This is the first public look at a project I have been working on for a long time. I’m excited to share it with you, and I hope you’ll join me as this book draws closer to completion over the next few months. Read on to find out what the project is and what I have in store for readers who help me spread the word!
What is “Tales From the Western Generation”?
Long time readers of this blog will know that I’ve collected a number of interviews over the years with impactful instructors of various martial arts. My goal has always been to highlight individuals who have distinguished themselves through skill, effort, contribution to the arts. I wanted to showcase men and women worthy of emulation and whom future generations may need to know more about as they pursue martial arts in their own time.
If you’re a martial arts enthusiast, you’ve probably thought to yourself how wonderful it would be to have more a complete record of the life and times of the masters who have gone before us. In the karate world, we would all summarily have benefited from a treatise by Matsumura Sokon, or Kyan Chotoku, or Gokenki the tea merchant. To have their thoughts and beliefs down on paper…what a difference that could make! I realized one day while digging around in old texts that history was going on all around me and it was fading away, unrecorded.
It can be difficult to see history as it’s being made, but we live in a time where Karate outside of Okinawa is a very new development. Some of the first individuals who traveled to Okinawa and Japan, studied with the great masters, and brought it back are still with us or just recently passed. There is a rare and finite window for us to record the thoughts and experiences of these great men and women who studied directly with masters like Soken Hohan, Shimabukuro Zenryo, and Shimabukuro Tatsuo. We can learn from their trials and difficulties as they attempted to meld Eastern and Western cultures in order to start schools and organizations of their own.
That is the goal of “Tales From the Western Generation”. To gain a small sense of what it was like and what was learned from the masters, so that we can quell myths, understand philosophies, and grow from the efforts of the past.
Over 30 Interviews with Karate Pioneers
Many people don’t realize just how young karate is outside of Okinawa. With taekwondo and karate schools in every corner strip mall in America it would be easy to assume that these arts have been growing in the West for 100 years or more. It’s astounding to think that in 1940 there wasn’t a single known karate program in the entire country. In the 1950s the word “karate” was barely known and the art could only be found on a handful of military bases and small schools. The earliest American pioneers of karate are barely removed from us, most passing away just before the turn of the century. However, the first true generation that spent significant time in the East, opening doors and getting to know the great eastern masters in earnest, are the ones who share their stories in this book.
“Tales From the Western Generation” grants us access into the stories of over 30 men and women who have dedicated their lives to the study and propagation of karate. They span most of the major styles (Goju Ryu, Isshin Ryu, Shotokan, Matsumura Seito, etc.) and span a wide variety of backgrounds. They overcame difficulties of war, racial prejudice, extreme poverty, and more, and as a result have acquired reputations worthy of preservation.
Intertwining Worlds – Illuminating Our Place in Karate’s Grand Story
We live in a compartmentalized world, especially when it comes to martial arts. Karate styles expend a lot of energy explaining why they are superior, more realistic, and more legitimate than other karate styles. Feuding karateka may be surprised to learn that karate practitioners of the past worked carefully and quietly together to enhance one another’s life protection capabilities. It made sense – the goal of karate was not to win trophies or beat other karateka in duels, but to protect villages and families from grave danger.
The earliest Westerner karateka in Okinawa saw this martial sharing first-hand, and were exposed to a variety of instructors themselves. Of course, as karate gained worldwide growth and prestige it also suffered from greed, jealousy, pride, and pettiness. Hence the eventual posturing and fracturing, leading us to where we are today.
The history and interview content featured in this book can help us understand what karate used to look like, what happened to it as it spread across the globe, and what pitfalls we need to be aware of as we cultivate karate’s growth.
Many of the interview guests provide insights into teachers from multiple styles, and even discuss how they crossed paths with other interview guests. The result is an intertwined experienced, demonstrating that the karate world was not so big, once-upon-a-time.
Ask the Experts, Win a Free Copy, and More!
There are a lot of interesting events planned as we get closer and closer to publication. I’ll be rewarding loyal readers with giveaways, free copies of the book, and access to unique information. To stay updated, sign up for the mailing list below. This is a private mailing group and will only send out occasional messages about “Tales From the Western Generation”.
That’s all for now, but stay tuned. I intend to tell you a lot more about this project and hopefully gain your support in helping spread the word. I think this book could be a serious tool for education, both in terms of understanding history and helping guide us into the future.