RUNNING THE RIVER
 
Go with the flow
Like most creatures on this earth we live in a world where we rely primarily on our vision to understand what is happening around us. Yet it is not uncommon for our eyes to deceive us into believing that we saw something occur that in reality our conscious mind tells us was simply impossible.
 
A good example of this is magic, or perhaps more precisely, the illusion of magic.
 
An illusion created by a magician is designed to trick our eye and our mind into believing that a particular event, often of impossible magnitude, just occurred. Where the eye goes the mind will always follow, and so we believe. After all we saw it happen, or at least we thought we did. If, however, we can learn to see beyond the magician's slight of hand, fancy tricks, and purposeful distractions all designed to break our concentration, then we would obviously have a much better chance of seeing what is really taking place.
 
The same is true in karate, especially in kata.
 
Like an illusion, the real meaning and purpose of many of the movements and techniques found within the katas we practice today, are hidden from us. This is primarily the result of a gradual modification of the katas that has taken place over the last one hundred and fifty years or so. Today as a result, most students practice their katas more as a physical and mental exercise than anything else.
 
Since the practice of kata revolves entirely around our ability to see, it is often difficult for us to avoid also focusing on the many distractions that are taking place around us, since by nature human beings are easily visually distracted. Yet it is vital for you to learn do so, for like an illusion, you will have a much better chance of seeing the hidden meanings found within the various katas if you first learn to filter out all of the visible distractions and unnecessary information.
 
So, as is often the case in life, there are times when you must look at your kata training in some what contradictory terms.
 
A good example of this can be found in the following saying: "often to see clearly, you must first close your eyes".
 
Try this simple test, but always with a partner watching over you.
 
With your eyes open walk slowly across the dojo. Once you have reached the other side turn around and face in exactly the same the direction, and along exactly the same path you just walked.
 
Study the return path.
 
See the path, not only with your eyes, but more importantly with your mind.
 
Now close your eyes and concentrate.
 
Try to “see” the path again, only this time in your "minds eye".
 
Now walk slowly back to where you started, only this time do so while keeping your eyes closed for the entire journey, while at the same time having your partner monitor your progress for obvious safety reasons.
 
When you "think" you are back to where you started, or if needed, on your partners instructions, open your eyes.
 
How did you do?
 
Did you end up even close where you started?
 
Perhaps yes, perhaps no.
 
In truth it does not really matter. What matters is that you took the opportunity to approach your training in a new way, and having done so you will have learnt something new about yourself, and what it means to try and "see" from within.
 
After all, no trial, no error, no knowledge.
 
It is the same with kata.
 
You may not always end up where you started, in fact you should never "try" to, simply because finishing where you started is not the real point of doing a kata. What really matters when you perform a kata is that you do it with undivided attention to all aspects of the kata. Do this often enough and over time you will gain a better understanding of the little things that are not easily apparent the first 20, 50, 100, or 200 times you perform a particular kata. No matter how many times you do a kata, you will always learn something.
 
That is the reason proper repetitive practice is so important.
 
With this new ability to "see" your karate will greatly improve, and so will your opportunities to look deeper into the kata and to look beyond simply the surface movements of the kata. As your abilities grow you will start to notice a difference not only in how you train your katas physically, but you will also start to notice a difference in how you feel inside, both mentally, as well as spiritually. This is when you will truly begin to learn to do your karate in harmony with the river of that runs within you. You must as they say "go with the flow" and learn to harness this new found energy along with your personal strengths and weaknesses, and combine them in such a way that they will help to unify all aspects of your kata.
 
No two performances of your kata will ever be the same, nor should they be.
 
It could be said that because we train in the company of others that we all go down the river together, but this is only partly true. The destination may be the same, but the journey will definitely be different for each of us. In the end it is not how we run the river within us that matters, but that we choose to run it all.
 
Pleasant journey.
 
Remember:
The goal is to do the kata as "you feel it",
as a true expression of yourself, and
not as a clone of your teacher.
 
Part the clouds - see the way.
 
"The objective of karate-do is to contribute to the evolution
of the human spirit through physical and mental training."
Sensei Peter Lindsay