Friday, 29 April 2016

Reflection on My Changing Perspective

Karate-do training does more than just strengthen our bodies, over the years of conditioning we also develop a spirit that, I believe, sets us apart from other athletes and the common person. When our spirit is put to the test, a true Karate-ka will never back down and never give up! But, they will also always act with compassion in their hearts and do what is just. Silvester Stallone said in 'Rocky the Final', "It's not about how hard you can hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward." Well on the night of April 14th and in the very early hours of the16th, Kumamoto was hit hard by a series of earthquakes that shook us off balance. We were hit hard, but we are still moving forward!

Perhaps it is the way karate-do is practiced; intentionally putting ourselves in uncomfortable positions and repeating difficult tasks again and again. Or maybe it is the underlining message that is constantly being programmed into our soul every time we put on our gi, tie our obi, and step onto the training floor; that no matter how hard the challenge is before us, whether physical or mental, we shall not fail. It is written in the last verse of the Chito-Ryu Showa; 和と忍力必達 Translated by many as "with Peace and Perseverance we shall reach our goal." I prefer to consider this line to mean through peace and perseverance Strength will certainly come. That is to say, that the way we handle the troubles in this life must come from a place of peace in our hearts and through our persevering to overcome these struggles we attain a strength that develops us, changing us into someone better. If we live our lives in this fashion, with what I like to call a quiet strength, then everything we will ever need to get through any dilemma, no matter how big or small, will already be inside of us and we will succeed in reaching far more than just our goals. I believe that we can attain a higher quality of being. This theory is being tested in the Kumamoto Karate-do community now.

"On April 14th, 2016 at 9:26 pm (Local Time), a strong earthquake (Magnitude 6.5) occurred in the Kumamoto area of Kyushu, followed by the second one (Magnitude 7.3) on April 16th, 2016 at 1:25 am. (Japan National Tourism Organisation Updated: April 26, 2016, 09:00 JST)" Later these quakes were upgraded to magnitude 7 and 7.3.

There are ongoing advisory warnings, but people are beginning to re-build. "Advisory from Japan Meteorological Agency: Seismic activity in the Kumamoto prefecture and Oita prefecture areas in Kyushu is still ongoing. There is concern about buildings and houses collapsing, and landslides may occur. Remain aware of your surroundings and exercise caution regarding earthquakes as well as rainy weather, as the combination can be hazardous. (April 26, 2016)"

Just how bad was Kumamoto hit? Please check out this link to see the damage in the Aso area:
and a video by IDRO Japan of a walk through Mashiki Town, both of these sites are only about a 15 to 20 min. drive from where I built my house in Kikuyo Town. Aso is to the East of me and Mashiki is to the South. Mashiki Town was the epicentre of the first quake :
Like many, I'm still trying to process this. I'm not sure I have the words yet to describe my feelings, but I can tell you that since this my perspective has changed. I have believed for some time that ego and unhealthy pride should have no place in the martial arts because they are petty, cloud our judgement, and hinder our growth. I now know that I can no longer accept this kind of behaviour in my life. I will continue to act from a place of peace and love in my heart towards those whom come into my life, the path of karate has taught me that we have the strength within us to do amazing things and this earthquake has caused me to reflect, and take notice. I now believe that the true path of karate is not to destroy or cut down ones advisory, but rather to build, to create a society where this is no longer necessary. The way we do this is by becoming an active member within our communities, by teaching children the life lessons that we have learnt as 先生 Sensei which literally means born before. Having been born before we have a responsibility to the next generation to teach through lessons, but more importantly, to teach through our actions the qualities such as written in the Chito-Ryu Showa. (For more detailed information on my interpretation of the Chito-Ryu Showa please review my earlier posts, Analysis of the Showa Part 1 and Part 2, 11/25/14.) 

As Karate-ka and as members of our communities we must use our physical power to build a solid foundation both physically and mentally and when we are given the chance to re-build something we must make every effort to make it better. This refinement reflects the path of karate because it is in this way that we develop our own bodies and minds as we train. This is not just a metaphorical notion to me any more. This is exactly what everyone in Kumamoto Prefecture is being faced with right now. If we cannot perform when it truly counts it is all for nothing.

When does it really count? My answer to this question is now perfectly clear, when our families are facing life threatening danger!

As I continue to reflect on my life and the direction I must take I am always trying to improve on what I have done and to keep moving forward.

I was among some of the very lucky ones. My house, not even a year old, only sustained minimal damage compared to those who lost their homes completely as seen in the links above and the map to the left. Some people who had to evacuate from their homes were even evacuated from the evacuation centres because they too became structurally unsafe after the repeated aftershocks.

We have had over 1,000 quakes registering level 2 or higher in magnitude in the last two weeks (NHK news) and even as I wrote the majority of this article, between April 27th and 30th, two weeks after the first quake we were still experiencing aftershocks that shook my house and widened the cracks in its walls and caused my stomach to tighten.