Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Two Important Concepts Within Karate Do Practice (Part 1)

I want to talk about 文武両道 Bun Bu Ryo Do, the concept of balancing one's cultural and martial development. This is a concept that is deeply rooted in the philosophy of many Japanese martial arts especially Karate Do. However, before we can talk in depth about this topic, I believe that we need to first look at another important concept which will help us to better understand Bun Bu Ryo Do as well. This is the concept of 心技体 Shin Gi Tai, The Heart/Spirit, Technique, and the Body. I am sure you can find a lot of information about both of these important topics on the Internet and in martial arts magazines. It is rarely ever enough to just simply translate concepts like these. Personal interpretations and relating those interpretations to your own context is strongly recommended. How do you relate these two important aspects of the martial arts to your daily training? How would deepening your level of understanding of these and other important topics improve the quality of your training? We all have to ask ourselves these questions and make efforts to understand these concepts more deeply.

(The Kanji, Chinese Characters for Shin Gi Tai written by the author, 2014)

Deconstructing the Characters
心 I've talked about the first Kanji, 心 Kokoro in previous blog posts it can mean heart or Spirit (as we use the terms in Western Cultures) but, it can also represent the mind and usually it is tightly linked with one's life energy.  Kokoro can be seen in many other Kanji used to represent 感情 Kanjyou, Feelings, 意向 Ikou, Intentions, and 意志 Ishi, Will. Kokoro is such an important character that it is included in many words and names in Japan. Both of my children's names include kokoro in them. My daughter's name is 麗愛 Reina, kokoro is included in the middle of the second kanji Ai which means love, and my son's name is 賢志 Kenshi, kokoro is included at the base of the second kanji Kokorozashi which, you can see above, means Will. Actually the kanji is comprised of 士 Shi or Samurai from 武士 Bushi, and 心 Kokoro, to depict one's Intent or Will.

Kokoro in this context refers to the state of mind one must be in when approaching their training. We must possess a heart/spirit that will allow us to absorb the important lessons from our training and those whom we train with.

The second kanji in this set of three is 技 Gi, also pronounced Waza as in the techniques practiced through repetition during Karate Do training. Gi can also be found in 技術 Gijutsu, (an) art, technique, or technical skill which is what we are trying to develop though our practice and in order to do so we must always be of the right frame of mind to do so (see kokoro above).  Through the repetition of practicing these skills we develop our body, the third kanji in this set.

The third kanji 体 can be read as Tai or Karada, which, in both cases referrs to the body. In this case, the development of a healthy body through the practice of specific skills designed to strengthen both or body and spirit.

The responsibility of the Sensei is to provide the students with a training regime that will develop a healthy strong body while pushing the students and building up their confidence and enthusiasm to continue training. It is the responsibility of the student to possess and develop their heart/spirit to be able to do so. This is why one must work to enlarge their 器 Utsuwa, (see the post "Emptying Your Cup and Filling it with Greatness").

As we continue to train in this fashion we develop our mental, spiritual, and physical health which is the true aim of Karate Do training. I feel that it is within this framework that we must approach the philosophical concepts of the martial arts presented in this blog.

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