View Full Version : Which doctors, by name, found that karate students were fitter?

Joseph Svinth
27th June 2006, 02:33
According to everything I've read, way back in 1908, Japanese doctors found that karate students were fitter than other Okinawans.

Okay, which doctors? By name, or by published study?

The reason I ask is an article in the Syracuse (New York) Herald, January 25, 1909. It's available for viewing on the NewspaperArchive.com web site. At the time, boxing was being billed in New York as a good body builder. Consequently, boxing was being recommended for inclusion in public school physical fitness programs. Proponents included Dr. Philip O'Hanlon of the New York Coroner's office. "Post-mortem examinations on bodies of small boys has impressed upon Dr. O'Hanlon... the great lack of chest development these lads must have had in life. As the best means of safely attaining lung development in the physically formative years, he urges the effectiveness of boxing, properly conducted. He mentions President Roosevelt as an example of the efficacy of the 'manly sport' in chest building."

Which raised the thought -- who in Japan in 1908 knew karate existed? And why would they have been paying any attention to Okinawans? Also, why would they have said karate, when judo was what the Japanese were then introducing into the public schools? Or is this instead a story based on Okinawans reading about US public school ideas, and then saying, in effect, "Hey, boxing is a lot like karate. The Americans think boxing is a good body builder for boys. The Americans have modern pedagogical methods. So, how about if we borrow the argument, and say that introducing karate training into the public schools would build stronger bodies, and make youths more fit for military service, same as the Americans say about boxing."

Any ideas?

Todd Lambert
27th June 2006, 23:51
If I recall correctly, was it not a case of Okinawans being drafted into the Japanese army? Some doctor performing the medical exams noticed that among the Okinawan recruits, karateka were fitter than those who didn't train. Perhaps Shoshin Nagamine's book Tales Of Okinawa's Great Masters, and maybe one or some of Funakoshi's works made mention of this.

Joseph Svinth
28th June 2006, 02:22
Nagamine's book does indeed mention that that doctors said that the karate men of Kentsu Yabu's generation were fitter than other young Okinawans. But Yabu is ca. 1891-1895, and Nagamine is basing his statements on what he was told or read during the 1930s and 1940s, a time when the Japanese Army was definitely touting boxing as a Manly Art. Also, 1908 is about the time Itosu, Yabu, et al., were trying to get karate into the Okinawan public schools.

Anachronism is therefore possible.