Monthly Archives: October 2017

Karate Infusions…Feed the Pond

I recall a time when the Dojo I was in had 50 participants, and the seminars and competitions on the weekends (there was one somewhere in NL nearly every weekend) had hundreds of participants. I grew up in a very small rural town and yet there were a dozen young guys my age doing karate. It was the thing to do.

What happened?

streamI can’t help but wonder – as traditional Karate people – have we held on to the old so dearly that we haven’t made room for anything new. Has the adage that karate must never change gotten boring? Has the fear of allowing karate to evolve under our watch cost us in the long run? How is it that something that is so good for us on a multidimensional level, young and old alike, faded so much in recent years? How is it that that karate practitioners with 10, 20 and 30 year’s experience no longer don the Gi or step foot in a dojo? Chibana Chosin, said to be the founder of Shorin-ryu, had this to say:

“Karate, as it is transmitted, changes every few years. This is a common phenomenon. It happens because a teacher must continue to learn and adds his personality to the teachings. There is an old Okinawan martial arts saying that states that Karate is much like a pond. In order for the pond to live, it must have infusions. It must have streams that feed the pond and replenish it. If this is not done then the pond becomes stagnant and dies. If the martial arts teacher does not receive infusion of new ideas and/or methods, then he, too, dies.”

The very mention of evolving or changing karate scares the daylights out of many traditional Shotokan Karateka, but should it? Can’t we improve on something that is already very good with subtle infusions of wisdom and experience from around the world? We can still separate the wheat from the chaff and teach karate principles that are solid. We better understand the biomechanics of human movement now, so how can we not evolve and make our karate even better – not to mention easier on the body!

As an example, something as simple as a slightly higher stance or lower stance can both be taught with the principle of balance at its core. Fundamentally, the two Sensei who teach these are no different, and both have valid reasons for their preference – we can learn from both. As we progress, I think we need the varying teaching styles and opinions and explanations of technique. Then we adopt and build what works for us – there is a certain appeal in this.

Basically, if you know any real karate, I don’t need to know your politics, I just want to know what you know.

In the end, we don’t need to tear down the old dojo – maybe we just need to open it up and let some fresh air in.

Like Gord, Get Behind Something

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Karate is a one passion of mine, and music is another, so when I heard Gord Downie passed away – although we’d been expecting it – I hated to hear that it had happened.  The Hip brought us Canadian music at its finest, and Gord brought us a message: Get Behind Something.

Gord tackled huge issues like the treatment of indigenous youth in the North and was relentless in his pursuit of fairness and justice.  Trying to shape a better future for young people is not only admirable, its essential.

We’re in an electronic age where there’s plenty of access to negative energy and paths to troublesome futures. But like Gord, some of us can make a difference.

So, here is a shout out to all the Karate Sensei and Sempai who helped shape my future over the years.  I am grateful.

And to those still teaching Karate, I applaud you. Karate that teaches respect and confidence is a force against that negative energy. You’re giving kids opportunity to grow and to make good choices. You’re getting behind them.

Godspeed, Gordo, and Sensei and Sempai…for the sake of our youth, keep it up.

 

What Now?? Just Breathe…

Sometimes there is almost a synchronicity in the works for anyone trying to understand a Martial Arts concept. Yesterday for instance I came across an interview with Sensei Toru Shimoji and in it he spoke about Breathing and about Ki Sense. I found it so interesting that I emailed him to start a discussion. And in Sensei Shimoji fashion, I got a response the same day with a superb response about breathing.

breathe-martial-artsLast night, as I assisted in Sensei Power’s junior class, he started the class with a talk on the importance of breathing to control emotions, and he showed the kids a video on the same. The kids were enthralled and all wanted to talk about how they experienced anger and how they liked to try to deal with it.

I went back to sensei Shimoji’s email this morning and this portion particularly stood out to me:

“Emotions have a powerful influence in our Ki usage. Conversely, the concentration of Breath Energy will influence our emotions. They are linked, interdependent and interrelated and interactive.”

We know that breath energy influences our emotions, so teaching kids that they can use their breath to control what they are feeling (and reminding adults) is a lesson that can go with them through every aspect of life. Whether breathing in competition to settle your adrenalin, or breathing at work or school to clear a muddled mind, we can all benefit from a few mindful breaths  (three concerted breaths, several times a day, reduces stress by a significant amount).

After all, life is 90% how we react to it…I can’t think of any occasion when ‘Just Breathe’ wouldn’t be a good response.