Wednesday, February 19, 2020


Karate is supposed to make one more confrontational.  Not with others, though.  To others, karate is supposed to make us more tender, more generous, more curious, more compassionate.  Karate is supposed to provide the physical and spiritual strength to allow people to act without fear, to see things and beings as they are and not as our first inclination might lead us to believe.  We are more patient with others because we have the strength and luxury of being patient.  We can give others the benefit of the doubt because we are strong enough to survive a mistake, strong enough to learn from our mistakes, should our faith be misplaced and our good will be mistaken. 

No, karate is supposed to make us more confrontational with ourselves – more willing to take a hard look in the mirror and ask ourselves the questions we don’t want to face. Karate is supposed to make one less patient for self-deceit: the lies that people tell themselves and above all, the lies that we tell ourselves.  This is equivalent to a dodge or evasion in jutsu and karate teaches us quickly that an evasion alone is not true defense.  Evasion alone is only delaying; true defense is to confront the attack, to interact with the attack and to respond to the attack, not merely react to it.  There is an intimate directness that is explicit in the tenets of ikken hissatsu, of kobo ittai that leads to the severity of shugyou and shinken and vice versa and it would be a curious thing for a karateka to train hard to down an attacker at a stroke, or train with seriousness of life and death but then live a life of indecision and timidity.  No, a commitment to karate must also necessarily be a commitment to confronting the self: to scrutinizing the self, its habits and customs, its comforts and escapist tendencies. 

By making an accurate accounting of the self and in scrutinizing and reserving judgment for what happens inward rather than what happens outward there begins the establishment of the spirit that does not immediately think to run, to escape, to be comfortable, to be unperturbed.  The body that does not betray is forged with the mind that does not run, and ideally develops technique to penetrate obstacles – enemies, challenges – and emerge stronger on the other side.

1 comment:

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