Where Karate got its kicks from (it was the French!)

This is a very nicely made video from the Karate Nerd that shows the influence of Western military methods (created by the French from Savate) on the formation of Japanese Karate. This influence of the West on Japan was something we talked about a lot in our podcast on The origins of Kempo and Jiujitsu, but it’s nice to see a video that uses old footage so well to demonstrate the point.

Here’s some of that lovely Savate from 1924, in normal and slow motion:

6 thoughts on “Where Karate got its kicks from (it was the French!)

  1. If we look at some dates:

    At 9.38 Ross talks about a single French military mission in 1968.

    In fact there were three military missions and interactions over several years in the 19th century, which continued in the 20th century.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/France%E2%80%93Japan_relations#Chronology_of_Franco-Japanese_relations

    The book mentioned: Karate Do Nyumon by Gigo and Gichin Funakoshi was released in 1946. Gigo is credited as introducing high kicks and the style of modern karate by everybody I can find:

    “Gigo also developed higher kicks including mawashi geri (round kick), yoko geri kekomi (thrusting side kick), yoko geri keage (snap side kick), fumikiri (cutting side kick directed to soft targets), ura mawashi geri (quarter rotation front-round kick—though some credit Kase-sensei with the creation of this technique), ushiro ura mawashi geri (360 degrees turning round kick) and ushiro geri kekomi (thrusting back kick). “
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gig%C5%8D_Funakoshi

    Taekwando wasn’t even named until 1955, and it’s ancient history is a dubious rewriting by nationalists, so I wouldn’t say “there was kicking in Korea” for sure, before this date.

    Mas Oyama’s Kyokushin Kaikan martial arts organization was founded in 1964.

    He doesn’t start Karate until 1946, studying under Gigō Funakoshi.

    “In 1946, Oyama enrolled in Waseda University School of Education to study sports science.
    Wanting the best in instruction, he contacted the Shotokan dojo (Karate school) operated by Gigō Funakoshi, the third son of karate master and Shotokan founder Gichin Funakoshi.[9] He became a student, and began his lifelong career in Karate. Feeling like a foreigner in a strange land, he remained isolated and trained in solitude.[8] “

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mas_Oyama#Post-World_War_II

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  2. I just listened to the David Ross piece – I find him much less convincing than the Karate Nerd theory. He presents no evidence. It’s just a lot of his speculation.

    I’ve asked a, shall we say, “more rigorous” academic about the Karate Nerd theory regarding Savate and they’ve said, basically, he’s right. Of course, nobody can know for sure, but it seems highly likely to me. You also have to take into consideration where Japan’s focus was in this time period – it was towards the West – they were hell bent on becoming an Empire, and they adopted Western methods wholesale.

    “You can’t say it’s Savate because that’s not what Savate is” – well, the surviving video clips and pictures would seem to indicate otherwise:

    Karate Nerd video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQUh5tVWd-E

    Savate 1924: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZ6AN8xOWv0

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  3. Pingback: Scandinavian gymnastics and Qigong | The Tai Chi Notebook

  4. This is another great find. It is interesting that it not only gives a perspective on the Savate-Karate connection, but also hearkens back to French sword fighting techniques, which have been subsumed into Fencing.

    Interesting biomechanics. It refers back to your post on timing over power. Timing is definitely key here.

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