Keynote Address: Okinawa Traditional Karate And Kobudo Worldwide Seminar

On November 8, 2015, four high ranking karate masters from Okinawa, Japan presented a full day of training workshops in New Paltz, New York. The event was hosted by the New Paltz Karate Academy, and sponsored by the Okinawa Prefectual Government as part of its worldwide cultural outreach effort. Over two hundred traditional martial arts students and teachers from throughout the northeastern United States attended the event.

The keynote speaker was Salvatore Musco, Executive Director of Martial Promise, Inc and Head Instructor of East Morris Karate Academy (Whippany, NJ).



Your attendance today speaks of your dedication to an art form so unique it can be applied  for purposes ranging from the downright silly on up to living it as a way of life.

You've come for the opportunity to work with masters of that artistic and cultural heritage in hope of gaining new knowledge and insight. But may I suggest another opportunity for you today:

To reinforce the notion that you are participating to seek mastery as a student, and to associate as a member of an extraordinary artistic community.

And mastery is indeed the issue. Karate doesn't work; you do!

Techniques only demonstrate the physics of our art, just as proverbs only illustrate its wisdom. Ability and character are the greater goals that make karate work. As a result, it can be said that, for us, the aim of practice isn't merely skillful performance, but personal transformation.

Traditional martial artists, alone, are defined by relentless practice in the single-minded pursuit of mastery for its own sake.

But, what if kata is thought of as little more than acrobatic dance, and martial philosophy reduced to fight slogans? We all know the answer; it's all around us, but (fortunately) there's really no time to get into all that here.

However, there is a larger question: What if mastery was the central goal of martial arts training? We know that, historically, that's always been the expectation. What would be the result of chasing that higher purpose?

Students could expect more effective, satisfying and interesting training. No one came to the dojo to be mediocre. Unfortunately, students are too often allowed to settle for just that. With the proper perspective, persistence and, yes, instruction, flashes of greatest can happen. And an "…if I can do that, what else can I do?"mindset arrives.

Mastery is no mystery. It's a human process available to anyone with the grit to stay the course.

Instructors can realize more student success through incisive, challenging lessons and drills. The best part of being an instructor is making things happen for a student who's having trouble. Yet, endless, mindless drilling never seemed like much of an answer to me.

Practice makes permanent; not perfect. But, 'perfection practice' gets results and everyone gets excited! Ok, so that six year old is still about as sharp a bowling ball, but you ought to see his stances!

Finally, head Instructors get to offer actually valuable personal skills. Aside from the incredible impact that has on individual students, it leads to broader market appeal. (Remember, these benefits I'm talking about are ONLY achievable with traditional training methods.)

As a result, regard for the art - traditional version - grows instead of fades in the public mind. More students mean stronger dojo, and dojo are the front line in the art's survival.

There has never been more than about 2% of the U.S. population involved in martial arts training. As traditionalists, we account for only an ever shrinking percent of that percentage.

And we are outgunned to boot: MMA celebrates violence on its own TV channel, and karate retailers have an entire generation of indulgent parents consuming… retail karate. As you might imagine, neither of them is thrilled about what you stand for.

And us? We have an elegant, effective art with a legendary past and a very powerful promise for both individuals and society. Provided we (1) really aren't "just about punching and kicking", and (2) we staunchly preserve, defend and promote our heritage.

As I said, we traveled here today in hopes of connecting with our artistic past. Our honored guests have traveled even further in hopes of meeting its future. That's us,  one way or the other.

So, please, have a great time today, but remember to see of yourself as the master you can become, and as the advocate you already are.


Salvatore Musco (Eighth Degree Black Belt, Isshin-ryu Karate) is Executive Director of Martial Promise, Inc., a 501c3 educational organization dedicated to the preservation of martial arts tradition and promotion of its positive application. He is also Head Instructor of East Morris Karate Academy, a dojo operated as the organization's individual student training program. Mr. Musco writes and speaks about practical benefits derived from traditional martial arts training and culture to a variety of audiences both within and outside the study.

( 973 884-2224/ This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)