Ten things that will tell you that you are NOT studying TRADITIONAL Okinawan Karate.
10. You are NOT in Okinawa.
9. Your Sensei is American or Occidental.
8. Any technique starts with "Now this is a technique I took from (another style)".
7. Your American Sensei is a 10th degree.
6. Your Sensei is a convicted felon.
5. Your Sensei says his master flew 14 successful Kamikaze missions during the war.
4. Your Sensei promises to teach you a "secret Okinawan Master's" technique for $19.95.
3. Your Sensei promises to teach you a "secret Okinawan Master's" technique.
2. Your Sensei claims to have participated in a "Death Match" (win or lose).
1. Your Sensei says "We teach Traditional Okinawan Karate-Do!".
There are four types of Karate-Do taught in the United States:
Type 1. Sport Karate (we also teach fitness, aerobicize and Tae Bo!)
Type 2. Tournament Karate (Katas? . . . We don't need no stinkin katas!)
Type 3. American Karate (We combine the best of Okinawan and Japanese karate to get back to the roots and teach you 'traditional' karate!)
Type 4. Modified "Traditional" karate (Here's what Sensei really meant when he developed this technique!)
Type 5. Traditional American/Okinawan Karate (this is the way I learned it in Okinawa and that's the way it's going to stay!)
Now, this may surprise you, coming from me, but every one of the above has it's advantages:
Type 1. Sport Karate - Not everyone wants to become the next Bruce Lee and more power to them for being honest. While karate develops physical fitness, this style focuses on the physical fitness aspect of the art. Fine - just don't tell your students they are learning "self-defense"
Type 2. Tournament Karate - American Egos are more numerous than American Eagles. That's ok, most of us have an ego that rears itself in the most inappropriate time. Just don't confuse "tournament prowess" with "Karate skill". I can put a black belt on a golden glove contender and he too will win karate tournaments but would you want to learn karate from him?
Type 3. American Karate - Stop calling it "American Karate" that's like "American Vodka" Be proud, step up call it something that fits. . . . MMA? (Sorry, had to do that although MMA appears to be Brazilian at least that's what the Gracies says.)
Type 4. Modified "Traditional" karate - OXYMORON! If it's MODIFIED it not TRADITIONAL. If you change a technique "cause it works better that way" it may indeed work better but it's no longer traditional "As the Okinawans taught".
Type 5. Traditional American/Okinawan Karate - This is the closest you can get without actually training in Okinawa. The Sensei is either an Okinawan expatriate, trained in Okinawa or trained under an instructor trained by either and who changed NOTHING, hence the traditional part. Is it 100% traditional? of course not but it's the closest till you book your trip to Okinawa to learn "Modified Traditional Okinawan Karate"!!
WAIT A MINUTE! I thought you were going to tell me how to learn TRADITIONAL OKINAWAN KARATE!!
Sorry to break it to you but "Traditional" Okinawan karate died the day the first Okinawan started teaching Karate at the Kadena Air Base USO (outside BC and Gate 2 Street) and other assorted US Military bases.
Traditional Okinawan karate is taught to a very small dojo or a few students in back yard, hidden away in Okinawa. Gaijins not welcomed. Some HAVE made the transition and been accepted into true Okinawan dojos but most have not. Oh, by the way, if an Okinawan Sensei says "I'm teaching you the same way I teach my students in Okinawa" he's probably telling the truth... Sadly.