Matters of Reflections
From a mirror, there is no such thing as a perfect reflection. Factors like absorption and scatter influence what is reflected back, and what finally meets the eye. The image here is one I took in December back in my hometown of Brown’s Arm, NL. I stopped my vehicle to take the picture because the calmness of the water and the reflection I could see were incredible. Another reason I stopped is that these islands were inhabited by my ancestors. They migrated from the outer bay/islands, inward to make a new life in the tiny cove I still call home.
It can be said, then, that two important aspects of martial arts are portrayed in the picture: tradition (heritage) and reflection. Reflection as in a mirror image.
As instructors, when we look at our students, what are we hoping to see reflected back to us? I believe we want to see the tradition of Karate carried on, the rituals, the katas, and techniques, the language, the principles, etiquette, etc. I also believe we want to see some of ourselves or at least some of our own Sensei.
Of course, like the reflection in the water, it isn’t perfect. Wind, tides, water content, etc., all affect a reflection in the water, just as several concepts affect what is reflected in our students. The fact is, though, if we’re not seeing some positives coming back to us as we watch our students train, there is something we are not doing right.
I’m a bit philosophical and somewhat idealistic when it comes to traditional karate. I believe we’re doing it to encourage a better good. Disrespect isn’t tolerated in the Power dojo, but courtesy and camaraderie are. “Be a good partner” is a common adage when we’re doing drills. There is good energy in the room when Sensei Power is teaching, and Sensei Power Sr. brings a contagious enthusiasm. I want to reflect that in my own training, and I want to see my students reflect the same.
In training (every weekend) with Hanshi Don Owens, I see and hear positivity meet an acute attention to detail. The principles of Karate are discussed like they are essential pieces of a puzzle that can’t be ignored or brushed over. It is granular teaching: Why do we do this? What is the target of this technique? Why the kokutsu dachi for this? Where does the energy come from for this? It is a karate knowledge that I one day what to be able to reflect on my students.
I am not a proponent of trying to ‘be’ someone else, but I am a fan of learning from others and accepting their virtues and knowledge that work for me and make me a better Karateka (and a better person). That’s the very definition of Shuhari, I believe.
Before he passed away my father told me that there were some things he was certain of: “In this life, we have to do all we can do for the next fellow.” Meaning we’re not in this alone. Give lots and expect little. I want to reflect that in my life. I want the dojo I am training to reflect this.
Younger kids are more susceptible to modeling behaviors. We need to keep this in mind as teachers. They often reflect what they see from us, good and bad.
Andries Pruim was watching me do Bassai Dai on Saturday and he reminded me to make my Kata a performance, own it, and enjoy it. When the Karateka is doing this – portraying personality and ownership in a kata, it can be easily seen. That’s the sort of thing I’d like my students to eventually portray as well.
It is a tragic fact that many young people are asking to have plastic surgery done on their noses, partly based on the images they look at of themselves, and their selfies. Even though this ‘reflection’ of themselves is an illusion of sorts, and not completely accurate, they believe what they think they see.
What are we looking to have our students reflect? Given that we spend hours and hours in a class with them year on end, are we considering how we can influence how they see themselves? What are we hoping they see in us?
Oftentimes it needs to become a matter of reflection.