Once upon the time, when Internet did not exist and the televisions were not interested in karate or full-contact fights transmission, newspapers were the only source of information about these sports.
Appeared in the USA during the sixties, they arrived in Europe in the early seventies. They sometimes continue to exist even today, after having undergone many changes.
Given the large number of newspapers published between 1960 and 1980, both in the USA and Europe, it is impossible to be complete. We will therefore mention the most famous newspapers, with a short history of their appearance, articles style and interesting examples of coverage.
The newspapers dedicated to several sports will be omitted, except for Black Belt, who, as a precursor, played a big role in the popularization of karate. The federation’s newspapers will not be cited. The "Yearbooks" will not be discussed, even though they were very popular.
We are not able to cite the publication numbers, but these data seem unfortunately not be available so far.
Black Belt :
The most famous of all, Black Belt Magazine, continues to exist today.
The first issue was released in April 1961 and it cost only 50c, subscription for one year amounted to U.S. $ 3 .--. Black Belt was founded in Los Angeles by Mito Uyehara, an aikido practitioner, and his brother Jim.
The newspaper was concerned by many martial arts, as today.
In a June 1968 article, Mr. Uyehara complains about the Italian “Cintura Nera” newspaper, (which means black belt too), which copy his Black Belt articles.
Since 1974, Rick Shively becomes publisher of Black Belt, Uyehara remaining chairman.
Mito Uyehara also published Karate Illustrated (see below) and Fighting Stars, dedicated to celebrities practicing martial arts. The Rainbow Publications company was also involved in Black Belt and Karate Illustrated.
Very traditional, Black Belt did not participate in the launch of full-contact, criticizing this practice and stating its dangers for health and the purity of martial arts. It has changed since then.
It should be noted that Black Belt has remained almost 9 years without serious competitor and only the martial arts fever has allowed the emergence of other journals.
This newspaper should not be confused with "Action Black Belt", published between 1974 and 1975. We know nothing about this review.
It might be a more “full-contact” Black Belt, published in order to diversify the choices available to readers.
Karate Illustrated :
Also published in 1969 by Mito Uyehara. Dick Hennesy, a former Black Belt employee, is also publisher.
As Official Karate, published shortly before, Karate Illustrated style becomes more incisive. It will also monitor the development of full-contact.
This review was affiliated with Karate Illustrated. More specialized in full-contact, we have found only that copy. It seems to be published between 1974 and 1975.
Official Karate :
Al Weiss is the Official Karate founder and he works for it from 1968 to 1986. He was a karate Goju-Ryu black belt, as Aaron Banks, who worked also for this magazine. The first issue we have found is here represented. It could be the number 1, published in June 1969.
The above articles seem very modern, compared to its competitor Black Belt.
This newspaper has been very open to full-contact.
A particular version is also published under the name "Official Karate Special Fighting Champions", from 1974 to 1977 approximately.
It became increasingly devoted to full-contact, giving many details about the various fights of this time.
Another edition called "Official Karate Defense Combat" presented self-defense techniques.
The Al Weiss book named "The Official History of Karate in America", was about the karate history in the USA, from 1968 to 1986, and was containing former Official Karate articles.
Professional Karate Magazine :
According to our information, the first title was released in the summer 1973. It was published by Mike Anderson (see article devoted to him in this blog, under Tournaments and Promoters).
The main feature of this newspaper is the monthly published Top Ten of the best fighters. At the beginning, it was concerning professional karate, and after full-contact, sometimes even mixing the two styles. Previously, Black Belt had only annual rankings.
This newspaper has been heavily influenced by the tournaments organized by Anderson, but it also refers to those promoted by others "matchmakers".
In his 1974 Summer issue, Mike Anderson writes about the irregular publication problems of his newspaper and pledges as Managing Editor John Corcoran, a famous journalist in this sector (see below) and Bob McLaughlin.
This newspaper had still very long articles over fights techniques. Among the contributing editors were Aaron Banks, Joe Lewis or Ed Parker.
Many cite the totally innovative role of this newspaper. It was not always independent of the Professional Karate Association, a time managed by Mike Anderson.
The latest issue seems to be published in 1976. This newspaper has suffered from financial losses.
Oriental Fighting Arts :
This newspaper, published by Abe Gaskin, among others, had as Technical Advisor Aaron Banks (see the article in this blog Tournaments and Promoters). Banks also worked as editor and appears to have played a major role in the magazine, which began in July 1974 and disappeared in 1976.
Firstly dedicated to various martial arts like Kung-Fu, it has diversified in articles on fighting techniques, and then on the results of various tournaments, both in traditional and full-contact, organized by Aaron Banks or other individuals. The magazine was also often dedicated to Aaron Banks’ personality.
A newspaper called "Oriental Combat and Self Defense" was a partner.
World Karate :
The newspaper was also published by Aaron Banks, from 1976 to 1982/1983. One of the coverage is advertised as the official WPKO journal, his federation. The August 1976 issue is represented below.
Few articles were devoted to the championships, but rather to the personality of fighters. They were also often devoted to Aaron Banks himself.
Contact Karate & Fighting Stars :
We only know that it was a magazine published during the year 1976.
His relationship with the newspaper Fighting Stars (see Black Belt) is not known. It could be the temporary unification of Fighting Stars and Action Black Belt (disappeared in 1975), but we must point out that Fighting Stars has continued to appear under this name, after 1976.
John Corcoran :
It is impossible to write about newspapers in the U.S. without citing John Corcoran’s personality, given the number of articles published in various magazines above.
John Corcoran began in Black Belt and Karate Illustrated, in the seventies. Since 1974, he helped Mike Anderson for Professional Karate Magazine. He was accompanied in this transfer by Bob McLaughlin, who took charge of the article about the 14 September 1974 first PKA World Championship, in Los Angeles. John Corcoran has also worked with Bob Wall, for his book "Who's Who in the Martial Arts".
Corcoran has published a reference book called "The Original Martial Arts Encyclopedia", published by Pro-Action in 1993 (130,000 unities sold).
He is considered as one of the best journalist in this style, his qualities of black belt owner giving him a big credibility.
The karate newspapers appeared later in France. We begin by quoting the newspaper Budo. It was the heir of Budo International, which was dedicated to French Judo. Budo, very innovative, is published in 1973, with articles on various martial arts. We can compare it to Black Belt, as a trigger of a journalistic style, for France.
Since 1974, a quality newspaper is published under the name Karatékas. Deeply committed to traditional karate, it was highly critical against the full-contact. Here are some covers of this journal. It ceased publication a few years later.
The first issue was written about Europe traditional karate championships and Dominique Valera, with a kata represented on a poster.
The first Karaté newspaper is published in October 1974. Firstly dedicated to traditional karate and the martial arts fever, with Bruce Lee, the newspaper turned to full-contact at the end of 1975. It has long accompanied Dominique Valera in his American journey and learning of this new style.
A character in the newspaper was Rolland Gaillac. The latter, former singer in a band called "The Brummells", became editor of the teenager’s magazine "Salut Les Copains". He also produces for "France Routiers", writing books on trucks, with the famous Max Meynier, from the RTL radio.
Rolland Gaillac will lead Karaté, for many years, interviewing Gochin Yamagushi among other great masters.
The Karaté publisher was Jean Nouailhac, from the Editions de France.
A Karaté international version was published in the USA, Germany and Belgium. For example, Budo Karate Journal is the inheritor of this version. French articles were simply translated into German, with a different cover.
A true phenomenon, Karaté became Karaté Bushido and continues today, having diversified itself in mixed arts, as MMA.
The old-fashioned style of these magazines is very impressive. The advertisement was designed and samurai stories occupied many pages.
Besides, the pleasure of seeing the new number in the window of the seller or in his own mailbox was undeniable.
The tournaments and fights were detailed in such a way the reader can “see” them, without the help of the television.
These magazines had the way to ask every month the same questions, such as "should full-contact be forbidden ?" or "should women fight against men ?" and the traditional "karate should be professional ?".
They did not seem to be independent of the organizers, who were often the editors or owners of these newspapers.
Several reviews were partners, sometimes more specialized in full-contact or self-defense techniques.
The reviews had problems to specify the tournaments dates and their final results, which were never mentioned in the form of a summary, at the end of the article, as in Europe.
The issues date were not accurate. For example, the September 1974 PKA World Championship article was published in the Winter 1975 Professional Karate issue and the May 1975 WPKO World Championship article was published in the September 1975 Oriental Fighting Arts issue. Were the newspapers appearing with an upcoming date of edition to attract customers or did they need several months to publish their articles ? But that's another story...