Contemplate the parts
There used to be a sinkhole in Karate where brown belts and black belts ended up. It’s like they’d busted their behinds for years to get to the top of the mountain, only to find a plateau as opposed to a summit. From there they scattered and dissipated, having accomplished a lot, but not seeing much to hang around for any longer.
I wasn’t much different. I had learned a handful of ‘Black Belt’ kata; I had done the competition thing and the seminars. I was encouraged to ‘keep getting better’ but in reality I wasn’t sure how to do so. Endless repetition was great to learn a kata, or to master muscle memory for the basics, but after that, it was simply wearing everyone out and grinding down their bodies. Practice makes permanent, and some of the old methods weren’t practical or body-friendly.
Our bodies were aging, but our karate wasn’t evolving.
Outside influences and continual direction on Karate in Newfoundland were scarce. Sensei Hidetaka Nishiyama (probably our most profound and valuable Karate asset), or Sensei Tsuruoka would come to the Island once in a while for a weekend seminar, but that was about it. Besides that, there was a strict allegiance to your own dojo and style. Of course, you couldn’t do research on the internet, or attend a seminar in BC or the UK by Zoom like you can now, either.
I am grateful for the history of my karate, but unfortunately, we thought we had karate in a box, and there was no need seen for growth or change.
Karate, like any Art, is perfected by the doing of it, I believe, but is enhanced only by the understanding of it. Question nothing, learn nothing.
A case in point is the concept of focus (Kime). In class last night with Power Karate, we took a look at the ‘mechanisms toward Kime.’ To deliver a finishing blow is to combine intention with a number of body mechanics. This isn’t unlike fly fishing where everything important happens before the fly is ever presented to the fish.
My old thinking was, ‘Ok, to hit someone harder, I need to move faster, and put more muscle and brute force into my technique!’ I knew about hip rotation, but nothing about natural compression or Ukimi.
Breathing, posture, stance, mental intention, and technique are pieces that need to fall in place and align before true Kime is reached. You can’t cast a good fly line if it’s full of knots, or with a poorly executed back-cast. Perfecting body mechanics sometimes means deviating from what we thought a good stance was, or where our power needed to come from. The need is to study the pieces to deliver
a good result.
Nishiyama often said we needed to enter the Dojo with an empty mind - not a Black Belt’s mind. I am really only beginning to understand this now.
In reality, there is no plateau in Karate – and no summit, but there will always be plenty to contemplate if we shake off what we thought we knew, and explore what there is to know.