Yoda?

So I have been thinking about teachers lately. My own of course, and my role as a teacher. And that has led me to thinking about the images we hold of the martial arts teacher. When you think of a sensei, a sifu, a martial arts teacher, who comes to mind? Pai Mei? Master Po? Mister Miyagi? Or, as a kind of amalgamation of martial arts tropes, Yoda? While the image may vary, it is usually a frail looking old man who can demonstrate amazing skills and easily defeat any comers, including any of his students. It is a classic trope, really, perhaps as firmly rooted in the culture of the martial arts as anything. And like so many tropes, it is mostly BS, defying biology, logic, and at least my experience.

Fiction I am

Of course, it does have an element of truth to it, that’s how these things start. If you want knowledge, go to those who have it. People who have been training for decades learn things. They develop skills that neophytes simply cannot have. And maintaining your training can maintain phenomenal athletic abilities even as people age- I remember Matayoshi sensei teasing me in the early 90’s about being able to jump higher than I could in one technique. A well trained 68 year old can do things a 28 year old can’t, especially if the 68 year old gets to choose the points of comparison.

But that misses the point. Yoda simply does not exist. No one is undefeatable, at any age. Everyone is just human and as we get older our bodies change, we can’t stop that. And, given that reality, the trope of the incredibly skilled master easily able to handle any challenger creates an unreasonable and counter productive model for people teaching martial arts. It sets up an expectation that the teacher be near super-human, and worse, that he or she can never be surpassed. If it is an image that the teacher feels a need to live up to it can lead to some extremely dysfunctional things, including holding students back, teaching poorly, and creating mystic “powers” or “secret knowledge”. And the same goes for the students: if they need their teacher to live up to that super human image it can create real problems, including giving up one’s own autonomy, or denying the realities of practice.

One problem with legends and myths is that we know we can’t match them. It’s a dead end. If the master is undefeatable, and I know I can be defeated, then I can never be the master. No one can, and on some level I know that as well. That can feel pretty demoralizing. I love stories about the old masters and the superhuman things they could do. But really? Defeating tigers and fighting off dozens of armed men? It’s fun, not fact. And thinking of it as fact, believing it, both sets an impossible standard and prevents people from seeing the reality of their teachers, and of their own training. If the teacher is doing (or claiming) something you know is impossible then you know that the system is, somehow, rigged to create that result. You have a choice then: buy into the system, or leave it. And this doesn’t have to be levitation or no-touch knockouts, it can just be a guy who stands in front of a class and says he can’t be hit, and then sets up a whole set of rules that makes that the case.

When you are running a class, or a dojo, you have a lot of control over what material is covered and how it is approached. Insecurity, or image, or simply habit, can lead to teachers not allowing students to challenge them (“you don’t hit sensei!”), or to running classes that play to the teacher’s strengths. For example, I am better at controlling pressure weapon to weapon than most of my students, so if we spend a lot of time on training that emphasizes that I will usually come off as “better”. If you run classes try it. You can run a class in which you are always “winning” simply by setting the rules of the drills, doing drills that play to your strengths, changing things and keeping the class catching up, and setting rules for the dojo, like limiting contact or open oppositional training. In particular setting up a training structure that emphasizes drills with specific outcomes, and maintaining an atmosphere of authority, where the sensei/instructor is the only source of knowledge and cannot be questioned, play to an image of the teacher being unbeatable pretty well.

Students may do this too. Falling when they are “supposed” to, letting the teacher get in shots they wouldn’t let in from another student, accepting information or instruction that may be questionable. They may not even know they are doing it, particularly if the rules, as I said above, support the authority of the teacher over the experience of training. If they play to the image. And if they have been conditioned to do it, on purpose or not, well….

I think this drives people away from traditional martial arts. It is clear these teachers are not super human, even the great ones. And while some folks might want the story bad enough to push down the inner voice telling them something isn’t right, more will simply walk away. Stories are great, but needing to buy into a teacher that can do things that are impossible, needing to aid and abet that story as you invest more and more into it, needing to believe something that some part of you knows isn’t true, can be exhausting. And a complete waste of energy.

Of course the image of the teacher as the main arbiter of knowledge may be important for a number of reasons. On a practical level, your students need to trust you for you to teach them. If they don’t, they won’t listen and won’t learn and every class will be a constant struggle for authority. So on one level establishing and maintaining that authority is important. But that is where this trope can become rather insidious. It can push the teacher (or the students…) to go past that needed level of respect, one that incidentally should be earned not assigned, and instead work to develop and maintain a myth. It can help create environments where the teacher (or the structure of the group, or the other students) limit and control the student, keeping them down instead of helping them grow. All to make sure the teacher stays unsurpassed. But everyone gets surpassed eventually….

A good teacher should be able to maintain authority without always needing to be “the best”. Indeed, a good teacher should be pushing his or her students to excel, not keeping them in their shadow. The teacher should also be showing students where they think their own skills are lacking and how they are working on them, so they can be an honest role model. But that heroic image is often there in the background, for both teacher and student. Breaking away from it can feel like letting the side down, like you are not the martial artist you should be, and for your students like they don’t have the teacher they could. I know from experience, both as a student and as a teacher, that students like to have a teacher that exemplifies some of the tropes, these myths. It can be inspirational, and cool; part of the experience. But in the end, myths are not real and perpetuating some of them can be damaging. How then can we situate ourselves in this context?

First off, recognize it. No one is that good. Everyone can be beat. If it seems impossible it probably is. So if you want a teacher that is super-human, re-assess. You will never find one, though you can probably find one who claims he is. (The same goes for a teacher that is a perfect human being, or can bring perfect wisdom to your life outside your training, but that is a different story.) You can, however, find a good teacher, perhaps with exceptional skills, who can help guide you in your training. So stop looking for a hero or a guru and look for a good teacher instead.

This is one area where competitive arts have an advantage. They are used to this issue and have some simple and well tried solutions. First, if the teacher is a competitor the group can see how well they do, both in a public venue and in competitive training in the dojo. Everyone understands that different people can do different things, and that everyone gets beat sometimes. While one can certainly be a dangerous opponent well past middle age, there is a reason many sports have a “masters” class for competition, and you don’t see many 60 year olds out there fighting at the highest levels of open competition. Speed, endurance, and ability to recover from injury all decline as we age. Training can offset a lot of this, but not all, and that is normal. But what does that mean for a teacher?

Experience and training hold valuable knowledge and passing it on is essential to the transmission of the art. Someone with 20 or 30 or more years of training will have skills and knowledge his or her juniors will not. And you need those physical skills to transmit them. In a sporting environment there is a pretty clear understanding of the difference between specific skills and overall competitive ability. The main role of a teacher or coach is teaching, passing on those higher level skills, focusing on the students and the dojo, not on competing themselves. The coach doesn’t have to be able to beat all the competitors, he or she has to be able to coach them.

What the heck is wrong with you? Of course I can be beaten. Me being beaten is just a finger pointing at the moon.

And this returns us to the trope we started with. It implies that the best practitioner is by default the best teacher. That you should find the best fighter or master and learn from them. After all, they are undefeatable, right? Getting students by winning competitions or having a rep for being an amazing artist is a pretty common way of doing things. Just look at all the trophies, ranks, or awards you see in many dojo. They denote status as practitioners. But pay attention! They denote the teacher’s ability, their successes and status. But it might make sense to look at the students’ successes instead.

Teaching, training, and fighting are different skills. I’ve met a number of great martial artists who simply could not teach. They would have their students do the same drills they did, they would try their best, but they didn’t know how to help others learn. And while “waza wo nusumu” is essential to learning, without a good teacher it is pretty darn hard to progress, and near impossible to see your own failings and how to correct them. Sure, knowing how to succeed yourself might be helpful, but you don’t need to be the best overall practitioner to be a good teacher. To help a student progress you mainly need to know how to teach them.

Look at it this way: would Mike Tyson’s coach have beat him in the ring? Unlikely. But that coach was invaluable. I doubt any high level competitive athlete could run his or her own training program and be successful. Classical martial arts are no different. You need someone who can analyze what you are doing, understand what you need to change to improve, and develop a training program that gets those results. That is a completely different skillset to being a good fighter or martial artist yourself. That doesn’t mean there isn’t overlap, it just means that to be a good sensei, a teacher, you have to be able to teach, not just train. And you have to put in the time to learn those skills, as they don’t come from osmosis or through training. Or by being good at the art.

So instead of looking for a teacher that can defeat all comers, a silly quest anyway, one might be better off looking for a teacher whose students are consistently good at the art. If the teacher is focused on maintaining his or her status or image then they have incentives for not pushing their students to exceed them. They also have less incentive for learning how to really teach. If they see their role as a mentor as important however they may have taken the time and effort to learn how to teach, as well as taken the time to understand their own goals and their role and how that affects their practice and instruction. They may have taught themselves to understand and manage the tropes we are talking about, and their consequences. Don’t get me wrong. A martial arts teacher who is not still training and trying to learn and grow isn’t going to cut it, at least in my opinion. And a teacher better have some skills. But that image of the old, preternaturally skilled and undefeatable teacher isn’t doing anyone any favors. If you find a teacher who has been teaching for 20 or 30 years, again I’d suggest looking at his or her students. If none of them are as good or better than the teacher in any aspect of the art, if it were me I’d go elsewhere. They may be an amazing practitioner, and they may be doing their best, or they may be holding their students back, but either way they are not teaching well. And what are you there for? To sit in a room watching an amazing practitioner, or to get some guidance in how to become one?

Sakai Ryugo and the Ryushinkaikan

One of the people that has had a profound influence on my practice is Sakai Ryugo. He is relatively unknown and so I thought it might be nice to share a little more about him and his Ryushinkaikan dojo.

Fred Lohse, Sakai Ryugo, 1992

With Higa Seiko, Toguchi Seikichi, Yagi Meitoku, and Yushun Tamaki

With fellow students, including Kanei Katsuyoshi, Toyama Zenshu, and Masanobu Shinjo

With Matayoshi Shinpo, Kanei Katsuyoshi, and Miyahira Shoshin

Sakai Ryugo was born in 1932 in Kagoshima prefecture. He moved to Okinawa with his family in 1949 and began studying Shorin ryu with Omine Chotoku in 1950. In 1952 he entered the Goju Ryu Karate Do Kenkyukai dojo. The head teacher and president was Higa Seiko sensei and he was assisted by a variety of people at that time, including Fukichi Seiko, Takamine Chokubo, and Toguchi Seikichi. (Miyagi sensei was still alive then, but I have no idea if Sakai ever trained with him. Neither does his son.) Though he maintained his training with Higa sensei, when the Shoreikan was founded by Toguchi sensei in 1954 he went with Toguchi and acted as an assistant instructor. Some of his juniors in the early years were people who later became famous in the Goju community and started their own organizations- Kanei Katsuyoshi, Shinjo Masanobu, and Toyama Zenshu, among others.   His wife said she thought he helped design the Hakutsuru no mai in the Shoreikan, and also thought that he and Toguchi at one point were going to work on a tiger kata but I don’t have any other information on this. During the years he was on Okinawa he also became friends with Matayosh Shinpo, studying kobudo and some empty hand with him.  They remained friends throughout his life and he considered Matayoshi a strong influence on his training. (In the demo photo for the 25th passing of Matayoshi Shinko he is seated next to Kina Seiko and in the demo photo for the 1999 memorial for Matayoshi Shinpo he is seated at the front, next to Kinjo Kenichi. (Photos annotated by Viet Ha Quoc.) He remained in Okinawa training and teaching until 1962.

Shoreikan, 1958

In 1958 he began traveling periodically to Amami Oshima and started what may have been the first karate and kobudo dojo there, a Shoreikan dojo in Naze city. He started teaching full time at Oshima High School and in the Amami Shoreikan dojo in 1962. For the next 5 years he taught all over Amami and and laid the foundations for the Amami and Naze City Karate Associations.

Still shot from the set.

In 1967 he moved to Kagoshima city and began teaching in what is now Kagoshima International University. While he maintained the dojo in Amami his main dojo was in Kagoshima from this point on. He opened up the first Ryushikaikan dojo in 1969 and founded the Kagoshima prefectural karate association in 1970. In 1971 he formally founded the Amami and Naze karate associations and one of his students opened his first Shibu dojo, in Miyazaki. In 1972 he demonstrated at the ceremony in Kagoshima to celebrate Okinawa’s return to Japan, with Matayoshi Shinpo. His dojo was a founding member of the Zen Okinawa Kobudo Renmei and remained part until the passing of Matayoshi Shinpo. He founded shibu in Fukuoka, Kansai, Kyoto, Tokyo and around Kyushu over the next 15 years, did demonstrations on NHK, TBS and Nippon Television and had a small role in a Tohei films movie with Sonny Chiba, The Power of Aikido (Gekitotsu Aikido激突 合気道) as a kama wielding fighter. Starting in 1980 he began having an annual Goju Ryu gathering in Kagoshima city. The honbu dojo moved to Shiroyama in 1981 and to the first floor of the house he built in Tagami Dai in 1984, where I trained and where it remains today. Sakai Ryugo sensei passed away in 2002, leaving a legacy of excellent students and a reputation as a gentleman and a dedicated karate and kobudo practitioner.

 

With Toguchi, Anthony Mirakian at far right, late 1950s.

I met Sakai sensei essentially by pure luck. A couple of weeks after I moved to Amami Oshima in 1990 I went to Okinawa for the first time. While there I asked Nakasone san at Shureido for some advice on a dojo near me. He suggested I get in touch with Sakai sensei, in Kagoshima city. The first time I visited the dojo I went with a fellow English teacher, Ann Denion, who was training there. I had a great time and returned to train every time I visited the city, roughly monthly, sometimes more. As an amusing aside, during that first visit I noticed a photo on the wall of a young Anthony Mirakian at a demo in the 50s, from when they had trained together in the Shoreikan. I had trained with Mirakian sensei 2 months earlier, visiting his dojo with Kimo sensei before leaving for Japan, and even more recently, completely coincidentally, we had had lunch together in Okinawa on the same trip I got Sakai sensei’s contact information. Sakai was pretty surprised, and so was Mirakian when he found out! Goju is a small world… I  didn’t succeed in getting them in touch until a number of years later but after I got back to Massachusetts Mirakian sensei shared some photos and some wonderful stories with me, including one about Sakai having to forcibly evict two rather impolite marines from the dojo one evening. He had a great deal of respect for Sakai sensei and I was happy I could put them in contact after more than 30 years.

After the visit, on Amami I got in touch with a two former students of Sakai sensei’s. I trained in Nishi sensei’s Shindokan and Toguda sensei ran a small Shoreikan dojo primarily for kids and gave me a key so I could practice on my own when I wanted. The following year I moved to Kagoshima city and trained in the Ryushinkan full time. Sensei also gave me a dojo key and I wound up there some off nights, when I was not doing Ufuchiku kobudo with Masada Kei’ichi or Jigen Ryu. Training was fantastic. Sensei ran most of the classes and was both a great teacher, as evidenced by the caliber of his students, and a fantastic technician. My other main teachers were his son Sakai Ryuichiro and, most importantly, Nagata Ryudo, who treated me with great patience and worked with me hour after hour. The seniors were in incredible shape, and had a balance of hard and soft and an ability to move that I was astounded by.

Sakai Ryuichiro, Fred Lohse, Sakai Ryugo, Nagata Ryudo, 1992

When I returned home I stayed in touch but after a stay in 1995 while doing research for my masters’ I was unable to visit for about 10 years. Unfortunately before I could get back Sakai sensei passed away. His son and another senior student, Miyagi Tatsuhiko, took over the dojo. I have brought a couple of students to visit over the years and they have enjoyed training and have also remarked that they could see where some of my technique comes from, which I take as a real compliment.

Sakai family, 1991

Miyagi sensei is the main teacher there now. He has also been the first person to create any on line presence for the dojo, primarily through his Facebook postings. He is a fantastic technician, and I can’t think of many people 30 years younger (he is in his mid 60s now) stronger, more flexible, or in better overall condition. But the lack of public notice of the dojo is, in some ways, a real shame. Training there has had a profound impact on me. Not only did I learn a great deal about our karate and kobudo, but I learned even more about how to build and keep alive an adult dojo, keeping up high standards and doing so in a way that was very demanding but also very respectful, with a place for blood and sweat but also for humor.

I could tell a number of stories of course- Sakai sensei chiding the class for not listening when he had me teach Sepai, because since he had asked me to were they thinking he didn’t know who could teach?; Sakai sensei lecturing us in seiza for 45 minutes and the whole class’ legs falling asleep and none of us being able to get up and do soji afterwards;  him (much to everyone’s surprise) giving me a hug after my sayonara party; hours and gallons of sweat; getting knocked and choked out; sharing watermelon on the dojo floor; his making sure I was as comfortable as possible sleeping in the dojo during my visit in 95. So many more, vignettes mostly but they stick in my mind. But those are really about me, not him, so I will stop there.

Eating watermelon

after training.

As for what was taught in the dojo, it was the classical Goju Ryu kata, of course, and some of the fukyu kata (geki sai san, geki ha, etc.) that Toguchi sensei had created, though done in a looser fashion. I did many of the same subjects under Kimo sensei and when I asked Sakai about the 2 man bunkai and kiso kumite, he told me that while he had done them for many years he felt they did not represent Goju Ryu well for a variety of technical reasons. Instead he used the kata as training tools and focused pair work on applications of the classical kata, kakie, and some drills he had developed- including seated, ground, and weapon-countering techniques- from what he had been taught by Higa and Toguchi. He taught Matayoshi kobudo as well, and was particularly good with the kama. His small weapon kata were a little different but when I asked about that he told me “Sensei was working on many things in the old days and I wanted to keep certain techniques that I liked so I adapted the kata, kind of like sensei did.”

The seniors were all in incredible shape but interestingly enough we rarely did any type of calisthenics in class. We would occasionally do a few but most of the work with the hojo undo and daruma-taiso esque exercises the seniors did, as well as makiwara and bag work, was done before or after training, or at home. “Up to you to be ready to do karate” sensei told me. Luckily I was working with the chishi before class at the time, not coming in late and out of breath….

Goju gathering 1992

Class was always demanding. Lots of kata, body conditioning, kakie, solo and two person basics, stepping, and application of kata. The standard was very high, but the atmosphere in the dojo friendly. I remember going to get water from the hose I had seen outside the dojo door on my first visit. One of the students went to stop me, and Sakai sensei yelled from across the room for him to let me go. Water was usually not allowed until training was finished but there was a huge puddle around where I had been, mostly because I was not used to the Kagoshima summer heat, and sensei told Shinji “if you have a puddle like that you can drink too!”.  The rules were for reasons, not just because that was how it was always done, and that went for mechanics and application as well.

After training 2008.

That included the rules for both doing and applying kata. Principles are a buzz word today, but they were certainly present in our practice then. In addition to some colorful traditions around the four animals of Goju- the crane, tiger, snake, and hawk, Sakai had some very clear ideas about how to apply kata, including what angles to use and why, when it was appropriate to strike vs. grab, when to use one or two hands, off balancing and kyusho as a part of any application, what is useful at different ranges, how to control range, turning and slipping as shown in the kata, and adapting to the situation, among other things.  I remember a great moment doing applications from Suparinpe when one of the seniors was too close for the jumping kick and so backed off; sensei “asked” why he didn’t just knee: “application is based on the opponent, you should be able to do whatever needs to happen, jumping knee, flying side kick, whatever the situation requires”. His dojo is the first place I heard the term “fajing”, Japanized as “pachin” (his short power was excellent) and we had clear, non-elusive, discussions of kyusho. Most importantly he structured our application training to demonstrate and include all this information. It was great fun, and very demanding training.

But technique is only part of what he taught. The most important thing I took from his teaching, and the dojo he developed, was a strong sense of respect. Yes respect for the art and our lineage, but mostly for people. It started internally- you had to work to grow and when you were pushing yourself both you and everyone else knew it. But he also demanded that everyone in the dojo treat each other with respect. He insisted on students treating each other as just karate ka, not men and women, Japanese and gaijin, doctors or delivery people, or whatever else they were outside the dojo. Roles outside the dojo were just not important inside it. (Though the purpose of this discipline was not a kind of post-modern social enlightenment; the rigor of training was supposed to help you have the proper fortitude to fulfil your given role in the larger society. To be a good citizen.) He made sure everyone was working hard and that no one was treated poorly. Go and Ju, as it were.

After training, with Sakai Ryuichiro, and Miyagi Tatsuhiko, 2014

There was a lot of sweat in the dojo, but a lot of laughter too. I could see how close many of the people had become and I still wish I had had more years to train there. I consider myself lucky for the experience and every time I go back I am happy to feel welcome, and to train together again. When I visited for the first time in 10 years I remember seeing my name still on the nafudake and how that affected me, but that was how the dojo was run. Once part of the group you were treated like family, both welcome and having certain expectations to live up to.

It is too bad, though not surprising, the group has gotten so little notice. Sakai sensei was a little slice of an earlier time training in Okinawa, before the organizations and fragmentation of today. The karate taught there is definitely not a sport. It is also some of the best karate I have seen, in or out of Okinawa. Training there has had a profound effect on how I train and teach to this day and I would welcome others having that chance. (There have been a few foreigners through the dojo over the years- Ann, whom I mentioned, Julia Henker, Glenn Forbes, and Michael Hazel have all trained for extended periods of time and besides a couple of my students my friend Mario McKenna and some of his students have visited a number of times.) That said, there is no easy path. Kagoshima is not Tokyo or Okinawa, and there is no one in the dojo who speaks English (or any other foreign language). No one is going to get quick rank or even quick access to information. Most all of training time is spent on what might be

After training with Miyagi Tatsuhiko and Tania Tzelnic, 2012

considered “basic” training. The first 4-5 months I was in the dojo the only kaishu kata I got instruction on was saifa, even though I knew the rest of the system. Until my mechanics in saifa were up to snuff I could follow along but got no feedback on anything else. Once there things opened up, but the standards were the standards, and anyone who wants to train should be prepared for “a little light training”, as Miyagi sensei has a tendency to say before a 3 hour pre-training run through hoju undo, stretching, makiwara, and basics. Only one way to get good, I guess.

In any case, famous or not, I miss Sakai sensei. He was an amazing teacher and martial artist, and was a real gentleman. I can’t think of anything better to say, so I will end with that.

At the Sakai family tomb, 2017

Thank you to Sakai Ryuichiro, Miyagi Tatsuhiko, and the late Anthony Mirakian for information and photos, and of course many thanks to the late Sakai Ryugo.

Research?

I know this is a pet peeve of mine, but I am very tired of hearing about people’s “research” into the Okinawan martial arts. Research is about taking an existing body of knowledge and adding to or improving it. It starts with a question, not an answer. But most of what is called “research” is bunk, and much of it is very obviously political, espousing the author’s teacher (or the author) as the “true master” of one system or another or their training methods as the “best” approach. If you can’t speak and read at least Japanese, though preferably Chinese and Uchinaguchi as well, then you are not doing research on the Okinawan martial arts. If nothing else you can’t access the huge volume of extant material in Japanese on the arts. If you do not have extensive background in the culture and history of the area outside of the martial arts then you don’t have appropriate context to do research. If you don’t understand modern research methods for conducting and examining oral history, for example, you are just reporting gossip, not doing research. No matter how well-meaning or high-ranked the source is, or how “logical” and well thought through the conclusions are, research requires cross-checking information, looking at it in the light of various social, political, and personal perspectives and biases, and then re-assessing it.

That is not to say that many different approaches are not valuable. Passing on information from one’s teachers is valuable and informative. Describing your, or your system’s, training methods is also useful and interesting. But on its own none of it has the proper methodology, background, or rigor to be considered research. Perhaps it is just a question of terminology, but I think it is important to be clear about what one is doing. Call things what they are- opinion, gossip, experimentation, description, all of these are valuable contributions (yes, even gossip, if it is from the right people!) to any body of knowledge. Without them things stagnate. But doing research into the Okinawan arts without proper training is like researching bluegrass without being able to speak English, not understanding how bluegrass relates to other musical styles, not understanding general Western musical theory, not understanding the history of the region and the immigrants that came there and brought their music with them, not living there and experiencing the music and culture in its native environment, and not having a solid background in, say, ethnomusicology so you don’t repeat work that has already been done and don’t make simple methodological mistakes that some training could avoid.

This is, I admit, a lot to ask. Having the background to do peer-accepted research in most social sciences, anthropology for example, takes upwards of 5-10 years of full time study, including learning multiple languages, years of background study, and doing targeted fieldwork. For something like the martial arts that would be on top of time training. But that is what it takes in, say, modern dance, to be considered a real researcher. Why should the martial arts ask any less of themselves? Isn’t the idea of 文武両道 (bun-bu ryodo- the way of study and martial practice) exactly this, putting as much effort into your academic study as your martial study? Aren’t we supposed to be about pushing ourselves, being honest with ourselves, and not accepting second best? The easy stuff has been done. Simple histories, descriptions of styles, and so on are a dime a dozen. The arts deserve more.

In particular we need work that leaves behind self-aggrandizement and political agenda. It should ask questions and let the work find the answers instead of starting with them and working backwards. But if you do want to espouse a particular idea, say that your teacher is the “true” heir of the system even though there are other claimants, then prove it.  Your research needs to examine your teacher’s claim in light of appropriate social mores, requires multiple sources for collaboration, must take into account different claims and demonstrate why they are inferior (if they actually are), and must examine the stake your teacher and his students have in this claim and how that may have affected it. Information should be gathered in source languages and examined using appropriate methods. It should also be well written and well organized, with proper citations. Finally it would need to be peer-reviewed, by people who are not in your lineage, for accuracy and bias. Then it could be considered research, and perhaps even be accurate. If there was more work like this about the Okinawan martial arts then this research might help us all move the arts forward. And if more started with questions instead of answers we might actually be keeping to the ideal of 文武両道. That would be a step forward.