Sunday, 2 February 2014

The Joy of Training..!

The Shinseidokan at dawn - February 1st, 2014
I've been involved in a conversation recently concerning the future of karate; but little of what has been said so far has concerned itself with the sense of pleasure derived from training. In the rush to control karate, the very fundamental concept of joy has been left behind or forgotten altogether. For many years I've held the belief that many of the people teaching karate today no longer enjoy training for themselves! It's a theory you can test for yourself easily enough; simply calculate the number of hours you engage with karate in a month, then divide the time into the amount spent teaching and the hours spent in personal training...there's your answer!

The Shomen 
I'm aware that not everyone has the time I have to practise or a dojo right outside the front door; but I want to point out that over the past 40 years it was not always this way for me either. I also want to make it clear that the dojo and the time I now have to train, are a direct result of choices I've made in life...and not down to good luck! I'm not wealthy, and there are only a very small number of students who look to me for guidance, so there's very little money generated by the dojo. 

The first of the Shinseidokan kun asks students to think about this: Live within your means. You may wonder what this has to do with karate? Well, if you don't have the personal discipline to live this way, within your means, then you can pretty much forget ever grasping the essence of karate; instead, you'll spend your life continually adding to what you've got instead of living with what you already have. I don't know how else to say this without sounding like Yoda...but the more you want, the less you'll end up with: in life or karate.

Some of the kigu I use 
Of all the long-term (30 years +) karateka I have met, and in my line of work I've met a lot, few appear to still enjoy training. In spite of making a lot of money from karate over the years, they can't seem to find the time or enthusiasm to do anything else  but teach it to others. It's a pretty soulless existence if you ask me...travelling the world posing as someone who's in control of their life, when in actual fact they are like a great many others who are stuck in a dead-end job with little prospect of escape. So much for understanding the concept of "self " defence! "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king", and maybe this is what keeps the fantasy alive for such people and their followers; but I've always believed karate is about keeping your eyes (and mind) open, of taking control by taking responsibility for your life, as well as your training.

Students training with the sai
Miyazato Eiichi sensei could, from time to time, be heard reminding students that they didn't have to be in the dojo, that karate wasn't compulsory. He said the same thing to me once or twice over the years too, usually when I was struggling with something and my frustration was becoming obvious. His comment always forced me to confront my frustration and deal with it; once I was able to do that, remarkably, my time in the dojo returned to being a pleasure.

Miyazato Eiichi sensei....he knew a thing or two about karate, but I suspect he knew just as much about human nature, and perhaps that's why he enjoyed his personal training right up to the end. I have said many of the same things to students at the Shinseidokan that Miyazato sensei said to me at the Jundokan; coming from me however, I'm not sure the words carry quite as much authority, so I do what my sensei did for me...I set an example.

"Example moves the world more than doctrine."....Henry Miller