling eventually disappear. except when he is called upon to defend himself. As a trained student he already knows his ability to fight well and no longer feels the need to prove himself. In Japan it is common knowledge that a good Karate player is a good citizen.
Although karate is unquestionably the most violent of the martial arts, this by no means implies that karateka are brutes. Karate has a rather spectacular image of its proponents breaking boards and bricks with their bare hands. This, of course, is not an obligatory part of any training, it merely serves as a striking way to demonstrate force of some of the karate blows and the skills of karateka. What must be understood is that technique is everything in sport karate and that karate trained people meet in matches with opponents of equal or nearly equal skill under conditions which are controlled or regulated. They do not meet in street fights. The difference between karate training for self-defence and for sport is simple, that to use karate to self-defense you need not be an expert in the techniques. For self-defence purposes, a limited knowledge of a few blocking techniques and some knowledge of the nerve centers are enough protection for the streets.
The Queen's University Karate Club has not been idle in it's two years of existence. In spite of financial setbacks, the club has travelled extensively within the international karate scene, in large part due to the initiative and dedication of club members. Tournaments have been attended in New York City NY, Baltimore MD, Montreal QC, Hamilton, Peterborough and Sudbury ON. In individual competition, club members have garnered more than their share of trophies. In team competition the Queen's club has proved a formidable opponent. In last year's Ontario University Tournament, an informal meet of some of the provinces universities, the Queen's team placed third. This year (1975) the O.U.A.A. sanctioned a meet at York University on March 1st. The Queen's Karate Club again fielded a strong unit, for this important event.
The club meets every Monday and Wednesday night at 21:30 hrs and Saturday afternoon at 13:30 hrs. in the combatives room of the Phys.Ed. Center. Anyone interested in watching a real karate workout or in joining this club is invited to drop in at the dojo at these times and view club members in action.