At next year's 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, there are four fighting disciplines.
From the west comes boxing and wrestling, and from the east comes judo and taekwondo.
But one fighting sport has almost always been missing from the Olympics: karate.
How can a major martial art— who's foremost symbol was the most famous martial artist of all time, Bruce Lee— and whose other practitioners included Chuck Norris, Elvis Presley and Kareem Abdul Jabbar still not be represented in London?
Is it because of bigotry: ignorant white westerners out to scuttle the Orientals?
Nothing could be further from the truth. The Olympics has long wanted karate within its fold. The answer lies elsewhere within a large number of discontented Oriental egos, each willing to see karate out of the Olympics rather than endure "loss of face" and "honor."
This author got a unique chance to see this phony-baloney in action while serving as a type of administrator for a local club.
From the moment one joins a karate club, a student is indoctrinated into its spiritual side. Each class begins and ends with a moment of meditation, and a "warrior's vow" is recited.
The doctrine of "respect for the art and the master/founder" is firmly etched into every student. All sessions begin and end with various numbers of bows to whoever is leading the class.
Westerners eagerly lap this up, never questioning what all this is about, eager to show respect, and to try to understand the mysterious, "secret" philosophy and thinking supposedly embedded in this Oriental martial art.
But in fact the "respect" in karate is constantly being undermined by Orientals themselves.
In the case I got to witness, the "style" of karate was directly connected to the descendants from the founder in Japan.
All the requirements for all the belts and levels of black belt were laid out in a book which was enforced by the leader of the style in a country.
But then came word that another leader in another section of the country—the second highest black belt in the country behind the recognized national leader— was not consistently adhering to the book.
Both sides appealed to Japan for support and in the ensuing power struggle, ultimately the "rebel" and all his followers were expelled.
The rebel promptly announced that he would continue with his following with himself as its head, now the "equal" of the founder of karate in Japan and his heirs. Hence another "style" of karate was born.
This constantly happens in karate. The sport is probably divided into sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sub "styles," each claiming that they follow the "true" form of karate, each with its own moves, katas, etc.
So when the Olympics have tried to include karate in its fold, every head of a style steps forward to proclaim that their style (and themselves) are the one true form of karate.
To allow one style into the Olympics as the "true" style would mean that everyone else's style is incorrect; that its practitioners and leaders are mere deviants and delinquents, a mark of shame, loss of face and dishonor. Hence karate never appears in the Olympics.
With the multitude of sects/styles, it is doubtful that karate will ever appear in the Olympics or any other major international set of games. The reason is an Oriental power struggle as grubby as anything in the West, only sugarcoated with the words like "respect" and "honor."
No Oriental can bear to acknowledge another Oriental as king of the hill.
Probably the most damning critic of the whole situation was Bruce Lee himself. Lee had nothing but contempt for "style" and let it be shown in his movies.
In Enter The Dragon, there is a scene on a boat where he shrugs off a question about his "style" as "the art of fighting without fighting." He also refuses to wear a "traditional" karate uniform.
To Lee, what was important was not "style" but if a fighting technique worked in real life. He had no time for katas and other things in karate that could not work in a real-life environment.
To hammer home his point even further, his last movie, Game Of Death was a deliberate anti-style statement which was suspended while he made Enter The Dragon and never finished because he died.
The climax of the film was a sequence in which Lee ascended a five-level pagoda in which each floor was guarded by a master practitioner of a different style.
Naturally the way Lee proposed to discredit "styles" was by having his character adapt to each circumstance and defeat every opponent, thus demonstrating that "styles" are mere limitations to what can truly be achieved in martial arts.
Only three levels of this sequence were filmed before he died.
At the top of the pagoda was his ultimate opponent, played by one of his students, Kareem Abdul Jabbar. He was to represent the most dangerous style of all, the unknown style.
But no one has learned from Lee's legacy.
Every head of a karate style claims that he and his style alone is the true karate.
There hasn't been such fragmentation since the Protestant Reformation.
And the legacy of this dissolving pattern that's merely based on egos is at the Olympics, karate will not be there.