FEBRUARY NEWSLETTER

February 2014

A JOURNEY WITHIN

 The study of karate is a journey in martial art’s training and within one’s being.  The greatest success is experienced not over an opponent, but internally as we begin to understand ourselves.  Karate builds one’s body, mind and inner spirit.  Karate teaches lessons of life, starting in the dojo and then following each individual into his or her daily life.  Attitudes and feelings developed and expressed in the dojo tell everything about one’s behavior.  In the long history of martial arts, practitioners have used their physical skills as a means of building mental, emotional and physical skills. The art is primarily a path towards personal fulfilment rather than a primary means of self-defense and self-satisfaction.  Karate and its martial arts forerunners are historically linked with Zen philosophies where people achieve enlightenment through everyday activities. By experiencing every moment for itself and leaving the mind open to all experiences, inner peace is found. The cornerstone of these philosophies is being in-tune (mushin) with the world around the individual.

 The intrinsic nature of karate shows much about the development of an individual.  Unlike many activities where the awards come frequently, traditional training rewards inward growth as well as progress through the ranks.  There are health benefits to continued study. By mastering ourselves in our training, we can learn to master other aspects of our lives. Personal, financial, or professional success is not beyond the capabilities of a disciplined martial artist. These benefits may be seen and touched.  The unseen and intangible benefits of philosophical study nourish the individual’s spirit and are even more meaningful. Understanding aesthetics (what is beautiful), ethics (what is good), metaphysics (what is being), and epistemology (what is knowledge) can provide the karate student the ability to understand what is true and beautiful and can deliver the wisdom and the strength to know what is just and what is right.

 In solitary practice, karatekas must learn to concentrate on their own movements, letting everything else go. This is a powerful form of meditation. In fighting competitions, karatekas need to react quickly to any action by their opponent. This quickly teaches the karateka to be open and attentive to whatever he or she may encounter.  Training individually and in the dojo during class enhances our ability to think, develop positive thoughts and capabilities.  As training is started, the student is often hesitant because what is being taught is foreign and new.  Fundamental skills are taught and practiced in each class.  This repetition of foundation skills is not unique to traditional karate training but it is been lost in dojos where the emphasis is placed on being fast without much emphasis on proper technique. With the proper foundation, the advancement through higher skills is found to be less stressful and combination of skills is also understood with better insight.  We must first learn the movements and the proper direction in which the kata and sparring drill is performed. Timing is also heightened so the moves in kata may be used in kumite and self-defence applications.  Next breathing correctly, inhaling while in transition and exhaling while blocking or attacking, is necessary for power to be developed.  Then an added component to breathing is the kiai and methods to tighten the body, adding strength and power to the techniques and focus of power at the appropriate times.  Beyond this one must strive over time to perfect the form, combining form, speed and power.  In time the student should understand the possible meanings for each move (bunkai) and combination of moves. 

During individual or group training there is difference between inspired action and activity. Activity comes from the brain-mind and is rooted in disbelief and lack of focus – we are taking action to “make” a desire thing happen. Inspired action is allowing the law (where anything one wants and desires will become reality) to work through you and to move you.   Activity feels hard. Inspired action feels wonderful. (Excerpt from “The Secret”)     In the dojo it is evident when a student is training with activity or inspired action.  Whether it is a junior or senior student, everyone has good and not so good days.  Each of us has questioned our involvement in an exercise program or training in the dojo.  These times are often when progress or improvement is going to be made.  These challenging times occur because of the repetitive nature involved in exercise programs and in traditional karate programs.  Progress, advancement or growth may not happen when we want it.  Students, regardless of age, need outside help at times from the sensei to refocus our commitment when personal desires or doubts interfere with the nature of self-development.  Life is not always easy and full of fun.  Most people engage in the belief that compensation should be immediately following any effort.  Superior students believe every effort yields some form of accomplishment at some point. When a goal is set, they are expecting to work toward achieving success.  This willingness to delay reward makes them valuable.  This lesson is one that is learned through the study of the martial arts.  Instant gratification generally is not a part of the training.  Achieving a promotion is something worked for, something that is earned in time.  Practitioners realize their possibilities and potentials are limitless.  If they pay the price, they can accomplish any goal or dream.  There is a razor’s edge between the average competitor and the champion.  The question is not one of possibility of success, but of demonstrating the will to succeed.  Most people will not rise to the challenge. If they do, it is an emotional and mental movement from one’s comfort zone.  Those who stay the course have a superior belief in the SELF and a solid mental foundation.  For these outstanding individuals, once decision is made that is it and success will follow. 

Look for the successes that create a smile or a sense of inner happiness.  Work toward improving skills and abilities knowing that these elements will help us succeed at whatever we put our minds to.  Be happy with what is done and strive to take steps toward improvement and inspired action will become natural.  Superior individuals have a never-ending desire to learn more. Superior students do not limit their achievements to their own scope of knowledge and experience. They seek those who have the advanced abilities to educate and challenge to them to advance to higher levels. They delay their gratification as long as necessary working diligently in order to appreciate their achievements and dreams.  Each of us has the ability to establish goals and to live those dreams. What makes this powerful is that we have also been given the ability to pursue those dreams with the cognitive ability to actually create a plan and strategies (setting goals) to achieve those dreams. Be daring and desire to never be satisfied with a static existence.  The training received through karate with the direction and motivation of each sensei, we have the abilities to move forward in a purposeful and meaningful way.

Congratulations to Jesse Micari who earned the rank of Senior Brown Belt #3.

Mark your calendars to attend the Golden Rule Karate Tournament at Warren Hills High School on Sunday, February 9th.  Doors open at 9 a.m. and the event begins at 11 a.m.  Arrive early to get a closer parking spot.

Black belts please check the web site and check your bio under the instructor heading.  If it needs to be updated please meet with Kyoshi. 

Parents and students – check the dojo web site for information about the dojo, etc. – – www.isshin-ryu.com   

 Friday, January 24th, Shihan Downs and Mr. Glenn Kulesza traveled from Hamburg, NY (near Buffalo) to train with our black belts and socialize.  Mr. Downs was promoted to 6th Dan during our summer camp in 2008.  It is our desire to train together to continue to produce quality traditional Isshin-ryu Karate as it was originally taught and as Hanshi Duessel shares with us.  This is accomplished during these visits and also when I travel to his dojo.  Feel free to look at his dojo web page from t he link on our dojo web site, as well as the MIKA site, which is another karate school in Maine whose students I am also training.

THOUGHT 239

“Religion hinges upon faith, politics hinges upon who can tell the most convincing lies or maybe just shout the loudest, but science hinges upon whether its conclusions resemble what actually happens.” – Ian Stewart

VISUALIZATION – MAKE PRACTICE REAL

Visualization – Make Practice Real

By Thinking, Being and Doing

Kyoshi John E. Hughes

8th Degree Black Belt

 

          Initial reasons to study karate range from desires to learn to fight, protect one’s self or family, to the need to advance capabilities in fitness, strength, coordination and flexibility.  With time and dedication, heightened insights into self-image, discipline, confidence and enhanced develop.  Karate is a physical, mental and emotional endeavor that helps students learn and grow in areas that are not emphasized today in our schools. Through karate’s discipline, each student develops abilities to THINK and react, BE positively in each moment and DO with precision what must be done. 

            Karate training begins to give young students and adults the ability to achieve positive successes in a supportive atmosphere.  Foundation skills become memorized forms, and are used for self-defense and fighting skills. It is imperative for students to practice skills learned to retain material, develop needed abilities and insights and to prepare to learn new and advanced skills. From the first day at the dojo students are asked to follow certain procedures as they enter the dojo. Gis are kept clean and obis are to be tied a particular way. These basic activities prepare students to take care of the “little things”.  Every element in training is crucial for proper discipline and mental development. Each student learns that there is one way to make a proper Isshin-ryu fist, to place feet a certain way to establish the proper stances, and to move arms and legs in a certain way to punch, block or kick effectively. Beyond these areas, proper posture is needed to enhance balance and efficient movement. Appropriate breath control is also needed to develop and enhance wellness and power. Developing strength of character to do what is right is another factor that instructors emphasize. Each student faces accountability because he must learn and demonstrate abilities in kata, self-defense and kumite prior to earning advancement.  Furthermore, these qualities and life skills assist the student to become a positive and successful force in school and community.   Challenges and stresses students encounter and overcome in the dojo aid the individual beyond the dojo. 

          The intention of traditional karate is to end conflict, psychologically, placing the focus on perfecting the physical body. This is achieved by performing strengthening drills and using the repetition of drills to improve one’s health and the creating the ability to perform effective techniques. The technique is the basis for perfection, because as one works to perfect the form of the technique, the physical, intellectual and psychological sides of the student must work together to become a cohesive unit.  As the individual technique is improved, it is joined with other techniques, adding form, timing, rhythm, speed and focus of power when the student performs kata, kumite and kobudo. 

          Karate is not mystical but demands concentration, effort, focused intention and dedication. With black belt supervision and instruction the process to understand the depths of karate within the dojo is enhanced. This instruction using the proven step-by-step methods is essential. Each student must permit guidance through the knowledge into “the way”, and not become concerned with how fast one learns but how well one learns.  Hard work in class must be done but each student must take what is learned home and practice.   Procedures learned in the dojo must become the process for training when on one’s own. “Just going through the movements” is not going to help a person improve. In fact haphazard practice does more harm than good. It has been said that it takes twenty-one days to create a habit. If a person trains improperly, what is being learned is that is “OK” to do things improperly. This will carry over into the dojo, a student’s schoolwork and an adult’s job performance. HOWEVER, anyone may work to attain a goal and succeed if the proper mindset and effort are applied. 

          No two students at any rank are the same in ability, intelligence, maturity and time in Isshin-ryu Karate.  In karate, as in life, one often thinks of gaining something. How far has one progressed and how far it is to obtain a higher rank? The student and parent ask how long is it going to take to become a certain rank and how often do students gain promotion?  If the student concentrates on promotion and gain, a conflict occurs between karate’s intrinsic ideal and the reality of one’s ability.  The conflict enters the karate world when one creates a picture of what one wants, what one expects, establishing his or her own time line for attaining the goal.  Being concerned with how quickly one learns will create anxiety, which will inhibit learning. Each student must maintain “the beginner’s mind” and be open to constructive comments.  At times it is not easy to accept constructive criticism, however, each comment is an attempt to help the student improve. 

            Karate training may become a life-long journey.  To keep practice and progress ‘alive’ one must develop ways to keep the beginner’s spirit in the time devoted to training.  A conscious effort to improve through disciplined training is necessary without desires to change the style. Attention to detail will add emphasis to each element of one’s progress.  It is necessary to practice under a wide variety of conditions and circumstances to add realistic elements to enhance training and value of the efforts applied to one’s study.  This enhances understanding of technique and also helps to promote enthusiasm and keep boredom and lethargy to a minimum.  Another key element is the use of visualization.  At a high level of ability, one sees internally the perfect technique and strives to make that technique the one uses.  Beyond seeing the perfect technique, one should concentrate on how the mental image feels rather than stressing about the actual mental picture.  The ability to mentally see the opponent within the situation and the way one reacts and feels within the situation is at the peak of understanding.  This ability enhances training and ultimately the application of techniques if needed in real necessity.  Training now is able to use previous experience to enhance what is learned today and also what the future may hold.

            The mind is the center and originator of thoughts and activity. Countless minute details must be calculated in the performance of a single technique applied within a short distance in an exceedingly short period of time and with maximum speed.  Complex movements require the mind to perform numerous calculations in the amount of time that lasts no longer than a few seconds for each combination of techniques. To learn effectively the student must learn to release stress and relax.  The calm mind is clear of outside influence.  The goal during training, competition and application of what is learned is to focus one’s concentration on the elements of the form, breath control and proper tension of muscles with instantaneous relaxation after delivery to create the devastating power within each technique.   The student becomes able to experience and deal with stress and solve the problems either during the imagery session or afterward.  With practice the ability to perform at the level desired is achieved when imagery has trained the mind for proper behavior, response, and execution.   As a result of this repeated training the student develops and improves concentration, mental focus, personal performance and also self-confidence.  Consciousness is enhanced, as is the unity of the mind and body. To attain abilities in mental imagery to positively affect personal training, as many senses as possible should be involved to create a realistic image of the situation.  Images should be optimistic and positive to achieve the desired results.  Daily practice during a relaxed state in an atmosphere that will not affect concentration is necessary to increase effectiveness.  To become a well-rounded karateka all aspects of the art must be practiced.  To objectively evaluate personal performance of kihon, kata, kumite, kobudo and other necessary elements while in the dojo or at home, keep a training journal to make sure that no aspect is overlooked.  Using a video of the training session is helpful for the student to accurately determine if perceived abilities are actually being performed. 

            STRIVING FOR PERFECTION IS A NEVER ENDING PROCESS.  Karate training is ageless; we can grow old with it and never exhaust its dimensions.  In this way the mirror will always need polishing.  The beauty of Isshin-ryu Karate is that it is a very basic style where one develops directness of power that may be generated through direct application of proper techniques. The simplicity challenges each of us to improve form and to be able to execute the kata, kobudo and kumite skills effortlessly.  The challenge is to strive to understand the many levels of learning and interpretation.  The purpose of karate is to find peace, not from fighting, but from the inner confidence we gain as we work to perfect the system created by Tatsuo Shimabuku. The new student brings enthusiasm to the dojo. The advanced student understands (in time) he or she is not at the top of the mountain but somewhere along the side of the mountain.  Although promotion is not the focus of training, each new rank is a challenge that must be accepted.  Then as one “grows into the rank” it becomes the reward of Thinking deeply about what one is doing is crucial for proper growth.  Being alive and a conscious part of every action is necessary to maintain a positive mental attitude if there is to be longevity in one’s training.  Doing the needed repetitions to develop form added with speed to create the power of Isshin-ryu Karate is what makes the performance of each technique dynamic and effective.

THOUGHT 237

“Defeat is a state of mind. No one is ever defeated until defeat has been accepted as reality. To me, defeat in anything is merely temporary, and its punishment is but an urge for me to greater effort to achieve my goal. Defeat simply tells me that something is wrong in my doing; it is a path leading to success and truth.”    Bruce Lee

JANUARY 2014 NEWSLETTER

JANUARY 2014 NEWSLETTER

Quality and Depth in Isshin-ryu Karate Do.

     Each martial art is made unique by its methods of teaching.  Many styles use similar structures to help students grow into the style.  These areas are: basics – (kihon), stylized hand and weapons forms – (kata), self-defense and sparring – (kumite).  Initially, these segments are learned as independent and separate parts of the puzzle, but in time many of the parts are joined for a deeper understanding.  As the student grows into the art, each of these components of karate also helps to develop the student’s – body, mind and spirit.

           Body

1) Grounding: feeling the support of the ground through the feet.  A) The feet are firmly and directly repositioned in each stance after each movement.  B) The feet plant and root themselves into the ground (lifted toes or “loose” heels weaken this grounding).  C) The feet are in a dynamic relationship with ground and body. This means that the energy of intent – incorporating both mindfulness and intrinsic energy (chi) – reaches from the feet into the ground and flows upwards into the whole body.    2) Centering: the understanding of the dan tien or belly in karate.  A) The weight of the body positions itself appropriately in each stance.  B) All movements connect to and radiate outward from the dan tien. (Reliance upon upper body strength as the primary strength negates the connection to the dan tien.)  C) General emptiness in the dan tien is usually caused by a lack of intent being placed there or through the presence of tension or fear, both of which will cause the center to rise into the chest area or higher.  D) All movements are supported by the slight firming or compacting of the dan tien in coordination with the movement to activate the flow of chi.   3) Flow: the ease of movement in all of its various stages and positions is the activation of appropriate body mechanics in support of each individual movement.  A) Tension creates rigid or uneven movement.  B) The transition from movement to movement or stance to stance needs to occur with fluidity.  C) The use of individual (not meaning personal) “flavors” creates a rich vocabulary of movement as opposed to sameness of movement. Sameness arises from the tendency to want to make all movements feel strong in the same way. If the function of each movement is understood and felt, its unique “flavor” will show.    4) Power: the natural heaviness in all movement as well the impact of each strike as the body supports the completion of each extension.  A) The whole body responds and supports the movement as it begins, transits and finishes.  B) There is an integration of body mechanics and intent.  C) Movements of the limbs do not occur in isolation from the rest of the body.  D) Body habits (poor posture etc.) are corrected.  E) The body supports but does not compensate (i.e., by leaning in an opposite direction) for each movement.  F) There is an alignment of structure (bone, ligament, tendon and muscle) to support each movement and impact.   5) Precision: all movements have a clear beginning, middle and end point.  A) All movements demonstrate their potential with detail and refinement.  B) There is a sharp, vivid quality to each movement.  C) Gaps in the mindfulness of a movement (i.e., lifting the shoulder with a punch) are seen and eliminated.   6) Speed: the velocity of a movement to support power and flow and to create impact.  A) Speed issues forth in a manner that is appropriate to the effectiveness of a movement.  B) Unequal speed in the extension and retraction of a movement is avoided.  C) Too much speed in which a movement’s fullness is sacrificed is avoided.  D) Too little speed in which an opponent’s body is not shocked (an important aspect of contact which allows for deep penetration) is avoided.  E) The creation of an appropriate pause in the cycle of extension/retraction allows the transference of power and intent.

           Mind          

1) Intent: the clear commitment to a movement involving both the body and the chi. It is a summoning of all of the resources in an appropriate way.  A) Each movement and stance projects and radiates the resources of commitment. B) The eyes project an intense clarity of commitment. C) There is no self-resistance (i.e., dynamic tension) or ambivalence present in movement.   2) Mindfulness: spaciousness and clarity of being.  A) All aspects of the body are clearly felt.  B) The body and intent is felt in an integrated way at the same time as an individual movement is also felt.  C) The function of each movement is understood and informs each movement.  D) The potential for change is always present in the moment.  E) One is not distracted by thought or emotion.  F) The mind is not “set” but flows freely from thing to thing, moment to moment.    3) Self: the body/mind experience of “me-ness.”  A) One is not conflicted by self-judgment.  B) Feelings of self are relaxed into mindfulness.  C) One does not indulge in the pride of self-inflation and glorification.  D) The bow is practiced with gratitude for the Way of Karate rather than as a formality. E) Fear and anger are no longer binding as both solo and partner work take place. They no longer manifest in the clear spaciousness of being.   THE DEMONSTRATION OF THE “TRUE BEGINNER’S MIND.”   

           Spirit           

1)      Martial spirit is the evidence of martial force manifesting upon the integration of mind and body. There is not simply the demonstration of personal physical prowess but the clear flow of one or all of the collective forces of the martial art.  2) There are many practitioners who change or rearrange the forms to suit their own personal needs, desires or dislikes, not recognizing that to do so effectively deprives them of the inherent understanding that can spontaneously come alive in the practice of these physical movements.  Kata have been practiced by for centuries, and as the student aligns and attunes to them in right relationship, then the understanding of karate can fill each one as the movement is occurring. From this depth of foundation, each person can evolve via karate, which is the very means by which karate evolves.  Isshin-ryu is a system that balances the use of each part of the body.  It is effective for close range and distant self-defense situations.  Its use of internal and external strength makes it one system that may be practiced for one’s entire life and after years of study there will always be something to be learned or understood at a deeper level.

 

Do Little Things In A Big Way –  Bob Proctor, Speaker & Author

 John Kanary is a good friend and business associate.  He and I have worked together for years and have often shared the stage when conducting seminars in various parts of the world.  A few weeks ago, I was reading something he had written and decided I would share it with you.  John was writing about talented people who fail and others who appear quite ordinary are extremely successful.  Quite often very talented people fail because they believe they are too big to do the little things, while the most successful amongst us are quite willing to do the little things.  They truly are big people.  John went on to explain how a successful balanced life is comprised of a lot of successful days put together, and each day is made of a lot of successful activities, each activity completed in an extraordinary way.  Our lives are made of many small parts and we should capitalize on small victories, recognizing that extraordinary achievements come from people who are often considered to be very ordinary.  Realize that nobody is ordinary; every person is extraordinary.  Here are a few simple ruled that John suggests and any person can follow:

            1.  Stop thinking of yourself as ordinary

            2.  Never refer to yourself as an average person because there are no average people.  Our problem stems from acting as though we are average.

            3.  Consider every person a very important person.  Dispense with the status quo in your personal and business life.

            4.  Develop the attitude that there are no small parts in the movie of life; there are only small actors.

            5.  Do the smallest of jobs in the best way you possibly can.

            6.  Organize your small victory list every day and make them all-important activities.  Complete each one enthusiastically.  Everyone expects us to have a sense of urgency for life’s big things.  Life measures us by how we engage ourselves in the little things.

 

A THOUGH FROM KYOSHI –

As we enter 2014 realize that one of the amazing things we have been given as humans is the desire to have dreams of a better life. Each of us has the ability to establish goals to live those dreams. We can look deep within our hearts and dream of a better situation for our families and ourselves. We may dream of better financial lives and better emotional or physical lives.  What makes this more powerful is that we have also been given the ability to pursue those dreams with the cognitive ability to actually create a plan and strategies (setting goals) to achieve those dreams. Be daring and desire to never be satisfied with a static existence.

THOUGHT 236

“We have too many high sounding words, and too few actions that correspond with them.” — Abigail Adams