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Did You Know? - Punchlines 1996 Article

President Roosevelt took Judo lessons under 10th Dan Yamishita in the Whitehouse back in 1902 along with his daughter. They both went on to achieve black belt.

Russian President Putin holds a black belt in Judo and has taken karate classes. However, he has not just limited himself to the Japanese martial arts. He also has skills in Russian Sambo and Greek-Roman and freestyle wrestling.

Elvis Presley was a karate enthusiast that earned his black belt in 1960. He was the first to use karate in films.

Karate, meaning 'Empty hand', has many styles, ours being Shotokan which means the house of the waving palms, whereas its sister style Shotokai means the way of Funakoshi. Both styles are derived by the teachings of Funakoshi Gichin. Shotokai is a softer more relaxed style than Shotokan.

Funakoshi was taught Tode and Okinawa-te by masters Itosu and Azato, who shared the same first name of Anko. Although Funakoshi would not have agreed, he had mastered his art by the age of 25. He spent the remainder of his life perfecting it and moulding in to what we now call Shotokan.

The first karate classes to take place outside of Okinawa and Japan were in the early 1950’s. They were Shotokai classes taken by Oshima Sensei.

The world record for breaking roof tiles with one blow is held by Masatatsu Oyama, who broke 30 with one punch. He later formed his own style which we know as Kyokushinkai.

Karate grading used to be very irregular. They were few and far between only taking place upon a visit from a senior Japanese instructor. Other than a kata, you never knew what you were going to be asked to perform when you graded. The colour of your belt didn’t always change should you pass. Sometimes you wore a coloured tag to show you had progressed. The colour of your belt deepened as you progressed through the ranks allowing you to keep the same belt which was important as they weren’t available at that time in sports shops.

Once reaching 9th Dan the colour of the belt returns to Red (that of a novice) signifying that when one knows all, he returns to knowing nothing, yet understands everything.

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