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Canada has a long harsh winter that limits outdooor activities at least half of every year. In international competition Canadian athletes tend to excel in winter sports such as skiing, ice hockey and figure skating and in indoor sports such as swimming and martial arts.
Martial arts have the advantage that they can be practised in relatively modest and inexpensive indoor athletic facilities such as are available at most schools, community centres and places of worship. Amongst Canadian youth there is a high participation rate in martial arts. However, the martial arts organizations in Canada are highly fragmented and hence are individually very weak.
The sports of skiing, ice hockey, figure skating and swimming have strong unified Canadian organizations and hence receive considerable media attention, government funding and elite athlete financial support. However, for historical reasons the martial arts expertise has been imported from foreign countries such as Japan, Korea and Brazil. Frequently each imported expert trys to set up his own organization. The net result is that the Canadian martial arts organizations are highly fragmented and hence do not receive significant media attention, government funding or elite athlete support. This situation will likely continue until such time as Canada develops its own facility for training martial arts instructors who are in every respect equal or superior to foreign trained martial arts instructors.
The Canadian federal government recognizes the National Karate Association, now Karate Canada, and the Canadian provincial governments recognize the provincial arms of Karate Canada. Neither the federal nor provincial governments have imposed regulations on Karate Canada other than the minimal regulations required for good governance and public safety.
Each karate group has adopted its own internal standards and practices related to instructor training. The training of most karate instructors in Canada does not begin to equal or approach the quality of training provided by our colleges and universities to members of the regulated professions.
Karate Canada cannot reasonably claim that Canadian karate instructors meet any national or provincial educational standards or are subject to any skilled oversight. In short, with few exceptions Canadian karate instructors do not meet the standards to which the Canadian public has become accustomed for the regulated professions.
Karate is generally organized by style and group affiliation. Even within any given style there are numerous groups who set their own standards and practices. This fragmentation is due in large part to the reality that in the absence of government funding existing karate instructors are primarily motivated by self interest rather than common interest. Each karate organization struggles to gain prominence and place both within Karate Canada and without. The membership in Karate Canada is in fact a minority amongst the karate related martial arts organizations in Canada. However, in fairness to Karate Canada, this minority status may be due to the standards of karate that Karate Canada expects of it's members. This situation is not exclusive to Canada. The same divisional phenomena can be found in most other countries where karate is practiced.
Continuation of internal bickering within the karate community will only lead to karate being in a perpetual state of turmoil that leaves uniformed members of the general public unable to determine which martial arts path is right for their children. Instead of hearing karate speaking in one unified voice, the public is left with the impression that karate practitioners are a squabbling self interested bunch. Absent karate having a unified voice, there is no way for members of the public to distinguish what traditional Japanese karate has to offer over other combat systems in the crowded martial arts market place. In many cases the public decides on participation in a martial art based primarily on the convenience and cost of membership in a local club rather than on the merits of that martial art.
In the absence of government regulation there is no Canadian institute of higher learning for karate. Without an institute of higher learning, there can be no enforceable minimum education standards for Canadian karate instructors comparable to the education standards required of members of the regulated professions. Since karate is not high on the government's list of priorities, such an educational institute for karate will require a combination of public and private philanthropy and should commence using senior karate practitioners who have prior experience in a foreign karate instructor program. Up to the present there has only ever been one foreign karate instructor program worthy of the name and that is the JKA Instructor Program.
The Japan Karate Association (JKA) is the only karate organization officially recognized by the Japanese government. It is a non profit organization founded by Gichen Funikoshi. He was a school teacher for many years and in 1922, while in his 50's, was invited by the Japanese Emperor to bring karate from Okinawa to Japan.
Funikoshi studied under several karate masters in Okinawa from childhood and combined that traditional Okinawan knowledge with the footwork of the Japanese swordsmen (kendo) to formulate karate-doh, the way of the empty hand. Funikoshi opened the first karate club at Keio University, which is considered by many to be the premier academic university in Japan. Thus karate was introduced at the highest academic level in Japan and it grew from there.
Funikoshi Sensei believed that there was only one karate-doh. He did not believe in karate styles. Notice that Funikoshi Sensei named his organization the Japan Karate Association. There is no mention of Shotokan whatsoever.
Funikoshi Sensei founded the Japan Karate Association in 1948 with some of his students who had survived WWII. When medical doctors noted the superior health and physical condition of those students who practiced karate in Okinawa, the Japanese government introduced karate training into the public school physical education curriculum. In the 1950's it became apparent to Funikoshi and others that it had become necessary to create an institute of higher learning, where the study of karate could be taken to a higher level and studied intensively.
The Japanese recognized the need for an instructor program and developed it with graduates of the university karate clubs. The more serious members of those clubs trained 6 days per week, 5 hours per day. Their physical and mental conditioning was vastly superior to any students produced by any karate club in Canada, or any where else for that matter. Many of the Japanese university club graduates started their training in junior and senior high school clubs. The most serious of these clubs train 2-3 hours after school, 6 days per week. Development of a full time professional karate instructor program in Japan was the next logical step.
To this end, the JKA Instructor Training Program was started in 1956 and continues to this day as the only full time karate instructor program in the world. There is presently no other karate training program that compares in length of time, quality of training or athletic standard.
In the 1960's, the early graduates of the JKA Instructor Program were the ones primarily responsible for introducing karate all around the world. Unfortunately, for cultural reasons the graduates of the JKA Instructor Program failed to create in their host countries the same system that had produced them. This failure had the effect, intentional or otherwise, of keeping the Japanese in control of karate all around the world. This failure is common to all styles of Japanese karate. This failure has alienated many karate practitioners around the world and caused them to go their own way. This alienation has been aggravated by the reluctance of the Japanese to accept non-Japanese nationals into the JKA Instructor Program.
However, even the JKA Instructor Program does not come close to the programs provided by other institutes of higher learning for training members of the regulated professions in our society. Professions such as Medical Doctor, Lawyer, Professional Engineer, Chartered Accountant and High School Teacher are regulated because of the extent to which they affect society. These regulations provide the public assurance regarding the quality of the work of these professionals.
Should karate professionals have analogous training standards, licencing and regulations? Let us compare karate professionals to the members of the licensed professions who graduate from our universities. Over generations, the public have made political decisions which regulate various professions, due to their importance to the well being of our society. However, for mainly historical reasons karate has not been regulated by any level of government. In spite of the fact that the large majority of karate students are minors there is no provincial or national regulation of training standards for professional karate instructors.
Hence, it is reasonable to assume that there should be publicly recognized standards for training requirements, licensing and oversight of karate professionals. In order for Karate Canada to advance it's goals, Karate Canada should review and document good standards and practices for karate instruction with the aim of establishing minimum standards and best practices for the training and oversight of professional karate instructors. As with other organized sports and professions these standards and practices will likely evolve with time as karate evolves and as more is known about the related safety issues, growth issues, kinesiology, physiology, nerve responses, etc.
Most existing karate instructors in Canada never had the opportunity to participate in a karate instructor training program that was comparable to the JKA Instructor Program. Their understanding of karate comes mainly from their own experience and athletic ability. To those that had direct instruction from an early JKA Instructor Program graduate it should be mentioned that those JKA graduates left Japan in the 1960's. The karate that was at the JKA in those years became out of date as the years went by. This gradual evolution is true of any educational program in any field of study. Sensei Malcolm Fisher had first hand experience with this phenomena when he trained with various early JKA Instructor Program graduates in England, the USA and Canada.
Sensei Malcolm Fisher hopes that this written case for a Canadian Karate Instructor Program will make it easier for those who have the power and means to move this project forward. Canada's athletes have demonstrated over and over that, when they have the support of the nation and its business community, they are able to compete with the very best and win.
We here in Canada are in the unique position of having the only non-Japanese full graduate of the JKA instructor program. Sensei Malcolm Fisher envisages a Canadian Karate Instructor Program which would be of an 8 year duration, training 5 hours per day, 6 days per week, complete with NCCP, nutritional, language, refereeing and business instruction. The training regime would be comparable to the level and intensity of training of Canada's olympic medalists in other sports.
There is no other equivalent karate training program anywhere in the world, even in Japan. Sensei Malcolm Fisher believes that if the program is implemented as he envisages, Canada would make history and would create something that would be economically self sustaining after 10 years. The program's graduates would spread out across Canada and would bring to Canadian communities true professional karate instruction to meet the current and growing need for disciplined martial arts instruction of Canadian youth.
This author believes that for the program envisaged by Sensei Malcolm Fisher to be economically self sustaining the program must deliver quantifyable value to members of the public who are not directly involved in karate. That value might be a combination of reduced public health system costs, reduced criminal justice system costs, improved military and police training and televised public entertainment. History has shown that in Canada a sport does not receive significant federal government funding until a Canadian achieves repeated major success in world competition. Some past examples of this phenomena are Nancy Greene in skiing, Karen Magnussen in figure skating and Elaine Tanner in swimming.
This web page text last updated May 22, 2011.
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