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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
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"Karate the Okinawa way"     Blog posts by Glyn Jones


“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
often.

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.
"Kumite and Karate"
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
the front.

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 demonstrated
many 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 discovering
Budo.

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.
Glyn Jones Outdoor training as a Brown Belt.

Brown Belt and White Belt both with the Beginners Mind.
"The Way of the Belt or The Way of Budo"
I always find it a little strange that if someone practises or trains in Karate, then people automatically believe that they can fight
effectively, and subsequently that they do Karate because they are training to fight. With all the mysticism and hype that surrounds
the Martial Arts these days I suppose I can see why people think as they do.

So let us get the Black Belt misconception out of the way first. Being the wearer of a Black Belt is no indication at all that a person is
proficient at Karate or a Martial Art, or that they can fight or protect themselves effectively either! Don't get me wrong there are
many that are and can, but there are many more than this who cannot! One needs to realise that we now have; Seven year old
Black Belts / Two years Attendance Black Belts / Sport Karate, Family Karate /  Bunkai Karate. All of this is fine, but you can't water
your whisky down and still expect it to give you the effects of pure alcohol can you?  Karate is so like this.

"I do believe that where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence".  Mahatma Gandhi

A far as effectiveness goes, in reality this will depend on many factors, but primarily it is down to the Dojo and type of guidance or
training that one has received or endured, this being combined with the mind set and back ground of the individual too. A lot of
Karate Ka won't like to hear this. But, there are many Karate Ka out there who would struggle to deal with the reality of
confrontations. Why you may ask. Well to start with it's nothing to do with changing their Karate to include self defence techniques,
learning loads of Bunkai applications, or having a super Mawashigeri or Gyaku Tsuki. The basis of Karate was always about
effective in combat, but to retain thus it has to be intact and based off firm fighting principles and these values. Not fanciness and
frills!!!  So... If you start watering Karate down, turning it in to a sport or a once a week activity, then it will of course lose its flavour,
or shall I say effectiveness.

Two big factors that many fail to understand are in line with the words of the Chinese strategist, Sun Tsu, where he speaks about
knowing your enemy and knowing yourself. In brief; the mind set of lifes idiots or bullies as they tend to be, is very different to that of
the decent people of this world. People like that tend to get off on the lack of caring and compassion for others, as the things that
some people will do to other human beings even over the most trivial of things, can be quite sickening. And like it or not, and quite
understandably, until it is too late many decent Karate Ka are not always prepared for the levels of ferocity or violence that they may
encounter during confrontations. Onaga Sensei of the Shinjinbukan hit the nail firmly on the head when he made the following
statement, or words to this effect.

"There is no prize for second place or a silver medal in confrontation, losing can mean death". Onaga Yoshimitsu Sensei

Do genuine or serious exponents of authentic Karate train in the art because they wish to fight or have intentions of fighting? No I
don't believe that they do, I know that I don't, and most of the genuine Karate Ka that I have acquainted and shared a Dojo with
don't either. Most Karate Ka as a rule are usually very decent and nice people, with the training in Karate having many benefits
including one's wellbeing and health at the forefront of ones training. With this approach far outweighing the value of fighting
anyone. That aside though... I still train and teach with the inherent characteristics of authentic Karate in mind, as in self protection
and self preservation. Or as my Sensei so wisely puts things
"Karate is not about winning, it's about not losing". Genuine and
true training Karate Ka, just like the peaceful people of Okinawa, have no intention of fighting, hurting anyone, or defeating others.  
But quietly, they have no intention of being bullied, beaten or defeated by others either.

So.... I will leave you with the wise words spoken by Dave Hazard Sensei of the Shotokan way, in his work Born Fighter.  

"In most situations (in everyday life) if you miss your one chance life still goes on. You might be upset or angry, or have
other people upset or angry at you, but at least you still have the opportunity to try again. Miss your one chance in a fight
without rules and you can be dead".
 Dave Hazard Sensei
"Karate Training & Fighting"