Thursday, 11 February 2016

Defining Karate-do, Presentation and Demonstration of Karate-do at the ACE 2015 In Kobe, Japan

I am happy and somewhat relieved to tell you that I have recently had a paper on Karate-do published in the proceedings of an educational conference. The full paper titled "Finding a Place for Karate-do in Mainstream Education" can be found online:

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, last year I was asked by the CEO of iafor, Dr. Joseph Haldane to be a featured presenter at the Asian Conference on Education (ACE) 2015, held in Kobe, Japan from October 21st ~ 25th. My presentation was to be a demonstration of Karate-do. As the theme of the conference was “Education, Power and Empowerment: Transcending Boundaries” Dr. Haldane thought a Karate-do demonstration would be very appropriate for the opening ceremonies of the conference. With the help of my good friend Nishioka Hiroshi Sensei and his students I was able to co-ordinate a very well received Karate-do demonstraion on the main stage of the 神戸芸術センター Kobe Geijutsu Senta, Kobe Arts Centre.

(Above Left. the cover of the ACE 2015 Proceedings. Below, a photo taken toward the end of the demonstration of the members of Nishioka Dojo and Dr. Haldane breaking a board. I found out later that it had been a childhood dream of his to break a board like he saw the karate masters do on TV when he was young.)

As a result of attending this conference as a featured presenter, I was also able to present my own research paper for publication in the proceedings. In keeping with the above mentioned theme and the fact that we had already demonstrated the physical part of karate-do, I decide to focus on the academic and health befits that come with long-term study and practice of this art as a result of its 文武両道 Bunbu Ryodo approach to learning (See full paper).

Some of the points made in the paper are, a brief history of karate, its close relationship with the Japanese education system, and the difference between the terms karate and karate-do and in doing so tried to provide a better definition of the term karate-do. In my opinion, these two terms should not be used interchangeably.

In this post I will share with you what I wrote in the paper regarding the definition of the term karate-do.

Defining Karate-do
The Oxford Dictionary of Current English defines karate as a Japanese system of unarmed combat using hands and feet as weapons. Christopher M. Clarke in his book Okinawan Karate: A History of Styles and Masters Vol.1 (2012), he states that, “At its simplest, karate is a system of unarmed self-defense” (p.7), implying that karate is actually something more complex. Karate is indeed a self-defense system, but the discussion I wish to have deals with karate-do which requires more clarification in its definition.

In order to deepen our understanding of the terms covered in this paper we must also look at the Chinese Characters (kanji). The word karate, as we know it today, is made up of two kanji 空 and 手, Kara; Empty or vacant and Te; Hand. These two kanji combine to become ‘empty hand’ which describes this weaponless art of self-defense. The two definitions given above, while accurately defining the term karate, are lacking when we attempt to define karate-do and therefore should not be misunderstood to encompass karate-do as well.

Monday, 1 February 2016

2016年 申年 the Year of the Monkey

(Saru Doshi, Year of the Monkey, written by the Author, 2016)

Chinese Zodiac - Monkey
The following describes the personality and characteristics of the Monkey according to the Chinese Calender:
Occupying the 9th position on the Chinese Zodiac, the Monkey possesses such character traits as curiosity, mischievousness, and cleverness. Forever playful, Monkeys are the masters of practical jokes. Even though their intentions are always good, this desire to be a prankster has a tendency to create ill will and hurt feelings. Although they are inherently intellectual and creative, Monkeys at times have trouble exhibiting these qualities. When that happens, they appear to others to be confused. But nothing could be further from the truth as Monkeys thrive on being challenged. Monkeys prefer urban life to rural, and their favourite pastime is people-watching. (Retrieved on Feb. 2nd, 2016, from For dates and corresponding animals, see the picture below.
(Photo retrieved on Feb. 2nd, 2016, from )

So I wonder what kind of year this is going to be?!

Personally Speaking
It has been a bit of a different start to the New Year for me this year. Although I am as busy as ever and receiving even more positive feedback regarding the projects that I am involved in, there is something unsettling inside me. I am finding it hard to stay focused and motivated in my training and on my personal development goals.

I can't quite put my finger on it. I don't feel as grounded as I usually do at this time of the year. I think the reason for my unease is the fact that there was no お滝行 O Takigyou, Waterfall Training, this past January 3rd. You may remember me introducing the waterfall training that some of the members of the Chito-Ryu Sohonbu Dojo partake in every year on January 3rd and how important it is to me (please see the previously posted blogs "お正月 in 熊本" and  "お正月 in 熊本 Continued" for more details of how I usually spend the End of the Year and the first week of the New Year).

(Youseikan Dojo O Takigyou, 2015)

I am not using the fact that the waterfall training was cancelled this year as the reason I am finding it hard to focus. It was cancelled because In January of last year the Chito-Ryu Karate-do founder O Sensei's wife, mother of the current Chito-Ryu Soke, passed away. As part of the mourning process, called 悔やむ Kuyamu in Japanese, personal and family related celebrations cannot be conducted in the first year after a family member has passed away. I am familiar with this process. This is not what is troubling me. I feel something is changing inside me and although I have faith that this is the confusion that comes with growth and personal development I am still feeling somewhat uneasy.

Trying to Find Balance in Old and New Traditions
A Month has now passed and we are officially into the swing of things in 2016, next Month I will be a year older and I have many things on the go that are lending to my life's purpose affecting my growth in and out of the Dojo, but there is something troubling me, as I stated earlier, something unsettling. In this post, I will share what I did instead of O Takigyou in an attempt to ground myself.
As you may know, I built a house in Kikuyo Town just outside of Kumamoto City and this holiday season we spent our first Christmas and New Year's there. It was a time of tradition; celebrating old traditions and developing new ones together as a family. The longer I am here, the more important I feel a healthy perspective of tradition is. We are all developing potential traditions as we create new events in our lives and inspire the lives of others. However, the things we initiate will only become traditions after they have been repeated for years and others continue to repeat them independently.

Definition of Tradition According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
Simple Definition of Tradition
  • : a way of thinking, behaving, or doing something that has been used by the people in a particular group, family, society, etc., for a long time
  • : the stories, beliefs, etc., that have been part of the culture of a group of people for a long time
  • - used to say that someone has qualities which are like the qualities of another well-known person or group of people from the past
 Full Definition of Tradition
  • 1 a: an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as a religious practice or a social custom)
  • 1 b: a belief or story or a body of beliefs or stories relating to the past that are commonly accepted as historical though not verifiable
  • 2: Then handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction
  • 3: cultural continuity in social attitudes, customs, and institutions
  • 4: characteristic manner, method, or style <in the best liberal tradition>
I am currently in the stage of deciding what old traditions to keep and share with my children and what new traditions to create together with them. This is exciting, but I also feel the heavy burden of responsibility. This is true for many Dojo Sensei, I am sure. We have all learned many things from our teachers, but we choose to continue to practice some things and choose not to practice others. This is part of the process and it shapes the traditions of the future.

Taking a Closer Look at 伝統 Deconstructing the Kanji
The actual kanji that make up the term "Tradition" are two characters: 伝 Den or Tsutau which means to Transmit, Walk along, Communicate, Report, and Legend, as well as tradition and 統 Tou meaning relationship, unity, unification, and compatibility as in the example 統一 Touitsu to Unify or Consolidate. Together these kanji may be interpreted to describe the actions or events that transmit the ways of the old to the next generation. These traditions create a relationship across generations. The responsibility to both pass these actions, events, and specific ways of doing things onto the next generation and the detailed preservation of these ways are what the martial arts are built upon. My time spent in Kumamoto has been influenced heavily by the O Takigyou tradition which sets my internal perspective for the year, each year.

Finding a Way to Reconnect with Nature
I knew that I had to do something to reconnect with nature as this is always a big part of our O Takigyou tradition. So, on January 3rd I weeded my new garden. It felt good and I felt grateful for  having a garden to weed in the first place. This was not something I ever thought I would have. As I pulled the weeds I said thank you, silently. A quiet thank you to everyone who contributed to the building of my house and the creation of this garden surrounding my front yard. Most importantly, to my wife whom, had I not met so many great things in my life would never have come to be. Although the work was hard I found myself smiling.

I Reflected as I continued weeding and thought that these plants and weeds truly are a metaphor for life as I have heard so many people speak of. We need to tend and put so much energy into nourishing the flowers and plants which represent the projects and relationships in life, but the weeds grow stronger the more we neglect the garden. squating there with my hands in the dirt, I finally realized and understood what they meant. This is also why we need to spend so much time concentrating on and practicing proper form in our movements; on the basics of the techniques, developing 習慣 Shukan because when we don't bad habits 癖 Kuse quickly form. Like the weeds in the garden robbing the nutrients from the soil making it difficult for the other things to grow so too will these bad habits hinder the level of growth and understanding of the art we are practicing.

(The House and Garden, 2016)

I reconnected in my own way with nature and felt deep personal feelings, but still, there was something missing. There is something that happens inside me when I stand under the water on January 3rd. I believe that there are many things both before and after standing under the actual water that contribute to the spiritual experience that I feel and the personal growth that takes place in me each year during this time. Therefore, I know that if I go to the water alone and perform the ritual as best I can by myself I know that it will not have the same impact on me. However, I am beginning to think that I will need to go to the waterfall in order to get grounded and on purpose decide upon a goal to focus on for the rest of this year. And, no matter what, make this year the Best one yet!