I am not sure why, but in the past Monday night's adult class always seemed to be the biggest class of the week. For whatever the reason, there is no doubt about it, Monday was always the night that the dojo always rocked the most. One Monday night during a gap in the training I decided to ask a group of senior students a few simple questions related to the history of Shotokan Karate. The answers I got, or should I say the lack of them, made me realize that what a student hears in class about the history of Shotokan karate does not always translate into mental memory in the same way that repetitive kihon, or kata, translates into body memory.
I for one have always felt that a student's understanding of karate should run much deeper than just stances, kicks, punches, and kata, So the following Monday I decided to surprise the students a twenty question quiz. I hoped by getting them to write down and then mark their answers it might help them to realize just how much, or how little they knew about the history of Shotokan. Especially when it came to the masters, and senseis, both past and present who have contributed so much to the development of our great art.
Today it is recognized that the formation of the Japan Karate Association (JKA) in 1949 was the starting point that in time saw Shotokan karate exported to virtually every corner of our planet. Today everything from the standardization of kata and kihon, to the published works and opinions of those early instructors send abroad by the JKA can be found in countless numbers of books, magazine articles, and web sites. This material is readily available to students of every rank, and the shear magnitude of it clearly establishes Shotokan as the most popular and the most documented form of karate in the world.
Since that Monday night quiz many things have changed. Both students and dojos have come and gone. And some historical myths once spread as gospel have been brought into the clear light of day. But I am pleased to say that students remain as dedicated as ever. Our shared history remains freely shared with all ranks. And today we all have a much greater appreciation for just how fortunate we all are that the art of Shotokan Karate ever left the shores of Japan in the first place.
Remember: "The mind also requires a regular workout in order to stay fit".