On this page we will have articles to do with the philosophy of Karate both as a martial art for self defence and as a vehicle for self improvement. We hope they provide inspiration for both our current and prospective students. Properly formatted handouts of all these articles will be provided for all our students as they progress in their training. See link to the left hand side of the page below the club kanji to view other pages on the blog or to return to the home page

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Inspirational quotes and advice for Karateka

No matter what age you are, you will never be as young as you are now. Make sure you train hard and regularly to make the most of this fact.

If you don't give up, things will work out - Shihan Yasuhiko Oyama.

Beat the inner opponent and the outer one will be easy.

Cry in the dojo, laugh on the battlefield - train hard, fight easy.

Train first, talk later - Sensei Andre Bertel.

It is the daily effort that counts, no matter how small - even just one kata or some push ups. Even five minutes a day will lead to marked progress.

Once you set any goal, work backwards and subdivide it into short, medium and longer term goals. If you have six months to achieve an objective, set six one month goals, and then subdivide these into weekly and even daily microcycles. Start with very simple and readily achievable targets and build up from there. Setting goals in this manner is the "stairway to success". Make your goals S.M.A.R.T. - specific, measurable, realisitic and in to be achieved in a given time frame.

Superficial goals lead to superficial results - Attila the Hun.

Success is a matter of setting one goal at a time and gradually progressing by raising the bar. Plans will never come true by talking or thinking about them without making effort and taking action. Do a little each day and you will reach your goal - Joko Ninomiya.

If you want professional results, you need to train like a professional - 2, even 3 times a day. You wont plant dandelions and get roses - Geoff Tompson.

A warrior never wants to look back and think that they could have done more or that the reason for defeat was not being properly physically prepared - Training for Warriors.

Whenever you meet difficult situations, dash forward bravely and joyfully - Hagakure, the book of the Samurai.

It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop - Confucius. Go to the battlefield firmly confident of victory and you wil come home with no wounds whatsoever - Samurai General Kenshin Uesugi.

Fall down seven times, get up eight - Traditional Japanese proverb.

Defeat is simply a state of mind...it simply tells me that something is wrong in my doing, it is only temporary and is a path leading success and truth - Bruce Lee.

When in the dojo, leave your ego at the door. It's not a humilitation to be beaten, it's a learning opportunity.

True victory is victory over oneself - Morihei Ueshiba.

Identifying your weaknesses and then becoming great at them so they become your strengths is the key to both physical and personal growth - Training for warriors.

The difference between the ordinary and the extraordinary is that little extra.

Bujutsu is everything in Karate. You die or I die. This is the samurai spirit and the base of Zen in the Japanese martial arts - Asai Sensei, in his final interview, conducted by Sensei Andre Bertel.

The secret of martial success? Just train, there is no other way - Masutatsu Oyama.

Go, eat well, exercise well, sleep well. You will become strong, physically and mentally and then you wont need to worry about these things - Swami Vivenkenda.

Pain is just weakness leaving the body.

With Karate, think of two rules 1. It will be difficult and 2. It will be worth it.  What is worth having is worth working for.

To practice kata is not to memorize an order. You must find the kata that work for you, understand them, digest them and stick with them for life. - O-Sensei Gichin Funakoshi. 

Karate teaches that the real enemy lies within.  
Get interested in the pursuit, not just the possession.
The race, not just the goal.
Effort is everything.
- Chotoku Kyan.  

Karate is about discipline and the first discipline is showing up for class. 

The more you dislike competing, the more it will give you.

Two techniques learned is better than twenty forgotten.

A week has 168 hours.  If 6 or 8 of those go into Karate, don't waste them on not doing your absolute best.

The pain will pass but the experience will last.

It is not possible to become a great martial artisit without an education.  The serious Karateka should study anatomy and physiology, grappling, swordsmanship, archery and strategic tactics, etc.  Cross training and study must balance your training in order to understand the way. - O-Sensei Gichin Funakoshi.

One who truly understands the art of Karate-Do is never easily drawn into a fight. - O-Sensei Gichin Funakoshi.

Seek perfection of character. Be faithful. Endeavour. Respect others. Refrain from violent behaviour. - O-Sensei Gichin Funakoshi.

If any members have a favourite quote that they think would be good here, be sure to let us know and we will add it to this (ever growning!) list of martial wisdom. OSU!

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Song of Enlightenment

The Song of Enlightenment is contained in Appendix 2: “Kara-te theory collection” on the last page of Karate-Do Kyohan, O-Sensei Gichin Funakoshi’s “master text.” There are several editions and translations of this excellent book available, the most common published by Kodansha in 1973. The Song of Enlightenment is sadly not translated in the Kodansha edition, however, as it was written in an obscure, old fashioned style of Japanese which was too difficult to translate. The following translation comes from the book published by Neptune publications in 2005. While their edition is very expensive (about 120 euros!), it is absolutely excellent – an exact replica of the original Japanese edition, of which only a small few still exist. An entire team of translators spent 5 years working on the project, with the Song of Enlightenment being finally made available to English speakers as a result. Feel free to ask the dojo Sempai for more information about this at any class. Enjoy! 

The Song of Enlightenment-

To attack the East, first strike the West.

To step forward, first stand back,
To turn around, harden the energy within.

If grabbed by the hair, use the big thrust of your fist,
In attacking him, first destroy his ears.

If he falls down, stamp on him to win,
If you fall on the ground, exploit his smugness.

Held from behind, bump your head against him,
Held from in front, attack his genitalia.

If he grabs your elbow, hit him on the face,
Kill the sneaky devil by striking his throat.

When he is close, use your palm,
When he is away, use the back step.

The left hand hits first before the right makes a swipe,
The left hand thrusts first before the foot produces a kick.

To kick high, first stand back,
If twisted in an arm, use your punches.

If the sleeves are caught, use the thrusting hand,
If the skirt is pulled, use the knees to extricate.

When he tries to kick, concentrate on striking,
In order to kick him, feign weakness to entice him.

Do not use the feet when his stance is low,
Charge when his stance is high.

If he attacks your lower body, rise high,
If he attacks your upper body, go down.

If pulled at the hair, use “taking off the helmet,”
If squeezed at the throat, use the “Big Hack” (the way of cutting, severing).

With swinging steps, you avoid his kicks,
Feet and hands follow each other without any mistakes.

The Twenty Precepts of Karate

The Twenty Precepts of Karate
O-Sensei Gichin Funakoshi wrote the 20 precepts of Karate-Do in 1890 as a guide to help Karateka in their quest along "the way". It is said that many of them were originally taken from the wise adages passed onto him by his teachers, such as Sokon "Bushi" Matsumura (1809-1892), in his youth on Okinawa. The precepts are a wealth of knowledge and are as relevant today as when first devised. The original Japanese text is thought provoking and philosophical, and so the wording of the precepts varies slightly in different translations. The essence, however, remains the same. Students are encouraged to regularly refer back to the precepts, as each reading tends to unveil a new layer of depth and practical wisdom that we can all apply in everyday life.

1. Never forget: Karate begins, and ends, with rei.

You must show respect to all other karateka whilst in the dojo. You should bow at the beginning and end of every session, and with every opponent. Karate is not just about fighting. Through practice, we aim to “perfect our characters” – being courteous, calm and helpful – even when under pressure. Rei, or bowing, symbolises this – respect, humility and etiquette should always be foremost on a karateka’s mind.

2. There is no first attack in karate.

A karateka must endure to the limits of their ability before taking direct physical action. Bushido (the martial way) teaches a samurai to draw their sword only at the last possible moment and in the worst possible scenario. A karateka will NEVER instigate violence or perpetuate its development. Only, as an absolute last resort, will a karateka use their skill to end a fight; doing so as quickly as possible by seizing the initiative without any delay.

3. Karate supports righteousness.

A practitioner of Karate must always seek the side of justice and, if necessary, defend it. To witness injustice and do nothing is to show a lack of courage: something no karateka should ever be guilty of.

4. First understand yourself, then understand others.

“When one knows the enemy and knows oneself, one will not be in danger in a hundred battles. When one is ignorant of the enemy yet knows oneself, chances of victory or defeat are even. When one knows neither the enemy nor himself, each and every battle will surely be perilous.” Ancient Chinese General, Sun Tzu in The Art of War. If we know our own strengths and weaknesses, as well as the traits of potential attackers – to pick on those who are “zoned out”, those who look like scared, weak, easy targets – we will be well prepared to thwart any enemy.

5. The art of developing the mind is more important than the art of applying technique.
This principle is important because Karate is not simply about performing techniques correctly (if it was, it would be a dance). Of greater importance to your ability is your attitude, your spirit and your awareness. You must have the attitude of perseverance, the spirit of strength and an awareness of remaining focused. Train with intensity and concentrate on what you are doing.

6. The mind must be set free.

You must aim to release your mind from restriction and restraint. A free mind has the ability to react instantly in battle, as it is free from fear or worry. One must train until self defence reactions come naturally, without conscious effort. This freedom of movement will provide greater understanding of both yourself and Karate. Beginners are often reluctant to release themselves, fearing what might happen if they do...

7. Trouble is born of negligence.

Carelessness or negligence can result in mistakes being made with disastrous consequences. Take the time to think about what you are doing and analyse yourself and your actions to eradicate these mistakes and risks to your safety. Be always alert and aware of your surroundings in order to avoid danger. This is crucial if you want to protect yourself.

8. Do not think Karate belongs only in the dojo.

The ultimate aim of Karate-do is not simply to become a proficient martial artist. Karate teaches us many things and cultivates our mind, as well as our body. We, as karateka, must be thinking constantly of the values and lessons we learn in the dojo and should always truly endeavour to put these into practice in our daily lives.

9. Karate training requires a lifetime.

Karate is a lifelong pursuit, an endless path of personal development and dedication to one’s training. Even the greatest masters have never reached the “end” of their training and none ever will. This is because there is no end. You must resolve to train in Karate for the rest of your life – doing so diligently will not only keep you physically and mentally healthy, it will also allow you to achieve a skill level you never imagined possible.

10. Transform everything into Karate – therein lies its beauty.

If you approach all challenges in life with a good Karate spirit, you will find that there is little you cannot overcome. By cultivating the self discipline to beat our “inner opponent” and train, study, etc. even when it is difficult, we become stronger as karateka and people and find it ever easier to beat the many “outer opponents” we meet in life. Karate can be practiced daily, without any major timetable adjustments – if we do just 30 push ups or 20 kicks, a kata etc. as we wait for a kettle to boil, a commercial break to finish on television etc, we can improve far quicker than we once believed – and we will never get bored or idle and we will always feel better about ourselves once we finish! 11. Genuine Karate is like hot water; it cools down if you do not keep on
heating it.

You must continually and regularly train because if you do not, then just like hot water, your fighting ability will very quickly “go cold”. Cultivating self discipline and pushing beyond our perceived physical and mental boundaries is vital to our success in both martial arts and life.

12. Do not think of winning. Think, rather, of not losing.

To seek only to win is to ignore the true nature of karate. Those who wish only to win will become obsessed with this goal at the expense of all around them. Such a person will lose their humility and will seek any advantage at any cost. Instead, you should simply ensure that you will not lose, as to be defeated in actual combat could cost you your life.

13. + 14. Transform yourself according to your opponent; The
outcome of a battle depends on the manoeuvre.

In his famous treatise on the martial arts, “The Book of Five Rings” (or Go rin no sho in Japanese), the legendary 17th century samurai, Miyamoto Musashi, states that a good warrior must “adapt like water.” Water has no form and can mould itself to any terrain. Like water, you must adjust and change to your opponent, be fluid and unpredictable. You must endeavour to avoid your opponent’s strengths and attack their weaknesses.

15. Imagine the opponent's hands and feet as swords.

A skilled and practised fighter can fatally wound an opponent with only a single blow from their hands or feet. Therefore, they are as deadly as a sword. Even a completely untrained person, when fighting for their life, can deliver a powerful and deadly blow. Therefore, fighting must never be taken lightly.

16. Once you leave the shelter of home, there are a million enemies.

Think of this as being the karate equivalent to the motto 'be prepared'. It is not that everyone you meet is your enemy; rather, everyone you meet could be a potential enemy. Similar to principle 7, carelessness can lead to serious consequences.

17. Postures are for beginners; later, one uses natural positions

Kamae positions have been developed over many years to train students in how to use certain muscles and generate power. However, after many years of practice, one can develop this power without using formal kamae postures. Therefore, you must fully learn and understand the kamae positions before moving to more natural postures.

18. Do the Kata correctly, the real fight is a different matter.

One must appreciate the reason for Kata and understand how it can improve your Karate – it is an excellent method for self practice, which takes very little time to complete. However, real combat is extremely unpredictable and does not exist within a set frame work of certain moves. You must be ready, therefore, to adjust yourself to combat when necessary, using the principles of movement, timing, power generation, trapping etc. which one learns in Kata.

19. Do not forget control of the dynamics of power, the elasticity of
the body and the speed of the technique.

Proper Karate is dynamic and powerful. We train our bodies to maximally generate power, efficiency and effectiveness. If you perform your Karate at a constant tempo and a constant strength, you will be ineffective. You must learn over time how to use your entire body to drive your techniques as well as how to relax when tension is unnecessary and unhelpful.

20. Always be good at the application of everything you have learned.

It is imperative we practice the application of Karate techniques in the instructed way and with proper spirit and intention if our Karate is to be an effective method of self-protection. Practicing a technique 10,000 times is of little use if we do not understand how to apply it in the real world. To excel at this, spirit, aggression and determination are vital to apply in our training.

We must also endeavour to put into practice the “non-physical” lessons we learn while training – persistence in the face of adversity, proper manners, fighting spirit, etc. As Funakoshi Sensei stressed, we must always seek to improve both our Karate and our behaviour. Be aware of those around you, the impact you have on them and they on you. Never accept or believe that you have “finished” and that you understand everything. We must all keep learning and growing. Push yourself to a level higher than you think you can ever achieve. This is the principle that encapsulates the meaning of all the twenty precepts most succinctly.

Information on the 20 precepts was taken from the books 'The Twenty
Guiding Principles of Karate' by Gichin Funakoshi, published by Kodansha International (2003) and ‘The Shotokan Karate Dictionary’, by Schaltt, published by Sake (2001) – as well as years of hard training! OSU!