Wednesday, 15 July 2015

The Basics of Karate-do Are Not Limited to Physical Techniques

I apologize for the length of time between posts. At the beginning of this Month, while in the middle of preparing for a number of projects that I currently have on the go, my computer broke down. To make a long story short, the hard drive needed to be replaced. This means that I lost some of the files that I didn't get backed up in time and I am going to need to start some things all over again, from scratch. This reminded me of getting back to the basics in our training. 'Speed bumps' and 'hick ups', Come when you least expect them and unlike the speed bumps on the road there are rarely warning signs to help you prepare yourself for them.

It seems that no matter how hard we train we can never seem be able to completely prepare for these setbacks. I am sure you will agree that they never seem to come at the times we think they should. However, when we look back, most of us say that they came when they were needed and, as a result, had a positive impact on our training. Or at the very least, took us in a new direction we would have otherwise never gone in. I hope the same will be true in this case as well. That is to say that I hope this small set-back will help me to be able to see new possibilities with regards to the projects that I am involved in now and my preparations can move forward in new and better directions that they may have otherwise never gone in. I am beginning to think more and more that perspective is the key.

(Karate-do Written in Kanji by the Author, 2015)

I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason and our successes and failures all depend on our interpretations of events in our lives and how we proceed as a result of those interpretations. In order to be aware of this we must be present in the moment. This is a big part of the principle of 残心 Zanshin that often gets overlooked; being fully present in the moment. It is hard to do. Since we are usually guided during our training sessions in the dojo by a Sensei, we generally don't need to take the responsibility to make ourselves be fully present in each and every moment of it. This lack of responsibility in our own training reduces our capacity to achieve a higher level of Zanshin. Rather, we drift in and out while we are practicing the basics and become more present when we are working on the things we like i.e. 形 kata or  組手 kumite preferences among Karate-ka. So what should we do to become more present? The answer is simple, but not easy. Get back to the basics.
(Shu Ha Ri Written in Kanji by the Author, 2015)
We tend to work harder on the things we like and, in doing so, we get better at them. In the end if we neglect the things we don't like we will develop unbalance in our training and the karate we know will become distorted. I am suggesting that if we continue to focus on the basics in our training, the 守る Mamoru part of 守破離 Shu Ha Ri in our training, we will be able to develop a clarity to our approach to other aspects of our training as well. We have to assume the responsibility of regularly assessing our understanding of the basic fundamentals of the karate we are studying and karate-do as a whole.
So, what are the basics of Karate-do training? Some would say その場基本 Sonoba Kihon, Stationary basic techniques including blocks, punches, strikes, and kicks are the basics of karate. And if they were talking about karate, they may be right. But, if they were talking about karate-do, I would have to disagree. One may say it is the Kata that bring together all of the basic techniques of a 流派 Ryu-ha or 会派 Kai-ha and if someone would like to hone their basics they should practice Kata and again, I would have to disagree. I agree that Kata practice is important. However, the basics of Karate-do that I am talking about here are not limited, in my opinion, to the techniques of the various styles of Karate, but rather can be found in "the character of the participants" of Karate-do as a whole. In this respect, the basics of Karate-do can be found in how we breathe, how we stand, and sit, how we walk, and run; the basic physical elements of how we move. But also, and even more importantly, in how we greet others and treat people on a daily basis; with respect and humility. This is the concept of 礼儀作法 Reigi Saho and I think this may be part of what my Sensei meant when he said that we "must always humble ourselves to our training" (M. Delaney, personal communication).
(Above Right, Reigi Written in Kanji by the Author, 2015)  
Karate-do is not just limited to the physical elements, but also encompassed in the emotional and ethical conduct of the participants. So, the next time something goes wrong or at least not how we expected it to go, how we handle the situation is a direct reflection of our Karate-do training and our strength in and depth of knowledge of the basics.
お滝行 O Takigyou, Waterfall training which I have discussed in previous posts always seems to help me put things into perspective and as a result my perspective changes. It is not just the time under the water that helps me to grow, but the time leading up to the actual exercise and the time after spent reflecting on the experience always has an impact on me. In this way, our time leading up to training and the time after training spent reflecting should be considered as important as the actual time spent in the dojo. If we can recognize this in our daily lives then our karate will grow with every breath we take and every action we make because to each of us reading this and other blogs like this one, Karate-do is our life.

(Above Left, O Taki Gyou, Kumamoto, Japan, 2015)

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