- You need
all three to complete the circle
- As a martial art Shotokan
karate has few peers.
- At the core of this style
of karate lies a specific concept that is best expressed
in the words of the Founder of Shotokan karate, Sensei
Gichin Funakoshi, and they were, "karate ni sente
nashi" or "there is no first strike in karate".
- Shotokan karate is,
therefore, in essence, a system of self defence that
predisposes that the best course of action is a defensive
one backed up when necessary by a very long list of
powerful offensive techniques. This underlying belief is
visible in all of the katas practiced within the Shotokan
karate system, in that each kata regardless of it's
seniority or complexity, begins with a defensive
technique, thereby remaining true to the concept of
"no first strike".
- But what if there were no
battles to fight? No need for offensive techniques? What
if the whole world and all of mankind was at peace, what
then? Would Shotokan or any other style of karate still
be worth training?
- In truth most quarrels
would never degenerate into physical confrontation if
both sides kept mutual courtesy and respect at the fore
front of their agenda, but as history has shown us these
two values are usually amongst the first casualties of
any disagreement, followed very closely by a total lack
of self discipline.
- Would the world be free of
conflict if everyone was a student of Shotokan karate, a
nice thought, but not likely. Human nature being what it
is, and man's deep seeded desire for individual control
of every thing around him, makes that dream a fairy tale.
In truth man lacks the one thing he needs to live in a
peaceful world - total self discipline. As long as
emotions rule any agenda, and they usually do, then self
discipline will remain a lost cause.
- So what is the answer to
the question I asked a moment ago, "what if there
were no battles to fight would Shotokan karate still be
- For me the answer is an
- The reason is, and I am
speaking strictly for my self here, for me in the end the
real by-product of all my karate training has been a
personal journey of self improvement. It has never been
about being the fastest, the strongest, or the flashiest,
or even the best. I realized very early on in my training
that besides giving me skills that I could not have
obtained anywhere else, karate and all the positive
tenants that it espouses had slowly crept in and effected
every aspect of my life, and always in a positive way.
- What they say about karate
building a persons character is true, something even
Sensei Gichin Funakoshi believed to the point that he
engrained this very concept into his dojo kun stating,
"seek perfection of character". Today in a
modern world of fast everything, and a growing, "I
want it now" attitude amongst many young people, you
would think that there would be little room for an
ancient art form in which it takes most students years
just to begin to truly comprehend all of the basic
- Yet today Shotokan karate
is stronger than ever before.
- Each day around the world
millions of students, young and old, proud and meek, fit
and not so fit, enter a dojo to train in Shotokan karate.
The reasons why they come to the dojo to train is not so
important. That they do come to train is all that really
matters. The goal of the Sensei then is to not let the
student down by failing to deliver what it is they come
for in the first place, even if they themselves are not
really sure what it is that keeps them coming back to
class again and again. Like a magician the Sensei must
always keep the students interested in what is going on
around them, entertaining them, teaching them, and all
the while pushing them to new physical and mental limits
that they would never ever reach on their own. If the
Sensei can do that, if he can hold their interest and
keep them training long enough, they just may make
sufficient headway through Shotokan's labyrinth to
finally see some "light at the end of the tunnel"
and in time ultimately walk into that light and find that
they are forever changed for the better, just for having
made the journey.
- To do this, however, they
must at some point in their journey down the karate road
first embrace what I call the "triangle".
- The triangle as the name
implies is comprised of three parts and in a specific
- They are:
- So where does one start.
How do we go about making ourselves better students and
better people through karate.
- The first step is to start
by training the body to accept the rigors of the art by
strengthening and toughening the body through the use of
good basic techniques. These are for both the upper and
lower body and comprise amongst other things, low
stances, strong blocks, a wide variety of kicks, and
several different and powerful methods of striking with
both open, and closed hands. Continual progress in this
part of your karate training can only be achieved by
attending class on a regular basis. At least three nights
a week, any less and you will be hard pressed to hang on
to what you have already been taught, let alone progress
any further or with any reasonable expectation of success.
- You can, and should, expect
the training to be physically demanding at times, since
practice drills up and down the dojo floor can cause even
the strongest person in the dojo to look at their
physical capacity in a new light. And there are times
when you will be pushed even to the point of considering
quitting. But you must not. You must percevier. If you do
then each class will only make you stronger, and if you
stay with Shotokan karate long enough you will start to
find that while the defensive and offensive techniques
are obviously a vital part this martial art, they will in
fact begin to take a back seat to other aspects of your
- Your mental
- As in life, everything you
do in karate should be based on a desire to grow and
develop in a positive manner.
- In this a good Sensei and a
good dojo will prove invaluable. None of us can grow
without good leadership, positive direction, good
companionship, and yes at times even harsh constructive
criticism. All throughout our lives it is natural for us
as human beings to look to others to evaluate our
progress, and to advise us on the best course of action,
always bearing in mind our ultimate goal amongst other
things must always be self improvement. None of us is
perfect. Our flaws are both natural as well as self made.
But what you must remember is that perfection of
character has little to do with just physical ability.
Not all students are physically gifted. Yet often a
student who finds themselves behind other students in
style and technique, may find that they are well ahead of
their peers in other things that are equally important,
such as self discipline and mental toughness.
- The next step in the
triangle, therefore, is to use the drive and
determination that you have developed through this
physical process to help you create a strong, positive
mental attitude. To recognize that the body alone can not
make a technique work. In karate as in many other things,
it takes a body and a mind working in perfect harmony to
perform any task or technique as it was meant to be
properly done. But how do you train the mind? It takes a
two stages. The first is a willingness to do the work
that is asked of you in class, that is the easy part. The
second, and most difficult part is a willingness to
suffer for five seconds longer, three seconds longer, one
second longer, than you ever thought you possibly could,
when at that moment in time all you want to do is stand
up and give your legs a rest, or drop your arms because
your shoulders are killing you. In those five, three, or
even one second your mind grows in strength and with it
so does your physical abilities. Trust me it is a lot
harder than it sounds.
- And lastly we come to your
- Both of the previous
requirements pale beside the need for a strong spirit. It
has been said that when the body fails, the mind takes
over, and when the mind fails, the spirit takes over. In
karate this is indeed the truth. The spirit that an
individual student or group of students put into their
basics, their kata, and especially their grading, will
count for far more than everything else.
- Techniques may grow tired,
the mind may wander, and both of these things can be
overlooked and even forgiven, but if everything you do
does not include a strong spirit, then you have already
failed. Remember, any effort that lacks true spirit when
it is called for, is in reality a waste of everything. So
go to class often, train hard, sweat, kiai, punch, kick,
even scream if you like, but always pack your spirit in
your gi bag when leave home, and never, ever, be the
first person in class to give up on what you are doing,
or on yourself.
- Success in karate and in
life is never guaranteed to anyone, but if you have all
three points of the triangle working for you in harmony
then I am willing to bet that your chances are far
greater than they would be if you only had two out of
- In karate-do
nothing comes to he who waits,
- but nothing
is with held from those who pratice.
- Part the
clouds - see the way.
objective of karate-do is to contribute to the evolution
- of the
human spirit through physical and mental training."