This article was written by Erik Petermann, a Sandan with Ashihara Karate International whose initial Dan ranking in Ashihara Karate was issued by Kancho Hideyuki Ashihara and the NIKO Organisation.
What's in a Name - when is Ashihara Karate NOT Ashihara Karate?
You may well be wondering what the strange title of this article might mean. Ashihara Karate is obviously the style of Karate founded by Hideyuki Ashihara and now practised by tens of thousands of people the World over. Simple, isn't it? Well, unfortunately it isn't!
Hideyuki Ashihara was a man of vision, an innovator every bit as brilliant and revolutionary as the late Bruce Lee. The fact that Bruce Lee is by far better known is clearly attributable to his films. As a matter of fact, in so far as leaving behind a coherent martial arts system is concerned, it is the author's opinion that the Ashihara system is far more "user friendly" than the assortment of concepts and ideas left behind by Bruce Lee.
In creating Ashihara Karate, Master Ashihara created a system that could be used by anyone, young or old, male or female, as it relies on principles of movement and strategy rather than opposing strength with greater strength. In the words of Master Ashihara : (Fighting Karate, Hideyuki Ashihara, p.130) "Today, however, we have television and are thus able to watch programs on every kind of Martial Art. Everyone knows that quick footwork and flexible body movements are vital to winning a fight. THIS PUTS US IN THE MIDDLE OF AN AGE OF TECHNICAL REVOLUTION IN MARTIAL ARTS, ....I believe that what the karate masters of old left is is fine, and should be preserved, but it is the martial arts and karate experts of our day who are responsible for studying, thinking and practising IN ORDER TO CREATE NEW TECHNIQUES WHICH ARE SUITED TO OUR AGE AND USEFUL IN REAL FIGHTING."
Master Ashihara had many students, some of whom chose to change the name of the karate they taught from Ashihara to say, Enshin or Seidokaikan. Others decided to stay with the name "Ashihara Karate". Which brings us to the reason for writing this article: Kaicho Narker has occasionally received letters and Email doubting his right to teach Ashihara Karate. These have ranged from racist and childish statements calling him "stay in the jungle monkey man" to more sincere queries as to why he does not say he teaches "Narker Kaikan" or something similar.
The origins of this storm in a teacup seems to be that there are those that believe that anyone not affiliated to the Japanese Organisation of Master Hideyuki Ashihara's son have no right to claim to teach Ashihara Karate. Aside from the obvious, such as that Kaicho Narker is listed as a branch dojo in both "Fighting Karate" and "More Fighting Karate", that Kaicho (and of his students) has trained at the Honbu dojo in Japan when Master Hideyuki Ashihara was still alive, has grading certificates signed by Master Ashihara, is probably of all those teaching Ashihara Karate, the person that has the oldest dated certificate as a Branch Chief (see certification), etc., what is the essence of Ashihara Karate? Does it consist of practising Karate in accordance with the revolutionary principles developed by Master Ashihara or does it consist of depositing the right amount of money into the right bank account?
It is an indication of Kaicho Narker's humility that, in spite of his decades of promoting karate both nationally and internationally, he still honours the man he considers to be one of the greatest martial arts geniuses of all time, by teaching "Ashihara Karate" rather than something named after himself. For those who accuse him of changing technical aspects of what Master Ashihara taught, this is the most ridiculous accusation of them all; for two reasons: Firstly, as shown in the previous quote by Master Ashihara himself, he believed in the continuous improvement and development of his karate and, secondly, it is easy enough to see if certain techniques, combinations or drills follows the principles of Ashihara Karate (such as not opposing strength with strength, using evasion footwork and body movement, etc.) As Master Ashihara said, "we are in the middle of technical revolution in martial arts" and as such it is very much in keeping with Master Ashihara's heritage to see for instance, how the principles and techniques of Ashihara Karate might be used against a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner, an issue which had not come into existence during Master Ashihara's lifetime.
As I have stated before, the whole thing is some what of a storm in a teacup. It is in the character of rubber-stamping bureaucrats the world over to want to classify everything into categories such as "approved/disapproved". What really matters, however, is that the revolutionary principles that Master Ashihara developed are popularised as much as possible, so that as many people as possible can benefit from and learn of the genius that was HIDEYUKI ASHIHARA.