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The Karate Crazy 70's!

Like many of you out there, I grew up in the 70's and naturally was programmed by the media and culture of that time in the sense of presuming "that was just how certain things just were".

One aspect of this was an innate assumption from a very young age that *martial arts were something that just about everyone in the world knew how to do*.

Of course this was completely wrong...but this was like 1973 and I was 5 at the time!

Sure, everyone probably knew that Karate guys yelled, threw kicks, and broke bricks. That Judo guys did flips and "Judo chops" to the neck. And that Kung fu guys walked around barefoot helping people but that was about it.

But at the time KARATE was so popular there was even HAI Karate! Cologne for men which came with self defense instructions...

1970's HAI Karate! Ad

And as a kid, my earliest TV memory was watching the show Kung Fu with my brothers; and even our G.I. Joes at the time had Kung Fu Grip!

G.I. Joe Kung Fu Grip Commercial

Then in every comic book (and the later the much cooler black and white comic magazines) there were numerous ads for martial art courses. Just look at this PDF of an old Planet of the Apes magazine from 1975 where literally half of the ads are for martial art courses...including Count Dante's classic! Personally, I always wanted the course that had the record album with it which taught you the secrets of Oriental self-defense "for less than 16 cents a lesson".

Planet of the Apes (Issue 13, 1975)

That same year there was a very cool toy similar to Rockem' Sockem' Robots which was released called Kar-A-A-Ate Men! These were two 12" tall figures with mechanical action that allowed them to kick, punch, and chop by pressing buttons on their base. To make it a game, if a target area was struck in the head or chest they fell over to show they were defeated.

Kar-A-A-Ate Men In Action!

But perhaps one of my favorite pop-culture images of Karate in the era is the 1973-1974 Japanese TV anime Karate Baka Ichidai ("A Karate Crazy Life") or Karate Master in English. While I never saw this until recently it really is a lot of fun and tells the life story of Kyoshushinkai Karate master Mas Oyama in a wonderfully over the top fashion through the fictional character of Ken Asuka.

If perhaps you don't know Mas Oyama, he was a true legend of the arts in post WWII Japan; training in the mountains alone and killing bulls with his Karate to test his strength since no one would fight him in full contact matches at the time which earned him the title "the Godhand".

Karate Master Episode 1: Amidst the Ruins of Fire, His Karate Roars

The episodes are exciting and the studio blended in live-action footage of Karate with the animation to reinforce the reality of tamishiwaragiri (breaking techniques), kumite (sparring) and so on. It's really a love-letter to Kyoshushinkai and I imagine got them a ton of new students. The cartoon (which was broadcast at 9:30 at night for adults) is full of violence (even death), drinking, implied situations, stereotypes, racism, discussion of the WWII era Japanese internment camps in the USA, and much more that would make it a no-go today but it's a hella' fun flashback to a different era!

Enjoy and all my best to you,

Pete Kautz

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