Monday, 6 May 2013


A Japanese black pine tree, learning to grow
 There are no two ways about it, learning karate is difficult. The physical movements and techniques are hard enough, while the speed, stamina, and strength required to bring your karate to life, are not easy to achieve either; still, with regular training and a decade or so to spare, karate begins to reveal its self.

Staying grounded, connected to the earth, is a necessary skill if you want to use your body weight, rather than muscular strength, to generate power; put simply, the poorer your connection to the ground, the more you have to rely on your muscles to generate penetrative shock. Which is fine if you're built like the hulk, but many of us are not, so remaining close to the ground is a real necessity.

With the help of a student, I've been planting trees in the dojo garden this week. One of the trees, a Japanese black-pine, is being "encouraged" to grow in a particular way. Learning to do that has meant tying two of the lower branches to stones that sit on the ground. In time the tree will learn to keep these two branches low, at which point the stones will be removed.

Sanchin training in the old dojo
I practise sanchin kata often, tensho kata too, like the stones tied to the tree, the two kata help to keep me grounded. When I pick up the nigiri-gami (gripping jars), I'm reminded of the tree...standing between heaven and the earth...I harmonize my breathing, and, for a few brief moments, leave the worries of the world behind.