Articles

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Article 1 : The Dojo Kun: What Underlies Our Training?

Article 2 : Dojo Etiquette

Article 3 : You’re Getting Old – Why Do You “Do Karate”?

Article 4 : What Does “Budo” Mean?

ARTICLE 1

Budo Karate Club – The Dojo Kun : What Underlies Our Training?

Those of us old enough to remember training in the karate which came to Glasgow in the late nineteen sixties and early nineteen seventies will remember the strict insistence on remembering and reciting the Dojo Kun at the end of every class.

There are several good descriptions of the Kun applicable to Shotokan karate available on the Web, but, in this article, I have taken the liberty of researching and assimilating what I believe to be the most relevant elements from the various descriptions I came across.

The basic purpose of the Dojo Kun is to remind all true students of karate, regardless of their rank, that what they achieve in terms of physical, mental and spiritual development through proper training in karate should not be confined to the dojo. Rather, it should be the basis on which life is lived in every context, a guide to everyday life outwith the dojo walls.

So, what is the Dojo Kun as applied to Shotokan Karate? Essentially, it is a set of five fundamental statements underpinning the basic philosophy of karate as devised by Master Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan, and taken from his twenty precepts (which are appended at the end of this article for those with further interest).

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Going from right to left, the Japanese for each reads as follows:

Hitotsu! Jinkaku kansei ni tsutomuru koto       One! To seek perfection of character

Hitotsu! Makato no michi o mamoru koto         One! To be faithful and defend truth

Hitotsu! Doryoku no seishin o yashinau koto    One! To foster the spirit of endeavour

Hitotsu! Reigi o omonsuru koto                            One! To respect others

Hitotsu! Kekki no yu o imashimuru koto            One! To refrain from violent behaviour

Coming, as they do, from Okinawa and the Japanese mainland of that period, from a man whose experience and life view were very different from our own, and from a time now far removed from our present age, one might question the relevance of these precepts to our own understanding and direction. However, closer scrutiny should make clear their importance and validity with regard to the principles underlying training at the Budo Karate Dojos under the tutelage of Sensei Gordon Gavienas.

Seek Perfection of CharacterThis is the ultimate goal of karate and takes the karateka well beyond the physical. It stresses the need to look within one’s self for all that is best and reflective of the highest moral purpose. It comes from the inside out. Progress may be recognised and encouraged by fellow students and instructors, but the development of this character has the self at its core. Furthermore, one’s karate training, like life itself, is an ongoing and developmental process. One should train to bring out one’s spirit. Each goal achieved should be consolidated and provide the basis for the next in a never-ending quest for improvement as a karateka and a person. The two are inseparable.

Be Faithful and Defend Truth – This precept, like all the others, should be understood on a number of levels. Within the dojo, it is important to display loyalty to the organisation to which you belong and to those who teach you. Adhering to such principles will not only strengthen your own character, but also cement the principles of the dojo as a whole. However, in a broader context, this being faithful, this defending what is true, indicates sincerity in all that you undertake. It means being true not only to others, to your obligations, but – most importantly – to yourself. Be faithful to yourself and others will have faith in you – as a karateka, as a sensei, as a person.

Foster the Spirit of Endeavour – This precept is both so simple and so complex Essentially, it exhorts us as karateka and as persons to demonstrate complete and sincere dedication and effort in everything we do – training, working, relationships etc. In an obvious link to the previous two precepts, this implies clearly that in not doing one’s best, you are cheating yourself and others, you are not being faithful in the manner described above, and you are failing to seek perfection of character. Within the dojo, it is clear that mastery of the art, to whatever level one is capable, will only come with dedication, persistence, effort and sincerity. These are the fundamental principles we should apply to all our undertakings.

Respect Others –  Gichin Funakoshi stressed that karate began and ended with etiquette, stating that without respect and courtesy there was no dojo. In the karate context, this respect is evidenced by proper dojo etiquette, appropriate behaviour towards fellow karateka and senseis, and respect for and through all that is taught and learned. However, it should go far beyond the confines of the dojo. This deeply respectful attitude should manifest itself in all aspects of life – respect for others, their opinions and ideas, their efforts, their limitations, respect for the world we inhabit, for nature and for life.

Refrain from Violent Behaviour – Surely this is a paradox – the karateka refraining from violent behaviour! Not if you understand and adhere to the principles of the Dojo Kun. This is about refraining from impetuous and gratuitous behaviours which are violent in action, thought and motivation. Of course one should defend one’s self, or the weak and defenceless, when appropriate. However, the ultimate goal is to demonstrate control, an ability to remain calm, an ability to think clearly. How much more successful one is as a karateka and a person if the requisite level of control is exercised which enables you to walk away without having become embroiled in destructive and injurious action. This may not always be possible, but it remains the goal.

So there we have it, a code for training which is also a code for living, and certainly worthy of further thought.

Finally, as indicated earlier in this article, Master Funakoshi extracted the Dojo Kun from his longer list of Twenty Precepts. Again, one must place them in the context of his time and place, but all remain relevant, interesting and interpretable in our current world.

  1. Karate-do begins with courtesy and ends with rei (bow) (respect).
  2. There is no first strike in karate.
  3. Karate is an aid to justice.
  4. First know yourself before attempting to know others.
  5. Spirit first, technique second.
  6. Always be ready to release your mind.
  7. Accidents arise from negligence.
  8. Do not think that karate training is only in the dojo.
  9. It will take your entire life to learn karate, there is no limit.
  10. Put your everyday living into karate and you will find “Myo” (subtle secrets).
  11. Karate is like boiling water – if you do not heat it constantly it will cool.
  12. Do not think that you have to win: think rather that you do not have to lose.
  13. Victory depends on your ability to distinguish vulnerable points from invulnerable ones.
  14. The outcome of the battle depends on how you handle weakness and strength.
  15. Think of your opponent’s hands and feet as swords.
  16. When you leave home, think that you have numerous opponents waiting for you.
  17. Beginners must master low stance and posture: natural body positions are for the advanced.
  18. Practising a kata exactly is one thing, engaging in a real fight is another.
  19. Do not forget to correctly apply strength and weakness of power, stretching and contraction of the body, and slowness and speed of techniques.
  20. Always think and devise ways to live the precepts of karate-do every day.

 

[Article submitted to Gavienas Sensei (7th Dan, Chief Instructor) by Sensei Peter Sheridan on 29th November 2013.]

ARTICLE 2

Budo Karate Club – Dojo Etiquette

 

Etiquette is the code of conduct essential to the proper practice of the Japanese martial arts, and insofar as it is poorly observed or missing, then the essence and value of the practice is diminished or non-existent.

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Proper dojo etiquette – manifested through self-discipline and mutual trust and respect for one’s fellow karateka – is essential to the safe and constructive practice of the way of karate. This etiquette should be manifested through adherence to the following rules and procedures.

  • Always bow (rei) on entering and leaving the dojo, and always bow before commencing and finishing a class.
  • Always be polite and courteous to fellow students both within and outwith the dojo.
  • Always be punctual if possible. Late arrivals should enter the dojo quietly, assume a kneeling position, await the Sensei’s permission to join the class, at which point the karateka should execute a full kneeling bow before taking up position.
  • Similarly, any student requiring to leave the dojo before the class has completed training must execute a full kneeling bow at the edge of the training area when instructed to do so by the Sensei.
  • Make sure that your gi is kept clean and pressed. It is an outward manifestation of a pure spirit.
  • Toe and finger nails should be kept clean and short to avoid injury to others.
  • All jewellery should be removed before training. That which cannot be removed should be safely covered.
  • Bad language will not be tolerated in the dojo.
  • There should be no unnecessary talking, laughing or noise while the class is in progress.
  • There should be no eating in the dojo, although an appropriate dring may be consumed with the Sensei’s permission.
  • Footwear should not normally be worn in the dojo – though the practicalities of this will depend on such factors as the dojo’s location, changing facilities etc.
  • Appropriate footwear should only be worn during training for specific reasons and with the Sensei’s approval.
  • All students should be aware of the Sensei’s entry to the dojo and acknowledge his or her arrival with a proper standing bow and respectful “oos”. The senior student should alert the class to Sensei’s arrival with “Sensei ni rei”.
  • Sensei should not be addressed by his or her first name in the dojo.
  • Any karateka who has forgotten his or her belt must ask permission to train from the Sensei.
  • Any student with a poor attendance record will not be permitted to take their next grading, unless there are exceptional circumstances approved by the Chief Instructor.
  • If possible, it is customary and courteous to inform the Sensei if you are likely to be absent from classes for whatever reason.
  • When called to assemble, all karateka will line out immediately in musubi-dachi (informal attention stance) – heels together, hands by the sides.
  • Upon the command “Seiza”, issued either by the Sensei or senior student, the class will kneel in unison, first on the left knee, keeping the back straight, then the right knee, and finally sitting back on the heels with the palms of the hands resting on the upper thighs, fingers pointing inwards.
  • On the command “Mokuso” (meditation), the hands may either be cupped, left hand on top, thumbs pointing upwards, or remain on the thighs, as described. In either case, all students should close their eyes and compose themselves in preparation for training.
  • On the command “Yame”, the eyes are opened and, if cupped, the hands are returned to the thighs, palms down.
  • On the command “Sensei ni rei”, the students will place their hands on the floor, left hand first, palms down, and bow with the forehead touching the back of the hand for approximately two seconds. No one should raise their head before the Sensei.
  • During training, karateka should always execute a standing bow after Sensei has offered you an explanation or correction, accompanied with “oos”.
  • Upon being offered an explanation or correction by the Sensei, karateka must never disrespectfully question their correctness, although it would be acceptable to seek further guidance on alternative or additional interpretations of techniques, combinations and applications.
  • The same etiquette should be observed if you are requested to demonstrate for or with the Sensei.
  • When training with a fellow student, both should bow simultaneously before and after the execution of any procedure and at the conclusion of the class.
  • If, when training either alone or with a fellow student, you complete the exercise in advance of other students, you should not move around the dojo in an aimless or distracting fashion. Observe appropriate respect by standing in a ready position, especially if Sensei has yet to finish the exercise or combination.
  • In all aspects of training, karateka should endeavour to do their utmost to carry out the training instructions laid down by the Sensei, and to do so in a prompt and focussed manner.
  • If, at any point during training, your belt (obi) or suit (gi) requires readjustment, it is traditional to turn away and show respect by making any necessary adjustments with your back to Sensei.
  • At the conclusion of training, the class will observe the same ritual of “Seiza, Mokuso and Yame” observed at the outset, but with the addition, before the final bow, of formal thanks to the Sensei. This will be undertaken by the senior karateka present saying “Domo arigatou gozaimashita, Sensei”, followed by the final bow “Sensei ni rei”.
  • Finally, remember the Dojo Kun and seek to train with humility, sincerity, purity of spirit, honesty and patience.

[Article submitted to Gavienas Sensei (Chief Instructor) by Sensei Peter Sheridan on 30th November 2013.]

 

ARTICLE 3

Budo Karate Club – You’re Getting Old – Why Do You “Do Karate”?

The chances are, if you are no longer in the first flush of youth, that, as a karateka, someone in your family or circle of friends will ask you why you keep training, why you come home tired, with the occasional bruise, the niggling injury, the red face and yet another sodden gi to wash before the next training session. It’s a fair question. Why, indeed?

It is a question made all the more understandable if your current or only motivation for “doing karate” is winning at competitions, bettering others, being top-dog, getting the trophy, filling in your grading card as quickly as possible etc, etc.

This is not to suggest that there is no merit in any of the above. Of course there is a wonderful sense of achievement at being “the winner”, of overcoming someone who previously bettered you: and yes, there is a sense of satisfaction to be gained from looking at your haul of trophies and remembering when you achieved them. Similarly, who can deny the pleasure of hearing your name called out as a “pass” at yet another grading.

But…. what happens when tournament karate is no longer a satisfying option? There’s a sharper kid on the block. Where do you go to when your name is no longer called out to receive the trophy or you are requested to re-sit the grade? Is there any point in going on?

Those of us who have been involved in the Way of Karate for a long time have seen hundreds of fellow participants disappear. For some, the exit was swift. This was not their “cup of tea” and that is absolutely understandable. Others reached the higher kyu levels but chose not to continue. More perplexing, perhaps, were those who attained Shodan level and then gave up!

Which brings me back to the question contained in this article’s heading. Why do you “do karate”?

The answer is actually very simple. Karate, in the sense it should be understood as a member of the Budo Dojo under Gavienas Sensei, is not simply a series of actions. Rather, it is a state of being. You should not think of it as “doing karate” but consider yourself as “being a karateka”. The difference is significant.

The spiritual, mental and physical opportunities for growth afforded by karate are significant. However, these three elements are distinguishable one from the other, do not progress in parallel and linear patterns, and will not remain constants as time and life elapse: and therein lies the beauty of karate. It is a lifelong engagement, but the rules of engagement will change over time. Perhaps, as your once supremely effective jodan kick drops with the passage of time, so does your mental strength to continue training and your spiritual awareness rise. The challenges become different but the outcome is the same – the continued building of character, the determination to overcome limits, the realisation that it is you who will conquer your new challenges and you alone. Yes, there will be guidance and support….but the final attainment rests squarely on your own shoulders, and that is both the challenge and the prize…overcoming the limitations of the self.

Both Gavienas Sensei and I have been privileged to have had the opportunity to train with, and be graded by, several of the Japanese instructors from the Japanese Karate Association who were instrumental in bringing Shotokan karate to Europe and the U.K. These men…Senseis Kase, Enoeda, Tomita, Kawasoe and Ohta to name but a few….demonstrated, at their peak, a power and ability that was absolutely awesome. What set them apart and provided us with role models, however, was the fact that they continued to train, and train, without any thought of giving up “The Way” – even, in the case of Enoeda Sensei and Kase Sensei, until death.

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(Senseis Tomita, Enoeda, Kase, Shirai and Kawasoe circa 1978)

Look online for clips of these famous karateka, and see the essence of what lies behind the training that Gavienas Sensei seeks to bring to the Budo Karate organisation… power, control, technique, breathing, courage, resilience, history, etiquette, respect, honesty. Can you cram all this into an hour? In my view – and Gavienas Sensei will correct me if I’m wrong – if you are seeking to be a true karateka, these principles and goals will characterise every moment of your dojo presence and, hopefully, your life beyond.

Those of you who have done some reading around the origins of Shotokan Karate will know that the students of its founder, Master Funakoshi Gichin, realised that something was wrong with their teacher when, a few days before his death at the age of 89, he exclaimed that he thought he understood the true punch! Never before had he stated any belief that he had attained mastery. Prior to this, he was always on the “way”, always seeking to improve his imperfections. If ever there was a clear exemplification of the lifelong nature of karate, here it is.

In a similar vein, Sensei Taiji Kase, one of Master Funakoshi’s students and a frequent visitor to these shores until his death in 2004, made clear his views on the fact that the true study of karate would take the student well beyond his youth. As Kase Sensei stated – “All karateka should practise at least for 20 years before making their mind up whether to continue or not. Only then all the hard work is starting to bear fruit. Then you will improve quicker and the training gets easier. When one reaches this feeling, one is not willing to lose it”.

Finally, the position as stated by Enoeda Sensei, writing in a 1992 edition of Fighting Arts International. In an article which focussed on the need to develop an open and responsive mind allied to a flexible and relaxed body, Enoeda Sensei sought to clarify his position in the following terms:-

“In Martial Arts, it is said that you should train from scratch by degrees, until you reach the top, when, once again, you return to your original starting point. When you are a beginner, you know nothing of Kamae (postures) or Waza (techniques), so there is nothing to worry your mind about. If someone attacks you, you simply respond to them unconsciously and without any plan.

Yet, after mastering many kinds of Waza, you become distracted by the profusion of approaches and you will confuse attack and defence, and find it all an obstacle.

However, as you train repeatedly over the years, you will be able to find the appropriate movements freely and without thinking…….This is the highest stage…..You attain this stage after hard training, but there is almost no connection with the strength of one’s body.

In general, other sports or fighting competitions mainly test the strength of one’s body. Therefore, you have to stop training after a certain age because of your body.

Contrary to this, in karate-do, you can continue to train, even if your strength is diminishing, because the training based on the Kata, emphasising Waza (techniques), is a whole life’s work. The more you have trained, the more you gain distinctive Waza.”

So, the next time anyone asks you why you “do karate”, regardless of your age and stage, just smile and reply that you still have so much to learn. Those pictured below either continue to train or trained to the end.

From left : Senseis Nakayama, Kanazawa, Enoeda, Sherry and Kawasoe

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[Article submitted to Gavienas Sensei (Chief Instructor) by Sensei Peter Sheridan on 1st December 2013.]

 

ARTICLE 4

Budo Karate Club – What Does “Budo” Mean?

The word “Budo” is a compound of the root “bu”, meaning martial, and “do”, meaning path or way. “Do” is itself derived from the Sanskrit “marga”, meaning path to enlightenment.

Classical Budo differed from Bujutsu in that the former were martial ways rather than just martial disciplines or crafts. Budo were, first and foremost, spiritual disciplines, whose ultimate goal, achieved through rigorous and systematic physical training, was self-realisation and self-perfection in the Zen sense. These disciplines formed part of the Bushi (warrior) code.

Modern Budo – of which Karate is one example – have often failed to live up to these high principles. As pointed out by Donn Draeger in the book “Modern Bujutsu and Budo”, there is often a wide gulf separating modern Budo from the traditional essence of Budo as a spiritual discipline designed as a comprehensive system of self-mastery.

In Draeger’s view, many of the contemporary Budo have degenerated into mere displays of technical proficiency or physical strength or into nothing more than competitive sports.

In its most ideal context, Budo philosophy stresses that it is not the external enemy that requires to be defeated, but the internal enemy – one’s own ego.

This aspect of the underlying philosophy is summarised by the writer Dhammapada –

“Though a man should conquer a thousand times in battle, he who conquers himself is the greatest warrior.”

And, as summed up by Funakoshi Gichin, the founder of Shotokan Karate –

“True karate-do is this : that in daily life, one’s mind and body be trained and developed in a spirit of humility : and that in critical times, one be devoted utterly to the cause of justice.”

[Article submitted to Gavienas Sensei (Chief Instructor) by Sensei Peter Sheridan in January 2014]

 

 

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