Shotokan Karate of America and Special Training

Discussion in 'Karate' started by YoshiroShin, Jul 29, 2022.

  1. YoshiroShin

    YoshiroShin Valued Member

    Oh, additionally,

    I respectfully disagree that a lifetime ban from the SKA for walking out of a Special Training is done to enforce common courtesy. If this was the case this could be enforced by a year's ban if a ban is needed. I must also stress that this includes a ban from practicing in any SKA-affiliated dojo for life as well, worldwide.

    Regarding preparation for the ST, each member pays a fee to attend as well and there were maybe 60 of us this time. Usually there are more than a hundred if you exclude the pandemic or hundreds even more for events in the US. For this ST each member paid around $350.

    My honest guess as to what would occur in this situation is that they would only let you go if you've demonstrated that you've satisfied every alternative to leaving to attend to your child, including getting a nearby relative to attend to them instead, and only if your child absolutely needed you.
  2. Dead_pool

    Dead_pool Spes mea in nihil Deus MAP 2017 Moi Award

    Hiarchical training structures are very culty, and are also detrimental to people's physical health and mental well-being.

    Especially when taken to the extremes mentioned here.

    If it talks like a cult and quacks like a cult, it's a cult.
    YoshiroShin likes this.
  3. YoshiroShin

    YoshiroShin Valued Member

    Today I looked up a source on what happened between Nishiyama Sensei and Ohshima Sensei and found this which indicates the following:

    I've noticed that in addition to seeing SKA black belts go into the Nishiyama/Ohshima story, I've also seen someone post online about it too, like here. What I don't understand is why they all tell the story as if they still carry a grudge against Nishiyama Sensei, why one of them in person disparaged him and said that he grew into a frail old man who destroyed his own organization, and why another bragged to me about Ohshima Sensei challenging Nishiyama Sensei to a fight to the death (Nishiyama didn't show up according to the black belt who was telling me that - he was the crazy one who kept calling me a traitor for not being able to continue practice because of my course schedule ten years ago).

    On a different point, I found this post from MAP as well which is part of what illustrates why I wanted to follow Ohshima Sensei's lineage - he seemed authentic and I agreed with a lot of his philosophy, but I've noticed that his mentality, philosophy, and his demeanour didn't transmit to all of his students as their milestones seem to be entirely based on how many kata and kihon you can do, and whether or not you can score in kumite, rather than anything relating to one's personality.

    For example, in the Aikido organization that I was part of previously, as well as an Isshin ryu school in the city, you're required to compose an essay on a topic of your choosing for your shodan grading in addition to all of the technical parts of the grading itself. In the Aikido org, if the student shows too much of an ambition to climb rank, they probably won't be invited to test at all (pre-pandemic there were maybe three tests a year) as that sort of mentality didn't seem congruent with the mentality of practice for practice's sake with the student focusing only on the colour of their belt or the power they could have over others if promoted. Additionally, you aren't told of the results of your test until three or four months after because your behaviour after the test is also taken into account as to whether or not you pass. In SKA, the only requirement for shodan grading is attending a summer Special Training (the grading is done on the last day after 10 practices are done during other days at the ST) as well as having done Bassai Dai 1000 times beforehand.

    I think this is part of why so many zealots were promoted to black belt. As one of the black belts in my dojo told me, there are plenty of instructors who are not good people but that the few that are are supposed to offset the bad ones. And again, in my own experience, encountering black belts who order other students around with disdain without leading by example, black belts who insult people who once practiced but don't anymore as well as physically lunging at their friends, black belts who throw students who have only been practising for one and two months into full speed ippon and sanbon kumite (I had to slow down to avoid hitting the juniors in the face for real - the other students did not do this for each other), black belts who don't show up to the dojo unless they're required for teaching without any explanation as to their constant absences...

    Likewise, the dojo leader I had, a godan, was also a good teacher and had an answer for pretty much everything, but this wasn't carried on to his own students. The black belt who went around insulting me, lunging at my friends, trying to persuade me to do an ST in California ten years ago after I only did three months with them, and bragged about the duel to the death challenge against Nishiyama Sensei trained under this same dojo leader until he formed his own dojo in the same city and split off from the godan's umbrella while remaining under SKA. Him doing this was controversial enough that people in North Carolina were talking about it, but meanwhile the black belts on the West coast seem to like the guy.

    Honestly it seems like Ohshima Sensei went through the continent converting dojos with his charisma and teaching, but his followers revere him more than they follow what he was doing and what he represents in order to pass that on to their own students. I feel it when I hear all sorts of accounts of SKA members talking about how great Ohshima Sensei is in a more of an idolizing fashion instead of something more akin to being part of a tradition that he's continuing and the teachings and the system as a whole. I get the sense that very few of them have read any of the material in the recommended reading that is in the member's area of the website, and few of them speak of Funakoshi Sensei, Itosu Sensei, or now any of the history of karate beyond Ohshima Sensei's experiences in North America.

    All of the above is part of why I (as well as someone else who was part of the organization who replied to me on Reddit) fear that when he passes away there may be a power struggle as the various egos holding parallel rank from 3rd to 5th dan begin to compete with each other for influence.
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2022
  4. bassai

    bassai onwards and upwards ! Moderator Supporter

    To be honest , a lot of what you’re saying about politics and egos isn’t that unusual in the bigger organisations I’ve come across , and is what tends to spoil karate.
  5. Dan Bian

    Dan Bian Neither Dan, nor Brian

    How is this even a decision to make?

    Whether it fits the definition of "cult" or not - this sounds like a toxic group that you should be avoiding.
    The fact you sound like you are still weighing your options is worrying.
    Dead_pool likes this.
  6. YoshiroShin

    YoshiroShin Valued Member

    Okay, I don't know who you are but if you're going to join the thread, please read up on the previous posts before commenting. Look on page 1:


    What else would you infer from these sentences other than the fact that I've already left?

    Thanks for your contribution.
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2022
  7. Dan Bian

    Dan Bian Neither Dan, nor Brian

    I don't know who you are either - that's to be expected. The internet is a big place.
    Oh, I did read the thread, and I saw the sentences you picked out for my reference. But from your lengthy posts, I get the feeling that you haven't disconnected from this group as much as you think.
    I had a neighbour once who was a perpetual victim of domestic abuse. They would often break up with their partner, go on a few dates, make a big show of "moving on" - yet would regularly be checking their ex's social media, keeping up with them, and eventually they'd get back together again. And the cycle begins again.
    It's easy to fall into that cycle without even realising it. So, I stand by my original comment.
    Dead_pool likes this.
  8. YoshiroShin

    YoshiroShin Valued Member

    Actually on MAP I know about some of the others who've been commenting here already (not personally though). You instead dropped in and started making assumptions about me, rudely.

    Congrats Dan, you have some rudimentary perception of reality.

    I'm not your neighbour.

    If you knew literally anything about me, you wouldn't waste your time telling me about situations I've already observed time and again. However, your massive ego is larger than your mental ability as well as your etiquette, so you made some strange assumptions about me instead.

    That's great - meanwhile I've divorced myself SKA once, i.e. this month.

    Another point that's disanalogous to my situation - most of what I've been doing here is fielding questions from other people. I posted my thoughts without a prompting question two, maybe three times? And in that only maybe three sentences indicating that I was moving on. Additionally, what I have said about dojos that I was visiting or planning on visiting was in response to other people wanting to hear about where I would go.

    I burned my bridge with the dojo leader. I wrote him a letter complete with my objections and went as far as describing the organization's black belts, including some of his own, as being sick, abusive to juniors, using outdated and self-destructive training methods, and practicing nothing more than a Bujutsu in a cult of personality around an idol. Again, you've made a lot of incorrect assumptions.

    If you were truly concerned instead of wanting to write a comment that you could pat yourself on the back about, you could've instead said the following:

    "Hey, I've read your story as well as your comments afterwards, and I just wanted to implore you to not consider going back to that group. The reason I say this is because it sounds a lot like a situation I've seen before when one of my neighbours was stuck in a cycle of abuse and would leave but eventually get back together with their ex. For your own sake, please don't make the same mistake as them. All the best."

    Instead, you basically insulted me.

    Of course you do; after only seeing two comments from you I already expect nothing more from you than what you've shown me so far. Because of this I'm going to ignore any further comments from you.

    To everyone else:

    Again, since people on this thread have indicated their curiousity about where I'm going, it looks like the atemi-waza search has come down to one of the JKA dojos in the city unless I receive a reply from the Uechi ryu instructor. The Goju dojo is only offering one hour of class a week still for some reason, along with private lessons, but I'm looking for at least three hours of dojo time a week. I may take them up on the private lessons to learn sanchin but not before I get situated in my full time dojo.

    If anyone wants, I can give a progress report at the end of September on my experience - let me know. Again the JKA dojo I've selected doesn't come back for practice until September begins.
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2022
  9. Dead_pool

    Dead_pool Spes mea in nihil Deus MAP 2017 Moi Award

    ^ pretty much all Japanese martial arts have strong hiarchical structures in them, which means the problems you saw in the SKA may also exist in your new places too, something to keep in mind.

    Also the reason you have had a strong emotional reaction to Dan's post is because there's probably an element of truth in what he says. Attacking him was uncalled for.
    Simon and Dan Bian like this.
  10. Simon

    Simon Administrator Admin Supporter MAP 2017 Koyo Award

    I agree, so ease of on the attacks please.
    Grond likes this.
  11. YoshiroShin

    YoshiroShin Valued Member

    Perhaps, but I also get triggered when people extrapolate that far with assuming what kind of person I am and what I'm going to do, or tell me I did something that I didn't do or will do something that I won't do; it's a me thing maybe from how I grew up. I felt that they could've phrased their concerns differently to me without being so presumptuous about me but I could've also voiced my objections without the personal insults as well. I apologize for those.

    Thank you for the heads up - I'll maintain my vigilance. The Okinawan systems seem a lot more chill in comparison.
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2022
    Dead_pool likes this.
  12. Grond

    Grond Valued Member

    And this is really common to all societies. It's not an Asian thing, or a martial arts thing alone. It's part of boxing, too. The Western world is abound in all sorts of cults, celebrity, brand, religious, sexual, New Age, enlightenment, personal development, before we even get to martial arts. And unfortunately when it comes to those, the circle gets really small, if you get my meaning. What the martial arts student is willing to put up with is, I believe, a big indicator of their training level. The best martial artists I've ever seen, have seen it all, especially training hall shenanigans. You walk into any good boxing gym today, welcome to a hierarchy jungle. And a lot of those people will tell you stories of whole organizations that they were part of, and all the horror stories about various cults of personality.

    As a lifetime Shotokan admirer I have to openly admit, my sensei beat my legs with a thick stick a couple times and made me cry during stance training. That was probably the birth of martial arts, for me. It made it real. But I wasn't begging for more. I think that's the real delineation between martial school and cult. What are you going there every day to do, get some training and personal insight, or prostrate yourself for cash to some organization that teaches kicking and punching? I might as well give more money at church instead.
  13. Grond

    Grond Valued Member

    There is nothing chill about Shotokan karate. I'll die on that hill any day. I've been a boxer half my life; good karate is hardcore.

    That said, I wouldn't make the error of equating Okinawa with an attitude, or karate with the SKA (an organization I'll admit I know nothing about). Like anything you sign up for cash money to do, caveat emptor.
  14. YoshiroShin

    YoshiroShin Valued Member

    Uh, folks, the dojo leader replied to my "divorce" email (which detailed my experiences at the ST and some of the abuse I saw towards the juniors back at the home dojo) from five weeks ago saying that he can't deal with it at the moment and he hopes I can wait until he gets back in town so that we can "meet eye to eye and hopefully settle this once and for all."

    What does that mean?

    My plan is to not reply to it or anything else I get sent. The way he worded it was weird. Thankfully I don't have to be anywhere near their practice hall in normal circumstances but I'm getting an odd feeling about this.
  15. aaradia

    aaradia Choy Li Fut and Yang Tai Chi Chuan Student Moderator Supporter

    You let him know what the issues are so that he has an opportunity to learn and grow and make changes if he wants to. You did your part. You don't need to participate any more. And you cartainly don't need to meet face to face and be caught up in the drama you left behind.

    It is hard to say without actually seeing the exact response, but if the tone is as you present it here, it doesn't sound very professionally done. It is just further confirmation that you made the right choice.

    He was made aware of issues. That should be his first priority. Saying he can't deal with it shows a lack of proper priorities. The issue is a problem at his school. Which actually doesn't require meeting you face to face to handle. It suggests he thinks the issue is you and not the issues you brought up.

    If you have an odd feeling, trust your spidey sense! Don't get dragged back into it! Keep with your plan on not responding.

    Looking forward to hearing about your new school (s). :)
    Nachi and YoshiroShin like this.
  16. YoshiroShin

    YoshiroShin Valued Member


    Yes, September's finally here and the various other dojos are back at it after Labour Day! I'm excited as I've been growing restless.
  17. YoshiroShin

    YoshiroShin Valued Member


    I've so far tried JKA and CLF.

    I tried one class here as they have a free drop-in to try it out. The Sifu was very welcoming and asked us several times throughout the practice if we had any questions; he was happy to answer pretty much anything and there was a serious but still casual atmosphere in the school. The Sifu himself didn't take himself too seriously either, which was good.

    We did an extensive warmup, then did a few punch combos and a kick after learning how to get into horse stance. Apparently a lot is done just in horse stance and it took some getting used to punching to my side without opening up my foot and pointing my toes to the side, instead keeping my toes facing forward in the horse stance; also the power generation is pretty different as well.

    Then we got focus pads and drilled some combos before getting kicking pads to practice the front kick which again was very different from what I'm used to; in Shotokan I was taught to keep my upper body upright, bring up my knee, thrust with my hip into the kick, retract the leg, and then let the foot down in a controlled way. In CLF we were to push the kick out, letting the upper body come almost parallel to the floor, and then let the foot drop to the ground without retraction, so it again took me some time before I almost start to do it properly.

    After that, he had me begin the first form of the system, and that was pretty cool. He had a reason and application for every movement, and he himself seemed pretty fast and agile. After practice he stuck around to practice with another student after I left. Overall, seems like a fantastic place. I left the practice with a lot crammed in my head, and covered in sweat.

    I actually tried two practices here. They had a $25 dropin and when I came the second time, the office was closed so they just let me practice anyways. Hope noone gets heat for that o.o

    So the first time they had a full group there and the top Sensei was leading practice. From what I remember, we did a warm up, a lot of kihon/basics combos, a little bit of targetting practice with a partner, and then some forms. The Sensei had a smile on his face the whole time and seemed good-natured, offering me corrections in a kind way. There was lots of bowing, not just to shomen when entering, but also to basically everyone often it seemed. They also recited a dojo kun in unison at the end of practice, and I left also feeling positive at least by comparison to the other karate place. I told one of the black belts some of what I went through and he seemed pretty shocked, so that was a good sign.

    The second time I went it was a much smaller group, and there was a senior student teaching. The students were welcoming, and we started the practice after warm up with again so much kihon; I think we did each combination 150 times before moving on to the next set of combinations. There was one other white belt and we were told to do much simpler 1-to-2-move combos, but the other white belt kept doing the at-least-5-move-combinations that the advanced students were doing anyways. She eventually gave up and left maybe halfway through practice. Very strange.

    Anyways, after maybe 30 minutes of kihon combos, the senior student had me do basic stepping on the side, progressing to basic punching, and basic gedan barai, as he must have seen that my basics were too different from what is proper for their dojo; indeed, I needed to focus a lot to do them appropriately and he was a little rough-mannered with his corrections, at one point insulting me, but I ignored all that to just do what he was trying to get me to do. I eventually just thought of the oi tsukis as short-range punches because of the squared shoulders and that helped me, because my target would have to be no more than a foot away from me after my step in order to still punch through it.

    While I was working on these things, the others were going through kata. At no point during either practice were any pads used, which was different from the CLF classes. Granted, the JKA classes are 60 mins, while the CLF classes are 90.

    I left both JKA practices covered in sweat as well, feeling as though I worked hard. In the JKA class I felt as though I leaned more on my mental determination through the repetition, while in the CLF class the mental strain was more in all of the very new things I was learning - there really is so much there.

    What's left to try? Meibukan Goju ryu. So far if I had to pick one school right now, it would have to be CLF, though I wish I could just do them all.
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2022
  18. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Well-Known Member

    As a kung fu guy myself, I am in the CLF corner :).

    seriously though, did you post website links for these schools? I may have missed them or simply forgotten…
  19. YoshiroShin

    YoshiroShin Valued Member

    I don't want to reveal exactly where I am especially because I'm worried about the SKA people, so I DM'ed them to the last person to ask, who was aaradia. I'll DM you.
    Flying Crane likes this.
  20. El Medico

    El Medico Valued Member

    One thing was that when Ohshima returned a lot of the guys such as Ray Dalke and Frank Smith wanted to remain w/Nishiyama as they felt he was better at producing fighters.
    Seriously,you worried about them coming after you or something? It's doubtful they'll enter into dojo storming,and if you think you're going to be the target of harassment contact your lawyer now,and the authorities if it comes to pass,whether via email,phone,in person,whatever.

    Or buy a brace of German Shepherds.;)

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