Thursday, 3 May 2012

Where does YOUR karate come from?

Don’t worry this isn’t going to be yet another treatise on the history of karate – we all know karate comes from Okinawa…

What I mean is where does YOUR karate come from in YOU?

You may be aware of the phrase Shin Gi Tai. This goes a long way to explaining where your karate comes from but in my opinion it misses one important ingredient. Before I reveal what that is lets explain what these terms mean:

Tai: This means the body (e.g. tai sabaki – body movement). It refers to the fact that to do karate well you must have a fit, healthy body that is flexible, coordinated and strong. Our body must be able to endure physical contact with another and react quickly to changing situations. We achieve this kind of body through hard repetitive training of the basics of our art as well as our own supplementary training.

Shin: This means the mind (e.g mushin – no mind; shoshin – beginner’s mind, seishin – positive mind, zanshin – an aware mind). It refers to the need to cultivate the correct mental skills to be a good karateka such as developing a clear and uncluttered mind that is fully focused on the task in hand whilst still maintaining a peripheral awareness of what is happening around. It also refers to developing a positive, confident spirit, one that will persevere with determination to achieve one’s goals.

Gi: This refers to technique. It’s no good cultivating the perfect body and mind if you don’t know how to do any karate! Obviously you need to learn and practice a range of karate techniques too.

We generally develop shin gi tai in parallel, improving in each one as we progress through training, so you might consider that your karate comes from your body, mind and good technique all combining together in a coordinated fashion . It’s a very holistic approach – the end result being greater than the sum of the parts; but for me there is an ingredient missing here…

I would argue that karate really comes from the heart. The Japanese word for this is kokora. The heart is the seat of passion, compassion, conviction not to mention courage. We feel all these things in our hearts and it is these things that drive us to be good karateka. We feel our karate in our hearts; it virtually bursts out of us if we are doing it well.

If you look around the students in your dojo you can see who has the heart for it and who doesn’t. Some will be sweating with the effort, appear to be concentrating, even have reasonable technique but their face tells you they have no heart for it, their faces expressionless and bored. Others may still be out of shape, getting a little confused with the technique but the look of joy and animation on their faces as they persist in trying to improve tell you they have heart.

Having the heart for karate may save you one day – if you lose heart you will lose the fight.

So where does YOUR karate come from – is it the heart?

Sue is the Blog-Editor-In-Chief for Martial News. You can contact her at Sue also writes a personal blog called My Journey to Black Belt


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