Karate is about centeredness. It’s about keeping your weight directly above your base. This isn’t glamourous but it is necessary. We – I especially – always want to get ahead of ourselves. We want to get there sooner so we lean forward. We want to avoid unpleasantness so we lean backwards. People who love fighting are always leaning forward. People who hate conflict are always leaning backwards. Well-balanced people, centered people, are actually quite rare.
In many things, my center stays directly above my base. But in many other things, my training comes to mind, I’m forever getting ahead of myself. And despite my admonishments, despite my actively trying to avoid doing exactly this, I think I’ve gotten ahead of myself.
Things aren’t built high and strong through plan and will alone. Things are built high and strong by having a broad and dependable base. Things are built high and strong by building over a strong base. It’s both. A strong base is necessary to build anything that lasts, but to build high, there is an alignment, both in space and time. You build up and over the base, centered. Otherwise, if you’re lucky, you have the leaning Tower of Pisa. If you’re not lucky, you get something worse.
The base and the alignment to the base. The foundation and the center. The faster you find the base and the faster that you align yourself to the base, the higher you can go.
I leaned to far forward, getting ahead of myself, out of eagerness. And now, my groin hurts, my knee aches and I have to wonder whether I’m stronger or weaker than before. The white belt has to learn to recognize leaning and alignment before anything else. They have to know what leaning looks like and feels like so that they can find their center again. Finding your center is especially difficult when you don’t realize that your leaning.
My center is simple. My weight, my groin, my knee, my feet, my rotator, my core and my heart. So long as these gaps – these suki – remain, any skill or strength I gain somewhere will simply weaken my foundation in one of these places. A day gone by where I don’t improve or strengthen one of these things is a wasted day – and even the smallest improvement is a massive victory, a return to my center. I thought that I could start being strong, then sturdy then powerful. But before I’m any of those things I have to be balanced enough to stop leaning, to fill the gaps in my foundation. I have to be able to stand up straight, above my base, completely centered. That’s the first task of any white belt.