Exposing The Biggest Best Kept Super Secret of Karate Ever

By Jesse | 47 Comments

Folks…

We are standing on the brink of revolution.

Karate, as we know it, is about to be changed forever.

And I’m NOT going to get left behind.

Sound’s crazy, I know. But let me explain.

A long time ago, people thought the world was flat. And if you sailed too far away on the ‘seven seas’, you would go over the ‘edge’. That was common sense at the time.

Until somebody came along and said “Hey, guys, what if the world was round?”. Sadly, these people often didn’t have time to explain their theories before they were laughed at, jumped on and beaten up.

Because, people don’t really want conflicting ideas in their heads. It’s called cognitive dissonance.

But eventually we were convinced.

The earth is in fact round!

Gradually the idea became accepted, and that’s what we have been believing for quite a while now. We live in a round world.

(Until somebody one day comes along and goes: “Hey, guys, I think the earth might be square.”)

And this is exactly what has been happening in the world of Karate lately.

In today’s extremely broad and multifaceted world of Karate, some extraordinary people have not been satisfied with what we’re doing. They are having these radical ideas and theories that stand out quite a bit, regarding the historical purpose and aim of Karate.

They’re essentially telling us….

That the Karate world is square.

And of course we don’t agree.

Just like mankind never agreed when we first heard that the earth might be round.

We laugh.

We ridicule.

But frankly I don’t know anymore. I’m starting to doubt. These theories that have been put forth lately have been challenging, interesting and freshly exciting. They’ve been tickling my brain. They give me a whole new look at this old, dusty artifact of Karate.

You see, there are some individuals out there who have been putting forth theories that katas of Karate are meant to be done in a whole different way.

These indivduals argue that we have never really understood kata, neither have our teachers, and everyone has simply done kata “the way my sensei said it should be done”.

But this is about to change, now that a long lost secret is gradually made public.

The secret is…

Weapons.

In short; the kata of Karate were never meant to be done empty-handed.

We are supposed to be holding weapons in our Karate kata. And honestly, when you look at some of the theories surrounding this connection, you can’t help but enthusiastically agree.

But I don’t want to put any ideas into your head. I’m not biased.

Read for yourself.

Here are three of the most famous theories to date.

You decide what to think:

1. The Short Spear Theory:

According to online Karate researcher Mike Eschenbrenner, the kata of Karate were originally meant to be done with a short spear in hand. This is what he says:

“I argue that Chinese military envoys, such as the four recorded by Funakoshi in his book Karate-do Kyohan, likely taught Okinawans military methods (spear fighting to be exact) to help ensure that tribute ships on route to and from China were well protected by crew and passengers alike.

The Okinawans were a seafaring nation, and their livelihood depended on the success of their trade. They traded all over Southeast Asia, and from that trade were able to acquire useful goods to exchange with the Chinese as a part of tribute trade.

There are records of periods of piracy in the South China Sea. Regarding martial arts training, it would seem that Okinawan aristocrats would be highly motivated to ensure their trip had every possibility of success.

Passengers with skill in fighting arts were expected by the Ryukyu king to help defend the ship. Spears where a key weapon used to repel pirates who had successfully boarded a vessel.

In my view, the Chinese taught the Okinawans an art where all the movements were intended for a spear. I utilize all the movements from 40 kata to propel a spear in useful fighting sequences. Like the late Karate master Chibana Choshin, among others, taught his students: “the fingers and toes should become like spears”.”

2. The Sai Theory:

According to Nathan J Johnson, the kata Sanchin, Seisan and others are meant to be done with the sai.

In his book The Great Karate Myth the information is all there – Sanchin was created as a weapons form (using sai) and only a weapons form. No spiritual breathing stuff or unexplainable bunkai stuff.

A DVD enclosed with the book demonstrated Johnson’s research conclusions clearly. This is what he says:

“Experienced Karate practitioners may find the following classification of certain kata, usually considered as unarmed kata and described here as Kobudo (weapons) kata to be unusual.

This is understandable because in the past, these kata have erroneously been designated as weapon-less kata – as unarmed self defence”

You can read the rest on his website and a video of him doing kata Sanchin with sai can be found here. Needless to say, his seminars are highly popular all over the world.

3. The Bo Theory:

This is perhaps the most common theory, and is surprisingly popular within Shotokan communities. I can give you numerous examples, since there isn’t only one person claiming that kata were meant to be originally done with the bo (staff), but I’ll just show you one example for now. Look here.

So what do you think?

Ridiculous?

Unbelievable?

I know – you think it’s cute… but not likely.

Right?

To tell the truth, that’s what I think too. Actually, I think all of the above theories are bizarre and silly.

In fact, they are nothing compared to MY theory.

Brace yourself, because this is going to be hard to understand for some of you:

A.

K.

47.

(Yeah, that’s right – I wrote it vertically to make it even cooler. )

AK-47.

The famous gas operated 7.62x39mm assault rifle.

The evidence that the kata of Karate were originally meant to be done with the AK-47 in hand is so overwhelming that you can do nothing but agree, once I have explained everything.

And believe me, explain I will.

Get some new underwear ready, because you’re going to have to change in a moment.

Here’s the proof:

The fact that our kata were first meant to be done with an AK-47 assault rifle in hand became very evident to me when I recently studied the work of Itosu Anko (1831 – 1915), a man often considered “the father of modern Karate” and quite rightfully so. His students included legends like: Gichin Funakoshi, Kanken Toyama, Chotoku Kyan, Kenwa Mabuni, Choshin Chibana and more.

Itosu was the man behind it all.

Believing in the value of Karateas youth development, Itosu was historically responsible for introducing Karate to the schools of Okinawa, when he in 1901 began teaching Karate (or “Toudi” as it was called at the time) at the Shuri Jinjo Elementary School, and then in 1905 at the First Junior Prefectural High School as well as the Teachers College, in Okinawa.

Itosu Anko (1831 – 1915)

If you don’t know, Itosu was the man who created the five Pinan/Heian kata, which were - as you’ll soon see - designed especially with the AK-47 in mind.

Itosu’s grand plan is best understood by exploring his “Ten Lessons of Karate” a letter originally written in 1908 by Itosu himself, adressed to the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of War in mainland Japan.

In this historical letter (which you can read an explanation of here) he details how the primary purpose of Karate was not for “developing a strong and healthy body and mind” as most other masters would say, but instead “to prepare our youth for national service”. He goes on, saying that “Karate training provides the courage to give one’s life in defense of one’s parents or teachers” which just makes it more evident that we have been on the wrong track all the time.

It is obvious that Itosu is really speaking about using Karate to defend one’s country – preferably with the AK-47.

(As famous Karate historian Harry Cook notes: “Ming dynasty China saw a tremendous growth in gunnery”, which clearly influenced the Okinawan plebeian discipline of Karate.)

In the same document, Itosu also writes that “Karate is not intended to be used against a single assailant” and “When you train, do so as if on the battlefield”, which makes it even easier for anyone to draw the conclusion that the primary focus of Karate was indeed the pragmatic use of the AK-47.

And, yes – I know that the AK-47 wasn’t invented at the time when Itosu formulated his masterplan, but this is where the TRUE brilliance of it all comes into play.

Itosu was a visionary!

He foresaw that the AK-47 - or something very similar - would one day be invented, and thus prepared the youth of Okinawa (and subsequently Japan) for that day.

The rest of his plan was equally magnificent:

Itosu strongly believed in the value of starting in the Elementary schools to build the proper foundation (the use of the shotgun, AK-47, Rambo knife, handgranade etc.), and then expanding the concept further when entering university, where courses such as “Improvised Explosive Devices”, “The Basics of Handling the Rocket Launcher I & II,” “The ABC’s of Espionage and Intelligence” and similar would be taught.

The original letter written by Itosu

These detailed plans were also written down (in a secret letter to the Emperor) but were sadly destroyed in the great fire of World War II, when America basically bombed Okinawa back to the Stone Age.

Going back to Itosu’s original letter of 1908, he reinforces this plan of education by describing how “Karate cannot be learned in a short time”, and he describes a period of 3 to 4 years of training in order to understand the true value of Karate.

Surprise?

This coincides perfectly with modern military service, where 3 to 4 years is the mandatory time of service in many countries (like Israel, Afghanistan, Cameroon, Honduras, Chad, Nicaragua, Syria etc). Not really creating expert level soldiers, but being able to take care of most military situations.

Itosu ends his letter of 1908 with the statement: “I believe this will be a great benefit to our nation and our military”, and if it hadn’t been for the surrender of Emperor Hirohito in 1945, chances are that Itosu’s vision would have been fulfilled today.

Mind = blown.

Now, despite these numerous obvious historical hints, one can’t really be sure that our kata were actually designed for the AK-47.

So, to clarify my point, I took some pictures for you.

After having seen the photos below, where my loyal slave student Tobias-san shows a side-by-side comparison of Pinan/Heian Sandan (with and without weapons), you will have NO way of denying the fact that all Karate katas were originally meant to be done with the AK-47 in hand.

(Along with some extra supporting weapons, as you’ll see.)

So without further ado, here is…

Pinan/Heian Sandan – (Ancient AK-47 Version)

A brief explanation is given below each picture.

The original (AK-47) meaning of each move is shown to the right.

You hear an enemy. Look to the left. As you see, the kata works equally well with a Colt M-16 rifle.

The enemy was just a squirrel in the bush. Stand guard.

Switch hands.

You hear another enemy behind you. Switch weapon, to a 12-gauge shotgun.

Just a bird in the tree. Stand guard.

Switch hands again. Like Itosu wrote: “In Karate, you must decide whether a technique is for training the body or has martial application”. This is simply for training the ability to switch hands.

You hear a third enemy, to your left. This time it’s a real one! Shoot him in the face.

After having peeled his face away, step forward and smack him on the jaw with the butt of your rifle.

Quickly twist your body, and take the enemy’s kneecaps out.

As another enemy approaches, turn around and blast straight from your hip. Pull out your knife with your left hand.

Stab your first enemy, who is still standing, in the chest. The barrel is smoking from the previous enemy you massacred.

Leave the knife protruding from your enemy’s chest, step forward and shoot him in the face again.

Turn around and pull your double Walther PPK 7.65 mm’s (yes, the same that James Bond used in the first movies).

Take a big step forward, making sure that you show your profile, effectively dodging enemy fire.

Return fire. Hold your gun sideways, ‘gangsta’ style.

Repeat on the left side.

Repeat again.

Finally, a third time on the right side. Dodge bullets.

Mash down the last enemy, still holding the gun sideways ‘gangsta’ style.

Pick up your other hidden knife and stab the enemy in the eye.

Flip your M-16 rifle back, spin around and let the burner blast straight in the face of the opponent hiding behind you.

Slide to your right, and finish off by throwing a hand grenade over your shoulder.

The end.

That’s it.

It’s all there.

You have now seen one of the best kept super secrets of Karate.

The current dissatisfaction with unarmed interpretation of kata, experienced by many disgruntled Karate enthusiasts and modern reformers alike, can now finally be justified.

The world is round – don’t be trapped in a square.

The revolution is here.

Share this article to enlighten people!

About the author

is a self-titled Karate Nerd™, best-selling martial arts writer, unreasonably handsome elite athlete, autodidact, karatepreneur and carrot cake aficionado. He really thinks you should become a Karate Nerd™ too.

47 Comments

  1. Mike Jones

    June 16, 2010 at 4:20 am

    WOW -- you are a riot. I, myself prefer the AR-15 :)

  2. Diego Romero

    June 16, 2010 at 4:41 am

    you are my new best friend

  3. Oliver

    June 16, 2010 at 4:46 am

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHahahahaha!!

  4. Will Goodwin

    June 16, 2010 at 5:34 am

    LOL, that was great.

  5. John Arena

    June 16, 2010 at 5:35 am

    realistic practical application at last. Now just shave your head add some cool tatoos and create a few bumper stickers and some tough looking t- shirts. I think you have the makings of the martial arts next big thing.

  6. Jesper

    June 16, 2010 at 10:48 am

    Awesome, finally I get some use for my secret stash of M249 Saws a.k.a. Minimi Para

  7. Garry

    June 16, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Hahaha! Excellent post! The Rambo knife is so under-used!

  8. Tommi Prami

    June 16, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    This is so cool (reply to something not so cool). Best ever! Hopefully this gains lots of publicity…

  9. Fatih Ince

    June 16, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    This is pure comic genius!

    It’s the most hilarious thing I have ever seen!
    Keep up to good work Jesse;)

  10. peteampil

    June 18, 2010 at 3:37 am

    As in anything, we should be prepared to think out of the box and/or keep an open mind……however strange the idea may seem initially.
    Jesse, to be honest, the ‘visionary’ assumption has to be supported by some something -- and seems to be on the edge of a possible ‘non-sequitur’statement.
    Having said the above, we can still be friends, Jesse, if circumstances in the future , allow our paths to cross.
    pete ampil

  11. ronald mcdonald 69

    June 21, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Good laugh over this one. Seriously, though, I think you are on to something, although I would modify your theory. If the spear was the original weapon utilized in karate kata, it is not too great a leap of faith to imagine that the kata would translate seamlessly to the bolt action rifle with bayonet deployed, circa 1905. This would have been a Type 30,35 or 38 Arisaka. The type 30 bayonet was 510mm ( slightly over 20 inches ), a substantial blade. The type 30 Arisaka was 1270mm ( 50 inches ), so the total length would have been 1780mm, or 1.78m ( 70 inches ). This is close to common spear length. Certainly several infantrymen could clear a trench or machine gun pit using these techniques. Good piece, I read your other articles with interest. Have you read The Ninja by Kacem Zoughari or Anthony Cummins’ Shinobi Soldiers?

  12. Jack Brown

    July 10, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun reading a blog. Kudos!

  13. Jack Brown

    July 11, 2010 at 10:21 am

    Loved the post. I think we share the same passion for martial arts.

  14. Jack Brown

    July 12, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    My dojo is similar to yours, I think. Great post.

  15. Leah Sanford

    July 20, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    Wait!! I have a definitive opinion from my room-mate Julie that the historical record clearly shows that the original katas employed an even more dangerous implement: the rubber chicken. Think about it. Leah

  16. Sam

    July 22, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    Well, I have to disagree. The position of the rear hand in a chamber does not fit this theory.

    However, if you use a lever gun, then pulling the rear hand to a chamber makes perfect sense when cycling a lever.

    :-)

  17. Sam

    July 22, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    Oops, forgot to add. GREAT picture set and captions. Had me rolling in laughter.

  18. Drew Baye

    July 23, 2010 at 6:02 am

    Apparently, this secret was already known to the writers of Equilibrium. Who’d have guessed?

  19. Igors, Sensei

    August 1, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    It’s interesting. Ha!!!!!!
    Arnold Shw the Kiborg often uses two machine guns. Why not to tray to do Kata with tank?
    Osu!

    • Diego Romero

      August 1, 2010 at 9:11 pm

      TEKKI SHODAN

      IN A TANK

      PLEASE!

      :p

      • Jesse

        August 1, 2010 at 10:37 pm

        I get the camera, you bring the tank ^^

        • Diego Romero

          August 1, 2010 at 10:39 pm

          sherman or king tiger?

      • Leo

        August 2, 2010 at 1:27 am

        HAHAHA! Now THAT explains the “Iron Rider”. I’ll have to get a battering ram for practicing Bassai seriously!

  20. Jon

    August 16, 2010 at 10:00 am

    Oh no Jesse. But i live in the UK, a country that has banned all firearms. I’m gonna have to stop karate training as it’s useless to me! Oh wait….
    That was hilarious Jesse. I’m sitting here on the train and people are wondering why I’m laughing so much. Nice dojo you have their too.

    • Igors, Sensei

      August 16, 2010 at 4:33 pm

      Try with arbalet, it’s allowed in UK. Tei a big one.

  21. Szilard

    September 9, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    AMD-65. That is what you should have used. It can be used as a bo, as a short spear, as a tonfa and with a bit of effort as a sai. So actually all the weapons katas are also about the AMD 65. You can see it in action for example here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRzshjJyESE
    Yeah, this is what karate is about.
    At around 1:02 you can see even one of the starting moves in pinan shodan (heian nidan). The best bunkai I have ever seen for that move.

    • Igors, Sensei

      September 9, 2010 at 7:01 pm

      I can’t agree that Bunkai of Kata is the same as Kata with weapon.
      I use Nunchaku as weapon for my Karate students and transformed Pinan Ichi/Ni and San into Nunchaku kata. These Kata’s started their life as Nunchaku Kata’s with own Bunkai not as Bunkai for Pinan Kata.

  22. Sean

    October 8, 2010 at 2:20 am

    Pure…unadulterated…GENIUS!!! I have officially been re-educated!

  23. cipo

    October 16, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    duude you r insane! i love yur site
    u hav laods of information n u r funny as hell!

  24. Steve Wilson

    November 17, 2010 at 3:57 am

    Love the article :)
    I always like doing Tagiyoku Shodan with a sword,
    Even better a rolled up gym mat :)

    Steve

  25. Peter Wong

    April 28, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    I have a version for i-pad….haha….

    “The Bo Theory” is not pratical because if you practise the pole in this way, your pole will surly fly to the sky during the fighting…..

  26. warrioress

    August 11, 2011 at 2:38 am

    Oh god! Oh GOD! Oh my ****ing god! I don’t know whether I should shake my head or nod vigorously or ROTF LMAO!

  27. Pinto San

    August 30, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    IDIOTA! Retire esta porcaria da internet.

    • Jesse

      August 30, 2011 at 10:27 pm

      Your comment really embodies the true spirit of Karate online.

  28. Maryam

    December 6, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    :)))
    you’re awesome.

    I started reading this thinking about April’s fool

    Come on :)) You’ve got to find some solution for footworks and dachis too, though. why would you shoot someone on a kiba dachi?

    No, really, I’m still laughing :))

  29. Frank Fink

    February 22, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    Nathan Johnson’s sai theory is all well and good, but I have a book written by him a few years back entitled Barefoot Zen in which he proposes that what he calls the “key forms” (nahanchi, sanchin, and tensho) were originally practiced by zen Buddhist monks for purely spiritual reasons and that they were not combative in any way shape or form (pun intended). I have a hard time buying books from people who flip-flop on what they believe. I’ll probably buy it anyway.

  30. Josep

    September 18, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    Nice “ishoot issatsu” concept!

  31. Mike Black

    January 23, 2013 at 11:35 pm

    Now you know why your instructor always told you that the weapon is an extension of your body….but what came first the weapon or the body??? ;)

    Seriously though, I have seen Chinto done with Chinese swords but that does not mean the kata was originally designed for that weapon.

  32. kairu

    January 24, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    You may want to put a regional block on this before some people take this seriously and do something really stupid in their Dojo’s. I can see the headlines now “McDojo takes it to a new level and no one walks away alive.”

  33. shankar

    November 3, 2013 at 11:23 am

    Man that was so funny I can’t stop laughing.
    I study shotokan and the way I see it this stuff will work in the shotokan version of the katas and it will mostly be knife rather than gun but the practitioner will look like John rambo on steroids

  34. Junior

    April 8, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    Very very good, as usual. I pratice wado ryu and pinan sandan showed here is our third kata.
    I’ll try to teach the a547 version to my students ;-) But before, that…Go pai sho!!

  35. Osk

    June 10, 2014 at 9:18 am

    Gishin Funakoshi said invent so why not be creative with the kata I love to play even with the broom meanwhile showing to my mother one or another kata, (big happy face on my mom)and of course she demanded her broom back but yeap adding even any object (guns, knifes,brooms hahaha) will make the kata become infinite.

  36. Sandy B Herman

    September 18, 2014 at 8:00 pm

    Awesome article…….but is that an AK in your pocket?….or are you just happy to see me?

  37. Christian

    September 18, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    I think you should change your name for the karate troll ;)

  38. terry

    September 18, 2014 at 10:06 pm

    Of course, using the weapon until it runs out of bullets.
    Karate convinces the practioner that they are invincible and thereby will fight for their causes.
    Kata is like knitting a blanket for a time you may need it.
    My karate is special because I do not fight, its about not fighting, no guns, no bullets, no spears, no sais, no bo…well yes I like bo, so I will keep that.
    intetesting how many will think I really have something.
    No I don’t…just like the old way. Just sweat.

  39. Ken

    September 19, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    Personally I like the bo idea, no surprise I am a shotokan guy, but I have reasons. The bo a standard weapon in human history, every culture in the world has some form of stick fighting. The bo is versatile. My personal favorite example is Bassai Dai, the movements can easily be adjusted to the bo with almost no change to the movements. The way I rationalize this by looking to the Philippines, in arnis the movements in the unarmed and armed combat are almost the very same movements. Heck even in Aikido many of the techniques can be done with a sword. Maybe I am crazy but I think adding weapons to your kata will add flavor. OSU!

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