Because of my work with the Hawaii Karate Museum and the articles I have written, I am sometimes consulted by people in various aspects of the media about my views on Karate. Most of this is never reported.
I get all kinds of questions. Who was the best fighter? Who had the strongest punch or kick? What was the best weapon? Who defeated the most opponents? The list goes on and on, but you are probably catching the flavor of the questions. There is an element of violence in most of them.
Most of these questions cannot be answered properly. They are subjective. Was Choki Motobu the greatest fighter ever? How could we know?
Whatever the question may be, I try to redirect the subject. I typically say the following:
Karate is a civilian art of self defense. It is not a fighting art. It is an art to defend yourself and loved ones. The greatest virtue in Karate is to avoid violence. When violence cannot be avoided, Karate techniques are used as a last resort, and then only to the extent necessary to escape and protect life.
If you ask me who was the greatest Karate man, one name I would mention is that of Shosei Kina. In the ending days of the Battle of Okinawa, he risked his life to go out and speak to the advancing American troops. The Americans suspected that Japanese soldiers were hiding in the village. If so, they would have the village bombed or targeted for artillery. Kina Sensei was an expert of both Karate and Kobudo. We went out and met the Americans. An interpreter was called. It was a young man who had been born in Okinawa but raised in Hawaii. The interpreter instantly recognized Kina Sensei as his former Sunday School teacher.
Because of Kina Sensei's bravery, the village was spared. He risked his life -- it was known that other Okinawans who ventured out to speak to the Americans were killed.
Kina Sensei was a great Karate man because he risked his life to save the lives of others. He was great because he placed peace above violence.
One of the maxims of Karate is that "The hand is a treasure in the pocket." Gichin Funakoshi often said that "There is no first attack in Karate." Sokon Matsumura said that "Karate teaches one how not to use the hand and feet in a fight." How not to use.
The greatest Karate man is one who could avoid violence and preserve life. The greatest Karate man is one who valued peace.
As Karate students and instructors, we should always emphasize peace. When violence cannot be avoided, then Karate techniques must be used to the extent necessary. But this is a last resort. Karate people should not be looking for an excuse to fight.You can see why my quotes don't usually make it into shows about Karate.
Who is the best fighter? Perhaps it is the person who can fight against injustice, bigotry, and discrimination.
Charles C. Goodin