Thursday, September 21, 2017

Courtesy and Manners.

I know I have not posted here in a long time, but a lot has been changing around here. I have new Students in the Tri Cities area of Washington State and have been named as Assistant to Charles Todd Sensei, the Director for the Northwest Region of the Sho Rei Shobu Kan Budo Organization.

In that capacity I must now keep in mind how I present myself as I represent something larger than myself or even a single school.

The Sho Rei Shobu Kan is the School of Courtesy and Manners in the Martial Way founded by Shihan John Roseberry whom is a direct Student of Seikichi Toguchi Sensei.
The notion of Courtesy and Manners is the staple of the Organization, how one acts, how one presents oneself is equally as important a part of training as to how one performs in the physical aspects of training.
Etiquette is important, respect, being courteous, but also being truthful in word and action.

Recently there was a video presented as the original 'pre-war' version of a specific portion of a specific Kata and, me being me, I noticed something was off, so I did more than point it out, I wanted to know where it was from and why no one else did it this way... Why I had never seen this myself from any school or organization, the person that presented it is a close cousin in Karate as far as lineage is concerned, so it struck me as a little more than odd.
People shared pictures of the founder doing drills with his students using similar posture stating that this is what was being depicted, but a general photo of a kicking drill just did not do it for me, considering the context behind the photo is really up in the air and anyone can read into it what they like.

The real lesson does not lay in the exchange and what I thought and felt was not as important as how I approached it.
My approach could have been WAY more in keeping with my Organization's ideals of being courteous, respectful, observing proper manners and etiquette, but I fell short, quite a bit short. Regardless of whether or not the other party had chosen to observe the same sort of behavior to which the Sho Rei Shobu Kan strives, it was my duty to be the bigger person and to observe these ideals within myself, to be better in mind, body, AND spirit.

That night I had a dream that I was in a city of Temples from various different spiritual paths and faiths.
I was seeking a Golden Dragon that did not exist and, upon realizing I was never going to find this Golden Dragon I entered a Temple akin to a Japanese Zen Monastery and found two basins of water in which I washed my hands and my face, stood in Gassho for a long period of time, observed by the Monks in quiet Satori, after which I turned and left... I woke up at this point.

When I woke up I found that the messages had continued into the new day in private messaging on Facebook and had involved someone from my own Organization and they had pointed out my behavior, the embarrassing nature of it, how poorly I had represented his Teacher and the Organization.
I had already planned on issuing a Public Apology, and this drove it home. Not the weight of his words, but the dream the night before... There was no Golden Dragon to be found outside myself because I was that Dragon, it was up to me to hold to the gold standard, despite how anyone else behaved or thought and despite my past actions, in acknowledgment of them, to let them go, to move on, and to grow in the way I knew I had to.
This required an apology, a truly sincere apology for anyone that was disrespected, offended, or just plain put off, I had to wash my hands and my face in the waters of the situation that was created in order to rise above it and to learn everything it had to offer.

Everyone has their own bias, everyone has something they hold to, and it is my feeling that the path we are on requires us to let that all go, to really open up to something deeper within ourselves to that we can let it through to the world.
Their actions, words, and views do not define me, I can only define myself and myself is a fluid and elusive thing, but the real trick is in maintaining that gold standard in everything, from practice, from behavior, from life itself.

Does that mean not pointing out something that one feels needs to be pointed out and questioned? Not at all, but it means finding a skillful means of doing so.
Maybe certain times require a blunt object, other times a finely tuned means, razor sharp, but one has to be mindful enough to know when this is required and have the courtesy in all cases to be respectful of the other when doing so.
It is a razor's edge because courtesy and kindness can sometimes lead one to ignoring the obvious and allowing it to go unquestioned when questions are required or when something needs to be pointed out or called out, be courteous and respectful, sure, but be truthful and diligent.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Devil is in the Details.

Karate is a life long journey in which the destination is unimportant, goals may be made, but they are only there to provide direction and people tend to focus on these so much that they forget to focus on each step of the journey.
Some people chase rank and collect all sorts of things under their 'belt' as a sign of authority, really it is just to puff up the ego, some people have taken the time to really study and these people can truly perform, they do not get caught up in things and everything seems to fall in place naturally, whether they are of high rank or low rank.

There is so much to be gained from even a single movement if a Karateka has the patience to really pay attention.
It is never about quick learning, it is always about the journey, and even in a single movement is a lifetime of study.

Tonight I was focusing on the Morote Chudan Kamae, a position that so many of our Goju Ryu Kata take as a starting, the first movement after the bow and Yoei.
One person with whom I am acquainted is a long time student of Kayo Ong Sensei who states that Kata are a Mandala and they begin with Prayer, as expressed in the intention behind this movement, which does have some validity, depending on one's reasons for training, but I feel this is something that can be applied regardless of reason.

In my own practice, today, I was working on the mechanics of pulling back, punching, and returning to Kamae, fairly simple stuff, at least on the surface, but the mechanics are profound in the fact that these must be done in a way that is harmonious with the way the body is built.
Pulling back into Chamber, leading the motion with the breath, followed by the elbow, the forearm, the fist, then extending outward leading with intent, breath, fist, elbow, and the shoulder rotating slightly forward.
Returning to Kamae, rotating the shoulder back slightly, pulling the elbow into position, the hand following and slightly rotating back into position.

Adding to this the rest of the body, from the ground up, pushing with the heel and pulling with the ball of the opposite foot, shifting from pulling with the front foot and pushing with the back foot to pulling with the back foot and pushing with the front, depending on whether you are pulling to chamber, moving into a punch, or returning to Kamae, all the while rooted with the foot as if they are clay mashed into the ground.
Moving upward from there you have the knees, thighs, and hips adding to the motion, the spine straight as a current to the arms that carries the intent/energy in a flow that executes technique in such a way so as to expel the most power without losing energy and maintaining stability of the entire frame.

This has to be understood for each and every movement before one can move on to the quicker performances in Kata such as Seisan, Kakuha, Gekiha, Gekisai Dai San, Suparempei, or in anything that utilizes mechanics, which is to say ALL of Karate as a whole.
My own Sensei used to have us perform certain things at a Tai Chi like pace and another of his Students, a Sempai to me, Kris Wilder Sensei, always says to go slow in order to learn fast.
These days people tend to go straight to the quick and explosive stuff without truly thinking about, let alone focusing on, what it is they are actually doing, and this is true of any art.

This is why it took so long to learn even a single Kata in Okinawa Te before the onset of modernized and Japanized Karate, which is fairly modern and mostly seen as a sport.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Empty of Definition, Filled with Everything.

Karate is a very subtle art with focus more on aspects that cannot readily be discerned; this effectively removes it from the realm of combat as most who wish to learn would expect to learn something they can use right away.
Certainly one can gain this from Karate, but as a whole Karate is the long way, there are other things out there a person could study that do not take near as long to understand in order to apply and many of them are able to be directly applied.
That is not the point of Karate, the point is much deeper... Will Karate work? Yes. Again, is that the point? No.

Karate is a core focus that can and should be applied to everything, from cooking and cleaning, to sports, to the way one behaves and, finally, to combat.
If that is the main focus why would a person look at the mechanics of a single punch, or posture, in Sanchin Kata, or the rotational aspects of Seipai??
These things are training tools and meant to focus on different things that can carry over to combat.

The focus many have on Karate is strictly as a Martial Art, or a Civil Defense Art, the latter certainly applies, but they get stuck here, they begin to identify as what they are doing rather than looking at it as something they do to improve themselves, to ground themselves.
The idea is not to limit oneself to a certain thing or a certain identity or to limit what one is doing to a specific focus, but to allow it to exist as it is and allow it to do the work it is meant to do.

At the same time a deeper aspect is to unify with it, to become the center, the dancer and the dance, while at the same time not identifying AS the thing or as SEPARATE from the thing.
Internalizing what you are doing will come out when thought ceases, when expectations cease, when everything is allowed to fall into place rather than forcing something to do a specific thing you think it should be doing... That is like trying to pound a square block into a round hole.

These days Brazilian Jujitsu and Muay Thai are very popular through MMA Training, trends come and go because people have these expectations and these are not wrong, but they do show a lack of depth as one thing comes and another goes.
Enrollment in Karate is at a low in some areas, a high in others... At what used to be our Hombu Dojo Karate is no longer the main attraction, most go for Judo, Jujitsu, and MMA type stuff, these things pay the bills while Karate exists as an aside, which is a much better way for it to exist because it is allowed to be what it is meant to be rather than a means of keeping Students walking in the door in order to pay the Dojo bills.

Karate is a path of peace and self cultivation... You study the kick and punch in order to understand the hug and handshake, to shut conflict down before it even starts while at the same time you have the tools to deal with things should confrontation be the only possible option.
This is not just Physical Conflict, this is all aspects of Conflict, and this is certainly lacking in many Dojo these days, but it takes more than just physical conditioning and skill, it is mostly a mental thing.