Martial arts frequently lack the value commonly given to other activities in the arts. Throughout my experiences and many years of teaching Karate it has become clear to me that Karate education is not viewed by some people as an actual "education" but more as an informal and disorganized series unstructured classes.
The many arts and aspects of living, which comprise Karate, can be integrated into an individual's style of living in different ways. Karate as a Way without limitation can be used to produce utmost benefits for its practitioner. Let us first identify the words use and karate. Within the word use there is a suggestion of "truth", related to the fact that in order to use something, anything, it must contain truth, it must be genuine. We must acknowledge from our very first consideration of the word Karate that it stands for a Way of living, and is therefore far more than an art or a sport. Karate is a way to perpetual "calm control", from the days of a child's first becoming able to obtain knowledge until the reaching of one's age of maximum seniority--into one' 70's, 90's and 100's--when knowledge and wisdom merge.
Unlike "sports" in the Western World, the continuing practice of Karate into an advanced age only improves the ever-increasing powers of the practitioner, who learns more of the artistic and insightful arts of Karate as years of continued practice go by. The physical and competitive aspects of Karate are vital to the practitioner's development of control and discipline and in order to be better prepared to receive and to accept the spiritual, the mental, the theoretical and intuitive art and aspect of Karate. We know these things to be true because our examples of approaching perfection in karate, the karate masters, and still actively attaining knowledge and wisdom until touching a century on earth.
When one practices Karate one has acquired a proficient means through which previously and otherwise unattainable goals may be achieved. In the Buddhist religion a word is used which means "skillful means"; that word is Upaya, and it in part defines what karate is, our karate can become a vehicle, permitting us to transcend our routine, work-a- day lives into realms previously only dreamed of, and into a new insightful, energetic, and vital living experience.
Karate encourage its practitioners, separately, simultaneously and then together, to expand their minds and bodies by earthly techniques and by added knowledge from mystical sources, in order to evolve and to become one with the universe, with its synchronization and with its rhythm. Regardless of what fascinated a particular individual to the study of karate, the Way, his continued practice of the arts involved will refine his original thinking to produce an enlightened and harmonious whole being--powerful and contented with all of the world and universe about him.
Karate is unique, also, in whom it benefits, because its dramatic, physical activity appeal attracts individuals who would not ordinarily be the least bit attracted to any form of meditational practice. Inspired dreams of becoming appealing to other people, forceful, powerful, dynamic, honorable, or influential can all be instrumental in bringing the beginning student to karate's doorway. Some new students, often the weakest ones, upon learning that karate is not all physical will feel disenchanted and will disappear from ongoing practice. The others, those who persist, will become karate-men and karate-women. It is the responsibility of karate instructors to help new student through their initial practice of karate--through the early days of learning that karate is truly a Way, and not merely another method of fighting for defense or attack.
Any reasonable person will agree that much greater skill is required to block an attack while it exists only in the assailant's mind than to ward it off when it becomes externally obvious as an attack. In the Orient there exist an ancient maxim which relates to that greater skill, "Jugo no sei shi", which says simply and honestly, "Gentleness is superior to force".
We are aware, too, that many of life's problems appear to u or come to us solely because our misunderstandings-- often misunderstanding concerning the basic principles of living in harmony with the rest of our world. When this occurs, as it so often does, what is most important is not the solution to the problem itself, but the resolution of our misunderstandings of "what seems to be a problem" an of our faulty understanding of ourselves.
Karate, in addition to being calm control, is positively controlled power. The arts of karate, whether in combat or in healing, do not deal with symptoms but go directly to the causes, after they are identified by the symptoms, symbol, senses or any other means of perception. "Karate ni sente nashi", is a saying important to karate-men and karate-women, because it means that in karate there can never be any first attack. By it ancient Oriental nature, karate is defensive, or perhaps even better expressed, is transcendental.
It is the individual who can remain calm under smooth or adverse condition who is able to see "realities" and "truth" in potential problems, and who is thus able to deal with them with wisdom. Shi Kuan, "powerful insight", is the quality that comes from calmness of spirit, mind and body: the quality that through the program has developed into all of their students.
Innumerable people on this earth, in fact majorities of people, never truly discover their bodies. They either pay no attention to their bodies beyond obligatory functions or they go to the other extreme in order to develop attractive bodies, skilled in certain physiological areas but overlooking the harmony of developing mind and body together. To develop the body and its physical capabilities is not wrong in itself, but to do so without perfecting at the same time the mental and spiritual capacities of the individual results in unnecessary limitations. In Karate, which includes the arts of developing spirit, mind and body to work harmoniously as one, there are no limitations beyond those imposed by the individual himself.
The complete therapies of Karate, combining explicit physical activities to benefit both body and mind, with meditational practices to permit spiritual and mental control of the perfect body, are unique to our chosen martial art in all of its aspects. We learn that by practicing specific external movements the functions of our internal organs and of our entire being can be improved, especially through the practice of katas. Of the many bodily benefits, better breathing and greater lung capacity, a balanced flow of Chi in the body, and stable temperatures and blood pressure are the most obvious one. Not as noticeable, but important nevertheless, are the overall reduction of bodily tensions, which in turn permits easier absorption of new experience through improved perception, the greater acceptance of signals from the body's sensing faculties, and the interpretation of symbols coming to the practitioner in his meditational practice. The therapeutic aspects of karate are discussed further in other sections of the book but the word therapy, and the notion of therapeutic benefits firmly apply to karate--the Way that treats causes rather than simply suppressing symptoms.
In Okinawa, where much of the population studies and practices Karate from an early age, research has established that the land's Karate practitioners are among the healthiest of all of the world's Asian population. In the most recent medical survey among Okinawan people it was observed that among the karate practitioner there are fewer suicides, practically no psychological handicaps, and less organic diseases or disorders than among non-karate participants of the nation. There are, in fact, so many karate people in Okinawa in such excellent physical and mental condition that for the past several decades the hospitals have been overstaffed and under populated.
It was Bodhidharma himself who set down the first doctrine of karate, which tells us that an interpenetration between mind and body exits, and that to develop one without also developing the other will prove to be futile or perhaps, even worse, to cause a complete personality imbalance. Since such imbalance can cause complete failure in other aspects of life and of living, is a sad prospect for people who have not discovered the Way through which they can develop both mind and body. Our Way, Karate, is an ancient and proven Way, dating back to the days when Bodhidharma was teaching his disciples.
To embrace only some of the arts, some of the aspects of karate without embracing them all is a sad and unfortunate undertaking which true teachers of the art will discourage in their students. When one embraces all of the facets of the karate art, however, one is taking a positive step toward experiencing literally a new life--a life with deeper meaning. With a greater understanding of one's self and the universe, with a new calm control.