June 14th, 2008


Fighting Black Kings and The Human Face of Karate

I recently purchased the two items in the subject line. Fighting Black Kings is a 1976 documentary about the First International Karate Tournament held in Japan that year. Among the participants was Shuseki-Shihan William Oliver, then a black belt in Kyokushin, the discipline that hosted the tournament, and who later founded Kenshikai, the discipline I study.

The Human Face of Karate is the autobiography of Kaicho Tadashi Nakamura, a student of Kyokushin who trained Shuseki-Shihan Oliver, and who formed Seido in the late 1970s (ironically, several of the differences that cropped up between Kaicho Nakamura and Kyokushin grew out of the tournament in FBK).

Because Kenshikai grew out of Seido, there's a lot of the philosophy of Kenshikai in Kaicho Nakamura's words, in particular his belief in the importance of meditation and of safety and of fostering a community atmosphere in the dojo rather than focusing exclusively on becoming kickass fighters.

FBK is a fascinating documentary in part because it shows so many different disciplines and how they train, with a particular emphasis on Shuseki-Shihan Oliver, Hanshi Charles Martin, and Sensei Willie Williams, three African Americans from New York City who all were Kyokushinkai, studying under Kaicho Nakamura. Ironically, Sensei Williams remained with Kyokushin when Kaicho Nakamura, Shuseki-Shihan Oliver, and Hanshi Martin broke off to form Seido, and Hanshi Martin remained with Seido when Shuseki-Shihan Oliver broke off to form Kenshikai.

Neither the book nor the movie will be of much interest if you're not into the martial arts, but they were incredibly fascinating to me as a karateka. It was especially good to see Shuseki-Shihan Oliver in action. He died in 2004, only a couple of months after I started training as a white belt, so I never got to meet him or train with him or anything, something I deeply regret.
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