I first heard of the Mul-Chu-Tha in 2017 when I was teaching karate at the Gila River Reservation District 5 recreation center. A few moms and students suggested that our karate group could walk in the Mul-Chu-Tha parade. We organized and practiced and a dozen of us participated in March of 2018, winning a trophy for 3rd place marching unit.
In March of 2023, we returned to the parade as a smaller, wiser, older group with proven perseverance. We took our promotion of martial arts seriously. We missed our former dojo mates who weren’t marching with us this time, and we welcomed a new cohort. As we participated in the parade, we demonstrated the Dojo Kun which contains traditional values passed down through karate. And we saw these values demonstrated by the community members who pulled this parade together, and by those who participated in it.
Dojo Kun #1: Moral Character
We followed the Fatherhood/Motherhood float, which proclaimed “Fatherhood/Motherhood is Sacred” (enough said). As he walked in the parade, Tefft Renshi held the banner that reads “Character.” In the past, one bright karate student suggested that good moral character is when you use the traits found in the rest of the Dojo Kun. So, when you are honest, persevering, respectful and using restraint, you have good moral character.
Dojo Kun #2: Honesty
The last time that we marched in the parade, we had 11 karate practitioners in uniform and one additional supporting karate mom participating. This year, we had four karate practitioners and one additional supporting karate mom. Some groups would have been discouraged by having less than half the number of people and would have given up. We moved forward with honesty and humbleness, with the small group of people that we had. And the bystanders were happy to see us.
Dojo Kun #3: Perseverance
Everyone at the parade: participants, volunteers, and audience members on the roadsides, showed perseverance. To me, the theme of the parade, “celebrating strength and resilience,” translates to perseverance. The karate values of cultivating a spirit of perseverance, striving, developing strength of mind and training fearlessly all go with this theme. In 2018, our smallest member had a hard time walking the full 1.5 miles of the parade route. This time, all of the returning participants commented that it seemed easier (the perfect weather helped).
Dojo Kun #4: Respect
All in attendance demonstrated abundant respect. The streets were lined with bystanders who smiled, waved, and took video and photos. A great number of them said, “Hello, good morning!” to us. Many asked us to show them some karate, especially those who had kids. We obliged, as long as there was enough of a pause in the parade. (After all, it was our job to keep up.) At the judges’ stand, the announcer said Tavaris was the first full-blooded Native American to earn a black belt in the United Ryukyu Kempo Alliance.
Tavaris Wright’s mom, Darla Dosela, walked the route too, handing out flyers. These expressed Tavaris’ gratitude to the community members for all of their support in helping him achieve black belt. These people lent their moral support. They also helped by participating in fundraisers for Tavaris to travel to Missouri to test for black belt, and another trip to Texas to further his training. Darla wore a memorial t-shirt and memorial badges for the family members who have passed. They all showed great support of Tavaris’ karate path.
Dojo Kun #5: Restraint
Out of the hundreds of kids (and adults) in the audience, I didn’t see any punch, kick, or try out their karate on each other. Simply seeing people demonstrate karate often inspires this type of behavior. Instead, they used self-control. We also had to restrain ourselves as we marched. Many people cheered and wanted a demo, which we were there to perform. But if the parade marched on, our part was to keep up with the group in front of us. That took self-control!
When I first heard the phrase Mul-Chu-Tha, I had no idea what it meant. Now I know that it means “foot races” in Pima. Foot races were a part of the first Mul-Chu-Tha fair in 1962. This event name was picked because foot races are an important Pima cultural tradition. You can learn more about the Mul-Chu-Tha’s interesting history here. And if you want to join us next time, we are looking for volunteers to help hold signs and banners!
Jenifer Tull-Gauger knows what it’s like to be an “old soul” and a painfully quiet kid struggling to fit in. Her journey to 7th degree black belt is a testament of how she found inner strength through traditional karate. Now in leadership for the international U.R.K.A., she heads up a private dojo with her husband.
Jenifer combined her passions for art and writing, with what she’s learned from 23-plus years of teaching karate, to create a children’s character-building picture book series. The Dojo Kun Character Books help children to find their own power in their lives. JeniferTullGauger.com