Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Japan’s Martial Arts Culture Spreading around World!

Author Says Karate Training
Would Benefit World’s Young

Jack Culebra

The martial arts that made Japan’s samurai warriors and ninja among the world’s most formidable and feared fighters are now spreading around the world in a cultural invasion that, according to Japanologist/author Boyé Lafayette De Mente, is having a profound influence on the lives of a growing number of people—especially youngsters and teenagers.

Known for his books on the cultural foundations of the etiquette and ethics of the Japanese in their business and social relationships, De Mente says that after the nearly 800-year reign of Japan’s samurai ended in the early 1870s a number of martial arts masters began the process of changing kendo (the way of the sword), judo and karate into modern-day sports designed to instill the most desirable attributes in their practitioners, from a sense of fair-play and courage to rigorous discipline in the pursuit of goals.

But, De Mente adds, these martial arts remained virtually unknown in the U.S. until 1927 when Kentsu Yabu, an Okinawan karate master, staged a public demonstration of karate at the Nuuana YMCA in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Interestingly, among the Caucasian spectators who witnessed the demonstration were members of the First Methodist Church of Hawaii who became students of the art and soon began to hold public demonstrations of their own. Over the next several years other Okinawa karate masters were invited to teach in Hawaii.

Pioneer American martial arts masters like Thomas Young and Ed Parker got their training in clubs operating in Hawaii in the 1930s and 40s, and both were to play leading roles in helping to spread the practice of martial arts to the mainland from the 1950s on.

But the first martial arts dojoh on the mainland of the U.S. was opened in Phoenix, Arizona in 1946 by ex-sailor Robert Trias, who had been stationed in Japan and had studied karate under a Japanese master. Trias established the United States Karate Association in 1948. Other servicemen who had also studied martial arts in Japan began opening training studios on the mainland.

By 1951 the U.S. military had picked up on the idea of making Japanese style martial arts a part of its regular training programs, a move that was backed by the famous World War II air force general Curtis LeMay, himself a student of Japan-trained master Emilio Bruno who was in charge of martial arts training for the Strategic Air Command, headed by General LeMay.

Bruno taught over a dozen karate instructors for the SAC, and they later toured military installations throughout the U.S., giving demonstrations.

In 1952 Japan’s great martial arts master Mas Oyama was invited to give a series of karate demonstrations to the general public across the U.S. His ability to break boards and bricks with his hands, covered by The New York Times and national media, created a sensation and was instrumental in making karate a household word.

From 1955 on this fanfare resulted in large numbers of martial arts masters being trained in Tokyo by the Japan Karate Association specifically to open dojoh in the United States.

It was also in 1955 that former sailor Robert Trias conducted the first known karate tournament in America: The 1st Arizona Karate Championships. Held at the Butler Boys Club in Phoenix, participants were chiefly members of the Arizona Highway Patrol who were Trias' students.

By 1951 pioneer martial arts enthusiast Ed Parker had moved from Hawaii to California where his growing student list included such Hollywood names as Darren McGavin, author Joe Hyams, television executive Tom Tannenbaum, producer Blake Edwards, and the late film stars Nick Adams, Frank Lovejoy, Audie Murphy and—believe it or not—Elvis Presley.

Thereafter, Tannenbaum and Edwards, among others, were instrumental in bringing a long line of films featuring karate scenes to the screen. Dozens of books and a steady flow of magazine articles continued to promote Japanese style martial arts training.

By the 1980s movie and television fare, especially films featuring such real-life martial arts champions as Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Steven Seagal, Jean Claude Van Damme and Jackie Chan, had become a staple of the entertainment diet and a factor in martial arts as a way of life.

Dojoh masters had also begun appealing to women and children of all ages, touting the security factor for women and the character-building benefits for children.

But De Mente says that despite the fact that training in martial arts as a sport and a character builder is now an important industry around the world it has only scratched the surface of its full potential.

“The result of introducing boys and girls as young as five or six years of age to the discipline and philosophy that is part of modern-day martial arts is absolutely remarkable,” he maintains.

“It provides them with the structure, the discipline, and the emotional, intellectual and spiritual foundation they need to become well-rounded adults and function effectively in society,” he adds.

De Mente’s own efforts to promote the benefits of martial arts include a newly published book entitled Samurai Principles & Practices that will Help Preteens & Teens in School, Sports, Social Activities & Choosing Careers.

The book is available from Amazon.com, other online booksellers, and through bookstore chains. Booksellers may order the book from the Ingram Book Company,

De Mente says he wrote the book primarily for dojoh masters to use in their efforts to encourage more parents to enroll their children in karate training courses.
De Mente’s other books on Japan include The Japanese Samurai Code; Samurai Strategies; Japan Unmasked: The Character & Culture of the Japanese; and KATA—The Key to Understanding & Dealing with the Japanese. For a full list of his 60-plus books on Japan, Korea, China and Mexico see his personal website: http://www.phoenixbookspublishers.com/.