Monday, 22 December 2014

Health Benefits of Karate Do Training

Something that we all know and that I should have written about long before this post is the benefits that practicing Karate Do has on our lives. The benefits are not limited to the body. Of course there are physical benefits but on a deeper level, more than anything else that I have ever been involved in, Karate Do has the potential to completely change one's life.

Karate Do is so much more than just kicking and punching. The philosophies and practices of Karate Do offer us a ‘map’; an outline to healthy living physically, mentally and spiritually.
In the next few blog posts I would like to discuss some of the benefits in these three areas: Physical Health, Mental Health, and Spiritual Health.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

A Christmas Miracle!

It first glance this post may appear to be off topic but, as you read you will see that it is connected to the on going theme of courtesy in Japan and the some of the common areas to which this level of courtesy extends to. I would like to tell you about something that just happened to me last weekend that I have iterpreted as a kind of Christmas Miracle and made me want to shout from the highest mountain top "日本最高!" Nihon Saikou! Japan it the Best! "日本大好き!" Nihon Daisuki! I love Japan!" and "ありがとう!" Arigatou! Thank you!
Last Friday, December 12th, was a normal Friday like many others. I went to work that morning and taught my English communications classes. After school I trained with the students in our Dojo, but there were a couple of things about this particular Friday that made it unique for me. Let me tall you about them.

(Buntoku SHS Karate Dojo, Kumamoto, Japan, 2014)
The next day all of the members of the Karate Do Team would be travelling by micro-bus to the neighbouring Prefecture of Saga for a practice tournament and Officials Seminar. This in itself was also nothing too far out of the ordinary except for one thing. On this particular Friday night the Head Coach, Murata Sensei had plans and trusted me with the training session and the key to the bus. I would see to it that the students packed what they could that night and load it onto the bus so that we could leave smoothly, early the following day. I should point out that this was a first, I had been entrusted to perform various duties in the past but to hold onto the key of the bus over night meant that if, for any reason I couldn't make it the next morning no one would be able to go anywhere. This was a responsibility that Murata Sensei usually assumes himself.
I was happy to help and told him that I would take care of everything and I did. We ended a great training session on time and everyone was feeling good, we talked about how we could best use the following day's practice tournament to our best advantage leading up to the competition on the 21st in Miyazaki Prefecture. Then we packed the equipment and loaded the bus double checking that nothing was forgotten. Everyone got changed and went home excited about the next day.
On my way home I stopped into the supermarket to do a little shopping. My Mother in Law was visiting and since I was leaving for Saga early the next day, I wanted to get some thing that I could take with me for breakfast so that I would not disturb anyone so early in the morning.
(On the bus with, 2014)
As I said earlier, Murata Sensei gave me the key to the bus because he had plans that night and this was a first! On recent excursions I have arrived earlier than him and I always make it a point to buy him and I a hot coffee. We drink the coffee as he drives the bus and have great conversations about a wide range of topics. We have learned a lot about each other during these drives all across Kyushu and other parts of the country while the students are sleeping in the back. I really appreciate this time and the coffee is just a small gesture of my appreciation. This year the weather has been a little strange and so I try to time the buying of the coffee with our departure time so that it is still hot when he drinks it. (this is just a little background information and foreshadowing to what is coming soon)

(Murata Sensei driving the bus, 2014)

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Traditional Karate Do Dojo Layout (Part 2)

ICKF Sohonbu Dojo simplified floor plan
As mentioned earlier, the front wall is the 正面 Shou Men and the Western wall is the下席 Shimo Seki. The Eastern wall is called the 上席 Jyou Seki, and is considered the place of Seniority sometimes referred to as the 上座 Kami Za, the Upper Seat. The most senior students sit closest to this wall facing the Shoumen when lining up formally. The Shimoseki or lower place is where the least senior students line up. The Southern wall is also designated as the  lower seat 下座 Shimo Za. Therefore, the lowest ranking students or practitioners should stand closest to the South West wall when lining up for formal bowing before and after the training sessions.

(Chito-Ryu Sohonbu Dojo Shoumen Kumamoto, Japan, 2012)

In keeping with the on going theme of respect and courtesy, it should be mentioned that when visiting a dojo it would make a very good impression to perform a formal bow at the entrance to the training hall (Not at the 玄関 Gen Kan, the main entrance to the building, but after changing into your 道着 Do Gi before entering the training hall) then move to the South Western area of the dojo to begin warming up silently. If you are called to a different area by the someone of authority in that Dojo, of course, it is OK to move to the place designated, but not before. In my experience, guests are usually called upon before or during the formal bow in and introduced to the other students where you will be expected to give a short 自己紹介 Jiko Shou Kai, a brief Self Introduction. (I will explain the process of the self introduction in a future post).

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Traditional Karate Do Dojo Layout (Part 1)

(Chito-Ryu Sohonbu Dojo Kumamoto, Japan, 2010)
A number of Karate Do Sensei I know are beginning to ask interesting questions and requesting that I include the information in this blog. Recently, I was asked about the layout of the dojo, more specifically where the 神棚 Kamidanai, a Family Alter that is commonly found in traditional Japanese dojo (see photo below), and where photos should be hung. I discuss this in detail in the book that I am working on, but I have decided to include some of this information in this post. Hope the information provided will help you as well.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Taking a closer look at Shu Gyou

I apologize for the long wait. It seems that life and work always seem to have a way of getting busy all at the same time making it very difficult to stay on task. That, however, is the most important challenge, isn't it.

In one of my previous posts titled 'Analysis of the Showa Part 1', I didn't go into very much detail on  the interpretation of 修業 Shu Gyou, that appears in the motivational poem the 唱和 Showa written by the first generation Soke of Chito-Ryu Karate Do, Chitose Tsuyoshi Sensei.  I simply wrote that it means "to study." However, this translation is lacking in substance and doesn't really express the deeper meaning of the kanji. I am very happy that the blog has generated some interesting discussion. After being asked to share my thoughts on the term 修業 Shu Gyou, I've decided to take a closer look at the term. I began by checking some other sources for translations and found one I felt the readers of this blog may be interested in. The translation is "the pursuit of knowledge." Perhaps this more accurately explains the nuance of the term Shugyo, that it requires one to devote their time and energy into a focused pursuit of whatever it is that they wish to attain deeper knowledge of. It is not, simply describing passive learning. However, there is still one more point of concern that needs to be addressed and that is the two different ways of writing Shu Gyou in Japanese; 修業 and 修行, and the differences in the usage of each. I would like to take a closer look at Shu Gyou in this post.
(Chito-Ryu Karate Do First Generation Soke, Chitose Tsuyoshi Sensei)

As I said, discussion lead to the variations of the kanji that can be used to write Shyugyo, listed above修業 and 修行. In this post I will try to address the differences between the nuance of each of these. I also welcome knowledgeable readers of this blog to post in the comment section of this entry to further deepen our understanding of these terms and concepts.