Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo Essay
By: Michael Sampat
Dedicated to my mother,
For whom all of this was done
Without whom none of this was possible
Table of Contents
Karatedo and I – Past, Present and Future 6
Unique Aspects of Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo 7
Comparison of Shorinjiryu Kenkokan and other styles (general/specific) 8
Comparison of Shorinjiryu Kenkokan and other sports (general/specific) 9
Personal Interpretation of Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Motto 10
Personal Interpretation of Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Dojo Kun 11
Personal Training for Karatedo in Daily Life 13
Dojo Etiquette 14
Being a Black Belt 15
In Gratitude 17
Appendix A 18
Appendix B 19
Appendix C 19
A Moment on the Beach
the spark waited there,
I blew on it and it flamed,
it will always be
I have waited a long time for this moment. I am about to do the black belt exam. I am nervous but I am also eager. I want to feel this pain. I want to earn the right to be called a sensei. I want to prove my hard work and determination. Today will be a good day.
Full Name: Rajendra Michael Sampat
Date of Birth: June 23, 1978
Place of Birth: Toronto, Canada
Height: 5’ 8”
Weight: 155 lbs.
Eye Colour: Brown
Hair Colour: Black
Marital Status: Single
Permanent Address: 23 Muirbank Blvd., Toronto, ON M1C 4T7
Educational Background: - 4th year Sociology Specialist at University of Toronto
- Applying to Masters Program in Criminology at several universities in January 2010.
Date of Commencement of karatedo training: Wednesday, October 19, 2005
- Style: Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo
- Sensei: Shihan Paul Jackman
- Dojo: Ken Nin Kai Dojo
- Founder: Shinan Masayoshi Kori Hisataka
Present Dojo and Sensei/Shihan’s Name and Rank: Ken Nin Kai, Shihan Paul Jackman, Kenshi, 4th Dan
Records: see Appendix A - D
Karatedo and I – past, present and future
When I first began to study karatedo, it offered me a path out of darkness and into the light. I had chosen a course in life that I thought would make things easy, but which had in fact made them more difficult and dangerous. My bad decision making reached its peak when, in spite of being intoxicated and incapable of safely operating a motor-vehicle, I took the wheel and almost myself killed in a car accident, recklessly endangering others in the process. Fortunately no one else was hurt, and although I sustained some fairly serious injuries, they would turn out to be a blessing in disguise – karma. My doctor said I would need to use crutches for 8 – 10 weeks and he assigned me a professional physiotherapist. But Shihan Paul Jackman, who had befriended me years earlier when we worked together at a stock brokerage, offered me some very practical exercises and techniques to improve my condition. These were far more effective than what the therapist had advised, and I was off the crutches in about 6 weeks. This convinced me that Shihan Paul’s karatedo must be very good, so I joined his school. When I arrived I was struck, both by the incredible knowledge and the friendly reception I received there.
Presently I am happier than I have ever been, and I have karatedo to thank for it. It has given me a new lease on life, opened my mind to limitless possibilities, and introduced me to a side of myself I never knew I had. Karatedo has instilled incredible confidence in me, and helped me cultivate self-esteem. Equally vital, karatedo has greatly improved my relationships with friends and family, by developing my interpersonal skills, but more importantly, by improving my sense of empathy and general good-will towards people. I believe that because karatedo causes the student to experience the feeling of defeating an opponent and being defeated, of causing and feeling pain, that the student develops a deep understanding and sympathy for the suffering of others, as well as taking great pleasure in their happiness. For me this has translated into a love of teaching. I thoroughly enjoy showing what I have learned thus far to new students, helping them reap the many benefits that karatedo has brought to my life and seeing their excitement at learning. Having just returned from competing in Japan, and being honoured to meet and spend time with many illustrious karateka there, I now seek to devote more time to studying karatedo, so that I can repay the masters there for the knowledge they imparted to me. I will return their kindness forward, by passing it on to other students, as we have all been taught.
As I look to my future in karatedo, one giant question looms in my mind – will I have what it takes to pass the black-belt exam? I keep telling myself that I can do it; that I just have to remember not to give up, no matter how hard it gets; that if my senior karateka-family can do it, so can I. I know all of these things are true, but I still doubt. Maybe that is one of the lessons of the exam – to believe in one’s self. Once the exam is behind me, I look forward to studying karatedo at a higher level, learning new kata and kumite, bringing honour to my dojo and spreading the word about karatedo as a qualified instructor of this beautiful art-form. The futures of karatedo and I, look very bright to me.
Unique Aspects of Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo
A number of unique elements impress themselves immediately when considering Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo. Those which have had the greatest influence on me include:
1) Breathing methods which emphasize inhaling and holding the breath in the tanden, until after one has performed the technique or combination, before finally exhaling during zanshin.
2) The use of full-body motion.
3) The use of anzen bogu, particularly Supersafe protective equipment, with bare hands and feet.
Proper breathing is absolutely necessary in order to develop fast, accurate, and powerful techniques. In “Essential Shorinjiryu Karatedo”, Hanshi Hisataka explain’s the benefit of retaining oxygen in the tanden during the execution of one’s technique. Accuracy is improved, as in the example of an archer who holds his breath before he lets go his arrow; power is amplified, as when we instinctively hold our breath when pushing a large object; and one’s speed increases, as a ball full of air bounces lightly (Hisataka, 1994, p. 72).
Observing the methods of other styles, including karatedo styles, and other martial arts and sciences, I have never seen any that advocate such complete use of the entire body, in the full articulation of one’s technique, as does Shorinjiryu Kenkokan. This allows for greater impact, since one is applying more mass by using the entire body and greater energy, since all the muscles of the body are providing power (Hisataka, 1994, p. 73). Hanshi Hisataka also notes that muscular force is “cumulative” (Hisataka, Scientific Karatedo, 1976, p. 29), meaning that the progressive addition of more and different muscle groups to the mechanics of the technique, increases the power in a snowballing effect. The minute detail with which one must control one’s entire body in order to execute a proper technique, also forces the student to learn their own body very well in order to survive. As the years go by, I begin to see details in my technique which I would never have been aware of before, and these continue to emerge as I learn more about karatedo and myself. By using the entire body, the student is also able to realize the full unity of his physical, mental and spiritual aspects, as all of these are necessary to achieve complete technical expression.
The Supersafe protective equipment was devised by So Shihan Hisataka, at the specific request of the Technical Research Committee of the World Union of Karatedo Organizations (Hisataka, 1994, p. 63). Although many other karatedo styles utilize bogu, few emphasize this sort of instruction to the degree that we do in Shorinjiryu Kenkokan. This method has been a part of our style from its earliest days, when Kaiso began training with kendo equipment (Hisataka, Scientific Karatedo, 1976, p. 244). Furthermore, the Koshiki Karatedo tournament system under which we compete uses this equipment exclusively. Other styles which utilize bogu often advocate the use of gloves or other means of protecting the hands or feet, but in keeping with karate’s ancient meaning – “empty hand” – Shorinjiryu teaches us not to clad our weapons. The equipment protects our targets, our bodies’ vital areas, while allowing us to condition our hands and feet for powerful attacks (Hisataka, Scientific Karatedo, 1976, p. 244). This gear is an ingenious addition to martial arts training technology, allowing highly realistic practice in relative safety.
Comparison of Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo to Other Styles (General/Specific)
Generally, karatedo styles which practice non-contact fighting are less prepared for real combat; their method of training does not provide the level of realism we are used to in Shorinjiryu Kenkokan. Having sparred with a number of non-contact karatedo players, who are black belts with years more experience than me, I am convinced that this is an ineffective and perhaps even dangerous method of teaching karatedo. It is ineffective because it leads students to believe that they can do things which they cannot do in more realistic circumstances, such as stopping much larger assailants with one technique, or blocking attacks directly with one’s limbs instead of escaping. Styles I have observed that do utilize bogu training to a high degree, do not have the emphasis on spiritual development, or the technique informed by modern scientific and medical principles, that Shorinjiryu Kenkokan offers students. I find our style to offer an excellent balance of hard training and spirituality; science and tradition.
A Chito Ryu school which I have observed at the University of Toronto’s Scarborough Campus, exhibited markedly less body movement in the execution of its techniques. For instance, they advocate complete stillness of the feet during the execution of basic punches, as a means of providing stability, whereas Shorinjiryu teaches students to pivot for greater power and balance. Chito Ryu practitioners also exhale during the execution of techniques, not after as we do in Shorinjiryu. Another interesting difference between the two styles which I observed was a far less developed regimen for observing etiquette and spirituality in the Chito Ryu environment. The classes which I observed did not meditate, and the bowing in and out ceremony consisted of one quick bow to the shomen. These karateka did not bow when they entered and left the dojo either. I believe that because they do not observe etiquette in a systematic manner, this school loses out on a lot of the benefits of communication and personal interaction that karatedo has to offer. I noticed that the black belts were reticent to even introduce themselves to the students or others observing the class. The instructors would often forget the students’ names, and would not communicate with them at all after class. The two groups changed in the same room, but separated by twenty feet, with absolutely no interaction. This lack of camaraderie was probably the most troubling difference I noticed about this school. Strict adherence to a protocol which pays respect to everyone, provides a framework within which people can control and understand the powerful emotions engaged during karatedo practice.
Regarding other martial arts and sports specifically, I am very interested by Muay Thai, Ju Jitsu, and boxing/kick-boxing. I admire the hard work ethic and tough training methods of Muay Thai, but I find their techniques and strategy underdeveloped, without enough emphasis on escaping and movement. I enjoy Ju Jitsu training on the ground, and believe it is absolutely essential to have good basic skills in this area, but I also advocate developing a strong take-down defense and I think going to the ground is generally a bad strategy in a street fight situation. Boxing and kick-boxing are interesting, both for the realism and the fascinating footwork and head movement; here my only complaint is that they tend to downplay the significance of spirituality and mental discipline because they are very focused on athleticism. All things considered, Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo offers the most comprehensive and practical system for defending one’s self in a street fight situation, while also benefitting the student through mental and spiritual advancement.
Comparison of Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo to Other Sports (General/Specific)
All sports share certain important considerations including diet, physical fitness or conditioning, and safety. Knowing this we can learn from other sports, borrowing from their experiences. For example, by studying the nutritional intake of other athletes and the logic behind their choices, we can arrive at better decisions in terms of our own food. We can also borrow techniques from other athletic pursuits, such as the widely used visualization method, which Hanshi advocates (Hisataka, 1994, p. 50). New fitness routines, various calisthenic exercises, and novel training methods and technologies are constantly being developed by other athletes and fighters. We can study these and adapt them for our specific needs in karatedo and other areas of life. Similarly, all sports require the player to develop skills and attributes so that they can execute techniques with precision and timing. By studying the means other sports use to build their athletes’ abilities, we can acquire new ways of learning and teaching. Although all sports require discipline and a framework of rules and etiquette, few display the strict adherence to propriety and respect that Shorinjiryu Kenkokan does. Similarly, though almost every sport requires a spiritual commitment, as players strive against one another through pain and danger, there are none that I know of that have such a consistent emphasis on continuous spiritual development as this style does. For this reason, I have always felt that karatedo goes beyond what any sport can mean to an individual.
There are a number of specific parallels which can be drawn between Shorinjiryu Kenkokan and other sports. The unified movement utilizing the entire body is simply the most practical method for generating power and can be seen in numerous sports, where they apply the same principles of natural and medical science that Shorinjiryu does. The swing of the golfer is often compared to our punches, because of the way the athlete must completely rotate the hips in order to generate torque. Other sports maneuvers which involve this sort of unified body motion, with full rotation of the hips, include the hockey slapshot, the baseball swing and the field hockey swing. In the area of track and field, we can see a number of sports which utilize breathing techniques which are similar to Shorinjiryu Kenkokan’s. Shot putters, pole vaulters and discuss throwers all inhale and retain their breath throughout their technique, only exhaling after they have completed the motion (zanshin). Kaiso emphasized this breathing method because he believed that in the state between inhalation and exhalation, when the body is retaining oxygen, it can react with optimum power, accuracy and speed (Hisataka, Essential Shorinjiryu Karatedo, 1994, p. 72). Another interesting parallel can be made between Shorinjiryu and fencing; both use protective equipment. Although many sports use protective equipment, such as hockey and football, fencing and Shorinjiryu have something in common in this area which few other sports share. In most sports, protective equipment is worn to shield the athlete from impacts which are frequent but unintentional (e.g. the idea in hockey is to get the puck in the net; the goalie wears equipment so he can stop the puck without injuring himself). In our style and in fencing, the protective equipment protects a specific target; the idea is to attack the equipment in such a way that, if it were not there then someone would get hurt. This is highly unusual in sports – most will either protect the person, or in the case of some other combative sports such as boxing, cover the weapon. But protecting the target offers clear advantages over protecting one’s weapons, such as the ability to use a variety of techniques and natural weapons which would be impossible to cover safely (e.g. the knee, the foot, the elbow, the heel). Kendo practitioners are well aware of the benefits of this type of training, as it is from them that Kaiso got the first bogu (Hisataka, Scientific Karatedo, 1976, p. 244).
Cite and Provide Personal Interpretation of Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Motto
Dokuji Gyo Seiki
Spiritual Development of Individuality in Mind and Body
As I understand this motto, there are three essential elements which can be discussed separately: the mind and body, individuality, and the spirit. This approach allows us to see the way different concepts within the motto interact with each other. By examining these notions in this order, I draw attention to the way karatedo can spread outward from the student to “complete harmony with creation” (Hisataka, Essential Shorinjiryu Karatedo, 1994, p. 217). This view of the dojo kun should not take away from the understanding that these component parts are all inextricably linked, and constantly reproducing each other.
The mind and body are of course the essential components of human life, and are utilized in everything we do. Karateka are always engaged in promoting the health and development of these parts of themselves, but they must also seek to encourage their harmony. Mind and body must be unified so that when it is time to act there is not hesitation or confusion – only certain action. This part of the motto is concerned with the karateka personally.
It may seem odd that karatedo is considered to develop individuality. Everyone wears the same clothes at karate, everyone does the same kata; the only differentiating thing between karateka is their rank – the colour of their belt. But individuality is developed from the very beginning of karatedo training and continues to do so throughout the learning process. I see this occurring in two principle ways:
1) Through years of training physically and mentally, tremendous confidence and self-esteem are acquired, which allow karateka to express themselves fully.
2) By practicing the same basic techniques, kata and kumite as everyone else, the student learns how to make these methods work for them – maximizing their strengths and minimizing their weaknesses.
Over time the student begins to realize parts of his personality that he never knew before – developing an individuality that may never have even come to light without the daily practice of karatedo and the lessons in confidence and courage that it teaches. I see this part of the motto as broadening outward to affect others, despite the fact that it is about individuality. Only through engaging other karateka can you build yourself.
Karatedo is very concerned with spiritual matters as well. “Zen has brought karatedo into the realm of religion” (Hisataka, Scientific Karatedo, 1976, p. 15), Hanshi proclaims on the very first page of “Scientific Karatedo”. By practicing karatedo we are engaging in active zen, a form of meditation done with full movement of the body, unlike mokuso, when the body is still. Of course spirit, or fighting spirit, is one of the essential qualities of a good karateka. We need good spirit to practice karatedo; spirit is what gives us strength when we are tired; spirit is what keeps us walking into the shiaijo even when we are scared. Through meditation, propriety, and active zen,our style always maintains spiritual development. This is where karatedo expands outward into all creation, as zen philosophy and spirituality have no limit.
Cite and Provide Personal Interpretation of Dojo Kun
Dojo Kun: The Kenkokan School Principles
1. Maintain propriety, etiquette, dignity, and grace.
2. Gain self-understanding by tasting the true meaning of combat.
3. Search for pure principles of being, truth, justice and beauty.
4. Exercise positive personality – confidence, courage, and determination.
5. Always seek to develop the character further, aiming toward perfection and complete harmony with creation.
“Karatedo practice begins and ends with courtesy”, Hanshi reminds us (Hisataka, Scientific Karatedo, 1976, p. 23). Good manners are a very important consideration for any person, and we should all try to develop this characteristic. But for the karateka, remembering courtesy is extremely important. These customs are handed down from ancient karate practitioners, but there are a number of salient reasons why they remain as important today as ever. First and foremost, karateka must maintain an “attitude of restraint, respect for each other, and sportsmanship” (Hisataka, Scientific Karatedo, 1976, p. 23), or risk serious injury or even death. Our style can be very dangerous so we must always bear in mind that we are friends, trying to help each other to learn and grow.
Through shiai and other forms of training, Shorinjiryu Kenkokan students are able to simulate combat very realistically and this allows us to learn much about ourselves. If sports allow us to strive against each other, to push ourselves to the limit in competition, then fighting takes this to the next level. Not only are we struggling against our opponent to the best of our ability, we are striving against ourselves. We are battling our own fear and rage. We are engaging the darkest parts of our own personality, and turning them to constructive ends. Furthermore, through these teachings we are learning a great deal about our strengths and weaknesses, our talents and our limits. These lessons apply to physical confrontations such as in shiai, but also in every other area of life.
By searching for “pure principles of being, truth, justice and beauty” (Hisataka, Essential Shorinjiryu Karatedo, 1994, p. 217), the dojo kun grounds our training and philosophy in concepts which carry intrinsic and universal value. Nearly all human beings acknowledge and promote the value of these concepts. Karateka must always defend and uphold these values, and search for their manifestations in daily life, in karatedo practice, and in one’s self.
In karatedo practice, we are constantly being called upon to exercise confidence, courage and determination. This is an excellent attitude to put forward as it stresses the output of our most positive characteristics. By always keeping these attributes foremost in our personality and attitude, we will always put our best foot forward and be ready for any new challenges in the dojo or in life.
Finally, we are never satisfied with our development in karatedo, but always seek to improve ourselves further. Since the final goal is perfection, there is very little chance of us achieving that anytime soon, so we might as well just keep going. We can never learn all there is to know in karatedo. When we begin on this path, we must pledge ourselves to be forever students, to always seek to expand our horizons and discover new possibilities. It is interesting that “perfection” is linked so intimately to “harmony with creation” – only when we are truly perfect can we achieve harmony and only when we have harmony will we be perfect.
Cite and Provide Explanation of Favourite:
My favourite hand technique for attacking is hineri zuki or twist punch. It is my most powerful and accurate technique and I have scored the most with it in shiai. I will usually start attacking with my feet and then go to my hineri zuki.
When attacking with my feet I like oi mawashi geri or lunging round-house kick. This technique is powerful, fast and easy to follow-up with my other favourite attacking technique – hineri zuki.
Hineri zuki is my favourite hand technique for defense as well. I try to set it up by waiting for my opponent to throw a hineri mawashi geri and then stepping in with the hineri zuki. This technique has worked well for me in the past, but the timing must be very good.
I like to throw my hineri mae geri defensively, usually as a jamming technique, in a sen no sen timing strategy. This technique flows very well for me and is very powerful.
My favourite combination is shomen suki, hineri zuki, oi mawashi geri. This technique has allowed me to score many times in shiai. When I throw my punches to jodan, my opponents will often step back and raise their hands, which leaves an opening for my chudan mawashi geri.
I have always liked Kata Nijishiho the most of all. The opening sequence with my favourite technique, hineri zuki, was exciting the first time I was taught it. I also like the angular movement and attacks because it is when I learned this kata that I first began make good use of angles during shiai. This kata demands that student have good angles or it will not look correct. Most of all, I like the energy I get when I perform Nijishiho. It makes me feel like a kid again, light and quick, but strong.
There is no kumite which fascinates me more than Rangori Go. I like the beginning, because it requires hangeki to make the first move, by faking an opening for kogeki. This was very intriguing to me when I first learned this kumite and it still is. I also like the ending, when both players throw mawashi geri and cover with kosa uke.
Personal Training for Karatedo in Daily Life
Karatedo has heavily influenced my daily routines in a number of important ways. It has certainly introduced a lot more regular exercise to my regimen, it has improved my diet, and it has given me the knowledge and strength to try new and different activities.
Before I began studying karatedo, I would get very little regular exercise. It simply was not a part of my routine, although I would engage in casual sports games around my neighbourhood. Outside of the dojo, karatedo has first and foremost introduced me to running, and I love it. I never jogged before karate but now I usually jog three to four times a week for a half an hour to forty five minutes. When I was training for Japan 2009, looking to cut weight for the light division, I would run for an hour a day and I felt great! I like running because I can forget about my problems for a while and just focus on what I am doing, staying in “the zone”. In order to simulate fighting situations in my running, I will alternate bursts of intense speed with slower jogging, which I have found to be very effective in improving stamina during shiai.
Another skill which I improved during training for Japan was maintaining a healthy diet. Losing weight requires exercise, but the really important issue is your intake – diet and nutrition. Karatedo has taught me to be conscious about what I eat because I would notice differences in my performance in class depending on my diet. Also my energy level both in and out of the dojo would fluctuate wildly from day to day until I began to consciously eat balanced meals. But losing weight for Japan taught me how little I could eat and survive, and even exercise strenuously. I was amazed at how little food the body really needs to maintain weight. I now realize that maintaining a healthy diet is essential to karatedo training.
I have also begun to read more about karatedo, in order to broaden my knowledge and the sources of my learning. I continue to study “Scientific Karatedo” and “Essential Shorinjiryu Karatedo”, but I also read about other martial arts styles or concepts. I am now interested, after writing this essay, in looking into the strategy and tactics of fencing, which may have some interesting parallels with our own ideas.
Karatedo has profoundly affected my life, but my life also profoundly affects my karatedo, so I try to maintain a balance between the different spheres of my life such as home, school and the dojo. In the dojo, we train for what we may encounter on the street. Does this mean then, that we should train on the street for what we may encounter in the dojo? At any rate, wherever we go, we are karateka. We must always seek to improve our knowledge and understanding of karatedo. There is no use in trying to separate daily life from the dojo or vice versa. Karatedo is life and vice versa.
Explanation of Dojo Etiquette
Maintaining propriety, etiquette, dignity and respect are the focus of the first principle of the dojo kun. The reason it is placed first is because, “karatedo begins and ends with courtesy” (Hisataka, Scientific Karatedo, 1976, p. 23). Without common courtesy, the practice of karatedo cannot continue, for a variety of reasons. These include the violent nature of karatedo training, the attitude of modesty which is so important, and the outlook necessary in order to teach and learn.
Etiquette is very important in the dojo because of the violent activity we are practicing in karatedo. Powerful, negative emotions are released during this kind of learning. Without any malice on the part of the competitors, it is common to see aggression get out of hand in situations such as these. In order to maintain a spirit of friendship, we must always be polite and show each other the utmost respect. Dojo etiquette makes this mandatory, and stipulates exactly how this should take place and when. By taking the guess –work out of courtesy, dojo etiquette prevents misunderstandings from turning into ugly incidents.
Bowing and showing proper courtesy also cultivates an attitude of modesty and humility. Because we always show everyone respect, it becomes part of our habit, our very nature, and happens without any thought. Soon showing respect to people happens automatically, and this sense of esteem for our fellow human beings will translate into their greater admiration for us. As with basic techniques, by practicing manners in the dojo in an exaggerated way, we prepare ourselves for situations when we are called upon to act without thinking. Since we always practice our punches with a full rotation of the hip, when are called upon to throw a punch in the street, chances are we will utilize at least some hip motion. The same is true for manners, where the overstated manners and gentility displayed in the dojo translate into a natural tendency to be polite and respectful, a good quality to maintain.
Finally, learning is impossible in an environment that is hostile or where one does not feel comfortable and safe. The regimen of dojo etiquette prevents personal problems between students from interfering with the operation of the school or the learning of individual students. It further prevents any teachers who may have personal issues with students from using their power against the powerless. While these examples are rather extreme, they illustrate the nature of the mundane sort of misunderstanding that happens every day in these environments. Whenever you have a group of people who do not know each other very well, or have a lot of experience with each other, there will be small misinterpretations, different ways of doing and seeing things, etc. These may tend to conflict unless there is an overarching framework which governs most of the major decisions. The situation becomes even more complicated when dealing with karateka on the international stage, when you have very different cultural understandings of courtesy and etiquette clashing. Dojo etiquette provides a standard by which all can and will be judged, so that no one can feel insulted for private reasons, unrelated to that central outline.
What Being a Black Belt Will Mean to Me
Being a black belt has a number of meaningful aspects for me. I look forward to being a sensei, and teaching what I know to younger students. I am also aware of the heavy responsibility that being a black belt carries, that I must always uphold the honour of my dojo and my senseis. Most of all, I see the black belt as a chance at a new beginning.
Being a sensei, from what I can see, means being a student and a teacher at the same time. All the black belts I know are teaching mudansha until Shihan Paul comes around, and then they are learning. They take their duty to teach very seriously and enjoy sharing their knowledge. But they still seek knowledge, as if getting the black belt really excited them about learning. They are always discussing questions of karatedo technique or philosophy, or discussing the finer points of a kata or kumite. I think that this will certainly apply to me as well, since I already feel this way when I am asked to show some basic techniques to new students.
Being a black belt also means that one must uphold the dignity and reputation of the dojo, both in karatedo matters and in daily life. Black belt means you have been admitted to the ranks of serious karateka, so anything that I do will affect the reputation of all students of Shorinjiryu. This means that it will be my responsibility to always behave in an upright and honourable manner. Karatedo has already instilled this attitude in me, but being a black belt will make it that much more serious and important. Knowing that I will bear the reputation of my dojo wherever I go will make me very proud indeed, since our dojo has produced so many good and honourable karateka. But it will also make me feel very humble, since there were many great figures who wore this belt before me and now I must attempt to live up to their memory.
The most important thing I see about being a black belt is that I feel it will offer me a new chance at life. I felt when I joined karate that I had made a lot of mistakes in life, perhaps too many. I now feel like I have a chance to make up for those. Passing the black belt exam will convince me that my luck has turned, that I can finally move forward in life. But now I will be moving forward as a black belt; stronger, happier and more sure of myself than ever before. I look forward to a new day, a new life, a new beginning.
If this essay has been an exploration of what karatedo has taught me, then let me try to express in the conclusion, what karatedo means to me. Karatedo represents a philosophical, social and spiritual ideology – an approach to life which promotes strength, independence and courage as well as good health and long life. Karatedo has affected every aspect of my life, and on a daily basis I continue to notice the benefits of my training. I will probably never be able to really know all the many, interwoven advantages and rewards that I have reaped from this art-form. Karatedo’s influence has affected every part of my mind, my reality, my soul. I would like to analyze here some of the influences karatedo has had on my life, discuss its effects on my interpersonal relationships with family, friends and business associates, then assess some of karatedo’s broader social implications.
I have already discussed the gains to my health which karatedo has brought, through general physical fitness and increased attention to diet, but there are many other subtle boons which people garner from martial arts practice. The introduction of a stable routine and the reduction in stress that are associated with karatedo have demonstrable health benefits. It is also difficult to quantify the numerous blessings conferred by socializing with other karateka, in terms of physical, mental and emotional well-being. Mental health and acuity are also increased through karatedo training; in part because of the constant learning and strategizing that karateka must undertake in order to remain competitive. Physical and mental strength lead to greater confidence and self-esteem, the psychological elements of good health; these qualities prepare the karateka to face the challenges of life.
Life is about people and the relationships we build. Karatedo has introduced me to some of the most amazing people I have ever met, and I am not only referring to the mysterious masters and great champions from foreign lands the world over. I am also talking about the ordinary people I have met who had an interest in this art form and took it up. It takes a special kind of person to practice karatedo day in and day out, and I am proud and honoured to call many extraordinary people my friends, whom I met through karatedo – though they may be “ordinary”men and women like me. Karatedo’s psychological and emotional rewards have produced better relations with my family and friends as well; I think we can give love better, when we love ourselves. By promoting the karateka’s self-image, karatedo improves his interaction with others. These attributes, along with the perseverance and dedication that are so essential to a karateka’s personality, will provide invaluable aid in educational and business settings as well. Every sphere of the student’s life is affected positively by his training and mental/spiritual discipline; this is the beginning of harmony.
These benefits to the student and to his immediate sphere of intimates will ripple outward into the community and society. Ken Nin Kai dojo provides a good example of this process; located in an economically depressed and sometimes dangerous neighbourhood, where students are often disadvantaged not only because of their family’s low income, but also socially and culturally due to poor language education, lack of access to services, and the systemic racism which is endemic to Canadian society. Our dojo is a place where kids can be safe, learn valuable lessons in life, and are not judged, but accepted. Students of karatedo grow well in these positive environments, becoming excellent citizens, who are hard working, upstanding, and not afraid to defend what is right. As good citizens, karateka affect their national institutions and environments; this effect is then felt across the world. Karatedo is a global, cultural and artistic phenomenon. Those karateka who go forward with a strong, positive spirit will spread our message of peace and love throughout the world.
Karatedo has allowed me to become happier and healthier than I have ever been and I would like to thank the many people who helped me reach this point in my life. Without the love and support of the people around me, I would not have been able to succeed as a karateka or as a human being. Those to whom I am beholden, in terms of my progress in karatedo, can be seen as comprising three distinct groups. I will begin with my immediate family, move to a thank you of my dojo-family, then look outward onto the global family.
My father has been a solid presence throughout my life, always believing I would make something of myself. Becoming a sensei will validate his belief in me in many ways, and I hope to see him smiling proudly at me one day in my black belt. My mother passed away when I was eighteen, but the years she spent raising me, her memory, and her felt presence, still influence me to this day. When I was training for Japan last summer, I would run through the parks and see all manner of wildflowers. I began transplanting them to my garden at home, which I had not worked on very much since my mother died - the garden in front had been one of her favourite pastimes. As the garden began to look beautiful again, I felt like she was with me there. I would run with flowers to my house as part of my training, thinking I could feel her with me. In this way my mother’s memory and karatedo are linked, so I must offer her thanks as well. My sister has always been an immense support to me, both in my daily life and in karatedo. She always encouraged me to pursue this art-form, even though she does not quite understand it or why I do it. She knows that it makes me happy, and that is enough for her. Without her generosity, I would never have been able to make the trip to Japan. I would like to offer my deepest appreciation and gratitude to my family, for making me who I am.
To my dojo-family, my sincere appreciation is also owed. My sensei, Shihan Paul Jackman, has been my friend for over ten years, and taught me many things in that time, even before I began training in karatedo. I think now, that he was always my sensei, but I could not see it. To the other yudandsha in the dojo, I am also eternally grateful. Their encouragement and advice has been an indispensable element of my training. Finally, to those mudansha junior to me, I would also like to offer my thanks - the adults’ strength and determination drive me to work harder; the kids’ joy in learning and innocence inspire me.
Karatedo is a global phenomenon, with practitioners in practically every nation. My own experience in karatedo has taken me to many locations in Canada and to the other side of the planet to compete in the 2009 World Cup. I would like to thank all the shihan and sensei in the Canadian federation, including especially Shihan Robin Campbell, Shihan Phillip Nadeau and Shihan Luc Gilbert. From my trip abroad I would like to send my sincere appreciation to Shihan Mamadou Diallo and the Swiss team, Shihan Nigel McReaddie, Shihan Nick King and the Australian Team, Shihan Olaf Lotze-Leoni, and everyone else we met there. To Hanshi Masayuki Kukan Hisataka, Shihan Masamitsu Hisataka, Shihan Hiroshi Hisataka, and all my other friends from Japan, my gratitude for my short time spent with you can never be expressed in words. I only hope to gain enough wisdom to one day repay your kindness and friendship. Because of your amazing gift to the world (i.e. karatedo), students from around the globe can relate to each other, despite extreme cultural and linguistic differences. Karatedo brings people from many walks of life together, showing us how much we all have in common. In a sense, we are all connected, as human beings in a global ecological system, and depend on each other to survive. If karatedo is about seeking “complete harmony with creation” (Hisataka, Essential Shorinjiryu Karatedo, 1994, p. 217), then I must offer my thanks to creation – to life itself. Here at the end, the place of honour, my most undying gratitude goes to the Creator.
Appendix A – Promotion Record
Date Examiners Name Rank Graded
Dec 2005 Shihan Paul Jackman 8th kyu
Apr 200 6 Shihan Paul Jackman 7th kyu
Jul 2006 Shihan Paul Jackman 6th kyu
Sept 2006 Shihan Paul Jackman 5th kyu
Jan 2007 Shihan Paul Jackman 4th kyu
Jun 2007 Shihan Paul Jackman 3rd kyu
Jan 2008 Shihan Paul Jackman 2nd kyu
Jun 2008 Shihan Paul Jackman 1st kyu
Jan 2009 Shihan Paul Jackman Shodan Recommended
Nov 2009 Shihan Robin Campbell Shodan Exam
Appendix B – Tournament Record
Date Place Kata Kumite Shiai
Mar 2006 Toronto, ON 4th N/A 3rd
Mar 2007 Mirabel, PQ - 2nd 3rd
May 2007 St Jerome, PQ - N/A -
Sep 2007 Toronto, ON (Ken Nin Kai) 2nd N/A 3rd
Mar 2008 Toronto, ON - N/A 3rd
Sep 2008 Toronto, ON (Ken Nin Kai) 2nd N/A 2nd
Mar 2009 Toronto, ON 1st N/A 2nd
Sep 2009 Tokyo, Japan - N/A -
Appendix C – Demonstrations Record
Oct 2006 Crescentown Community Centre, Toronto, ON
Oct 2007 Crescentown Community Centre, Toronto, ON
Oct 2008 Crescentown Community Centre, Toronto, ON
July 2009 West Scarborough Boys and Girls Club, Toronto, ON
Sep 2009 Japanese Cultural Festival, Tokyo, Japan
Appendix D – Seminars, Training Camps, Clinics
1. June 2006, Koshiki Karatedo Seminars, Toronto, ON, 1 day, So Shihan Masayuki Hisataka
2. July 2006, Ken Nin Kai Summer Camp, Long Point, ON, 2 days, Shihan Paul Jackman
3. January 2007, Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Winter Camps, St Agathe, PQ, 2 days, Shihan Robin Campbell, Shihan Philippe Nadeau, Shihan Luc Gilbert
4. May 2007, Ken Nin Kai Summer Camp, Turkey Point, ON, 2 days, Shihan Paul Jackman
5. January 2008, Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Winter Camp, St Souphie, PQ, 2 days, Shihan Paul Jackman
6. June 2008, Ken Nin Kai Summer Camp, Turkey Point, ON, 2 days, Shihan Paul Jackman
7. February 2009, Ken Nin Kai Winter Camp, London, ON, 2 days, Shihan Paul Jackman
8. September 2009, Koshiki Karatedo Seminar, Tokyo, Japan, 3 hours, So Shihan Masayuki Hisataka
9. September 2009, Koshiki Karatedo Referee Seminar, Tokyo, Japan, So Shihan masayuki Hisataka
Hisataka, M. K. (1994). Essential Shorinjiryu Karatedo. Singapore: Charles E. Tuttle Publishing Co., Inc.
Hisataka, M. K. (1976). Scientific Karatedo. Tokyo, Japan: Japan Publications Inc.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Indigenous women are one of the most marginalized and vulnerable groups in almost every part of the world that they inhabit (Kuokkanen 2008, 220); they are also among the hardest hit by the negative effects of globalization (Kuokkanen 2008, 216). To make this situation worse, while violence against women is a very serious problem in a variety of social and cultural groups, in the Indigenous context it is endemic – so prevalent it has been referred to as a “plague” (Rouleau 2004, 36). Canada is unfortunately, no exception to this rule. Aboriginal women here experience one of the highest levels of poverty and disenfranchisement in Canadian society, and also face a higher risk of violent attack than any other segment of the population (Amnesty International 2004, 105). The structural origins of these problems can be traced to catastrophic changes in the Aboriginal way of life, brought about by institutions and processes such as colonialism, capitalism, Patriarchy and racism. The introduction of these new influences on Aboriginal reality affected changes to what Gayle Rubin refers to as Aboriginal people’s “sex/gender system” (Rubin 1975, 159), resulting in radical shifts in Aboriginal cultural life, gender roles and family forms, which contributed directly to the increase in violence against Aboriginal women. These forces are still at work today, confounding attempts by Aboriginal women and their allies to reduce the damage done by history and bad government policy. Despite some setbacks, the tenacious energy of these women continues to gradually improve the situation, although realistic official intervention should be expedited immediately.
As in many pre-industrial societies, evidence indicates that early Aboriginal cultures were fairly equitable toward women (Amnesty International 2004, 110). Women’s role was well-established in Iroquois/Mohawk political processes and among the Innu there was a power-sharing relationship between the genders (Quebec Native Women Inc. 2008, 4). Indigenous women also had important roles to play in terms of reproductive labour, such as gathering food, preparing clothing, etc. – a family needed a woman and a man in order to function (Quebec Native Women Inc. 2008, 4). While European women were regarded as property, first of their father and then of their husband, the majority of North American Indigenous cultures included women in positions of power and matrilineal family forms (Harper 2006, 34). Indigenous sex/gender systems such as these would soon change radically as colonization began to take hold.
Early relations with Europeans were fairly equitable, with the new arrivals receiving help in order to survive, but this cooperation quickly gave way to brutal conquest and imperialism, predicated on the notion of Aboriginal racial inferiority, which rationalized official government mandates of assimilation and paternalism (Harper 2006, 34). Such ideas gave rise to two of the most devastating historical attacks on Indian culture and identity: the residential school system and the Indian Act. These policies were explicitly designed to obliterate Aboriginal culture through re-education and gradual incorporation. Residential schools subjected Aboriginal children to abuse, appalling living conditions and punished them for communicating in their native language or practicing their traditions, leading to widespread, multigenerational alienation from their culture (Quebec Native Women Inc. 2008, 5). The Indian Act instituted paternalistic policies which denied Aboriginal people self-determination and later segregated them in reserves (Rouleau 2004, 37). The outcome of these programs on Aboriginal culture was disastrous, resulting in complete disruption of Aboriginal people’s ways of life, including their sex-gender systems, which would have demonstrable effects on levels of violence against women in their communities.
Among the Inuit of Nunavut, where resettlement took place much more recently and its more immediate effects are still being felt, we see the dramatic rise in violence that can occur when sex-gender systems are upset. Billson notes that resettlement of Inuit communities from “the land” into small villages in the 1960s was followed by a marked rise in domestic violence (Billson 2006, 70). Although there is no hard data, interviewees in her study reported that in the hunter-gatherer context, people considered family violence “despicable” and customs of informal social control would impose severe sanctions on men who violated these norms (Billson 2006, 72). Resettlement destroyed the balance between spheres of home and hunt, which prior to that had been the principle organizing paradigm in Inuit family life; the mutually dependent roles of provider and seamstress were made problematic by the forced abandonment of men’s hunting equipment, dogs and sleds, although women were permitted to bring their tools, leading to a reversal of income generating roles (Billson 2006, 74). Loss of their provider function led men to lowered self-esteem and dramatically higher rates of substance abuse, depression and suicide, in addition to endemic family violence (Billson 2006, 74). Resettlement led to fundamental shifts in the gendered balance of power in Inuit families and communities and became one of the major factors in the alarming increase in violence against Inuit women (Billson 2006, 75). The Inuit case is useful as a model for the means by which colonization, resettlement and other processes, can disrupt Indigenous sex/gender systems, with often ruinous consequences for subaltern groups.
THE INDIAN ACT
Resettlements’ effects on sex/gender systems can be traced much further back in the larger Aboriginal community, to the Indian Act (1867), the first of a series of legislative attacks on Aboriginal identity and culture. This piece of legislation was intrinsically paternalistic, placing “Indians” under state guardianship and segregating them on reserves (Quebec Native Women Inc. 2008, 37), but its effects on Aboriginal women would be much more layered and ultimately disastrous, leading to the displacement of tens of thousands (Quebec Native Women Inc. 2008, 5). An amendment in 1876 took Indian status away from women who married outside of their band, caused status to be passed down patrilineally, and disenfranchised women by removing their right to vote and hold office (Barker 2008, 259). This effectively took away a woman’s right to live on the reserve or enjoy any of her rights as an Indigenous person, if she married outside of the Aboriginal community (if she married an Aboriginal man outside of her band, she would obtain his status, but if they divorced she would not regain her status), causing many women to choose not to marry, and others to be separated from their families and cultures, sometimes forever (Barker 2008, 261-3). This withdrawal of entitlements further contributed to Aboriginal women’s poverty and marginalization; by entrenching Aboriginal male privilege, the Indian Act planted the seed and assured the reproduction of unequal gender relations, which would continue to place women in vulnerable positions for years to come (Barker 2008, 263). These forms of economic organization caused major shifts in the sex/gender systems of most Aboriginal groups, because the majority of their cultures were arranged matrilineally. Although Aboriginal women have now successfully lobbied for the repeal of the more overtly discriminatory aspects of the Indian Act, their legacy and new forms of discriminatory legislation continue to affect Aboriginal people today. For example, because divorces are handled under provincial and territorial law and reserve lands are strictly a federal matter, there is a gap in the law which leaves women unprotected with regard to the division of matrimonial real property, dispossessing them and making it difficult to escape violent situations at home (Harper 2006, 33).
These historical structures and processes have led to the extreme social and economic marginalization of Aboriginal women, which has forced them into dangerous circumstances such as poverty, homelessness and sex work in disproportionate numbers (Amnesty International 2004, 105). The police have been shown to provide inadequate protection of Aboriginal women and their resulting vulnerability is allowing them to be preyed on with severe violence by non- and Aboriginal men (Amnesty International 2004, 105). Due to a dearth of race-based data, although statistics which obtain to this issue are extremely disturbing, they frequently underestimate the magnitude of the crisis (Amnesty International 2009, 1). Statistics Canada reports that in 2004 Aboriginal women reported rates of domestic violence that were three times as high as non-Aboriginal women (Statistics Canada 2006), although this data does not take into account cultural differences and likely also misjudges the scale of the problem (National Women's Association of Canada 2009, 12) . Indigenous women have a higher risk of domestic violence than any other demographic in Canada (Quebec Native Women Inc. 2008, 3), but this is only half of the story; these women are also more likely to be the victims of the most extreme, and frequently deadly, forms of violence including choking, being attacked with a knife or gun, and sexual assault (Quebec Native Women Inc. 2008, 3). This means that violence against Aboriginal women is particularly lethal; the Canadian government stated in 1996 that Aboriginal women age 25-44 are 5 times more likely to die violently than non-Aboriginal women the same age (Amnesty International 2004, 114).
Reported cases of violence and death fail to articulate the full scale of the issue, due both to the under-reporting which frequently plagues investigations of family violence, and to the disproportionate number of Aboriginal women who go missing, never therefore being listed as dead. In The Native Women’s Association of Canada has compiled a list of over 520 missing or murdered Aboriginal women in the last three decades, an abysmal figure when considering the representation of Aboriginal women in the population and the relatively low violent crime rate in Canada (Amnesty International 2009). In 2007, 60% of the long-term missing women’s cases in the province of Saskatchewan were Aboriginal women (Amnesty International 2009, 1). In Vancouver, where Indigenous people represent 2% of the general population, but 30% of the homeless and 40% of sex workers, 60 women (20 Aboriginal) were reported missing from the Down Town East Side, one of the most economically depressed neighbourhoods in the country; Robert Pickton has been convicted in the death of 6 of these women and awaits trial for the murder of 20 more (Amnesty International 2009, 22). Amnesty International first brought attention to the dilemma of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in 2004, indicting the Canadian government for failure to live up to its obligations towards Aboriginal women under international human rights law, including a lack of due diligence in efforts to provide a safe environment (Amnesty International 2004). Efforts to address the issue in the meantime have been woefully inadequate, the most promising measures being implemented by provincial officials or police agencies, without a cohesive national strategy being deployed (Amnesty International 2009, 3-4).
These incredible statistical disparities indicate widespread structural discrimination against Aboriginal women, who experience the “double marginality” of being women and Indigenous (Billson 2006, 73). Lack of ethnic and racial statistics makes a comprehensive analysis of this issue impossible, but what is apparent is pervasive inequality. Across the country Aboriginal women earn 30% less than non-Aboriginal women; three quarters of Aboriginal households headed by a single female live in poverty (Amnesty International 2009, 7). In Manitoba, 42.7% of women living off reserve live in poverty while this figure is reduced to half for non-Aboriginal women; their average annual income is also much lower than that of either Aboriginal men or non-Aboriginal women (Harper 2006, 35) Aboriginal women are also disadvantaged in terms of educational attainment. In 2001, 40% of Aboriginal women had not graduated from high school compared to 29% of other women; only 7% had a university degree compared to 17% of the rest of women (Harper 2006, 35). Ironically, although the residential school system has been officially publicly decried and apologized for, the Canadian child welfare system continues to be responsible for an alarmingly disproportionate number of Aboriginal children ( 39.5 % of children in state care, resulting in a similar disconnection from their culture (Harper 2006, 35). The justice system is equally discriminatory, with both police and the courts being implicated in a failure to be culturally sensitive, as well as various instances of systemic racism/sexism (Harper 2006, 35).
Structural discrimination has furthermore led to a situation where many Indigenous communities in Canada, one of the world’s richest countries, live in conditions comparable to the Third World (Amnesty International 2009, 7). The federal government, charged with the sole responsibility for social welfare services such as health care on reserves, spends markedly less per person in these communities than provincial and territorial governments spend on non-Indegenous communities, despite the fact that it is more expensive to deliver services in remote communities (Amnesty International 2009, 7). These inequalities have translated into disastrous life outcomes for many Aboriginal women; they are nearly three times as likely to contract HIV/AIDS, their life-expectancy is five to ten years less than non-Aboriginal women, and the infant mortality rate in Inuit communities is four times the national numbers (Amnesty International 2009, 7).
One of the most important dimensions of structural inequality is the chronic underfunding of services aimed at Aboriginals. Although studies indicate that the ongoing process of transferring control of government programs for Aboriginal people to their community has resulted in improvements in service delivery, spending caps on many of these programs have increased disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups (Amnesty International 2009, 7). In addition to the gap in service delivery between federal programs aimed at Indigenous communities and provincial and territorial programs for non-Indigenous people (Amnesty International 2004, 114), there are also many disparities within provincial and territorial populations, for example women’s shelters in Indigenous communities in Quebec receive 1/3 the funding of other such organizations (Quebec Native Women Inc. 2008, 7). Many indigenous communities do not even have access to such services, or where they do they are not culturally appropriate (Amnesty International 2009, 7).
These micro considerations must be considered against the backdrop of the global economic system. Although scholars are now beginning to trace the linkages between globalization and violence, the gendered nature of these processes remains under-analyzed (Kuokkanen 2008, 217). Theoretical frameworks tend to be globalocentric and patriarchal, ignoring the violence women face when they resist oppression, as well as deemphasizing the importance of work done on the grass-roots and community levels (Kuokkanen 2008, 12). Many Indigenous people see globalization as a euphemism for modern, economic colonialism; institutions and processes such as patriarchy, capitalism and white supremacy overlap with globalization and produce new forms of violence against Aboriginal women (Kuokkanen 2008, 218). For example, the sex industry is now an extremely important sector in the global economy; with the high proportion of Indigenous women in this occupation, they are exposed to the higher risks associated with it such as exploitation or violent attack (Kuokkanen 2008, 221). Another example of the relationship between macro-relations at the global level and interpersonal violence, is the greater vulnerability and danger created for Aboriginal women by the state’s neoliberal economic logic, which has led to privatization of (and reduced access to) public health services, corporate control of resources and the increasing disparity in wealth (Kuokkanen 2008, 220). Increased pressure on the land for the purposes of mining, drilling, etc. has reduced economic and social security in Aboriginal communities, which also leads directly to violence (Kuokkanen 2008, 223). Although analyses have thoroughly investigated the way that processes of globalization, such as the feminization of low-wage migratory labour and resulting changes to the sex/gender systems in export processing zones, increase women’s vulnerability, there has been little examination of the so-called Fourth World within the First World– the world of Indigenous people in wealthy nations, especially women (Kuokkanen 2008, 222).
These and other forms of discrimination have led to debates about Indigenous people’s inalienable rights. The Canadian government has publicly admitted that the Indigenous situation is Canada’s most important human rights issue (Amnesty International 2004, 119). In recent years, the idea of violence against women as a human right concern has also begun to gain traction. International human rights law concerns the Canadian Aboriginal woman in two important ways: 1) Violence against Aboriginal women is itself a human rights abuse, as is the failure of government to properly protect Aboriginal women. 2) A number of other issues place Canada at risk of IHL violations, such as the residential schools program and the disproportionate levels of poverty experienced by Aboriginal people. (Amnesty International 2004, 105). Canada has already been chastised several times by the UN for its failure to honour international obligations to Aboriginal people, particularly women, and has been brought before several UN human rights bodies by its own citizens (Amnesty International 2009, 25). This country has even ignored the warnings and instructions from its own official investigations such as the 1991 inquiry into the murder and disappearance of Aboriginal woman Helen Betty Osborne or the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal People.
My research on this issue has brought a number of recommendations to light which may permit the state to better protect Aboriginal women and reduce their risk of experiencing violence. A number of very serious gaps are apparent in terms of available information on violence against Aboriginal women; these gaps are due to poor information sharing between police forces and a policy against keeping race –based statistical information (Amnesty International 2004, 115). These issues should be resolved as soon as possible; better communication between forces will improve their ability to serve the public and race-based statistics will allow academics and policy-makers to have a better idea of the problems they are trying to tackle (Amnesty International 2004, 116). The government should also seek to work more closely with Aboriginal and other social workers and agencies on the ground, rather than implementing programs and changes without consultation, which are not appropriate for the context (Rouleau 2004, 37). Furthermore, the ambivalent view many Aboriginal people hold the police in is counter-productive, and should be rectified. Because of negative stereotypes and systemic discrimination, many Aboriginal communities are in a state of being “over-policed and under-protected” (Amnesty International 2004, 117), increasing Aboriginal distrust of police forces. In order to improve this situation I recommend further training in cultural sensitivity for police officers and other justice system staff (Quebec Native Women Inc. 2008, 9), as well as efforts to increase the representation of Aboriginal people on police forces (Amnesty International 2004, 118). Hopefully, these recommendations and other continued efforts will eliminate this horrendous problem from our society once and for all.
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The U.S. government’s use of private military contractors (PMCs) in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan is “unprecedented in size and scope” (Staff, Majority, 2007, p. 29). There are consistently more employees of contractors than uniformed military personnel on the ground in these war zones (Thurnher, 2008, pp. 71-72); PMCs have more personnel in Iraq than the UK, the second largest contributor of troops (Jones, 2006, p. 355). Since it appears that the civilian presence in these regions will be increasing in the near to medium term (Holbrooke, 2009), it behooves us to examine this issue closely. The most problematic of these groups have been Private Security Contractors (PSCs), who are largely responsible for guarding diplomats and senior bureaucrats in the conflict zone. Although they represent only a small fraction of the total contractors on the ground (only about 10, 000 security and body guards compared to 265, 000 total contractor personnel (Cancian M. , 2008, p. 62)), they have been the source of almost all of the violent incidents and negative reports in the media. While this is understandable, since they are doing the most dangerous and risky work, there have been serious concerns about insufficient accountability in reported cases of misconduct and even war crimes. This blind spot in government oversight has been investigated thoroughly in the wake of an extremely violent incident on Sept 16, 2007, in which 5 members of a team of PSCs from the now infamous Blackwater USA, opened fire in a crowded Baghdad square and killed 17 people. This essay will outline the major problems with the extensive use of PSCs in Afghanistan and Iraq, discuss some of the improvements and limitations of the newly reworked governance framework regulating these actors and conclude with the recommendation that governments seriously reconsider the use of PSCs in future conflicts.
Problems Associated with PMCs
A – Escalation of Force Incidents
Although PSCs have been implicated in war crimes since NATO used them in Bosnia (Pattison, 2008, pp. 9-10), there had been little publicity regarding their presence and almost no official investigation or prosecution of contractor wrongdoing (Lehnardt, 2008, p. 1015). All this changed on Mar 31, 2004, when four employees of Blackwater USA were attacked and killed in Iraq. This incident “directly resulted in a major U.S. military offensive, which is known as the First Battle of Fallujah” and drastically changed public opinion about the war (Waxman R. H., 2007). Later that year, Blackwater Flight 61crashed in Afghanistan resulting in the death of three flight crew members and three U.S. Army personnel. Investigators found that the crash was the result of reckless conduct by the flight crew and that Blackwater had hired unqualified pilots who did not know the route and lacked the necessary experience. The flight crew was recorded commenting that they did not know the route, exclaiming about how much fun they were having and pretending they were Star Wars characters. Moreover, the lack of the required tracking devices on board the aircraft led directly to the death of one serviceman who remained alive at the scene of the crash for over ten hours, but died before help could locate him (Staff, 2007, p. 2). Though Blackwater was clearly at fault for this and furthermore, corporate documents revealed they knowingly hired unqualified personnel in order to meet demand, the incident was blamed on pilot error with no corporate responsibility alleged (Staff, 2007, p. 4). As more attention was drawn to the issue of PSCs, more controversy erupted and PSCs became a touchstone for critics of the war effort and the Bush administration.
Even with the negative publicity, most incidents of misconduct involving PSCs remained unreported in the media and there were no successful prosecutions of PSC employees (Davis, 2007, p. 15). This lack of accountability persisted despite numerous incidents involving PSCs, most often Blackwater employees (Broder & Risen, 2007). According to their own reports, Blackwater was involved in 195 “escalation of force” incidents between 2005 and October 2007, an average of 1.4 per week. Although they were authorized to use defensive force only, Blackwater employees were the first to shoot in 80 % of these occurrences (Staff, Memorandum: Additional Information about Blackwater USA, 2007, p. 6). Among other incidents, Blackwater employees have shot an innocent bystander in the head, sought to cover up a shooting that killed another bystander, and caused a major traffic accident that left an Iraqi vehicle in a “ball of flames” by driving on the wrong side of the road ( a maneuver known as “counter-flow”; they drove off without stopping to help) (Staff, Additional Information about Blackwater USA, 2007, p. 6). Blackwater employees have even dropped a riot control gas they were prohibited from using on the heads of Iraqi civilians and 10 U.S. soldiers. (Welch, 2009, p. 8). All this was done in an atmosphere of almost complete impunity.
The final blow to Blackwater’s reputation and the event which finally changed the accountability structure dealing with PSCs was the September 16, 2007 shooting incident in Nisour Square, Baghdad. A convoy of three armor-plated GMC Suburbans and two gun trucks carrying Blackwater’s security detail were returning to the green zone when five members of the security team opened fire with automatic weapons, killing 17 Iraqi civilians (Thurnher, 2008, pp. 68-9). The FBI investigation found that at least 14 of these were unjustified but the military review found that all of the deaths were wrongful (Johnston & Broder, 2007). This incident was the turning point which forced the U.S. government to reevaluate the mechanisms of oversight and accountability regarding PSCs.
B – Lack of Criminal Accountability
Until the September shootings, incidents of misconduct involving PSCs were swept under the rug. “Even in cases involving the death of Iraqis, it appears that the State Department’s primary response was to ask Blackwater to make monetary payments to ‘put the matter behind us’” (Staff, Memorandum: Additional Information about Blackwater USA, 2007, p. 9). The Christmas Eve 2006 shooting of one of the Iraqi Vice President’s guards by a drunken Blackwater security contractor is a case in point. He was arrested, but never charged, and the State Department was made aware that he returned to the United States within 36 hours. The company paid $15, 000 to the family because the original proposed sum of $250, 000 was thought by the State Department to be too much and would cause Iraqis to try and get killed for a payout (Staff, Additional Information about Blackwater USA, 2007, p. 11).
The lack of PSC accountability was caused by a number of factors, including a shortage of American officials on the ground to enforce rules. The most controversial reason has been the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) Order 17 “which gave PSCs immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts” (Thurnher, 2008, p. 69). Although U.S. military jurisdiction over these personnel was extended through amendments to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA), the decision to pursue these charges was left to prosecutors who often hesitated to engage such complex and expensive international cases (Thurnher, 2008, p. 89). This unwillingness to enforce the law, accompanied by the standard practice of paying for many incidences to go away, led to impunity for contractors. An “accountability gap” (Lehnardt, 2008, p. 1016) has been demonstrated by cases such as the Abu Ghraib scandal, where the abuse of detainees led to the prosecution and conviction of military personnel, while not one employee of 2 PMCs were ever indicted, despite investigators reporting their involvement in 36 % of proven incidents with six individuals found individually culpable (Welch, 2009, p. 359). The only sanctions being applied to PMC employees for misconduct was being fired and returned to their country (Staff, Additional Information about Blackwater USA, 2007, p. 13), where they often simply find work with other such organizations. Only recently, since the shooting at Nisour Square, have the practices in place to ensure accountability of PSCs been scrutinized in any way.
C – Threat to Counter-Insurgency Efforts
Many observers have noted that in addition to problems of enforcing the law and accountability, PSCs have become a liability to counter-insurgency efforts (Thurnher, 2008, p. 90). It is important to remember that PSCs represent less than 5% of all contractors employed in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet are responsible for virtually all the negative publicity they have been receiving (Cancian M. , 2008, p. 65). This has often been attributed to a body guard mindset which PSCs operate under: they will do anything to protect the principal, regardless of the collateral damage to the environment or civilians (Cancian M. , 2008, p. 65). Such an attitude runs counter to efforts to fight the insurgencies in these war zones because they rely on attempts to win the “hearts and minds” of the local populace (Thurnher, 2008, p. 66). Commentators have also pointed out the government’s over-reliance on PSCs. The state employs these groups in “pivotal roles” (Thurnher, 2008, p. 68), with some claiming that the mission would simply not have been possible without PSCs (Thurnher, 2008, p. 69). PSCs can also affect regular operations without notice; the incident in Nisour Square completely paralyzed the State Department and placed the embassy on “lockdown” for five days (Thurnher, 2008, p. 81). These issues represent a major weakness in the government’s military force structure in that it is now affected by the actions of an independent party with regard to the proper function of its own armed groups.
D – Lack of Democratic Oversight
PMCs can present serious concerns in the area of democratic oversight as well. They are sometimes seen as an attempt to skirt legislative controls on the use of force, because the actual size of the mission is disguised. PMCs were first used this way in Bosnia “to circumvent the cap of 20, 000 U.S. troops imposed by Congress” (Pattison, 2008, p. 153); the same strategy allowed the Bush administration to double the force size in Iraq while avoiding most public discussion and scrutiny (Tierney, 2007, p. 17). By July 2008, the media had reported 4, 673 deaths in Iraq of service members, but more than 1, 300 contractors had died largely unnoticed (Schooner, 2008). Although it may seem crass, the state might be more willing to engage in violent action if there are PSCs available, since the public has not shown as much concern for the deaths of contractors as for regular soldiers (Thurnher, 2008, p. 90). Furthermore, the general lack of oversight over the larger private contracting question combines with the dearth of criminal accountability and opens a path to mismanagement, corruption and abuse. The relationship between the Bush Administration and Blackwater has recently been examined closely, with some evidence of political favouritism being uncovered, such as State Department inspector general Howard J. Krongard being forced to disqualify himself from an inquiry into the firm due to his brother’s membership on their advisory board (Welch, 2009, p. 357). Furthermore, CEO Erik Prince’s family has made significant donations to the Republican Party (Welch, 2009, p. 358). Since Blackwater went from $204, 000 in government contracts in 2000 to $1 billion worth by 2007 (Waxman H. A., 2007, p. 2), it is difficult to simply dismiss the suggestion that the company may have gained some of its unprecedented growth and protection from prosecution through political maneuvering. This sort of antidemocratic activity will likely continue to increase as the use of PSCs expands.
Improvements and Weaknesses in Governance
According to the withdrawal agreement between America and Iraq, which went into effect on Jan 1, 2009, “Iraq shall have the primary right to exercise jurisdiction over members of the United States forces and of the civilian component” (Treaty, 2009), eliminating the controversial CPA Order 17 which granted contractors immunity to Iraqi law. The military has also dramatically ramped up oversight of contractors and significant improvements have been made in terms of accountability since Nisour Square (Office of the Inspector General, 2008, pp. 11, 17); furthermore, recent attempts to amend the UCMJ and MEJA will allow PMCs to be prosecuted more readily under American legal regimes (Cancian M. , 2008, p. 74). But there has been little done to clarify the nebulous status of armed contractors under International Human Rights Law (Cancian M. , 2008, p. 74). The question remains as to “whether any civilian is bound by IHL norms” (Lehnardt, 2008, p. 1017); theoretically, PMC personnel who are not instructed to commit a crime, who are not directly controlled by the state, and do not exercise any “public authority”, are civilians and cannot be perpetrators of war crimes (Lehnardt, 2008, p. 1017). This absence of a well defined framework for PSCs under international law may continue to support what some observers are calling a “reconfiguration of state power” where a high-handed approach to governance allows states to protect parties who engage in war crimes such as torture, mistreatment of prisoners, etc (Welch, 2009, p. 361). In addition to these concerns, we must also consider that though PSC employees are civilians and resist legal definitions under international law, they can lose their protected status if they take direct part in hostilities. Though there are two widespread approaches to what a “direct part in hostilities” consists of, the view usually endorsed by America would almost certainly encompass PSCs guarding important diplomats, etc (Thurnher, 2008, p. 71), paradoxically meaning that many PSCs are “civilians” who are fair targets for enemy fire. The IHL regime’s regulatory response to the massive recent growth in PSCs is highly underdeveloped.
There are a number of concerns which governments should address when considering whether to continue the widespread use of PSCs in conflict zones. While the use of contractors has expanded rapidly and is most likely going to continue in this regard (Holbrooke, 2009), almost all the problems and complaints are arising from personal security details (Cancian M. , 2008, p. 65). Putting these duties back under the purview of regular military will likely reduce the frequency of negative incidents and subject them to well-established investigative and legal mechanisms. Furthermore, PSCs are not accountable to the public but to their shareholders; it is not incumbent on them to hold the interests of the nation and the support of human rights above their profits and this can be dangerous and counter-productive (Thurnher, 2008, p. 90). Some argue that, because of the lack of concern PSCs display for the local populace or the mission as a whole, the United States would be better able to win counter insurgencies if their use was reduced (Thurnher, 2008, p. 90). While replacing all contractors with regular forces personnel is clearly not feasible, replacing only PSCs seems more within the realm of possibility (Cancian M. , 2008, p. 65); I recommend this option be investigated when planning future deployments. The extensive use of PSCs has been shown to be an unjustified risk and a threat to cherished principles of human rights, democracy and rule of law.
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Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Race and Crime: A Discursive Interplay
The relationship between race and crime may be one of the most controversial issues in criminology. Much of the debate has focused on disparities in rates of law-enforcement engagement and incarceration of racialized minorities – specifically whether this results from “differential involvement” or “differential criminal justice system selection”, although there is persuasive evidence on both sides of the question, and the phenomena likely result from some combination of the two
‘Race’ + ‘Crime’ = ?
According to Oxford University Press’s “A Dictionary of Sociology”, the term ‘race’ is sometimes now being placed in inverted commas because it is not a biologically meaningful category
Race Criminalizing People: ‘driving while Black’
An example that can be seen as race criminalizing people, which has been discussed widely in the media, academia and in race relations and professional police circles, is the phenomenon known as “driving while Black”, wherein racialized people are more often stopped by police, ticketed, et cetera
Crime Racializing People: Ethnic and Racialized Gangs
This process also works in reverse, as we see in the example of ethnic and racialized gangs. The social constructionist approach to race fails to articulate the powerful social reality of a plurality of ethnic formations based on perceived racial differences
People Criminalizing Race: Media Depictions of Race and Crime
Labeling by others has long been a source of controversy with regard to media depictions of racialized people committing crimes. A number of researchers suggest that murder cases’ newsworthiness are evaluated based on how well they match up with established, discriminatory discourses about race and gender
People Racializing Crime: Mock Juror Studies
Without belaboring the point about the multifaceted nature of these processes, we can see them working in another direction in the literature on mock jurors. These studies usually involve vignettes being presented to the “jurors”, with characters having different racial and other characteristics for each of the various subject groups. Depending on what kind of crime is being depicted, the race of the perpetrator and victim, and other factors, the verdicts of these juries can vary widely
We can see from these examples that the meanings ‘race’ and ‘crime’ are constantly changing each other and that their relationship is highly complex. When seeking to understand such unique, dynamic and sophisticated processes, we must remember to ground our investigations in an understanding of the fundamental equality of all human beings. Race is a social construction, but one with very real social consequences and must be handled with care.
Having said this, I want to return to a point I made at the beginning, about the prevalence of literature related to the vast overrepresentation of racialized minorities in the criminal justice system. The discussion has been dominated by two competing explanatory frameworks: either racialized people commit more crimes or they are being discriminated against by the police and courts. However, these theses are themselves reiterations of the ongoing construction and deconstruction of the meanings of ‘race’ and ‘crime’. While these investigations are important, they may tend to further emphasize racial difference, compounding the problem. They are useful only insofar as they help us to eliminate the unequal race relations which lead to these disparities. Are racial constructions, such as those which posit hypotheses of “differential involvement” and “differential selection”, really self-fulfilling prophecies? Academic discourses such as these disperse into other discursive arenas and can generate intolerance. We must be careful to remember that we are all individuals with consciences of our own - no need for colour-coded criminal justice.
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