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
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Okinawan Karate teachers generally are not always to keen to
openly demonstrate  Kata applications (Bunkai/Imi/Oyo), except
maybe within the privacy of their own Dojo, or inside that family
relationship as I tend to speak of it. There are many valid reasons
for this, and on the whole I tend to agree with them.

The video footage put up below, together with the excellent wise
words of advice and guidance on Karate Kata and Applications,
are spoken by my
Ryusyokai Sempai, as in Hidenobu Tamaki
As to be able to truly understand the Kata of Okinawan
Karate, an essential component is to be able draw out the lessons
that are inherent, to the point of achieving maximum effectiveness.
To just mimic or show nice or good form alone is useless.
Where at times many Karate Ka these days lack practise and talk too much, use baffling science, lengthy applications or fancy
techniques that will never work. Even though this footage shows very little of
Tamaki Sensei really, and just like all video footage, it is
never like the feeling of actually being in the Dojo with him. Having spent many hours in the company of
Tamaki Sensei, and often
finding myself on the receiving end of his Karate techniques, as far as directness and effectiveness goes he really is uncompromising.
"I practice Kata every day, and it is important to know how to apply the techniques"  

"Kata applications mean so much and relentless repetitions gives you the automatic responses, which is the very
meaning of Kata practice"

"Some techniques seen within Kata do look so impractical, and it can be hard to see how you can fight in this or that
kind of posture"

"The practising of Kata does not mean that you will have immediate effectiveness in combat, learning how to apply
Kata is its real meaning"

"As our teacher always insists, practise Kata movements accurately"

"Simply doing Kata means nothing, if you practise wrongly then you will never improve"

"When you practise Kata always keep in mind quickness and precision, use proper breathing, and use short brisk
bursts of movement"

"Too many Karate Ka just mimic the Kata movements"

"Your Karate won't improve without understanding or analysing Kata"

"Search always for better or the best interpretations of Kata applications"

By Hidenobu Tamaki Sensei
"Karate the Okinawa way"     Blog posts by Glyn Jones
"Advice on Kata by Hidenobu Tamaki Sensei"
"Okinawan Karate the Quieter Way"
虎穴に入らずんば虎子を得ず    Koketsu ni irazunba koji wo ezu.

The Japanese saying   "If you do not enter the tigers cave, you will not catch its cub"  

This quote can be interpreted in a number of ways, with bravery and being honest with yourself at the forefront of its meaning.  
Fundamentally it is saying that anything of value in life will only come through effort, personal sacrifice, patience and perseverance.  Or
in contrast, things that come easy in life are usually cheap, meaningless and worthless, no matter how they are wrapped up or made
out to be otherwise. Or as another saying goes
"Good things come to those who wait".

As genuine Karate Ka, trying to achieve a balance and understanding between time spent wisely and personal sacrifice, can be
difficult, but it is a must. We've all seen the supposed Karate Sensei of whatever Dan with 20 years experience behind him. Yes! There
is respect for putting the time and effort in. But, time in to what is the key.  As there really been improvement, personal development,
and a deeper understanding or progress made along the way over these many years? Or, after the initial years of learning as a
student, did the black in the belt stagnate their mind set and training, or even inflate the ego as they continually ride along on a wave
that past a long time ago.

"The Karate that you do and the standards that you set, can only be seen today,  your Karate of the past, is long
gone and dead".

There is a culture in this modern world that money can buy us anything or even success, and everyone seems to want things now or
even yesterday. The good thing with Budo and Authentic Karate is that money counts for nothing, and only time and quality guidance
will gain you experience and deep understanding...  Yes! Effort, personal sacrifice, patience and perseverance over time, combined
with sincerity and a good Sensei and Dojo counts for everything.

Once I agree to teach students Karate, the first thing that I try and do is end any thoughts of setting time scales to their Karate training.
Just like when individuals join a Dojo in Okinawa, it is with the intention of training for life. There are no thoughts or concerns of how
long it will take to achieve a black belt, or how long before one will get to learn Kururunfa Kata, or even the three years to 3rd Dan and
four years to 4th Dan set time silliness, or even thoughts of teaching others.  As a serious and genuine Karate Ka, when you think in
time scales you really have missed the point, and it will always hinder your progress in the art. Goal setting to overcome personal
battles is though an important factor in Budo, the same as are valued or achievable rewards, so please don't mix them up.

When new students then ask me questions like  
"How long before I am assessed for my first belt"?  The answer is simple "There is
no set time scale between grades, you will grade when I feel that you are ready " !
 Or maybe even... "Can I buy myself a badge
for my Gi next week Sensei"?  "You don't have to buy a Gi badge, I will give you one for free!"
 But... "Only when I feel that you
have earned the right to wear it as a Dojo member".
 I don't tell them but this is usually around 6 months. The same if asked about
the learning of new training drills, sequences or even Kata that are not already known to them. All only happens when I decide or feel
that they are ready, as for time scales? As their teacher I have no idea when this will be, so of course as a student they surely don't.

This week three of my students had their names added to my Dojo Kanban, as you can see by the above photograph. Justifiably
deserved and well earned, as they have all trained for around a year now. Did they ever ask when their names would be added? No!  
Did I ever ask my Sensei in Okinawa when my name would be added to his Dojo Kanban in Okinawa? No! But both happened in time...  

When you have put the time and effort in, and the time is right, you may just be surprised by what may be achieved, or what personal
battles may be overcome in your Karate.
"Entering the Tigers Cage"
"Karate is about the Training, but many Forget".  I remember Brian Hinchliffe Sensei saying this statement many years ago,
and at the time it meant very little to me, I'd always trained regularly so why should it matter to me? However, over the years I've seen it
to be more and more true. There are of course many Karate Ka out there who train hard, consistently and regularly. But, there are also
many who ride along on the wave of attractions that modern day Karate seems to offer people. What is true though is this, a
compromising or false type of Karate would never have been heard of on Okinawa, the birth place of Karate, so anything less is pure
imitation or dilution.

The thing that I can say with 100% honesty is just like was always the case on Okinawa, Karate for me personally has always been
about the training and the personal challenges that this brings along the way.

I do my best Karate when I am training, which most often than not is quietly and alone in my home Dojo. Yes! Admittedly I much prefer it
when I am training under my Sensei or my Sempai in Okinawa, but over the years I've learned to try to understand the teachings of my
Sensei, absorb them, and go away and practise, as I'm more than mature enough not to be dishonest with either myself or my Sensei.  
So even though I continually work on various aspects of my Karate alone, I also work hard when training with partners, the same when
I'm working with students too. It's a simple formula really isn't it!  Yes! Just train and practise regularly.

Some may say or feel that I do my best Karate when I'm teaching or passing on the Art, but NO! This is not true or the case. Am I any
good at teaching Karate? That is for others to answer not me. Do I enjoy teaching Karate? To answer truthfully, Yes and kind of No!!!  I
won't teach idiots or thugs that is for sure!  Training in Karate and teaching Karate is not the same thing, but again many also forget.
What I do tend to do is try to train as I teach my students. So why do I teach Karate? You may ask. Well... Genuine teachers of Karate
generally teach the Art for two reasons.

1; Having students around builds a strong Dojo and creates a good training environment and atmosphere, but more importantly, it
surrounds you with likeminded positive people, and it also produces training partners of worth. As even though Karate can be practised
alone, there are many elements that do require quality training partners also. All reminds me of the saying
"If you live a good life
and be a nice person, you will attract and become surrounded by nice people also, and be happy"

2; Teaching the true art of Karate keeps it all alive, as without the transmission process of passing on the teachings of Authentic
Okinawan Karate with honest intentions, the art  would and will eventually die off.  Sadly and like it or not, but this is a fact, especially so
with there being so many poor and misinterpreted teachings out there that pass themselves off as Karate or its Sensei.  Teaching good
Karate also allows for individualism and progression, which can be refreshing if the experience and understanding is there too, as long
as all stays within the parameters of a kind of acceptable frame work, the art will still be passed on to the next generation intact and in a
good state.....  So a feeling of giving something back, enjoyment and satisfaction also comes from teaching genuine and sincere

Just like any serious or genuine Karate Ka I prefer to be training, so as a regularly practising and training Karate Ka, do I really need to
have lots and lots of students doing as they please, with wishy washy standards being set or not there at all?  No I don't, and it's not
personal! I'm just too busy training, be it alone or with the handful of students that I share my Karate with.
This picture was taken on one of our early Saturday
Morning training sessions that I used to attend as a
student, it was held in a local park, with the weather
being no excuse for not attending.
(I'm at the rear on the right).  

I do wonder how many students these days would
endure such basic hardships of having dirty feet and a
dirty gi on a weekly basis?
"Karate is about the Training, but many Forget"
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. Many also believe this more so if someone
happens to be the holder of the converted Black Belt? With all the mysticism and hype that surrounds the Martial Arts and the
wearing of a Black Belt these days I suppose I can see why people think as they do. This being the case, I am going to say a few
words on this very subject as all is not as straight forward or clear cut as many seem to think or believe.

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, they train regularly, or that they can fight or protect themselves effectively either! Don't get me wrong there are
many that are and do, and certainly can too, but there are many more than this who cannot! We now have; Seven year old Black
Belts / Two years Attendance Black Belts / Sport Karate, Family Karate /  Bunkai Karate / and even Fun Karate. So of course you
can't water your whisky down and still expect it to give you the effects of 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 the individual 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 understand what will actually work
when push comes to shove, the same with dealing 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 either. The basis of Karate was always about it being 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. With low lifes getting off on the lack of caring and compassion for others, with the things that these
people will do to other human beings even over the most trivial of things, being quite sickening. And like it or not, and quite
understandably until it can be too late, many decent nice 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 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, whilst training in Karate for many certainly has many
benefits including one's wellbeing and health at the forefront of their training, which far outweighs 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. As my Sensei so wisely says
"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 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
The Dojo Seniors working on one of my Wednesday
Evening training session in the Midlands. This was
taken at my old Dojo that is now in the capable
hands of my student Indy Grewal. (rear left).

Hard Training and Effectiveness was always the
order of the day.
"Karate Training & Fighting"
"What is the basis of the Karate Dojo that you train in"?   Is a question that all serious Karate Ka should think over,
especially so with words like Traditional, Genuine and Authentic Karate training, being thrown around so freely these days.

Traditionally a Dojo is a place of training where a Sensei will offer guidance to students of their choosing, by way of the teacher to
student relationship. What many Karate exponents fail to understand though, is that regardless of popular belief, the ways of the
Karate Dojo as they are known in the East, are very rarely transferred to, replicated, or set up in the West.  At times there are also
big differences between many Okinawan and Japanese Dojo.

Having visited numerous Karate and Kobudo Dojo on Okinawa. Only on a few rare occasions have I seen the same characteristics
or basis for a Dojo being used as a role model by Sensei in the U.K. There may be many Okinawan based Dojo over here on this
island I accept, but I certainly haven't witnessed them or know of them.

The thing is, if the foundation from which one teaches Karate changes, then in most, if not all cases, the transmission process will
naturally change the substance of the Karate that is being passed on too. As traditionally on Okinawa, most Karate Dojo's always
tended to have distinct characteristics about them that defined the teachings of their native art. Yes of course Dojo's are
individualistic by nature, both in setting and teaching basis, with all being born from the individual experiences of the Sensei. But,
deep down all seem to be working within a similar acceptable framework.

Here are a few things to ponder over;

Most Karate Dojo on Okinawa were, and still are adjacent to the family home of the Sensei. There are exceptions of course, but
generally as a rule Dojo are very homely or relatively small in size, whilst being unique and fitting.

Dojo were purposely set up for the sole purpose of training in and teaching Karate, they were not big open public halls, or for multi
use, most training was and still is done quietly away from the preying eyes of outsiders. Most Dojo's are a treasure trove of the
Sensei's Karate lineage or history.

Sensei will be selective in who they teach or pass the art of Karate on to, initially being very testing, maybe even off putting, whilst
also having an inner Dojo code of rules that are adhered to and respected by all students who enter. Students tend to commit to
both the Dojo and Sensei for the long term or life. With loyalty, honour and respect, being firm characteristics of ALL Karate Dojo
on Okinawa.

Just as a Boxing Gym is kitted out with training equipment that is relevant to their art. Authentic Karate Dojo are the same and
contain much Hojo Undo apparatus that are seen as an integral part of training in the art, from striking posts, to weights, to ropes
to jars, etc etc. They are not as the norm an empty hall.

The number of students training at Dojo on Okinawa is/was usually relatively small, with tuition being more centred around the
individual, not the masses, with guidance being very personal, thorough and defined. The turnaround of students and those
entering is relatively small, with most having being introduced or recommended to the Dojo Sensei by others of good standing.

Change and progression in Karate is inevitable. However, the true Sensei of Okinawa who stay loyal to their art, will generally
pass on the teachings to their students in a similar way that the art was passed on to them. With the teaching basis being on what
the student needs, not what the student wants.

Even though Dojo fees, dues or donations were passed over by students to cover Dojo upkeep and expenses, and at times look
after the well being of the Sensei, thus was usually kept to a minimum. Money was/is not the focus of the Dojo and it should have
no bearing on the quality of the tuition or guidance received, the same in the putting forward of hardship.

Most Dojo will have an open time policy for practise, with students being able to turn up at the Dojo for free practise any time of
the day or night, be it to practise alone or with other students. There will though be set lessons, usually on 3 or 5 evenings per
week where by students attend regularly to receive guidance from their Dojo Sensei or Sempai.

Students commit and receive guidance in Karate for personal improvement and development so that they can face up to the
challenges that they are presented with by their Sensei, with thoughts of longevity and personal well being. Thoughts of achieving
higher status, grades, certificates or gold cups, have little or no bearing on authentic Karate Dojo students or its Sensei.
"What is the basis of your Karate Dojo"?
I have always found it a little intriguing as to how blinkered or biased Karate Ka can be when it comes to their own training or
teachings methods.  I do accept that we all have our own preferences and beliefs when it comes to Karate or Martial Arts training.
However, believing or stating that things are true or correct, when this is not necessarily the case is another thing altogether. Is
this though a modern day trait that many Karate Ka of today are becoming more and more guilty of? Karate kind of comes in
many flavours these days so one should just be honest with yourself, and others, about the basis and the training that you do.

During conversations or whilst training under my Sensei, I have on many occasions been firmly corrected by my teachers, as in
Senaha Sensei or Tamaki Sensei.  With their questioning words being like these;
"Who has told you this"?  or, "Why do you do
 But the most interesting words often spoken are; "That is not the Okinawan Karate way"!  or, "You have not heard or
been taught that on Okinawa"!   

Since my last blog posting I have received a few e mails from Karate Ka over here in the UK who were trying to make me aware of
their Karate basis and Dojo. Which is fair enough as most were from sincere Karate Ka, which is nice. You always get the odd one
or two others though don't you!?.....

All of those who wrote sent me details of their Dojo or group web site, with a few also adding You Tube links of their training too.
All as evidence to prove that they do practise Karate the Okinawan Way?

Sorry, but ALL just affirmed what I was saying, and most have either missed my point, or they don't wish to accept the sentiments
that I previously expressed on what the basis of a more Authentic Okinawan Karate Dojo is. (so please reread my ponder list
again!) Lineage or a well known name as the head of a group, or even a School/Style name (as in say Goju Ryu), does NOT for
one minute mean that you practise the art in a way that is reminiscent of the Karate that was or is traditionally taught and
practised in the more authentic Dojo by the people of Okinawa.

"The teacher only taught a small group of students because he felt a sensei should have an understanding of their lives,
what troubled them, where they've been and where they're heading."
The Karate Ka,  Joel Reeves.

Last week I shared a little training and a cup of green tea or two, in my private home Dojo with Garry Lever Sensei of the
Shinsokai.  Even though there are many differences in our training methods, the sentiments we share and our beliefs on what true
Karate stands for are very similar indeed.  You may be a little intrigued as to what both Garry and myself worked on training wise?
In truth we just quietly did some Karate! Nothing that either myself or Garry would regard as anything special, just fundamental
Karate Kumite drills and a little Kata, as we both will still quietly do during our weekly practise.

When Garry spoke of how he taught and trained in Karate these days in comparison to those who practised Karate locally. He
made me smile. He mentioned the thoughts and talk from others of this strange mad man, who taught quietly behind his house
away from the preying eyes of others, in a way that seemed a little strange to others too, or maybe even kind of seedy.  These
reminded me of  the following words spoken by Gichin Funakoshi Sensei in his work "Karate- Do, My Way of Life".

"I made my stealthy way in the dead of the night, carrying a dim lantern where there was no moon, to the house of Master
Azato. when, night after night, I would steal home just before daybreak, the neighbours took to conjecturing among
themselves as to where I went and what I was doing. some decided that the only possible answer to this curious enigma
was a brothel.  The truth of the matter was very different indeed!"  
Gichin Funakoshi Sensei.

Garrys words also confirmed to me the sentiments that I spoke about in my last blog posting. Such Karate Sensei and Dojo
teachings are more than a little rare these days, as more often than not all is being done quietly without fuss, attention or frills. So
If you really are serious about studying Karate the true Okinawan way, you really will have to put the time and effort in to seek
such a Dojo and Sensei out. However, to think that you can just put Okinawan Karate, Goju Ryu, Shorin Ryu or anything similar in
to a web search engine, or just turn up at a local sports hall, and then expect to experience the true teachings of Okinawan
Karate. Sorry, but the true teachings of the Art are a little more deeper and precious than that.

Monday 24th August 2015
With Garry Lever Sensei of the
Shinsokai & Uraniwa Dojo