KaratedoAn art of self-defense

Karate is, first and foremost, a discipline for developing the whole human being; mind, body, and spirit.  In the current era, the worldwide association of Okinawan Karate with martial arts in the media, competitive venues, and popular culture in general, may lead one to believe various, sometimes contradictory things, about the arts arising in Okinawa known by the now ubiquitous word karate.

In the ancient text on martial arts, known as the Bubishi, it is written; karate-do ni sente nashi, which translates as there is no first strike in Karate.

Karate evolved as a method of self-defense.  Self-defense is merely a byproduct of health and self-awareness.  It is here that the traditional dojo starts the physical and mental training which can lead every individual to a peaceful place of self-confidence, self-discipline and self-awareness.

Chojun Miyagi once stated that training the mind and cultivating the intellect must be balanced with the apparently more martial aspects of the art.

Gichin Funakoshi adds; “Karate is properly applied only in those rare situations in which one really must either down another or be downed by him.”  Humility, compassion, gentleness, and courtesy all typify the genuine practitioner of Karatedo. So, the use of force is always a last resort, and may only be called upon when all other avenues have been exhausted.

Realizing this, with encouragement from some of the great pioneers in Karatedo, as well as their Sensei’s, Sempai’s, Kohai’s, and each other;  every student must patiently, vigilantly, and continuously pledge themselves with sincerity, courage, and commitment to upholding the concept of Jin(benevolence) inherent in all forms of Budo.

This principle, known as Jin (benevolence), is one of the seven codes of Bushido. Akin to medieval chivalry in the west, Bushido is a doctrine espoused by the warrior class of ancient Japan and can help any practitioner of Budo to find peace in the conflict apparently inherent in the study of physical combat. The idea of Jin can be summed up as follows; look on all creation with benevolence, compassion, goodwill; avoid conflict to the greatest extent possible, when the contest of arms becomes inevitable, preserve the integrity of everyone and everything involved to the best of one’s ability; even Sun Tzu, a Chinese general of great antiquity (circa 600 B.C.E.), states in the art of war; the greatest warrior wins before ever having to engage in battle.

This idea, resolving conflict through understanding, begins where all knowledge does; with self-knowledge. It begins with knowledge and awareness of the physical systems of the body and progresses through the mind finally encompassing the whole person; mind, body and spirit. Karatedo is a way to face certain death with total commitment without resorting to the use of arms and find the way out of the darkness; the way of the empty hand. Enter into the training of war only to better understand the value of peace.

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