Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Space: the final frontier...

Preparing a space for the new dojo
This photograph was taken about a year and a half ago, when the first day of work began to prepare the space for the dojo. Long before the foundations were laid or a wall raised, the ground had to be prepared properly to take the heavy winter rains away from the new building. What you're looking at here, beyond the white pegs marking where the dojo will stand, is a drainage ditch  going in.

In between the old dojo closing and the new dojo being ready for use, I not only had time to think about many things, but I had the space too. Not having a dojo to go to in the mornings separated me from my usual routine, and provided an opportunity to think and evaluate how I engage with karate; it was an interesting and productive time for me, and gave rise to a number of changes.

The same space as it looks today
One of the changes I made was to drop the annual kangeiko, mid-winter training. My reasons for doing so stem from it being a Japanese tradition rather than an Okinawan one, but mostly, I dropped it because I believe it has served it's purpose. The karateka who train at the Shinseidokan no longer need such a challenge; what they need now is to learn how to accept ownership of their karate, and the responsibility that comes with doing that.

There is a common misconception among karateka about the nature of "ownership" when it comes to karate; many believing that it means you're free to do what you like, but that's a mistake borne out of laziness; an excuse offered up by people who never learnt the lessons found in practises like kangeiko. These days, I place different challenges in front of the students who train at the Shinseidokan, challenges that may seem less difficult to others, but that perception too is a mistake.

The dojo garden last winter
Having space to think and work means you also have space to become lost; it's important to remember that the price of freedom is responsibility. No good is served by having the potential to develop your karate, if that potential is eroded by an inability to control your ego. Space its self might not be the final frontier, as Captain Kirk would have it, but it is the medium by which you can change course toward it; and by doing so, chart a path to a better grasp of karate's deeper values.