Monday, 21 November 2016

No Hacks in Karate Only Responsibility

In this post I would like to have a dialogue regarding some of the things that have been on my mind lately. As I unpack my thoughts, I aim to shed some new light on some deeper concepts, specifically不動心 Fudoshin; an immovable spirit and 鍛錬 Tanren; forging, disciplining, training. This new perspective may also provide further insight to other important concepts which I have discussed in earlier posts. These concepts are often the topic of debate when trying to find a definition that adequately describes them in English. As we grow our perspective changes allowing us to see things in a different light. Therefore, revisiting concepts such as the ones discussed in this post is important as it may help us to better understand them.

The more I consider various philosophical concepts on my journey in karate-do, the more I see that everything is connected; All of the deeply rooted principles of karate-do are grounded in the human condition. However, in this modern world where everything is getting faster and faster the slower pace of growth and development in the martial arts may seem discouraging to younger practitioners. Contrary to what is being sold to us on the Internet, there are no "shortcuts" or "hacks" in karate-do. It takes time to process our experiences. I believe that our experiences are what shape us. In this frame of mind, it may be said that our karate shapes who we are, but I offer to this discussion that who we are is what is shaping our karate. This kind of growth and development cannot be uploaded into us like Neo in the Matrix.

If we try to approach our karate training by looking for shortcuts, the karate that we develop will be hollow and our character flawed. I suggest that, instead of looking for quick fixes, we pay careful attention to the details in each and every experience both in and out of the dojo. In order to do this there are some things that we can do to change our perspective and get the most out of our experiences. First, I strongly feel that we must understand that there is no "one true style of karate-do."(A statement of false pride that I have often heard uttered by instructors in various Ryu ha and Kai ha referring to their style as the "one true style of karate) No one style is any better or worse than any other. There is only karate-do and our personal interpretation of the karate shown to us based on our individual experiences. So, I say, respect all styles, cross the boundaries, live in the moment and get as much as you can from each and every experience.

As I continue down this path, I consider that there are some things that only come with age, but adulthood is not one of them. Physical maturity is often mistaken for adulthood. However, in my opinion, emotional maturity is what truly displays whether or not someone is an 'adult'. There is one specific trait that displays emotional maturity in someone and it all begins with taking responsibility. By taking responsibility in three major areas of our lives we will grow more emotionally mature and assume the level of adulthood that I am talking about. the following three areas are the most important areas to take control of in order to effectively contribute to personal growth, they are:
Taking responsibility of our own Thoughts
Taking responsibility of our own Feelings
Taking responsibility of our own Actions
I first heard about this concept of taking responsibility of our thoughts, feelings, and actions in Jack Canfield's Success Principles and this concept changed everything for me. The moment I took responsibility of these three things in my life everything changed. This is the key to introspective reflection because with out taking responsibility of these we will always have the potential to be manipulated by outside forces. Consider this concept for a moment and you will see clearly that our thoughts are controlled by our feelings and our actions are controlled by our thoughts. In short, taking responsibility of our thoughts, feelings, and actions is the key to 不動心 Fudoshin.

Often translated as, "an immovable spirit" as mentioned above. This translation is limiting and  leads to a serious misunderstanding implying a steadfastness or a rigidity that is not  only limiting, but also misleading.  The following has been built upon, taken from a previous post from this blog titled "不動心 (Fudoshin) an Immovable Spirit is Not about Not Moving at all."
The first kanjiFu also pronounced as Bu in Japanese is where some of the confusion may lay with regards to this concept as a whole. Adding Fu to another kanji, such as 合格 Goukaku Success, to pass (e.g. exam) would change the meaning to the opposite; 不合格 Fugoukaku (examination) failure, rejection. In this case of Fudoshin the kanjiFu is placed in front of  動 Do; Ugo (ku), which means to Move (physically) and changes the meaning to a negative or the opposite, as is the rule, becoming 不動 Fudo Immobility, Steadfastness. However, there is another perhaps more appropriate translation for the second 動く Ugoku which is to Stir, Change, or Move (emotionally), it may also be translated as Confusion. This is very important to note in this context because the third kanji; 心 Kokoro (Shin), suggests that  the translation of to be 'moved' or 'stirred'; affected or influenced by something seems to be more appropriate. You can see that it is in this context that Fudo should be interpreted in this way. By deconstructing the three kanji and understanding how they work together we can see that Fudoshin may be interpreted to mean 'to be unmoved by external influences'. Furthermore, the 心 Koko/Shin is often closely related to and interconnected with 気 Ki, life's energy which is always moving as it vibrates. Sometimes the vibrations make us happy, at peace, and content, but other times it can move us in negative ways, if we let it, leading to pain, anger, depression, and some even argue physical illness. Developing one's immovable spirit is simply another way to suggest that one not be moved in the wrong or negative (unhealthy) way by the ki which is all around and within us. It is in this context that I consider thoughts and feelings within us moving us to action. If we allow someone else to affect us so deeply as to change our feelings about something affecting our thoughts and changing our actions we are giving up such an important innate power and this is the ultimate of sacrifices. I believe that this is why this is such an important concept of the martial arts and karate-do training; a training method which teaches, above all else, self control.

This training in self control is referred to as 鍛錬 Tanren; forging, disciplining, and training. This, too is often misunderstood as having to be a hard external disciplinary training experience. however, the true tanren occurs within us and begins with taking control of the emotions that move us, the ability to remain cool-headed even in the most stressful of circumstances. The human, physical approach to achieving this state of mind may be through repeated sessions of gruelling training experiences, but the state will never be achieved until something clicks within us. This thing that clicks is not physical, it is very emotional and constitutes a paradigm shift of perspective.

We use the word mastery when we discuss the growth of martial artists, i.e., he practised hard and became a master in that karate style. Here I am suggesting that the growth in karate-do is something more natural than this, not forced rather realised, developed not externally, but rather internally. Very similar to the growth of a child to adulthood.

So, I say to you, there are no shortcuts or hacks only intrinsic epiphanies on this path that we call karate-do. We shouldn't be looking around for the latest app or hack to speed up the process, but rather look within ourselves to release the limits that we are setting upon ourselves, to live fully and experience deeply each moment and grow...

Thank you for reading and for your continued support of this blog. I apologise for taking so long between posts. This has been a very difficult year in Japan and around the world. A year of Tanren  that I am sure will lead to profound growth within humanity.

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