Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Giving it all away...

Jon training saifa kata on his recent visit to the Shinseidokan last month
When I play the role of teacher in karate, I try to teach by example. The example I am able to provide however is limited by my experience, so, I won't teach what I don't know. Over thirty years ago I made a choice to stop practising karate the Japanese way; at the time it was a big decision to make but having experienced Okinawan karate, I knew that for me the Japanese approach to training was no longer something I could commit myself to: so I travelled to Okinawa and started over.

Early last year a visitor arrived at the dojo from South Australia for a week of training; Jon was already nidan in Shotokan karate and ran a karate club affiliated to a well established organisation. With ten years of karate training behind him he had a good grasp of the karate he was in the process of learning, but for Jon there was something missing. He knew there was more to karate, he just didn't know how to go about getting it.

After a second visit last year Jon asked to become a student, I said no; but my refusal was not because I didn't like Jon, I did, I just wasn't sure he could stop thinking about karate in the way he had been. So I asked him, "Can you stop thinking 'Shotokan' and begin thinking 'karate'...because if you can't then nothing will change."

Let me make it perfectly clear, there is nothing wrong with Shotokan, the point I was making is this; if you think of karate in terms of 'style', any style, then you limit yourself to the true depth of what karate is. I believe karate is based on principles that work rather than a series of techniques that have to be 'mastered'. Mastering karate, it seems to me, is a myth put about by ego's that are not yet mature enough to pursue karate with integrity.

One of the few things I know for sure about karate is this, the more you let go of the 'style' you are trying to 'master', the closer you will get to absorbing the karate you are learning. Jon did manage to stop thinking in terms of style, and has become a part of the Shinseidokan; he has some way to go yet, and I'm not sure he appreciates just how much progress he has made...but then, he has a lot more giving away to do.