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.