The Extraordinary Merits of Japan’s Modern-Day Karate

Improving the Cultures of the World

By Boyé Lafayette De Mente

Most countries in the world today remain awash in irrational and violent behavior because their cultures are incapable of instilling in people the mindset that is necessary to build and sustain rational, positive, humane, and constructive societies.

I believe that the physical, emotional and philosophical discipline offered by Japan’s modern-day version of karate (kah-rah-tay) training could go a long way toward reducing many of the evils that continue to afflict mankind—if not eliminating some of them altogether—and I advocate making training in this former martial art mandatory in all elementary and high schools around the world.

As simplistic and perhaps as other-worldly as it may sound, this is one training program that all children could be enrolled in at an early age that would go a long way toward instilling in them many of the cultural attributes that are the most desirable and admirable in human beings—and the only thing their parents would have to do is enroll them in this program and keep them in it from around the age of five to fifteen or older.

The story of karate as a Japanese fighting art began on the historically independent island kingdom of Okinawa after it was conquered by a Japanese warlord in 1609, and the residents were forbidden to have weapons of any kind.

Bereft of weapons, Okinawan warriors soon developed the ancient Chinese version of karate [“empty hand”] into a more formidable martial art, making it possible for them to inflict serious injury or death on a person using only their hands.

During the following decades of Japan’s Tokugawa shogunate era [1603-1867] karate was gradually subsumed into the training of the samurai who ruled Japan and Okinawa. Later, after the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1867 and dissolution of the samurai class in 1870, karate became a part of the training of Japan’s imperial army and police forces.

By the early 1900s a few farsighted martial arts masters who were not associated with training the military or police forces began to teach karate as a sport aimed at developing the character of the individual, with special emphasis on respect for others, concentration, self-confidence, diligence, a sense of order, perseverance, honesty and courage.

But this type of enlightened training did not become widespread in Japanese society because of the militaristic nature of the post-samurai government—a situation that did not begin to change until some two decades after the establishment of a democratic form of government in 1945/46.

Today most people around the world are familiar with the word karate as a result of movies, video games and comic books which continue to present it as a fighting technique, but in real life most training in karate is aimed at building the kind of character and behavior that all parents would like to see in their children.

The popularity of training in modern karate is now growing in Japan, and the number of karate training centers around the world is increasing [there are over 3,000 in the U.S. alone] as more parents come to understand that its remarkable benefits include improving the character, personality and behavior of their children.

The World of Martial Arts Information Center lists these benefits as: learning the value of time, the importance of perseverance in achieving success, the dignity of simplicity, the value of character, the power of kindness, the influence of example, the obligation of duty, the wisdom of economy, the virtue of patience, the improvement of talents and the importance of respect.

Since ordinary people now have the opportunity to influence beliefs and events on a scale that was not even imaginable until the advent of the Internet, I suggest that this amazing power be utilized to introduce millions of people around the planet to the extraordinary benefits of modern-day karate with the goal of getting it incorporated into a universal Earth culture.
Boyé Lafayette De Mente is a graduate of Jōchi University in Tokyo and Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, Ariz. He lives in Paradise Valley, Ariz., and is the author of more than 50 books on the business practices, cultures and languages of China, Japan, Korea and Mexico. Learn more at

Published in: on September 23, 2008 at 9:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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