Steve Morris article on karate and fascism

Discussion in 'Karate' started by mani, May 14, 2005.

  1. mani

    mani Valued Member

    NEW! Steve Morris article on karate and fascism

    This is actually a response Steve Morris gave to a letter by someone on his website ( I would recommend everyone to read this wether or not they do karate.

    Dear Trish/Steve,

    I've just read your latest update on the site and thought I would post some feedback, after all it's what the site is all about.

    I've read and heard much about Steve from your websites since 1999 and anecdotal evidence from various people who've trained with Steve in the past. Some of those I've spoken to had been relatively long term students at a time when training in Gis was the order of the day. To a man, not one of them has said anything negative about Steve's skills, knowledge or ability. I've only trained at Horsham once, and to be frank it was out of curiousity and the idea of 'visiting Mecca' that inspired me to come along, and in truth I thoroughly enjoyed the day.

    However, like most things in life it's not winning the argument that's important, it's convincing everybody to follow you with that argument that's the battle. Steve's own words have mentioned his lacking in interpersonal skills, I couldn't comment as I've only seen him for an afternoon, but clearly this would seem to be a deciding factor in the poor response you have via the website - Though I guess slagging everybody in the M.arts community and now attacking the MMA lot hasn't helped to encourage new trainees to sign up.

    For the majority of the rest of us life is not all about being able to beat the crap out of somebody. Practising combat exercises, whether it's Karate, boxing, judo, Muay Thai etc., is supplementary to our lifestyle, not a prerequisite to living.

    From a personal point, I continue to train in Goju. At 46yrs old I enjoy the physicality of the workout, learning some basic combat skills, and having a little more confidence that I have 'something' as a fallback should the ****e hit the fan - If I was obsessively worried about my physical safety I'd be carrying a gun.

    Many people enjoy training for a variety of reasons, but for the mainstream I suspect the majority train so they don't have to fight, not in anticipation of expecting to.

    With kindest regards,

    Paul Norris

    This letter was received in January, I think. We didn't reply because, despite his kind regards, we thought Mr. Norris had missed the point, yet it wasn't worth going into how or why. Then we got the following letter from him:

    There are busloads of people out here who are involved in the 'homogenised' practice of Karate, Kung fu etc. How does Steve feel about holding a combined Q&A and/or combat/demonstration session for some of us pyjama-clad drones? I'm sure there are many, like me, who pop into your site who are still interested in what Steve has to say, regardless of his dislike of the Karate community.

    Steve's anecdotes, knowledge and ability would provide a great insight into some of the more recent history, facts, fiction and ********e, and maybe 'rattle the cage' of a few of the so called puritans.

    I haven't done the donkey work yet, but I bet a pound to a penny that with a bit of effort I could find a healthy interest from the masses, and I'm sure a few would be pleasantly surprised at your refreshing honesty.

    Steve didn't want to respond to this at all, but I guess I egged him on a bit because I thought that Paul Norris's sentiments were probably typical of the thinking of quite a few people. I came from a karate background, too, and there was a lot of stuff I had never thought about until Steve pointed it out to me. I have nothing personal against Paul Norris and he has gone to pains to be polite to us, but I can't help it if he has stepped in it here. This is Steve's reply. It's long, but that's because Steve wanted to put things in their proper context, so please stick with it to the end. I hope it will be food for thought.--Trish

    Mr. Norris, let me give you a few reasons why I believe karate's practices and its masters aren't worth a bucket of warm ****, and why I also believe that trying to convince you and others of that simple fact would be a complete waste of time.

    In 1970 I returned from Japan with a third dan from Yamaguchi Gojukai and taught at George Chew's Vauxhall judo club. Chew had promised me £200 a week, but only gave me £15, and the £15 wasn't even his, as I was later to find out from Bob Ashing, who had collected that money to support my training in Japan, though it never reached me. Chew later sacked me for vengefully reducing his club from around 200 members to about a dedicated five. I was naturally aggrieved and already disillusioned with karate from my experience of Bob Bolton and Steve Arneil's lack of ability, as well as that of Yamaguchi Gogen, who I'd believed was the real deal, just as I mistakenly believed of Mas Oyama—but he turned out to be overhyped, just like all the other karate masters I'd seen in Japan and Okinawa. Yamaguchi's claims of killing tigers, like Oyama's claims of killing bulls, were total ********. What you have to understand, Mr. Norris, is that before ever practicing karate, I had the example of my father imprinted in my mind. He was a member of the Army Physical Training Corps Tough Tactics team during the war and trained the Gurkha troops for jungle warfare during the Malay bandit campaign of the early 1950s. These karate guys didn't even come close. Not only were their physical abilities merely mediocre, but their technical knowledge was even less, and the practices were simply not challenging. When I went to Japan I brought a notebook full of questions I wanted to ask the masters, and not one of them got answered. It was my disillusionment with their replies that I went to Okinawa in hope of finding something better, but ended up finding something equally lame, yet with a different spin.

    After my sacking, I attempted to run a club over in Surrey Docks with Brian Waites, whom I had trained, along with Gary Spiers, whilst they were in Japan. The club fell through. It was then—1970—that I quit karate and returned to work on the building sites. Then, during this period, by chance I met Joseph Cheng in Chinatown. We hit it off and I began training in Wing Chun under him. It was through Joseph, who was from Fujien, that I began to realise the Fujien connection with Goju-ryu and Uechi-ryu. This connection renewed my interest in the possibility of re-introducing the essentials that had been removed from karate's practices from around the turn of the twentieth century for indoctrinational purposes. In 1971 I was offered the opportunity to open the Earlham Street gym, and there I continued my extensive research into a connection between Goju-ryu/Uechi-ryu and the White Crane systems, Tiger, Five Ancestor, Emperor Fist and other Fujien systems that was at that time obscure (even Bruce Frantzis disagreed with me when I asserted it, only to admit I was right years later in an interview with Simon Lailey). Even though I quit karate officially in 1973 and relinquished my 5th Dan and Renshi title for political reasons, I continued my research with the assistance of Yap Leong, Five Ancestor and Emperor Fist practitioner, until 1993, when I visited Fujien and interviewed a number of masters. Long before then I'd realized that karate is as empty as the characters of its name imply. Li Yu Duan, the chairmen at that time of the Fuzhou Wu Shu Association, and several leading boxing masters, all said that karate had 'no essentials'. It had no substance.

    Through all this research, about which there is more in my autobiography, I'd managed to put the tiger back in the skin. I thought I was doing a service for karate. But when I tried to convince the karate establishment, both by my rationale and by the practical demonstration of it, that they needed to understand what was essential not only to movement itself, but to strategies and tactics (all of which was missing from the school and military curricula that had been handed down to them since the turn of the 20th century) the response was weak. Most ignored me, dismissing me as a heretic. Some showed a certain lukewarm 'curiosity' at first. But that didn't last long, probably because what I was proposing to do to karate was diametrically opposite to everything they'd ever practiced or believed.

    When I put it to several influential figures within British karate, such as Terry O'Neill and Dave Hazzard (who were members of the upper echelons, not to even mention the hundreds I spoke to who were below them), they were impressed with my breakdown of the internal and external factors pertinent to a realistic exchange (this is all aside from my physical abilities). After visiting my dojo in Horsham and seeing what I could do, Hazzard even went so far as to say that his training in Japan had been a waste of time. But when I put it to them that if they wanted to achieve similar abilities and understanding of the martial arts they were practicing and teaching they had to change their ways, O'Neill said that making a living was far more important, whilst when I suggested to Hazzard during a telephone conversation that I should be the technical advisor of his association, he hung up.

    In other words, whatever I've got to say about karate, it wouldn't matter a monkey's toss. Nobody's going to listen and take steps to rectify it. They are either making a living, or their egos are too invested. They're not going to turn round and tell their students that what they've been practicing for the last 10, 15, 20 years is complete ******** because every one of them would walk out the door. And the truth about that is, those people who are practicing karate love the ********, so if you took it away, they wouldn't be interested.

    I'm only interested in those people who have made that same realisation, as I did 35 years ago, that karate's training methods are not effective ways of preparing for a realistic exchange. That doesn't mean that all people within karate can't fight. Sure, some of them can. But they could fight a damn sight better if they took on more realistic ways of training.

    That's why at the 9 Earlham Street club I instigated full-contact fighting, of which people like Pat O'Keefe and Vince Jauncey (as well as a number of other kickboxers and Muay Thai fighters) were later to be benefactees. As I got deeper into the program, I started to realise through the standup and groundwork that was evolving within the club at the time that there was something dramatically wrong with the martial arts as they were being perceived in 1973, full stop. The side-stance, backfist ******** was totally useless against somebody who was intent on fighting you, not ****ing around in a ring. Again, that doesn''t mean that those people who adopted those methods couldn't fight, it's just that they could have got the job done much quicker and far easier if they'd adopted sound fighting methods, which, again, I was trying to introduce without any success other than within my immediate circle. In 1973 there were no videos, there were no Pride/UFC or any such animal whatsoever. People in those days really couldn't be blamed for walking into a dojo and swallowing ********.

    But nowadays, it's a totally different world. If people are still doing karate and the like, even knowing what's happened to the traditionalists in the ring and in the cage, then they obviously want all the Oriental trappings, the grades, the death-touches, and the whole circus act.

    Whatever I do, I approach it from every conceivable angle, and everything has to be realistically tested on the mat, on the street, etc. In those angles of approach I include research of various types. I suspected from translations I had from Chinese literature, from pentjak silat guys I'd seen come into Earlham Street, and the wing chun, yung chun, tiger, and crane stylists who came into the gym, that there was something inherently important within what they were practicing that the karate people were failing to identify. And that's when I began my research of the Fujien systems. What was revealed was that there were fighting concepts and principles and movement principles which were vitally important to combat but had not only been misrepresented in many of the Chinese systems because many no longer had a testing base of fighting itself, but also had been dramatically either misrepresented within karate, or completely removed during the early 20th century in its emperor militaristic and fascistic ideologies. I realized that it was these 'essential ingredients', (as Yap Ching Hai, a prominent Five Ancestor and Emperor Fist boxer and teacher of Yap Leong, characterized them) that were missing from karate. If karate was no longer to remain an empty skin, these essential ingredients needed to be put back in. I succeeded in doing that for myself and I created what could have been a more viable system of Goju-ryu and Uechi-Ryu that I could have passed on, and in the process I also comprehended those essentials such that I could have passed them on to anyone who wanted to do the same to personalize and redefine their system for the better. But I completely failed in convincing the karate establishment in private conversations, on seminars, and in my personal gymnasium in Horsham to take on board what I was saying.

    There is only one exception to this, who was Richard La Plante. He observed me along with Terry O'Neill, and said that I'd peeled the onion. He even put it to O'Neill that I was more worthy of attention than O'Neill's flavour of the month at the time, Morio Higoanna. O'Neill was reluctant to admit this at first, but finally admitted that I was. But nothing came of it. Sure, O'Neill wrote brief endorsements of my ability and technical knowledge, but he never did anything for me anywhere near to what he did to publicize Higoanna. Because what I did, bucked the system. What Higoanna did, supported it.

    I've been labelled a 'legend' by the karate establishment, and I've had more excessive praise written about my abilities than anyone else I know of. Over thirty years after quitting karate, I'm still seeing my name come up on karate forums—but these people who issue the praise and use my name just don't listen to what I have to say about karate.. David Mitchell, the former chairman of the BKCC, said that in his travels he'd never seen anybody better. Has this kind of endorsement done me any good whatsoever? No. Karate doesn't want or intend to change, and as long as it remains unchallenged in a realistic environment, it has no reason to.

    I wasted ****ing 30 years on you lot. I don't intend to waste any more.

    What I practice is not to provide a conversation piece over a pint of beer after training or to satisfy 'curiosity'. It's for real. I want people who love to fight and who can give that primal drive a positive direction. And as far as people who practice combat exercises recreationally goes: you mention judo, Muay Thai, and boxing in the same breath as karate. But the former are legitimate combative sports. Karate isn't. Skills in those combative sports do translate well on to the street; with some thoughtful adaptation, these skills also work well in MMA, which is the closest sporting representation of real fighting. You can't say the same for karate. In fact, with the advent of MMA, I would have expected karate to take an interest in sorting itself out. But what has it done? It's stuck its head further up its own ****. The last time I watched the Paris Festival of Martial Arts, it had become an even more exaggerated parody of itself than it had been before—and that's saying something.

    And there seems to be a perception amongst many martial artists, both within karate and outside of it, that I'm just a bad-tempered, bitter individual who 'slags off' the martial arts. Let's clear this up.

    With respect to MMA, the criticisms I have made on this site could scarcely be called 'slagging off' and I take offence at the use of that term. I have often said that MMA is potentially the greatest combative sport and there are some superb athletes among its ranks, but that doesn't mean that everyone who trains in it at all levels is living up to that potential. Unfortunately they aren't, as I learned recently when a prominent professional MMA fighter dissed me during a course I was holding. I had to take the guy out, and it was easy, even though I'm 61 and he's in his thirties. I cannot understand why I don't get the respect that guys with far less ability than myself receive having done a fraction of what I've done in my life. There's a lot to be learnt in the martial arts, and I'm one of those guys who has set out to learn it. With the MMA, I calls 'em like I sees 'em, and my judgements are informed by forty years of reality-based combative experience. And my criticisms are corrective in nature. I'm trying to provide good information and I'd like to see people take it and run with it.

    The reason why I am committed the way I am to what I do is because I'm a professional martial artist. This is my life. This is what I do. I'm not teaching you Ninja Turtles, or something to let you have fun, or make you happy. I'm teaching you something you can fight with, whether it's on the street or in the arena. That's my job, as it's been the job of martial arts trainers of the West and the East for thousands of years. And I doubt if their interpersonal skills were that great, either! But unfortunately, now, unlike then, people have the opt-out clause. In the past, trainers earned their livings based on their abilities to fight and to teach others. Now, you've got an easy option. You can go and gain all the regalia for giving the illusion of fighting without ever having fought in your life. And you can make a living teaching others to do the same. If fighting were medicine, most current martial artits teachers would be quacks. And as a legitimate 'doctor', I find that offensive. It takes away my living and erodes at my own credibility. I read recently on a MMA forum that my claims as to my abilities are 'just like what you read in the back pages of Martial Arts Illustrated'. People can't tell the hype from the reality. I actually have to justify my position because there are so many false claims of superhuman abilities that go unchecked. I know this well, because when I saw Mas Oyama's 'This is Karate' at the age of 17, I set about performing the breaks that are pictured there. I broke bricks, took the tops off bottles, broke 3 cement paving stones with no spacers—whatever. Then I found out from Brian Fitkin that all those photographs had been faked! Indeed, when Oyama had his first knock-down tournament in Tokyo, it was all a fix. Oyama couldn't even take the top off the bottle and eventually ended up smashing it into the table with his hand.

    As for the rest outside the MMA, I've got serious grievances with individuals within karate who completely misled me, and in whom I'd put my trust. With regard to the technical aspects, my criticisms were always constructive and intended to correct problems—and when it comes to traditional karate's movement and training methods, there are a lot of those. But my most serious differences with karate are in the moral and ethical area. The martial arts in general is a dirty business. People get ripped off right and left, you've got 'masters' making money hand over fist through dojo fees, grading, insurance, books, videos, courses—all in support of a product that is the equivalent of a Robin Reliant sold at Rolls Royce prices. Morally speaking, in my 40 years of observing these things, I've known of some real scumbags, some of whom are at the top of the hierarchy, whose station seemed to protect them from any accountability with regard to their sexual misconduct, their brutalization of students, and similar corruption.

    Karate has no reality-based ways by which to test the combative effectiveness of its training and fighting methods, concepts and principles, etc. Its only claim to being combatively effective is by way of choreographed displays, dropping some overcompliant stooge with some specialized strike, breaking prepared materials in sheer, playing a game of tag (i.e., competitions), or anecdotal evidence. Therefore, karate provides a suitable niche for those who have realised that they haven't the character to put themselves in situations (whether in training or in competition), in which there is every possibility that they will receive a battering, win or lose. However, they have nevertheless also realised that they can create the illusion of being combatively effective without ever having to fight, simply by way of achieving a high grade or title, acquiring 'deadly secret knowledge' of anatomical weaknesses and the various ways to attack them, etc. Karate also harbours those who, as they rise through the ranks, realise that they can use their seniority to intimidate and physically abuse those they know haven't the ability or psychological strength to fight back, or who submit out of some misguided respect or belief that the beatings they receive are part of their dojo initiation.

    It came as no surprise to me when Googling 'karate war crimes' to find numerous examples of karate being used by trained individuals on prisoners of war in Bosnia, Afganistan, and Iraq, as well as against political prisoners around the world. Based upon my observations and research over the years, there seems to be some evidence to suggest that rather than those who love to fight against those who love to fight being the ones who are psychologically flawed, it is more likely to be those who can't fight but wish they could who have a screw loose and will brutalize the defenceless if given half a chance, out of their sense of their own inadequacy and frustration. This phenomenon is nowhere better exemplified than in the Asia Pacific War of 1937-1945 when defenceless civilians and Allied prisoners across Southeast Asia were used to test sword techniques, punches and kicks during the process of their execution. Interestingly, despite karate's claims as to the lethalness of its strikes, it was seen that those who were punched and kicked with their hands bound, had to be finished off with a sword.

    These crimes were committed by people who saw themselves as samurai in the service of their emperor. But had they ever had met a real samurai, they would have **** themselves. The bottom line, Mr. Norris, is that karate only seems to work against those who haven't the ability or the balls to fight back—or against those who are also practicing karate. It doesn't work against those who can fight, or even against those who might not be trained but who will put up a good fight anyway.

    I remember reading somewhere once that the proof of karate's effectiveness could be seen in the injuries that are occasionally sustained in karate competition. Such injuries, however, would never occur against someone who knew how to fight, because not only would he be taking into account trying to effectively hit his opponent, but also taking into account his defence. The objective, within karate competition, is to see who can hit the other guy first, with no thought of defence. And subsequently, when you get two guys rushing towards each other trying to do that at the same time, you're inevitably going to end up with an injury. It's not proof of anything except ineptitude.

    The funniest thing I ever heard with regards to karate's effectiveness was when a commentator for the K1's said that the reason why karate isn't performed in K1 is because it's too dangerous. If you believe that, you'll believe anything.

    Coming back to the question of my many grievances with karate, there is the larger issue of fascism within the martial arts establishment. It's no accident that fascists are attracted to karate, because karate was formed during the fascistic era and has its roots in Japan's ultranationalistic, fascist ideologies. The hierarchial structure lends itself to those who like to exploit, and to those who don't mind being exploited in the name of the 'greater good'. I, like many people, found the treatment of Rodney King to be deplorable, but I know of some within the upper ranks of karate who'd got off on it and were big fans of the LAPD, not to mention racists. I want no association with these kinds of people.

    Your perception of karate seems to be of a 'pyjama-clad majority' engaging in lukewarm recreational practices. But my perception is based upon my firsthand experience of both karate and the Japanese and Okinawans who dominate it, as well as my research into the crimes against peace and humanity committed by the Japanese during the Asian Pacific War 1937-1945. And I believe that not only is karate ineffective as a fighting system but that it is inextricably entwined with ideologies that are far more insidious.

    Had I known in the mid-sixties what I now know through my research into the war crimes committed by the Japanese during the Manchurian occupation and Asian-Pacific War, I never would have gone near the Kyo Kushinkai dojo of Bob Bolton and Steve Arneil in the mid-Sixties, let alone travelled to Japan and enrolled in the Nipori dojo of Yamaguchi Gogen. What I learned about the political activists, spies, military personnel and guards implicated in these crimes and their connections to the martial arts establishment (which persist even to this day) I felt that I had been drawn into a relationship with people that I never would have gone near had I known what their associations were.

    The whole of the upper hierarchy of the Japanese martial arts at the time I was training in karate was nothing more than a remnant of those very institutions that had been created to support a campaign of world domination by the Emperor, military leaders and the Japanese government of that time. Unlike in Germany, where the institutions supporting the Third Reich were completely dismantled and a program of re-education and awareness of the crimes committed against humanity was implemented after the war, in Japan the same Old Boys network resumed its activities, sometimes after its members served a brief prison stay, and the culture was never forced to confront its own past behavior. And this holds particularly true for the martial arts, which seem to remain frozen in time. Sasakawa Ryoichi, jailed as a suspected Class A war criminal, provided his private militia to Kodama Yoshio to help in the looting of Southeast Asia and the opium trade from the 1930s until the end of WWII. After the war, Kodama became head of the Yakuza. Both Sasakawa and Kodama recruited and organized martial arts groups to become strike-breakers and to attack union leaders and left-wing intellectuals, and to break up socialist meetings. Sasakawa became a billionaire through various shady deals (including involvement in the recovery of Yamashita's gold). His associations with the CIA combined with his vast fortune enabled him to whitewash his record by becoming a philanthropist (he was actually seeking a Nobel Peace Prize when he died). Yet he also claimed to have a massive private army of martial artists, which is not too far-out considering that he also held prominent positions within numerous martial arts associations, themselves often headed by right-wing ultranationalists. Some of these organizations he used as a front for his ultra-right wing and criminal underworld activities right up until his death in 1995.(1)

    And don't get me started when it comes to kids and karate. An adult has a choice, but kids are impressionable. The idea that a kid is taken to a karate class to develop character and discipline is obscene. The character and discipline that we're talking about with karate led the Japanese during their occupation of Manchuria in 1931 and the Asia-Pacific War from 1937-1945 to commit some of the most heinous crimes ever committed in war, all in the name of an emperor and instilled through 'budo'. The tenets that proclaimed the superiority of the Japanese way, which still exist today, were instilled in the youth of Japan through budo practices. (And those who were indoctrinated into this ideology were to become the masters of postwar Japan who are still idolized today in the West.) In fact, karate itself was nothing more than one of the instruments by which this indoctrination was to take place. And that's probably why its combative elements were removed. They weren't needed in modern warfare. Karate was all about discipline and blind obedience to one's superiors. It created the illusion in the mind of the participant that he was a samurai, a warrior in the service of his emperor. A real samurai would have been sick at the whole business. This blind obedience, and the Japanese belief in their emperor's divinity and their superiority as a people, led to a mindset that caused Japanese soldiers to toss babies in the air and catch them on bayonets just for fun. And Westerners blithely send their kids to learn karate.

    I suppose the other thing you have to understand about this website is that when I'm writing I often have somebody specific in my mind. I'm not saying that everybody in karate is into fascistic, militaristic ********. I've met some good guys along the way. But my experience has been one where those with this fascistic, bureaucratic mindset have dominated the agenda, and I can only go on that. With me, everything is personal. And the depth of my resentment is a measure of the depth of my effort to convince the karate establishment that they were going the wrong way. My sincere efforts have been repayed by duplicity on the part of certain individuals, and stonewalling on the part of others. I'm just not going to subject myself to any more of it.

    What surprises me is that we still get this type of letter, when it's quite clear from the site what my feelings are and why. As far as your request is concerned, I've been on the karate seminar circuit. It was a complete waste of ****ing time. It wouldn't make any difference if I took off and flew around the room; they'd still go back to their masters. People see what they want to see and they hear what they want to hear. That's deep-rooted within their psyche; I'm not going to change it.

    And I'm not interested in guys who do karate. It's a world of illusion. My obsession with fighting and training isn't because I feel 'worried about my physical safety', but because ever since I can remember I've loved to fight and engage in challenging and punishing workouts. My fighting and training philosophy has nothing to do with self-defence, but everything to do with being able to rise to the challenge of my next fight against an opponent I have assumed is mentally, physically and technically preparing for his next fight with the same single-minded intensity that I do. That's why I'm a great believer in having a solid grounding in the fundamentals, the essentials if you like, and in remaining current. That's a requirement I was unable to fulfill whilst training in and teaching traditional karate. The blueprint of karate's fundamental fighting and training principles and concepts was flawed. Any attempt on my part to adapt them to realistic fighting scenarios involved a radical departure from everything about karate that is recognizable, to the point where the methods I was advocating no longer were karate. As I've said elsewhere, I put far more into my Sanchin than I ever got out of it.

    And in the end, it seems to be the trappings, and not the essence, that attract people to karate. That and the idea that you can train so that you won't have to fight. But that idea in martial arts philosophy of training to transcend aggression comes out of the need of the experienced warrior to eventually sublimate his aggressive drives towards nobler goals. However, historically, the real warrior had to do this because he was basically a ****ing psychotic killer who needed to live in society after the battle was over. The practices and concepts that derived from this process of directing the aggressive drives were specific to that warrior. In the bujutsu systems the objective was killing; in the budo systems, the objective, essentially, was to redirect these drives toward nobler goals; but in the shin budo systems (the modern disciplines) the purpose was to redirect the same drives and energies towards discipline and xenophobic hatred as part of an emperor ideology; i.e., ****ing brainwashing. The objective had long since ceased to be about fighting.

    You can't take the practices that the classical warrior engaged in during and in the immediate aftermath of the fighting era and transfer them to another person who has never had a battle in his life. But that's what karate does, and with a superior attitude to boot. Karate gives legitimacy to its indoctrination methods by drawing on the terms, concepts, and principles established in the bujutsu and budo systems without having any real understanding of them. That's why Draeger referred to the shin budo systems as an 'ass in a tiger's skin.' Karate puts on airs about knowing things that everybody else doesn't; that there is some secret knowledge to be imparted somewhere down the line and that the master can somehow defeat opponents without ever having really fought, thanks to his esoteric knowledge, and that he can do it without breaking a sweat or messing up his hairstyle. And when karate guys came down to my gym, I sometimes got the feeling that I was being judged in comparison to their masters. What I do is natural and therefore imperfect; I don't do it for show, I haven't practiced so as to exhibit my movements for visual effect. I train to be able to do what I have to do at the time, and I'm not really interested in what it looks like, only what the effect is on my opponent. That's also the opposite to karate. So how a karate guy is going to judge me when some of them can just about find their own dick is beyond me.

    The idea that some geek with some Oriental moves, no matter how well-rehearsed, is going to take on and take out an experienced streetfighter or professional MMA fighter is ********, and I've said before that anyone who believes differently is walking around with his head up his ****—or more likely somebody else's. If it looks like **** and smells like ****, in all probability it is ****. And the truth is, if your senses and rationale haven't yet told you that, then anything I do or say isn't going to change your perception of karate and the way you practice it. And there's the rub. I'm no longer interested in catering for the needs of pseudo-martial artists or to win their approval. What you do and what I do couldn't be more different. Me trying to convince you of the validity of my method or invalidity of yours, would be like selling combs to the bald. You don't ever intend to fight, so you don't need what I have to show you. In fact, you said that if you 'felt that worried', you'd carry a gun. People with that attitude don't interest me.

    Steve Morris

    (1) Let me be clear: when I talk about fascism, I'm not referring to those who practice karate as nothing more than a sport or a recreational pursuit or as self-defence, though I would advise them to put their talent and energy into more realistic combative sports and practices. I'm referring to those dyed-in-the-wool traditionalists who thrive on military order and routine and who have swallowed hook, line and sinker the notion of the superiority of the Japanese race/culture/martial arts, and in particular the superiority of their particular system and master. They see karate as a means of injecting military discipline, order, and control into their otherwise insignificant lives. Many also believe in karate as something noble that they can be tangibly connected to, by which they judge others, and which with the religious fervor of a zealot they try to pass on. And when the opportunity arises, as it inevitably will as these individuals ascend through the ranks of the system, many of these traditionalists see karate as a vehicle for their own personal beliefs, and through the power of their rank, a means to dominate and indoctrinate others.

    The average karate student in the local church hall or sports centre isn't operating on this level, and there are higher ranks in karate who don't fit this description. But if you are training in karate, what you need to think about is the fact that you are buying into a system that is inherently corrupt, and in many ways, one which has its roots in an ideology that would probably sicken you if you knew more about it.

    To tell you the truth, I would prefer to go through the rest of my life without ever thinking another thought about karate. But the fact that I'm still getting letters like yours has sparked me to put some of the research I have done on war crimes, etc. down in writing. It is not a task I enjoy. However, for the record, I am working on a detailed article about the associations between karate, its masters, and the vast network of corruption that surrounded not only Japanese war crimes, but also fascism in general. I decided to answer your letter now, because the research involved there goes on at some length. That article will be on the site as soon as it is finished. All the references for Sasakawa, etc. will be provided at that time.If you need more information about it before then, e-mail me and I'll send you the references.
    Last edited: May 14, 2005
  2. PantherFist

    PantherFist Valued Member

    Wow, no punches pulled there :)
  3. moononthewater

    moononthewater Valued Member

    You have to respect the man he has been there and done it. It does not matter if you agree with his ideas or not he is a martial artist of the the traditional breed in that he will back up anything he says.
  4. Visage

    Visage Banned Banned

    Sounds like an arrogant, egotist to me.
  5. mani

    mani Valued Member

    The guy certainly isn't. Hes been labelled by even leading karate masters as a living legend. The guy's knowledge about martial arts in incomparable, and like someone already said, he backs up anything he says.
  6. YODA

    YODA The Woofing Admin Supporter

    He can be all that and STILL an arrogant egotist.

    I find it surprising that a man of his talent and obvious intellect seems unable to communicate without the use of profanity.
  7. mani

    mani Valued Member

    Suppose thats just the nature of the man. I mean, hes tried changing peoples ideas for around 30 years, and still people come up with this kind of thing and still question him on things hes proved for some on so many occasions, through his articles and life experiences, backed up by some of the leading martial artists.
  8. LiaoRouxin

    LiaoRouxin Valued Member

    A lot of his points are crap, especially about karate supporting fascism. The same points could be made about a good deal of CMA or Western MA, does that mean I shouldn't learn to box? Or learn Judo? The search "Karate War Crimes" is ridiculous, I could do the same for Muay Thai and fight out that in the 17th century the king of Siam's guards tortured Laotians. Or Kungfu War crimes would no doubt find out about the slaughtering of the Xiongnu, the brutalization of the Tibetans, the racial violence of the 60s in Singapore. Or what about Sambo? Oh noes! Sambo was used by Soviet soldiers on innocent Afghanis, surely we must reject the entire art!

    And his piece on indoctrination into the evil Japanese culture is similarly stupid, never have I been to a dojo, in Japan, Singapore, or America, and felt that they were trying to force a feeling of Japanese cultural superiority on me anymore than I might try to force a feeling of Chinese superiority on any of my students. I felt that the instructors were trying to present some traditional aspects of Japanese society to their students, as well as instill a sense of respect in the students for that culture. I'd expect the same for Greek culture if I went to learn Pankration, and that's what I get for Russia studying Sambo. And, yes, one of those cultural values is respect for superiors and elders. GASP! Oh noes, surely every Confucian must be a fascist or a pawn of fascists!
    And surely those values are not shared by his clearly non-fascist and apparently superior British culture. Oh, wait a minute, I forgot that they have a monarch.

    This is ridiculous that he's bashing karate on a cultural note that is shared by at some point in history by almost every other martial art. After all, didn't the old political assassins of ancient Greece study Pankration? Wasn't CMA used to ambush and sack the villages of innocent Di nomads in Western China? He wants to support this by saying that the worthlessness of Karate actually aids this ceaseless march towards dictatorship. Last time I checked a shotokan guy could still punch really hard and a Kyokushin person could knock people out very effectively.

    Oh noes, it's not MMA, whatever shall we do? Oh noes, it was supported by Japanese government, so surely it must be evil!! If that's the case then by studying and competing in Judo I must surely be a tool of the Japanese devil.

    Give me a break.
  9. moononthewater

    moononthewater Valued Member

    As i said earlier you might not like what the guy says but he has put it all to the test he has trained and lived with the best he most certanly has an ego. But he has tested it and proved himself in ways the majority of martial artists would never do so. He also looks at it as a proper martial art in which it has only one purpose and that is to win and quickly. Most of us will not go to his level of training because we have jobs and a life outside our martial art. We do not want to go to work the next day with black eyes and broken noses. So we might train hard but only up to a point. Mr Morris believes in training full on for that life or death situation. Its not how i would do it and i might be one of those he people he despises but i can understand his point about how and why he trains as he does.
    As for his piece on war crimes i do not know enough to comment on it and i suspect he knows more than myself. Im sure it will make interesting reading when it comes out.
  10. Moosey

    Moosey invariably, a moose Supporter

    I wonder why...
  11. Ressla

    Ressla Valued Member

    Steve expressed some dismay at the responses received when this was posted on another forum.

    To be honest he is his own worst enemy. This karate/fascism link is totally peripheral to whether karate is any good or not.

    He has probably the best technical mind of any martial artist alive today ( and at 61 years old the proven ability also).

    Its a shame he cant see past this hating karate business. Lets face it many ex karate guys know its rubbish too. It just distracts from his training ablilty when he insists on going off on a tangent like this.
  12. Ressla

    Ressla Valued Member

    When did you last check? Lots of people can punch hard without any "official" training anyway. Shotokan is about the worst style for improving punching ability. Think how much better they could punch if they were boxing instead.
  13. Moosey

    Moosey invariably, a moose Supporter

    Interesting conclusion. When did you last check? Or do you not bother before making sweeping, unfounded generalisations?
  14. jonmonk

    jonmonk New Member

    You know, all I know of Steve Morris is what he's written in that letter. In it, he's criticises Terry O'Neill's support of Higoanna Sensei. My only experience of Higoanna has been from seeing interviews with him and I have to say that, based on what I've seen so far, I'd rather aim to become more like Higoanna than Morris any day and frankly I couldn't give a damn which one of them can 'punch harder'.
  15. Ressla

    Ressla Valued Member

    I last "checked" about 2 months ago while training with a friend of mine who used to train Shotokan at the same place I did. This guy is a Dan grade from the KUGB, the most "respected" organisation for Shotokan probably in the world.

    I myself used to train Shotokan for almost 2 years under Jimmy and Frank Brennan , the latter being the most "feared" competitor in Shotokan in his time ( google his name).

    Would I like to be punched by my friend or any karate person named above? No.

    In fact I dont think I'd like being punched by anyone ,irrespective of whether they trained karate or not.
    But I have serious misgivings about karate instruction (or other non or "semi"-contact MAs) and their ability to train people for any practical self defence purpose.

    Never fall into the illusion that because someone is a "tough guy" then that must be entirely the result of their training in a certain art.
  16. Moosey

    Moosey invariably, a moose Supporter

    Karate doesn't train everyone to be a tough guy - but nothing does! Short of brainwashing and systematic torture, you're not going to turn a placid, passive individual into a killing machine. But to say that karate doesn't teach you how to punch isn't true.

    I'm a KUGB shotokan practicioner myself and am well aware of Frank Brennan's reputation. I certainly find it hard to believe that you learned nothing from him. Whether or not the training style agreed with you, to claim that karate practicioners are "the worst" at punching is just plain untrue.
  17. Davey Bones

    Davey Bones New Member

    I have to agree. This gentleman is his own worst enemy. His comments are rather far-fetched, and smack of racism. He is not someone I would aspire to be based on that letter, nor is he someone I would train under... it sounds as though he spends more time "un-indoctrinating" people as he claims Karate does indoctrinating people!
  18. moononthewater

    moononthewater Valued Member

    I admit he maybe does himself few favours but i will wait till he publishes what he has to say maybe he will have the proof to back up his statements. I know through the years i was involved in karate he did get a raw deal over here. I also believe he is one of a kind in the martial art world. As i said earlier its not my way of doing things but i have to respect the man as he has trained and learnt off the best. He has gone and walked the walk.
  19. Timmy Boy

    Timmy Boy Man on a Mission

    You might have expected me to say this but I can totally see where Steve's coming from.

    With regards to the profanity issue, I'm sure that he is capable of making a point without swearing but simply chose not to. I swear outside of these forums and I don't see any problem with it unless I'm around kids etc, they're just slang words to me and most people are the same.

    Getting back to the article itself...

    LiaoRouxin, you have amazing knowledge of MA and history but I think you missed the point he was getting at. It's not so much that karate was used on civilians by the Japanese military, because as you say there are many martial arts to which you could attribute the same kind of atrocities if you used that argument, but more that the kind of philosophy taught to those troops via karate is the same fascist philosophy being taught to karateka today.

    I'm on first name terms with my instructors in both judo and MMA. I don't get foreign cultural values forced down my throat. I don't get told not to do certain techniques simply because they're not on our syllabus even though they work. I don't have to refer to the founders of my arts as if they're demi-gods.

    Before this, I studied tang sou dao for a couple of years. I won't go into great detail about the history of TSD, but it will suffice to say that it is essentially a style of karate - it was originally based on shotokan, it used to be called "kong soo do" which means "karate" in korean before it had a couple of name changes, it uses the same forms/katas, techniques and training drills, and it teaches the same way of thinking. I trained in karate when I was younger and I've seen a lot more of it, so I can say with confidence that it's no more different to shotokan than goju ryu or wado ryu is.

    Anyway, based on my TSD training I completely understand what Steve is talking about. I had to refer to the instructor as "Sir". We weren't allowed to talk in class. We weren't allowed to use techniques from other styles. We weren't allowed to question the instructor. The Grandmaster of the association (proud owner of a large Mercedes Benz saloon, which was presumably funded in no small part by the horrendous grading fees) was treated like an immortal. I said hello to him on a couple of occasions and he just walked on as if I wasn't even there. I was the lowly student, my opinion was worthless; they were the duan grades, my superiors, my commanding officers. It's not hard to see the link to fascism here, and I left because the principles they were trying to instill in me were contrary to my own sense of reason, morality, and basic common sense. Once I'd left, the instructor kept holding my best mate back on his gradings when he was more than ready simply to "test his commitment".

    The sad thing, however, is that people actually LIKE this kind of training! It makes people feel like they're doing a "proper" martial art. The rubbish spouted by the Grandmaster and his lieutenants makes them feel like they have something they should aspire to one day. It's what they've seen of martial arts in the films and they expect the same romantic vision in the real lessons. People, including young, impressionable children, are buying into a fascist way of thinking. That's not to say that all karateka (or their clubs/instructors) are like this, of course they aren't, but I've met a fair few who are - enough for it to be a significant problem worth Steve writing his article about. This is not a healthy ideology to be impressing on people, and it's a shame because there were some really nice people at my TSD club who had just been brainwashed into submission.
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2005
  20. Moosey

    Moosey invariably, a moose Supporter

    Tim, I agree with you on a lot of this. I think that some degree of regimentation and politeness is necessary when you're tutoring a large class full of people but some of the weird "cultish" behaviour displayed in some MA classes is downright odd!

    I think calling your teacher "sir" is fairly harmless, but the kind of reverence with which senior grades are sometimes treated is just creepy.

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