Monday, 4 February 2013

What's real...and what's not!

At "the" monument - Okinawa 2007
When it comes to karate, the question of what's real and what isn't can be a big problem. Navigating your way through claims of mastery and of linage can be a nightmare. For me, alarm bells go off as soon as I hear the word "master", or references to teaching the police and the armed forces. When Western folk take on Eastern titles, become monks, or are said to have trained with some obscure descendant of a long dead, but well known, teacher.

I think it was Einstein who worked out that your perception of what is real, depends entirely on where you are in relation to events unfolding before you. It's a phenomena that you can observe in action every time you have a conversation with another karateka. Take this example of an exchange between two karateka, one with less than ten years training behind them, and one with almost forty:

"My teacher is the real deal, no question about it!"
"But I don't see him that way; I see someone who believes he's better than he is."
"But he was taught by master (add any name you like here), and he was the self-defence instructor for the (add any law enforcement or military group you like here)."
"When was that?"
"I'm not sure."
"But you're sure all this is real?"
"How what?"
"How are you sure?"
"Because my teacher told me...and"
"And he's the real deal...right?"

So, whose experience of reality is valid here? Can both be right, or are both opinions open to debate? Is it possible for two people to see the same person in such a contrasting light, and still be correct in their opinion of him? That so few (if any) individuals attract universal respect and admiration, says a lot about the caliber of people who inhabit the world of karate these days.

I'm with Einstein on this one, master or apprentice, it really all depends on your position in relation to the individual in question. So, does it serve any purpose at all to compare yourself with anybody else? Does it help you grasp your karate any firmer if you spend time thinking about the things others are doing? I don't think so. I prefer to discuss karate with the makiwara, the chi-ishi, and the other kigu in my dojo; for I know I'll never find a training partner more "real", or more honest, then they are.