Karate in the United States

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Karate in the United States
Governing bodyUSA National Karate-do Federation
International competitions

Karate was first introduced to American service men after World War II by Japanese karate masters.[1][2]

With the new found skills many of these US servicemen took these skills to the United States and established their own dojos.[1][3][4] Many Japanese karate instructors also sent instructors to popularize the martial art in the United States.[5][6] Robert Trias was the first American to open a karate dojo in the United States.[7]

History[edit]

In 1945 Robert Trias, a returning U.S. Navy veteran, began teaching private lessons in Phoenix, Arizona.[8] Other early teachers of karate in America were Ed Parker (a native Hawaiian and Coast Guard veteran who earned a black belt in 1953),[9] George Mattson (who began studying while stationed in Okinawa in 1956) and Peter Urban (a Navy veteran who started training in 1953).

Prior to 1946, most Karate teachers outside Japan were in the Territory of Hawaii (not yet a state). Many of those teachers taught Kempo to only Asians and locals. One such teacher was James Mitose. It was through Mitose that one style of Kempo (Kosho Shorei Ryu) was introduced to the world through William Chow, one of his black belts, who then went on to modify it and train Adriano Emperado, Edmond Parker, Ralph Castro and a host of other future Grandmasters, some who brought the modified art to the U.S.

In the 1950s and early 60s several other Asian karate teachers began arriving in America to seek their fortunes and to aid in the popularization of the art.[10] They included Hidetaka Nishiyama, Teruyuki Okazaki, Takayuki Mikami, Tsutomu Ohshima, Richard Kim and Takayuki Kubota. Several Koreans also came to America in those days to introduce the Korean version of the martial arts (not yet known by the term tae kwon do). They included Jhoon Rhee, Henry Cho, Kim Soo and Jack Hwang.

In spite of the presence of these Asian instructors, karate was primarily spread across the country in the early days by American-born teachers.[11] They included Trias (called the "Father of American Karate"), Don Nagle, Parker, Mattson, and Urban, plus pioneers like Harold Long, Steve Armstrong, Allen Steen, Ernest Lieb, Pat Burleson, Chuck Norris and Joe Lewis.

In the 1960s saw a tremedous growth in karate in the United States.[12] By the 1970s the were even professional karate tournaments[13][14] a precursor for Full contact karate and Kickboxing.

USA National Karate-do Federation[edit]

The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) was the official organization responsible for the running of all amateur sports in the United States, established in 1888. The AAU was officially charged with the organization and operation of many sports in the US. During this time, karate was one of the committees in the organization and was not an independent governing body.[15][16][17][18]

The Amateur Sports Act of 1978 enabled the governance of sports in the US by organizations other than the AAU. This act made each sport set up its own National governing body (NGB). Each of these governing bodies would be part of the United States Olympic Committee, but would not be run by the Committee. Thus, USA National Karate-do Federation was born in 1996.[19][20]

Founders of American systems[edit]

No individual can truly claim to be the founder of "American Karate" because it is an eclectic mix of systems and styles. Many instructors have taken what they considered to be the best of different systems to devise a curriculum that worked for them and their students. Some individuals who have claimed to be founders of their own systems of "American Karate" are listed here, some of whom have claimed 10th degree or higher black belt ranks for themselves. In the Asian culture, most 10th degree black belts (typically represented by a Red Belt) were awarded only upon the death of the Grandmaster to his successor.

Tsutomu Ohshima After being taught by Master Gichin Funakoshi, Ohshima traveled to America and brought Shotokan Karate as well as created the Caltech Karate Club, the first university karate club, in 1957. Master Ohshima is a 5th-degree black belt, the highest in official Shotokan Karate of America. The reason being when Master Funakoshi received his belt as a 5th degree and not caring for rank, Master Ohshima didn't want to go higher than his master, setting the bar at 5 black belt degrees.

Allen R. Steen is a 10th-degree black belt who earned his 1st degree black belt in 1961 in Tae Kwon Do from Jhoon Rhee. Steen opened the first karate school in Texas in 1962 and became known as the "Father of Texas Blood and Guts Karate." He also gained fame for defeating Chuck Norris and Joe Lewis in a single evening to win Ed Parker's Long Beach International Karate Championships in 1966.

Joe Lewis was often called the "Muhammad Ali" of American sport karate. He amassed many firsts including the first World Professional Karate Champion and the first U.S. Heavyweight Champion. He began his martial studies while an 18-year-old U.S. Marine stationed in Okinawa in 1963. He earned a black belt in a record 18 months and due to his outstanding tournament career was named the "greatest karate fighter of all time" by his peers in a Black Belt Magazine survey. Lewis died in 2012.

J. Pat Burleson is a 10th-degree black belt. He received his 1st degree black belt in 1963 in Tae Kwon Do by Allen Steen. Burleson was Allen Steen's first black belt student. Steen, in turn, was Jhoon Rhee's first black belt student in America in 1962. Burleson based his system on Tae Kwon Do, Tang Soo Do, and Wado-Ryu. His website says he is one of the founders of American Karate and his claims have been based on his legitimacy of winning the first National Karate Championships in 1964 in Washington D.C.

Jim R. Harrison is a 9th-degree black belt. He received his 1st degree black belt in Judo and Jujitsu in 1962, Tang Soo Do in 1963, Shorin-Ryu Karate in 1964, having trained under Bob Kurth, Kim Soo Wong and Jim Wax. In 1964 he opened his Bushidokan dojo in Kansas City from which he competed, trained several regional and national champions, and hosted major tournaments.[21][22]

Ernest Lieb was a 10th-degree black belt. He received his 1st-degree black belt in 1958. Mr. Lieb based his system on Chi Do Kwan, Karate, Judo, Jiu Jitsu, and Aikido. In 1964 Lieb was one of the first teachers to put the word "American" in front of karate.

Edmund K. Parker, Sr. was the founder of American Kenpo Karate. He received his black belt in 1953 from William Chow. Parker based his system on Chow's Chinese Kenpo Karate. Parker was one of the first to commercialize karate in America and became known by many as the "Father of American Kenpo Karate" because he originated the first "Americanized" version of Karate.

Keith D. Yates is a 10th-degree black belt. He received his 1st degree black belt in 1968 in Tae Kwon Do by Allen Steen. Yates was Allen Steen's youngest black belt student at the time. After a successful tournament career Yates went on to become a respected teacher and author. He has served on the editorial boards of most of the major martial arts publications and has authored or co-authored 13 books. He also sits on the governing boards of several international martial arts organizations.

John Worley is a 10th-degree black belt. He received his 1st degree black belt in 1967 in Karate under the tutelage of Charles Loven and Texas karate legend, Master Instructor J. Pat Burleson. Worley also studied with Jhoon Rhee and was one of the top instructors in the Jhoon Rhee Institute in Washington, D.C., before leaving to found the National Karate system of schools in Minnesota in 1973. Along with co-founder and fellow 10th-degree black belt Larry Carnahan, Worley has grown the National Karate schools into one of the most successful sport and Americanized karate systems in North America. In 1977, Worley and Carnahan also founded the Diamond Nationals Karate Championships.[23]

Robert Trias considered my many as the father of American karate.[citation needed]

International competition[edit]

America is not a traditional world power in Sport Karate and its record in Karate World Championships is poor for a country its size and wealth .[24]


Karate World Championships[edit]

Year Host city Gold Silver Bronze Total
1970 Japan Tokyo 0 0 1 1
1972 France Paris 0 0 0 0
1975 United States California 0 0 0 0
1977 Japan Tokyo 0 0 0 0
1980 Spain Madrid 1 2 1 4
1982 Taiwan Taipei 0 1 0 1
1984 Netherlands Maastricht 0 1 0 1
1986 Australia Sydney 0 0 1 1
1988 Egypt Cairo 0 1 2 3
1990 Mexico Mexico City 0 1 1 2
1992 Spain Granada 0 2 0 2
1994 Malaysia Kota Kinabalu 0 0 0 0
1996 South Africa Sun City 0 2 1 3
1998 Brazil Rio de Janeiro 0 1 0 1
Total 6 11 15 32

Popularity[edit]

Karate experienced a growth of popularity in the 1970s and 1980s due to movies such as the Karate Kid.[25][26][27] The popularity has declined since the 1990s due to competition from martial arts like Taekwondo and MMA.[28][29]

Commercialization[edit]

One of the major criticism of martial arts teaching in the United States is an American Karate style where teaching for profit at the expense of good quality self-defense instruction.[30][31]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Thompson, Chris (24 July 2017). "Black Belt Karate". New Holland Publishers. Retrieved 24 July 2017 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ Yi, Joseph E. (16 June 2009). "God and Karate on the Southside: Bridging Differences, Building American Communities". Lexington Books. Retrieved 24 July 2017 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ Inc, Active Interest Media (1 October 1967). "Black Belt". Active Interest Media, Inc. Retrieved 24 July 2017 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ Beasley, Jerry (24 July 2017). "Mastering Karate". Human Kinetics. Retrieved 24 July 2017 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ Inc, Active Interest Media (1 February 1992). "Black Belt". Active Interest Media, Inc. Retrieved 24 July 2017 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ Inc, Active Interest Media (1 December 1986). "Black Belt". Active Interest Media, Inc. Retrieved 24 July 2017 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ Ortiz, Sergio. "Robert Trias: pioneer of U.S. karate." Black Belt Magazine. April 1976, pages 36-39.
  8. ^ Inc, Active Interest Media (1 May 1977). "Black Belt". Active Interest Media, Inc. Retrieved 31 December 2017 – via Google Books.
  9. ^ Inc, Active Interest Media (1 June 1977). "Black Belt". Active Interest Media, Inc. Retrieved 1 January 2018 – via Google Books.
  10. ^ Green, Thomas A.; Svinth, Joseph R. (11 June 2010). "Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia of History and Innovation [2 volumes]: An Encyclopedia of History and Innovation". ABC-CLIO – via Google Books.
  11. ^ Inc, Active Interest Media (1 July 1977). "Black Belt". Active Interest Media, Inc. Retrieved 30 December 2017 – via Google Books.
  12. ^ Inc, Active Interest Media (1 October 1967). "Black Belt". Active Interest Media, Inc. Retrieved 3 January 2018 – via Google Books.
  13. ^ Inc, Active Interest Media (1 April 1970). "Black Belt". Active Interest Media, Inc. Retrieved 4 January 2018 – via Google Books.
  14. ^ Inc, Active Interest Media (1 May 1969). "Black Belt". Active Interest Media, Inc. Retrieved 4 January 2018 – via Google Books.
  15. ^ Inc, Active Interest Media (1 February 1972). "Black Belt". Active Interest Media, Inc. Retrieved 24 July 2017 – via Google Books.
  16. ^ Inc, Active Interest Media (1 March 1975). "Black Belt". Active Interest Media, Inc. Retrieved 26 July 2017 – via Google Books.
  17. ^ Inc, Active Interest Media (1 January 1985). "Black Belt". Active Interest Media, Inc. Retrieved 7 January 2018 – via Google Books.
  18. ^ Inc, Active Interest Media (1 March 1973). "Black Belt". Active Interest Media, Inc. Retrieved 7 January 2018 – via Google Books.
  19. ^ Inc, Active Interest Media (1 December 1997). "Black Belt". Active Interest Media, Inc. Retrieved 24 July 2017 – via Google Books.
  20. ^ Resende, Antonio (Tone) (16 September 2013). "Hajime: Karate History in a U.S. community". Xlibris Corporation. Retrieved 24 July 2017 – via Google Books.[self-published source]
  21. ^ "A Candid Interview With Jim Harrison: All You Ever Wanted to Know About the Blood-and-Guts Days of American karate but Were Afraid to Ask". Professional Karate Magazine. Nov-Dec, 1975. Print. (Pgs 20-22)
  22. ^ Martial Arts: Traditions, History, People, John Cocoran and Emil Farkas (1983), Gallery Books, ISBN 0-8317-5805-8 (Pg 328)
  23. ^ Kickboxing: The Modern Martial Art, Daniel Sipe (1994), Capstone Press, ISBN 1-56065-203-9 (Pg 9-12)
  24. ^ Inc, Active Interest Media (1 February 1985). "Black Belt". Active Interest Media, Inc. Retrieved 26 October 2017 – via Google Books.
  25. ^ "The Karate Generation". Newsweek.com. 27 August 2000. Retrieved 24 July 2017.
  26. ^ "Contender Shores Up Karate's Reputation Among U.F.C. Fans". The New York Times. 23 May 2009. Retrieved 24 July 2017.
  27. ^ Joseph E. Yi (2009-06-16). God and Karate on the Southside: Bridging Differences, Building American ... Books.google.co.uk. p. 128. Retrieved 2017-07-25.
  28. ^ Sofge, Erik (11 June 2010). "The Not-So-Karate Kid" – via Slate.
  29. ^ "Can Karate Hold Its Own In The Mixed Martial Arts Era?". onlyagame. 17 August 2013. Retrieved 24 July 2017.
  30. ^ "The Martial Arts as Moneymakers". The New York Times. 28 August 1988. Retrieved 24 July 2017.
  31. ^ "Thompson champions karate in MMA, seeks UFC welterweight title". Espn.co.uk. Retrieved 24 July 2017.

Bibliography[edit]

  1. The Development of American Karate: History and Skills, Jerry Beasley (1983), Bemjo Martial Arts Library, ISBN 0-943736-02-1
  2. Martial Arts: Traditions, History, People, John Cocoran and Emil Farkas (1983), Gallery Books, ISBN 0-8317-5805-8
  3. Korean Karate, Keith D. Yates and H. Bryan Robbins (1987), Sterling, ISBN 0-8069-6836-2
  4. The Karate Dojo: Traditions and Tales of a Martial Art, Peter Urban (1997), Tuttle Publishing, ISBN 0-8048-1703-0
  5. The Official History of Karate in America: The Golden Age: 1968–1986, Al Weiss (1997), ISBN 0-9615126-8-7
  6. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Tae Kwon Do, Karen Eden and Keith D. Yates (1998), Alpha Books, ISBN 0-02-862389-4
  7. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Karate, Randall G. Hassell (2000), Alpha Books, ISBN 0-02-863832-8
  8. The Ultimate Martial Arts Q & A Book: 750 Expert Answers to Your Essential Questions, John Cocoran, John Graden (2001), Contemporary Books, ISBN 0-8092-9444-3
  9. An Illustrated History of the Martial Arts in America, Emil Farkas (2007), Rising Sun Productions, ISBN 1-897307-90-X
  10. The Complete Guide to American Karate and Tae Kwon Do, Keith D. Yates (2008), Blue Snake Books, ISBN 1-58394-215-7