Part of my favourite things (🌧🌹) series.
A wonderful quote came across my Facebook feed this week,
Consistency is what creates a great martial artist, not brute strength. Karate is not for rank, glory, or revenge. It is way of life, a way to protect yourself, a way to build health, and a way to bring people together.Higa Minoru 比嘉稔, 10 dan Hanshi
When we train, we train as a community, so that we can push each other to become better than yesterday. I think of a dojo like a melting pot; it can bring many different people to do the same thing, at the same time, in the same place. It makes people homogeneous. This type of environment creates peace. Karate is about creating peace.
I am a karate-ka (student or practitioner) of Go-Kan-Ryu Karate-Do [ref]Karatedo is a term from the origins of karate in Japan meaning the way of the empty hand[/ref].
Karate is one of my absolute favourite things of the last couple of years.
Why I love it
In many circumstances I’m rubbish at practicing mindfulness, karate is a brilliant mindfulness practice: turn your attention away from wherever it was before and focus on karate.
As you enter (and leave) the dojo you bow at the door. It is a mark of respect and humility. I also use it an as opportunity to drop my mental baggage at the door, not to be picked up again until I leave, and maybe not even then. At the start of class there is a bow-in in which we close our eyes for a few moments; this is another opportunity to clear the mind and focus.
The minimum focus you need is to hear the instructions your Sensei gives, but there are many more ways to hone your focus, including performing a kata regardless of the distractions around you. And I always enjoy a game of Sensei Says with the kids!
Awareness is the first principle of self-defence: be aware of your surroundings. It is a valuable habit to form, no doubt, but the awareness that karate develops goes so much deeper.
As we practice kata [ref]a series of movements that trains us to combine basic techniques together to defend against an attack[/ref] and kumite (sparring) we practice spacial awareness of who and what is around us. In these as well as kihon (basics, or principle techniques), we also gain awareness of our own body: where our limbs are, how we transition from one position to another, when to create and release tension, how to generate power and speed.
You may also gain awareness of yourself, not just your body and how it works, but how your mind works. Can you be humble when faced with correction, or defeat? How do you respond when someone attacks you? Will you persevere when you are exhausted? The way in which I have gotten to know myself is one of the things I value most. I think I have grown in patience, perseverance, and positivity: these days I will vary rarely say there is something I can’t do… Only something I can’t do yet.
It is lots of fun! There is a serious element to it; there is etiquette, technique, and discipline, but also so much fun.
I started this journey in 2005 after I got married. My husband was a sempai [ref]literally senior, essentially an assistant to the sensei[/ref] and
dragged encouraged me along to get some exercise. We trained together until mid-2012 when life got in the way and we got out of the habit of training. I was a 4th kyu (red belt) at that time and he was a 1st kyu (last grade before black belt).
After realising that I need to move more, and karate was the only movement I had really enjoyed in my adult life, I started training again in early 2018. Dave followed me back a few months later. In June 2019 I graded to 3rd kyu (brown belt) and in November 2019 Dave graded to Shodan-ho (provisional black belt).
We train 2-4 times a week and it is definitely one of my favourite things.