Thursday, 19 February 2015

Re-visiting Experiences that Have Helped Me Put Things into Perspective, continued

I realize that the previous post was rather long and I only just briefly scratched the surface of the events that set my life into a whole new direction. The focus of that post was on how I got the job at Buntoku SHS which some may say was just simple luck. I argue, however, that it was not luck but rather the actions I took and the people I met and connected with along the way that set specific events in motion, the collection of these events lead me to where I am today. Living here has taught me very clearly that who we know is very important and that time is the most precious thing we have. Therefore, I try to use my time develop and strengthen good relationships with those whom I care for and respect and in doing so I have been very fortunate to have been shown a great deal of things that I otherwise would not have been exposed to.

One of the opportunities that I was able to benefit from was the 英語教育専門職コース Eigo Kyoiku Senmonsha Ko-su, MA TESOL Course at Kumamoto University (seen below). I became aware of the program through a friend I made, a Japanese Canadian who just came to the Dojo one night. He trained at a nearby Dojo in a different style but was joining our class for one reason or another. He was also an auditing student in the 法律学部 Houritsu Gakubu, Law Department at Kumamoto University and wanted to introduce me to a Professor in the department. One thing lead to another, I went to meet the Professor a couple of times and after some very interesting conversations, he introduced me to Terry Laskowski Sensei. I decided that a Master's in English Education would be beneficial for my future employment options here, but remained interested.

My friend and I both sat for 入学試験 Nyugaku Shiken, the Entrance Exam on the same day in February. Although our tests were in different departments the test format was very similar; a paper test consisting of an essay question, in my case two essay questions, and an interview before a panel of three senior Professors in the field. Those sitting for the test in the department that I applied for were all lead to the same room where our assigned seats were waiting for us with a light brown manila envelope on the desk in front of the chair. We sat and commenced the test. there was a teacher supervising the test. It was all very rigid and serious.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Re-visiting Experiences that Have Helped Me Put Things into Perspective

I would like to move on to other topics, but before I do please let me say that I am very happy with the fact that this blog has sparked so many conversations among Karateka all over the world. Coming together and sharing ideas and experiences is exactly what I wanted this to facilitate. I have received a lot of positive feedback since I started this writing late last year. Some have even told me that this blog has been inspirational, motivating them to resume training after time off due to injury. I am humbled by the fact that this blog is speaking to so many people in such a personal way.

I do not consider myself to be an expert in any particular field, but my experiences here in Japan have lead me to pursue a career in education. My passion for Karate Do combined with my experience in the education system here has provided me with many unique opportunities to learn and grow. What I really want to do is share some of these experiences with you. Even if the posts do not help you directly, I do hope that they can facilitate meaningful conversations within the Karate Do community.

This most recent topic is continuing to teach me so much as it has caused me to research Eastern and Western philosophies more deeply. I have to admit, I feel like I have waded into very deep waters talking about 'spirituality' and I realize that, in doing so, I may become a target for criticism. But, I am confident that the ripples sent out from this topic will reach many people and the discussions that will take place as a result will be positive because my intentions are pure and I want nothing more than to learn.

It is hard to put into words, many of the things that I have and continue to experience here. As I said in my very first post, 紹介 Introduction, "Japan is the furthest a young boy from Nova Scotia can go in this world" not just geographically, but also culturally. I am doing my best to verbalize these experiences. However, on this topic especially, I don't think that my experiences carry enough weight to illustrate or define the process of 'spiritual growth' within the context of Karate Do. Therefore, I would like to ask Sensei here in Japan and around the world about their spiritual journey in Karate Do. I hope that the question is not too personal for people to talk about, although, I completely understand if it is.

In the near future, I would like to interview some of the people whom I have close relationships with here to share their views on this subject. I hope that those of you who are searching for answers will do so, too. I will not attempt to define all of these terms. I would prefer to let the professionals and etymological scholars  do that, but I will try to illustrate them with the experiences I have had here in Japan and frame the conversations more appropriately in future posts.

Recently, I found a link to an old TV program by Alan Watts, considered by some to be an authority on Eastern and Western Philosophies. In this particular program, he is talking about the Zen Buddhist term the often translated as the "void." But, he says something that I think mirrors the point that I am trying to make in the discussion on spiritual growth. He says, "When trying to explain things like this, the funny thing is, it can't be explained because it has to be felt. Because it is a transformation of one's basic feeling, one's basic consciousness of life" (1959). While I don't agree with some of the things he says in this program and it is quite obvious by the way he handles the 刀 Katana, Sword that he has no martial training, I still feel that he articulates some very important points well and that the program is worth a viewing.

Furthermore, I feel like I am experiencing similar transformations to those of which he speaks. Living in Japan has caused me to monitor my own thoughts and actions to a much higher degree than that which we would do while we are residing within our native culture. The process of residing outside of our native environment, forces us to examine and scrutinize more carefully what thought processes we may be 'privileging'. Thought processes that may be inappropriate remnants that we are bringing from our native culture paradigms, therefore, become much more obvious. This awareness alters our state of consciousness causing changes in our fundamental beliefs. Please take a look at the link to Alan Watts if you are interested.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Health Benefits of Karate Do Training (Continued) 心 Mind, 体 Body, (人の) 精神 Spirit

(Photo taken from )

Mind, Body, and Spirit
Shin, Mind, 体 Tai, Body and 精神 Seishin, Spirit these are the three things that I have felt grow as I have continued my Karate Do training from a young boy of 10 through adolescence and into adulthood. In this post I would like to continue to explain what I mean by Mind, Body, and Spirit. As you read these posts, please try to apply the techniques that we have learned to deepen our understanding of the Kanji presented and contemplate your own interpretation relating to your unique situation and experiences.
As I stated at the end of my last post:
I would like to talk more about the mind and body connection as well as address a statement I made when I started this series that Karate Do can offer us a "map" or an outline to healthy living in three main areas: Physical, Mental, and Spiritual. I realize that this is a very heavy statement to make and I am aware that I need to back it up with fact. I am working on how to verbalize the experiences I have had and the feelings they have caused within me. Both the experiences and the feelings shaped my growth, as I am sure they have shaped yours.
The above paragraph is how I ended my last post, as you may remember. Since then I have been really thinking specifically about how to provide you with an adequate definition of the term 'Spiritual' as this seems to be the most personal and the hardest to define. Attwood & Attwood (2014) discuss spiritualism in their book Your Hidden Riches and they also provide a definition for the term spiritual that, I feel, can be applied to how I intended to use it in the Karate Do context. They state that, "Every accomplishment requires steps that are physical, mental, and, yes, spiritual (defining spiritual as whatever you are most devoted to and truly revere)" (p. 82). Indeed our Karate Do journey is defined by our accomplishments; As practitioners of Karate Do, the inner journey that we are on is one that reveals more to us with each step we take and it is a very personal journey indeed. It requires great physical and mental effort to pursue our training goals, but we still thirst for more, so much so that we "devote" ourselves to our training in ways that make others sometimes shake their heads. But, we keep going to the Dojo and submit ourselves to the sweat and the pain and the fatigue because we all believe, deep down in our souls, that we are becoming better people on multiple planes through our training. We actually, as my Sensei, Michael Delaney pointed out on a number of occasions, "humble ourselves to our training" and when we reach this point, I believe, spiritual growth occurs. I further believe that we all have the potential to accomplish our life goals through our studies and training in Karate Do the physical and mental tools that we possess become evident to us and as we continue our training these tools become polished and sharpened.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Health Benefits of Karate Do Training (Continued) 脇閉め (Waki Shime)

I ended the last post rather abruptly after a very brief introduction to a term that really deserves its own blog post, 脇閉め Waki Shime, the closing or contracting of specific muscles on the side of the body located around the armpit and shoulder region. This term is often used in Karate Do training. If you come to Japan and train for any length of time I am sure you will hear Sensei yell this to their students reminding them to focus on this throughout whatever movements they are performing whether it be during 形 Kata Practice or 組手 Kumite Practice, Waki Shime is a very important part of Karate Do technique. So, let me pick up from where we left off, below is the information that I gave you at the end of my last post regarding the radicals of the Kanji:

脇閉め Waki Shime
I would like to take a quick look at the term Waki Shime as it is a very important aspect of Karate Do training and often a central point of advice given by many Senseii all  over the world. Let's start by taking a closer look at the kanji and break it down in order to build our deeper understanding of the components of Waki I am of the opinion that it means a lot more than just armpit. If we look at the radicals of this Kanji separately we can see it in a new light. Below is a short definition taken from:
that you can find online with a simple search.

Radicals in Kanji
A radical (bushu) is a common sub-element found in different kanji characters. Every kanji has a radical or a radical itself can be a kanji. Radicals express the general nature of the kanji characters. A radical is the part of the kanji character that gives you a clue to its origin, group, meaning or pronunciation. Many kanji dictionaries organize characters by their radicals. There are 214 radicals. (, Japanese Language)
There is a great website that lists all of these radicals and their meanings, please check out if you are interested in learning more. It may also be a good idea to reference this site and compare the Kanji that you are stuying in order to deconstruct them and learn more about their complex meaning. Below are the general groups of radicals and where they are located within the Kanji character:
Radicals are roughly divided into seven groups (hen, tsukuri, kanmuri, ashi, tare, nyou, and kamae) by their positions.
hen tsukuri kanmuri ashi
tare nyou kamae
                                                                                                            (, Japanese Language)

In the case of 脇 Waki, we can see there is the radical of 月 located in the region of the 扁 Hen area of the Character located on the left hand side of the character and three 力 grouped together in the 旁 Tsukuri area which is also referred to as "the body" of the Character.

Taking a Closer look 
At first glance one may assume that the 月扁 Tsuki Hen, in Waki is Moon or Month but, in fact this radical has ties to Meat and Flesh and isn't even Tsuki Hen at all but rather 肉月(にくづき) Niku-tsuki this radical can be found in many Kanji dealing with or related to the body and parts of the body such as 肩 Kata, Shoulder, 腰 Koshi, Waist, 腹 Hara, Abdomen, etc. The 旁 Tsukuri portion of this kanji is fairly straight forward, it means a collection of power; individual areas of power on the human body brought together to create a unified power, in this case for the purpose of striking. The use of three individual characters brought together to form one Kanji can also be seen in the examples of 森 Mori, three trees brought together to represent a Forest. or 口 Kuchi, Mouth brought together to represent an Article or Goods. So, we can see that by deconstructing the Kanji and looking at the radicals individually, we can see the picture more clearly. Please do this in your own research when you come across the various Kanji of importance.

Now, getting back to Waki Shime and the message therein. Developing true power through combining specific areas of strength through natural body movement facilitated by healthy contracting and extending of muscle groups in sequence creating a wave of power that runs through the body and can be delivered in a strike of the hands or feet that all depends upon the quality of our Waki Shime and our understanding of our own bodies.