Culture Clash

Throughout my time in the Violeta Dojo in the early to mid '80's we would receive students from Kimo's "other" dojo in University of Massachussets in Amherst. I had never practiced karate with anyone not from Puerto Rico until that time. I was to learn in time that a lot of people from the Island also studied at Amherst, some starting Goju there under Kimo, and for those, Amherst was their "Ochoa".

Although we practiced the same katas and the same style of karate, the cultural differences were telling and expressed themselves technically in subtle ways. I realized that even Kimo had "adjusted" to how we did karate because, after all, most of his students here were formed by the sensei in Ochoa and they, in turn, by Shinoda. The Amherst students were more informal and quite a few had practiced other martial arts which was a novelty then for most of us that only knew Goju. On the other hand, the Amherst crowd seemed more knowledgeable in terminology than us. The woman karatecas that came down were also more committed than ours in general, more intense in their practice.

Reading intent has a lot to do with cultural traits and we found out that we read each other differently, often misreading looks and corporal cues. Kimo must have known this because he laughed a lot when we paired off with them in a kumite or bunkai. Eye contact, above all, proved to be the most difficult to sustain without misreading.

I encountered this many times afterwards and learned that it was an element that needed to be factored in when practicing kumite.

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