By Michael Clarke
By Garry Lever
By Barrett & Lever
By Mark Bishop
The Shinken Dojo 真 剣 道 場
|Ryusyokai Okinawa Goju Ryu Karate 琉 翔 会 沖 縄 空 手
Ilfracombe - North Devon - England 英 国
Web Sites of Interest
on ALL Writings &
contained within this
|"Karate the Okinawa way" Blog posts by Glyn Jones
What always amazes me with Karate Ka is some of the people who they will go to for advice. Why? Well the thing with advice
and guidance is that it tends to be kind of threefold. Firstly, it is yourself who needs the advice or guidance, not the person you
are asking. Secondly, who you decide to ask or receive advice from is so important that it's paramount. Thirdly, if you decide to
follow or take the advice that you have been given, really is all down to yourself. You as an individual and Karate Ka will make
all of these choices, be they good or bad!
When you write a blog like this you often get people asking you for advice on Karate. I'm happy to help out if I can, but in truth
what little advice I have to offer I prefer to keep for the small number of students that I regularly share my Karate training with,
and only then, to those students who are prepared to listen. Those that don't, I leave them to get on with it.
I have always likened most Karate Ka to this quote by John Steinbeck;
"You know how advice is. You only want it if it agrees with what you wanted to do anyway." John Steinbeck.
From my initial introduction in to the Martial Arts as a youngster under the tutelage of my father in the Art of Judo. I have
always sought out both guidance and tuition (advice) from reputable Sensei who know their art inside out. I just don't do wishy
washy advice, as in seeking training guidance from everyone and anyone. Many these days just get on discussion forums and
take advice from arm chair know all's, or the bigger the Karate name or celebrity, the more people who tend to attach
themselves and listen. Maybe it was taking a disliking to the story of the pied piper as a kid, I am unsure, but I have never
been a natural follower. I prefer to listen to the quiet man of Budo who does his talking through many years of quality
experience, through proven to be seen regular in Dojo training. True Budoka offer advice and guidance of value sparingly!
Oh, plus they train not talk... Primarily I listen to those who I regard as my Sensei or in the know, not just anyone. Most Karate
Ka would benefit from relating this quote by Patch Adams to their Karate.
"See what no one else sees. See what no one else chooses to see... Out of fear, conformity or laziness.
See the world anew each day!" Patch Adams
When I get to spend precious time with my Sensei, be it inside or outside of the Dojo. I am quietly taking in and absorbing the
words and direction that Sensei offers. Not just because they are my Sensei, but because they have decades of quality
experience in Okinawan Karate behind them. And I don't mean talk or showman Karate either. They have been there before
me so I learn from their experiences.
Tamaki Sensei has been an hands on regular in Dojo student under his Sensei, as in Senaha Sensei, on Okinawa for over 45
years. Where by others have sought to teach, he has sought to train, where by others talk good karate and effective
techniques, he demonstrates them. Where by others talk about training, he has trained regularly, hard and often, where by
others have rode off a Sensei for a few years, he has shown decades of unwavering loyalty. These are the characteristics of a
true Karate Ka and what the art is truly about.
If you are ever lucky enough for Tamaki Sensei to offer you advice or guidance on Karate, the seriousness or sternness that
he says these words "This is very very important in Okinawan Karate"! will leave you in no doubts how important it is to
receive quality advice or guidance from a real Sensei of Karate.
"In Karate if you take advice or guidance from a person of deep understanding it can be invaluable,
take it from one who is not, and it may be useless".
|Senaha Sensei and
his student Tamaki
Sensei leading by
example as they
|Spending precious time In the company
of my Sensei
|"See what no one else chooses to see"
It is a well known fact that when you transcend from being a Karate student, to being a Karate Sensei, this will have a renowned
effect on you as a Karate Ka, as there are many lessons to be learned from teaching students. Maybe that's why I'm a little
selective in who I teach these days.
Personally I feel that too many Karate Ka these days become Sensei immaturely, undeservedly, or for the wrong reasons.
Whereby they are teaching an art that in truth they have little understanding of, which is to the detriment of both the art itself
and their very own Karate training too. Together with having no real idea of the obligations involved in being a Sensei. Maybe
the true Okinawan way of how one becomes a Sensei hasn't been passed on to well outside of Okinawa!?
Going back to the sentiments expressed in my first paragraph. When one is ready and becomes a Sensei, or if you're a Dojo
student who opens their eyes and sees things that are going on around them. You will naturally learn a lot about Karate from
the other Karate students who you are surrounded by, be they fellow Dojo training partners or students. As learning from both
their good and bad points creates a deeper understanding.
When I teach students in my Dojo I often stop everyone so that other students can watch what they are doing. But more often
than not, it's not all about the good, but to show how NOT to do something. By the correction process everyone then gets to
understand and learn by the mistakes of other students. Some like this way of being taught, some do not. But either way I use it,
as it destroys ego and it's very effective. This way as a Dojo we are privately all coming together trying to understand the
teachings of Karate.
Here are ten valuable lessons on Karate students.
1, Regular Dojo attendance and good etiquette are the first lesson to be learned as a student! Students that attend training
sessions regularly and consistently will reap the many benefits that Karate training has to offer. Students that try and attend
training sessions sporadically, or are hit and miss, will gain very little from Karate as they will always be fighting a losing battle.
Excuses are just that excuses, if a student is injured they should either watch and still learn, or train around the injury.
2, Students that practise their Karate regularly at home or in addition to set Dojo classes, always tend to have that little extra
spark or stand out from students that don't. Sensei and students alike will easily pick up on this one. Training alone or with fellow
students away from the Dojo is a must.
3, There are times that one should be training at an easier pace to work on technical aspects. However, we have all seen those
that just coast along without ever really pushing themselves, with sweat being a taboo word. Laziness has never had a place in
real Karate. For Karate to be of benefit health wise or to become effective in combat, it really does require physical effort.
4, I have seen the most technically gifted and hardest training Karate students, pack their training in for the most trivial of
reasons. Be it just after a year or even after five years, but I've seen it often. On the other side of things I have seen the most
unnatural, ungifted and uncoordinated student, through sheer motivation and a determination, reach some of the highest levels
of the art. The story of the tortoise and the hare relates well to Karate training, there is no rush, but it is a life long journey.
5, We are all in Karate together, and a valid lesson with Karate just as in life is this: Those who we surround ourselves with is of
the upper most importance to achieving anything. Fellow Karate students or training partners of worth really are worth their
weight in gold, to be honest they are invaluable, so always appreciate them and respect them. Being around sad people or a
member of a poor Dojo won't get you very far.
6. We are all students of Karate regardless of grade held or months/years of training. If you talk about it more than you actually
train, or teach more than you train, or you lose the beginners mind. Then it really is time to hang your Gi up and accept that you
are no longer a student of Karate, but one who is fooling no one but yourself.
7, Don't get caught up in doing regular weekend seminar Karate, as it really is no basis for studying the true art, occasionally
for the experience is good. But as a basis it will get you nowhere at all. A student who is serious will seek out a Sensei and Dojo
of worth, regardless of the sacrifices that need to be made. Anything of worth takes sacrifice, time and patience, most things
that come easy in life usually end up being worthless or of little value.
8, A true student of Karate will have traits and not just take from the art, but will constantly be giving something back, and I don't
mean in training fees here. The following should all come quite naturally. Helping out around and supporting the Dojo, as in
attending regularly, giving help to Juniors students. Whilst being appreciative of and looking after one's Sensei for teaching you
Karate, as normally it is for very little or nothing in return.
9, Both as a Sensei and as a student, you will occasionally come across a fellow student who has a bad attitude or demeanour,
be it inside the Dojo or outside of it in everyday life. (bullying, arrogance, lack of commitment, constantly fighting, to name a
few). Many tend to try and hide these things well from their Sensei, but at the end of the day they fool no one. They are though
a lesson to you as a true Karate student on how not to act and behave. So stay true to yourself and the art! The key here is that
students with a bad attitude are for the Dojo Sensei or Dojo Sempai to deal with, because in time I'm sure they will.
10, Brain not Brawn or Skill not Strength are well known sayings for a reason. It is ok receiving 100% for effort, but at the end of
the day a deep understanding combined with skill and good technique equate to everything in Karate, the same in real life
confrontations. Spirit, determination, strength, speed and power are all needed for effectiveness, but they will only get you so
far. Karate is not a battle of the toughest, always remember this as it is a major lesson of Budo, and one that may save your life
|Working with student Pete Welsby in the old Shinken Dojo
|"Lessons of a Karate Student"
The first Karate grades and certifications are believed to have been issued by the Okinawan Karate teacher, Gichin Funakoshi
Sensei of the Shoto school on the 12th April 1924. The father of modern day Karate held a formal ceremony in which he
handed out both black belts and hand brushed Menkyo diplomas to seven of his students. These students included the Ju
Jutsu master Hironori Ohtsuka, the founder of the Wado Ryu or peaceful way of Karate.
The grading or belt assessment system certainly has many benefits if used correctly and wisely! A guide on a students level or
understanding within the Dojo being the most obvious, not forgetting personal incentives and motivation. Goal setting works
well within human nature, it acts in a way that makes us push through to overcome failure or defeat, by pushing on to achieve
success. Personal battles, achieving and going out for things of worth and positivity should be encouraged in life.
The use of grades, belts and titles has of course gone on to be abused by so many these days, not though by everyone who
practises Karate or the Martial Arts by any means. So my focus as far as grades go, is to work around and concentrate on the
good, the positive, and their meaningful purpose, just as many others still do too. Thus disregarding the negativity. Grades of
worth, just like anything in life they really do take hard work and patience, if they come easy just like anything else again in life,
they are usually of little worth. Quietly wait and work hard for what you really want, as a wise man once said. Why do so many
settle for less, little, or second best!?
Some Karate teachers prefer a formal assessment or grading by putting eligible students under a definitive pressure test, by
way of a grade assessment under their teacher, or a panel of teachers, thus putting students under examination with a firm
pass or fail being the outcome. Of which a pass should not be guaranteed. Other teachers prefer to assess students progress
and understanding along the way and feel no need then for a formal grading assessment, as the teacher is already aware of
the progress made by each individual student and their ability. The appropriate grade level or diploma is then being awarded
once the teacher feels that the student is at the required level and is ready to progress further and be taught more.
There are also teachers of Karate who assess students by using a combination of both of the above methods. Personally I feel
that both methods are of equal value if used correctly.
When one is considering attempting a grading or put forward by their Sensei. I have always advised my students to forget the
year rule, as in two years to 2nd Dan and three years to 3rd Dan etc, as this means very little as far as personal development
and understanding goes. Two or ten years doing what, low level Karate or acting like a ego filled fool? Regardless of grade
and regardless of time scales, I always advise students to question themselves and achieve the following three before even
considering attempting a grading;
1, It must be Your Sensei or Sempai who initially feels that you have the required understanding, ability and maturity to be
worthy of attempting a higher grade or being promoted up a level in Karate, not yourself! And the meaning primarily is Dojo or
2, Your fellow Dojo students or members should also feel that you deserve to grade or be promoted. Does it matter what others
think of you? Yes it does! Especially those close to you, admitting your faults or overcoming them is honourable. The same in
proving your worth to others through your actions. Your fellow students will also see things and in a way that your Sensei does
3, You yourself should then feel that you have put the required time and effort in the Dojo to deserve to grade, whilst have the
ability, understanding, technical skills required and correct temperament to match.
All 3 should be of equal importance and just as equally challenging too.
|"Are you Ready to Grade ?
|"The Way of the Belt or The Way of Budo"
|From a Fatherly arm around my shoulder to being put in my place by
Tamaki Hidenobu Sensei
Around 10 years ago I was out having a relaxing meal whilst sitting next to Tamaki Hidenobu Sensei, a 9th Dan in Okinawa
Goju Ryu Karate. Mid way through the evening and conversation flowing, a realisation kind of hit me. He was a 8th Dan in
Karate at the time, who had a wealth of experience behind him spanning over 40 years training directly on Okinawa.
However, he did not have his own Dojo, and he did not openly teach Karate to others either, well as far as I knew anyway
apart from teaching or helping out others at his teacher's Ryusyokan Dojo. In truth this is a situation that is quite common
on Okinawa, but extremely rare to find in the West.
My inquisitive nature got the better of me at the time, so I asked the inevitable question that was rolling around in my head.
“May I ask you Sensei why you don’t have your own Dojo after so many years of training in Karate”?
I recall that his answer went along the lines of this. “Because I have the best Sensei that I could ever wish for, with an
excellent lineage; I am a part of a Dojo that I train in regularly alongside good people who are all quality Karate Ka.
We are all like a family, very strong. So there is no need for me to open my own Dojo, no need at all, I have a Dojo”!
If I’m being honest here I don’t think that Tamaki Sensei could actually understand why I’d asked him the question in the first
place, I think he felt that the answer was already pretty clear for me to see. Reflecting back on things now with a little more
experience and understanding, Tamaki Sensei was right and my lack of understanding shone through that day.
Things weren’t left there by any means, I'd shot myself in the foot so to speak. He then turned things around and asked me
this “Why do you feel that I need to open a Dojo and teach Karate to others”? Obviously I was unsure if I'd offended him
and apologised for my lack of understanding as I tried to back track and mentioned things like keeping the art of Karate
alive and passing it on to others etc. What actually followed then was an hour or so of Tamaki Sensei's firm talking as he
gave me a valued lesson on the correct transmission of Okinawan Karate. The order of importance being in receiving
quality guidance and training in Karate yourself, as teaching others is not a necessity like so many seem to think. Also,
without his very own Dojo he could still pass on a wealth of knowledge within the Dojo he belonged to, whilst still training
under his Sensei too. Yes!! He'd got things spot on and the perfect environment to study Karate, and still has to this day I
I can now fully understand the point that Tamaki Sensei was making that evening, in that Karate is all about the training, not
just teaching. This is why in Okinawa it is very common to have 5th, 6th and 7th Dans in the Dojo training alongside you; it
really is no big deal to them as Karate is all about their own personal training and facing these challenges. Most Karate Ka
including Dan grades, should have no real need to teach Karate to others at all, so why is there this desire to be a Sensei?
Of course if no one ever taught Karate to others then the art would soon fizzle out and die, but this is not the issue or point
being made here. To many Karate Ka teach for the sake of it, or for the wrong reasons, when in reality they have no need
to be teaching at all.
Contradictory it may seem, but not so. Over here in England the circumstances are for myself a little different, so I have to
compromise things by training alone regularly and with my fellow Dan grades. Only thereafter do I pass over my own
personal knowledge of Okinawan Karate and its inherent values by teaching from a small private Dojo to a few sincere and
dedicated students. Thus building a strong training environment for us all. This way I also know that the Art is being
transmitted more directly by being based off my own personal experiences, not second hand or having to put up with things
being watered down or diluted to suit the needs of others. Whilst at the same time I genuinely hope to be doing service and
justice to both the peaceful people of Okinawa and my Sensei and Sempai too.
What does need to be evaluated then is why and when we should actually start teaching Karate to others? There are
certainly many out there who are.... Or shall I say, are not really qualified to do so. So If you do happen to be lucky enough
to be a part of a quality Dojo and have a Sensei who is one of deep understanding and knowledge. Then please do look
after him or her as it is he who chooses to teach you the Art of Karate, usually for little thanks or no reward, because as
Chojun Miyagi Sensei once said “Trying to learn Karate without Quality Guidance is like Wandering in the Dark”.
On reflection; at the time I wish that I hadn’t asked Tamaki Sensei the question that I did that evening, but I’m glad that I did,
as he taught me a valuable lesson. As teaching Karate to others is not a necessity or a decision that should be taken
lightly or without much deep thought and consideration, whilst it should always be done for the right reasons too, and only
by those who have the deep understanding to do so. Teaching Karate is not some kind of mile stone that gives you
meaning and standing in true Karate, as doing so holds both profound responsibility and commitment.
|"Why are You Teaching Karate"?
I trained alone in my Dojo yesterday evening working with various pieces of training equipment, and in a hours time I will be in my
Dojo training all over again even if I'm not doing the same. Most of my training has always been done this way, alone away from
the attention of others or just alongside my fellow Dojo members, or directly under my Sensei. I receive no praise or prizes and
there are no external rewards to be received either. Just hard work and a few drops of sweat too.
The thing that I have learned over the years with Karate is that there are many supposed Karate Ka out there who get very little if
nothing at all out of practising Karate. All despite them thinking otherwise or trying to make claims that suggest otherwise to
others, especially so as far as being dedicated hard working Karate Ka goes.Talking the talk comes to mind. Showing
commitment, pushing themselves and training alone or hard regularly? I'm not suggesting that all Karate Ka are Kuchi Bushi or
Mouth Warriors, far from it. But I do believe that there is a lot of false Karate out there these days that bares no basis or little
resemblance to the Karate that was laid down decades ago on the island of Okinawa.
"If you spend more time talking about Karate than you do practising Karate, then you're No Karate Ka".
So what is to be gained from practising Karate? Listed below are the most obvious ones together with a few thoughts.
1: Physical fitness and conditioning. Why then are many of the supposed Karate Ka so out of shape physically? I'm not
saying one needs to have a six pack or be an athlete, but how can one claim to gain these benefits from Karate if one doesn't
have at least a reasonable level of fitness or conditioning? Two stones over weight and doing Karate, are these people really
training hard and regular in Karate!? How about being totally capable of practising Karate?
2: Motivational and goal setting. I have always admired anyone who walks through the door of a Dojo I really do. However,
how can things be motivational or about facing and overcoming personal challenges, that are an integral part of Budo, when the
Karate being studied is not challenging? Karate training sessions that are always easy and non challenging, with never any sweat
and the giving out of grades, is this true Karate? Body mind and spirit?
3: Good health and well being. Any kind of regular exercise should be encouraged, and Karate is as good as anything for
improving your health and clearing your mind etc. I do believe that it can be as good as any for achieving a balanced well being
in life. The longevity of the people of Okinawa is proof of that.There are though many Karate Dojo out there that are practising
many poor exercises, practises and postures that are detrimental to your health in the long term. Stoking up aggression, tensing
up your blood pressure or doing unnatural movements are not good for you!
4: Self protection or learning how to defend yourself. Karate is not about learning how to fight, but more about
becoming quietly confident and learning how not to fight. Well until it is absolutely necessary anyway. A lot of the Karate around
these days though is either ineffective, or in fight flawed. Not all Karate Ka by any means, but most Karate Ka seem to talk a good
fight. Believing that ones Karate training and techniques are fight effective? In truth I feel that many would be in for a
reality check or big shock, a black belt won't help you either. So be warned!
5: Attaining extraordinary skills and a deep understanding of a Martial Art. Most Karate Ka either don't stay
around long enough, choose the easy options, or continue to do green belt Karate as they stagnate at the same level for
evermore. A deep understanding comes from quality guidance and regular at times hard hands on practise over many years.
You won't get very far by just training once or twice a week, teaching more than you train, or by receiving poor direction. High
levels of skill, deep understanding and quality techniques are not the norm amongst Karate Ka, far from it, and they certainly
won't come or be achieved overnight or by training irregular. As for holding a Dan grade, knowing lots of Kata or Bunkai? Does
that equate to a high level of skill and understanding.
|"What do you really gain from practising Karate"!?
“If the Heart is Right, the Hand will be Right” An Old Okinawan Saying.
The problem with much of the Karate that is around today is that many fail to ever get taught the art from its true basis, it
has lost its craft as Senaha Sensei says. Yes we can talk about Karate as a fighting art, used for fitness or even as a pass
time or a sport, but deep down the art has so much more to offer us than this, way more in fact.
As one becomes more appreciative of the art of Karate, we should see that both the Sensei who we seek out and the Dojo
we belong to, and who we are surrounded by on a near daily basis within, is actually one of the most important commodities
to absorbing a real depth of understanding of the true benefits that Okinawan Karate has to offer us, especially so if we
wish to maintain standards and avoid dilution by practising the True Art.
Over the past week or so I have had two people approach me to teach them Karate, to their credit both have sincerely
asked if they can become a member of our Dojo, and their intentions seem good too. The answer may be Yes! The answer
may be No!, I haven't decided yet. I already know that both of these guys are decent nice people, because if they weren't
there would be nothing to consider. I will first see if their interest remains in a month or so, then I will invite them to the Dojo
for a green tea and a friendly chat to discuss the Dojo and the training that we do. Thereafter if both they and I are happy to
proceed, I may offer them a trial period of training with the other members of the Dojo. I'm not interested in money, peoples
age, fitness levels, race, gender, being tough or having natural ability. I'm looking for nice hard working people who are
prepared to embrace the art and face challenges without excuses.
Who I share my Karate and Dojo with is something that I never stop questioning or reavaluating, as serious Karate Ka it is
our duty to be honest and true to both ourselves and the art itself, as accepting anything, being weak, or even dithering will
result in the lowering of standards and a lack of progress for either the Sensei, the in Dojo students and the standing of the
Dojo itself. The integrity, honesty, and good natured people that I wish to share my Karate with is of major importance to me,
just as I'm sure it is to my present students, and as it was to the teachers of old. When one is to share so many hours of
their precious life with others in Karate, it is only right and of then of the upper most importance that we choose our
teachers, students, training partners, or friends to be, very wisely indeed.
The Okinawan Karate teacher Gichin Funakoshi Sensei is probably the most prolific teacher in the history of the art. But
how many Karate Ka these days really take in the full understanding of the many wise words that he spoke!?
"Karate is an Art for Gentlemen" and whereby he spoke of the ultimate aim of Karate being about looking more
towards; "The Good Character of its Participants".
Many years may have past and many changes may have taken place since the photos put up above were taken, but the
values of the art and the integrity from which it is based should be one and remain the same. Not everyone is capable of
facing the challenges of true Karate training, just as true Karate should not be taught to anyone, especially not to those of
poor character or with a nasty or violent disposition.
I will leave you with a few words from my old notes that I heard were spoken to this effect by Onaga Yoshimitsu Sensei many
years ago "Ti s not for everyone! Some people lack the aptitude, with others it's the commitment, with
others it's the physical ability, and then there are those who just lack the right character".
It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. That being so, if we view the wonderful old photographs of the Okinawan
Karate teacher Choki Motobu above, what is clear to see is the realism of the Karate being executed. From the posturing
and the muscular alignment to the focussed intent, there is no doubt at all that this is true Karate of old Okinawa that oozes
both seriousness and effectiveness.There is just something that so tells us this.
As is well documented, the teachings of Okinawan Karate were passed on by the prominent teachers of the time, as in the
likes of Matsamura, Higashionna, Itosu, Azato, Miyagi or Chibana. However, these teachers or Sensei did not and would not
pass the teachings of their art on to anyone!!! Regardless of if you believe this to be right or wrong, the fact of the matter
is this, the Art of Karate was never meant to be easy or for everyone or anyone, this is why teachers chose their students
wisely and put many challenges and obstacles in their way. Students were certainly not offered fancy or nice incentives to
keep them coming back for more.
|"Is Karate Really an Art for Everyone & Anyone"?
Kumite is often perceived as Dojo sparring or maybe even fighting practise with a training partner by many Karate Ka these
days. Kumite can often be all of the same too for some strange reason regardless of differing names, with the emphasis
usually being on blocking followed by a firm or solid counter attack. Why this is I'm unsure, but as Karate Ka we do see this
Within the Karate of Okinawa, primarily Kumite is about when one interacts with a training partner, the coming together or the
meeting of hands, or basically partner practise with a living moving training partner. In truth each Kumite should have a
differing emphasis whilst teaching a different aspect of Karate, as there is no real logic or reasoning for all Kumite practises or
partner training drills taught within a Dojo to be of the same or similar in nature.
Within Senaha Sensei's Dojo there are many Kumite drills, from Ippon Kumite to Nihon to Yakusoku to Kekome to Renzoku to
Muchimi to Kakie, etc etc. But what is clear to see is that just like in most other Okinawan Karate Dojo, all Kumite have a
different flavour and feel to them that require a different level of understanding, whilst teaching different aspects of Karate
compared to their other relating Kumite.
Generally I post very little footage of the training that we do at the Shinken Dojo as I really feel no need. Posted below though
is a little footage from this weekend that was taken whilst training with a few students up in the Midlands. The footage is nothing
special really so please don't expect it to be. I share it to show a partner training drill or Kumite that is not about being heavy
handed or about counter punching or even speed, but a Kumite that is quite relaxed and flowing as it teaches aspects like
hand control and coordination.
Many years ago now my father drove me down to Croydon in South London to attend a training session under Sadashige Kato
Sensei, I was a brown belt at the time. I can still remember this like it was yesterday. Kato Sensei walked in as he did in those
days with a big smile on his face wearing his trade mark body warmer over the top of his Gi, which he kept on most of the time.
The training session was demanding as always whilst being very technical, this was always a definitive trade mark of Kato
Sensei, he was always correcting you, but more than that, he was a true Karate Sensei who always lead by example and from
My father had spent the day watching and observing the training that took place, he was never a Karate Ka I may add, but he
was a Budo Ka who was very proficient in the arts of Judo and Jutsu Ka to the point that he could and he would make
thingswork at times of needs be, enough said there really. He was a stickler for good manners, courtesy, and having respect
for others too. He certainly didn’t like big heads, bullies or idiots of this world I will tell you that.
Anyway, during our drive home it was our time to analyze. We discussed the training and I was guided and advised on what he
felt that I needed to improve on, together with what he felt would never pass the reality or effectiveness test. Then my father
asked me this question, “What did you learn the most today son?” I answered with some technical issue or maybe a new
drill that I may have learned. Then he stopped me mid sentence and said “It’s not the belt or grade is it son?”!!! I had
never been a grade or belt seeker and had always been advised against this way of thinking, even though of course achieving
them was always nice, and kind of a marker that I was making progress in the art. Then we both looked at each other and I
replied “No it’s not!” We both knew why and nothing more really needed to be said on the matter, even though my father
then proceeded to lecture and warn me against being a talker or a grade rider.
So let’s go back to the training! When Kato Sensei entered the Dojo that day he was met by a Dojo full of Dan grades, many of
whom held the grades of 2nd, 3rd or even 4th Dan, which was quiet high back then. There was much loud talk and comrade
ship, some though still had their training shoes on and very few even bothered to bow as they entered the Dojo door. The
junior grades were also ordered around or pushed to one side in a disrespectful manner too. Even once the training
commeced it was clear to see that many of the Dan grades had a mind that was already full as though they already knew it all.
Or so they thought!!?? In reality they had inflated egos and knew very little at all about Karate, and there was only one way
that they would be going. Up in grade! Down in Budo understanding and ability!
Kato Sensei was accompanied by just one assistant on this day, and I still remember him well. He entered the Dojo behind his
teacher, and he was carrying his teachers bag. He had already removed his shoes before entering the Dojo and then he
placed them down to one side awaiting his departure. With a large bow he entered politely and said a few words in Japanese.
His courtesy and etiquette on that day was poetry and admirable, he quietly stayed back and away from his teacher in one
way, but was always there at hand in another kind of way. Whilst most of the Dan grades were back slapping and loud chatting
prior to the training commencing he quietly went about his own warm up drills without fuss. As for the training…… Once the
training did commence, he stood out like a sore thumb, it was more than obvious for all to see that this guy was by far superior
to all of the Dan grades in attendance in technical standards, ability, and Karate understanding too. But, so much more than
this, he did so with humility, there was no ego or high status about him at all. He was both demonstrated on, and
demonstratedmany techniques and drills with his teacher too, whilst being corrected and corrected some more. Of which it was
more than obvious to see that he was taking in each and every word of his Sensei. But more than this, he was on the path to
The lesson that Kato Sensei brought to the Dojo that day was far more important than anything he taught technically. He
brought along a student to give out a message to all in attendance, I honestly wonder though how many on that day actually
saw this lesson at all.
Oh, and by the way…… The assistant to Kato Sensei on that day was wearing a white belt, and before anyone thinks that this
was just a gimmick is so wrong. I recall training alongside the guy again a time or two over the next year or so, and smiled to
myself as I remember him entering the Dojo wearing the higher, and well deserved brown belt.
(Sunday 22nd May 2016)
|Glyn Jones Outdoor training as a Brown Belt.
Brown Belt and White Belt both with the Beginners Mind.