Mas Oyama was a man who tackled raging Bulls with his bare hands – and won. Therefore it was interesting to me to read that he had a philosophy of balancing the hard and the soft, the Yin and the Yang, the internal and external components of karate.
In class last night there were many references to the hard and the soft, relaxed and strong. The punch: soft in the beginning to utilize speed and then strong at the moment of impact; strong on the out-breath and Kiai. The fist: like a stone on impact, but only the small knuckles tensed on route to the impact zone. Transition or movement: the center (Hara) tense and strong but the upper body soft as to allow for speed in the movement. An attack: soft and relaxed until you explode in to the opponent with an intensity and attitude that Sensei Lee describes as “It’s a great day to die.”
Like a breeze that extinguishes a robust flame or a small brook will erode the side of a mountain, we can never underestimate the value of subtlety and softness in Karate.
Of course, there should never be a disconnect between our strength and our ease where we would have to ‘switch on’ in order to defend ourselves or to win a match. It is my thought that our karate is always at least simmering, and our awareness is such that we are prepared – inside or outside the Dojo – to deal with the task at hand.