There are times I want to train and love it when I do. And there are times I don’t want to train and I have to force myself to. And somehow I know that both are important.
I have learned that #Shotokan is all about an excellent spirit. The originator of Shotokan, Gichin Funakoshi said that “the ultimate aim of karate lies not In Victory or defeat, but in the Perfection of the character of its participants.”
Training is meant to be a way of life. Every single lesson I start my class and end my class reminding them of character traits and virtues that are critical for them to have. These are called the dojo Kun or in layman’s terms, the karate code of conduct.
Certainly practicioners are to demonstrate these Assets in the dojo. But moreso, since karate is intended to be a lifestyle, they must be demonstrated in street clothes and the everyday Avenues of daily life.
1. Seek Perfection of character. This is about moral Excellence. This is about accepting the responsibility that it is your duty to be your very best. This is about knowing that less than your genuine best is failing to succeed in your karate training. Seeking does not mean that we always attain or find the truest essence of character in everything we do. But it does mean that we limitlessly, pursue the goal relentlessly.
We never aim for the periphery of the target. We always aim for the bullseye. And when we discover that we are accepting less than our best, we work up the moral courage and devoted heart to change our own Direction, to one more straight and true to the goal. And for me this is where my devotion to Christ comes in.
How can I seek Perfection of character, unless I have a good example. And Christ is my example of perfect character. So my karate training dovetails and Fits with my worship of Christ, which is first and foremost above all, including my karate training. In fact Christ is my Center of all I do. He is the source of all my true power.
Everything I do and everything I want to be, centers around Him and if it does not, I am working to make it so. Daily as a Shotokan karate practitioner, I am seeking Perfection of character!
2 – Be faithful. This admonition is so deep and Powerful that it must be considered immediately after the first. The Shotokan practitioner cannot occasionally seek Perfection of character but he or she must faithfully and diligently seek Perfection of character. And this faithfulness must include all the Arenas of life.
Faithful to Virtue, faith and a Godly life. Faithful to spouse. Faithful to Children. Faithful to mental development and maximizing the wonderful brain that God has given us. Faithful to developing our body and not letting it have its own, sometimes selfish ways.
Faithful means to contemplate the word itself. And then look at our life and see, if our life matches up to the standard that the word pictures. It is all too easy to let ourself off the hook and excuse our self with the plausible reason, that we are only human.
But faithfulness is a mandate that demands that we strive for higher than human imperfection. Even though we must realistically and honestly accept who and what we truly are. To be faithful we must always strive for the greatest and highest good possible in our lives.
Our lives are a gift from our Divine Maker and Progenitor. But what we do with our lives should be our gift of love in return 2 Him. And the only way to make our lives a gift to God, is By exemplifying faithfulness to Christ’s example and teachings.
3- Endeavor. I remind myself often of the example that when a crowd is asked to raise their hands as high as they can. And then given the subsequent instruction to raise them higher. Without exception everyone in the room finds that they can indeed raise their hand higher, than they did the first time. Even though they were first asked to raise their hands as high as they could.
This proves that our second efforts are needed and in fact, imperative. This proves that continually trying and trying harder is a necessary task, and the effort to live our best life. We will not casually endeavor. We will most certainly have to take daily looks at our actions and ways.
Regular self examination and personal inventory will absolutely be a part of the task of endeavoring. For how can we truly try to give our best, if we are not evaluating how successful our measures truly are. Endeavor ties in with what my wrestling coach told me growing up. No pain, no gain.
It may seem overbearing to talk about pain in the context of endeavoring. But since my Master Jesus demonstrated the greatest Endeavor by the sacrifice of His life. I am certainly convinced that to Endeavor, my highest efforts will at times include sacrifice.
4- Respect others. I am a Quaker and one of the chief things that this means to me. Is that I Crystal, clearly understand that all men and women are equal. That all men and women have value. That no one is created above another. That regardless of Pomp, title or lofty elevated status, no man is above another. That also means that no man is beneath another.
My father taught me that your freedom ends where my nose begins. And vice versa. That my freedom ends where your nose begins. That it is impossible to have a correct perception of life, without considering the golden rule, in reference to others. Respecting others is a key and critical component of karate.
Whenever I’m training my students, I have to accept and understand where they’re at, in order to encourage them, to the point of development that I believe they can grow. Many many times when I have some type of conflict with another human being, I have to ask myself what role did I play in the conflict.
How could I have respected the other person more, what role did I play in the conflict? It is so easy to point the finger at someone else and feel like they are totally responsible. But if we accept the duty to daily respect and value other people, then we will not so flippantly Assume, that we are always right.
We will respect others. We will learn that the very reality of being a human being is itself a lofty title. If we understand this, we will see; That if people do not respect themselves. Then it is our God given duty, to teach them this self-respect.
I have heard that we are not assigned to be our brother’s Keepers. And I get this, that each man and woman must be taught personal responsibility. However in a deeper sense, we ARE our brother’s Keepers.
It is not only my Duty to set my sails correctly for my own life. But in charting my course to consider the direction that my neighbor’s Sails are set.
I cannot chart my course correctly and conscientiously, without considering the position and path of my neighbor. Respecting others is a critical part of the Martial arts.
5- Refrain from violent Behavior…. This one important duty of the martial artist is one that I continually have to do a lot of soul-searching about. As a Quaker, it is part of the normal faith in practice that I have a peace testimony, and I do. My Quaker peace testimony is that I have never started a conflict with any other person in adulthood. Truly, I have been called on to use my skills at certain times to defend and protect others. And when I have needed to, my skills have proven most effective in fighting.
Yet most Quakers are completely passive. They do not believe in retaliating even in the case of Defense. In this matter I must wholeheartedly disagree with many of my Quaker Brethren. My heart is not directed towards hurting anyone. But I believe it’s a matter of great and honorable conscience; to protect the life that God has given me; and the life and Welfare of those that I love.
So I feel that protection is a matter of great importance and is not in itself violent Behavior; when it is motivated by a desire to defend.
Still, there are many times that I would like to strike that I cannot.
Most times when people Sucker Punch or strike me to test me, I realize that I am in no danger, because of the height of my skills and abilities. I also know the danger of letting horseplay turn into conflict.Therefore I cannot conscientiously retaliate. Because even though they struck first, I know that I am not in danger and that I could easily prevail. But in doing so, that I might violently injure someone unnecessarily.
Therefore to avoid violent Behavior in these situations, I must turn the other cheek. Unless myself or someone I love are truly in danger, I must refrain from retaliation, to refrain from violent Behavior.
I teach karate in the same spirit in Manor, in which firearm protection should be taught. I teach my students deadly skills. I teach them to aim these skills and techniques at vital targets.
However, having said this. It is important to know that: to teach, I can strike people within a few millimeters of the target area, and stop suddenly and quickly in control. But nonetheless to effectively demonstrate, I strike effectively to these dangerous targets to show how to correctly attack these targets. But in so doing, I teach my students control. So they can practice the art without injuring those, that they actively train with.
That is why most of the time in Shotokan training, we do not use pads. I believe that if a student is effectively trained that they can aim & strike at vital targets and control the technique. Either strike slightly to the left or the right, or strike slightly short but still practice crucial targeting, of the important vital Target area.
Like a firearm, I teach them that their skills are not to be treated lightly nor flippantly. And they are only to be used in the most serious of circumstance. I teach that these skills must be unused, Unless they are in the training Hall, and training in a manner that I have taught them. And this way, they and their opponent can develop true and devastating skills and still be assured, not to sustain injuries, while practicing.
I remember an occasion when I was attacked very viciously and fiercely, on the street. This person meant to do me great harm and tried with all their might to injure and hurt me. Yet, I had compassion on this person and knew that I was responsible to not injure them. Because I knew that I was able at any moment, to overcome and stop the conflict. Therefore it was a matter of conscience and Duty that I could not retaliate, only keep myself out of Harm’s Way until the persons anger dissipated.
In other situations, I have even let people strike me to release anger, because I have trained myself and my musculature to withstand powerful attacks to my abdomen, without any consequence or injury. This also is part of developing and demonstrating the core strength and Powerful breathing techniques, that Shotokan teaches.
Everyone likes to mention that Jesus turned over the money changers tables and they often make this sound like a violent Act. However, I do not believe that it was Jesus intention to injure anyone, just to stop their ungodly practice and make a teaching point. I see no instance in Jesus life, where He was ever truly violent towards anyone.
Legitimately and honestly, there are times when men and women are called into combat or to fight to defend themselves, their loved ones or their country. And it is my faith, that in these situations they should train themselves to Prevail and take out their opponent mightily, quickly, effectively and powerfully.
So it is clear that refraining from violent Behavior requires a lot of personal soul searching. It is not a clear-cut and dry matter what this means to each person in each situation. Thus, teaching it as a principle will help each student to have a correct attitude towards conflict and understanding the danger of using their skills, when not necessary.
Therefore, To work out this matter to refrain from violent behavior requires a lot of daily prayer and analyzing of our own motives. Our hearts should never be to harm unless we are in a situation, that we truly know that we are defending or protecting.
I remember an occasion when a group of bullies were ramming a young man’s head into a glass window of a department store. There were enough people watching to stop the conflict but no one did anything. I did not feel like I in good conscience could stand idly by, because of what I knew I could do.
So, I stuck my head in the department store and yelled to them to call the police and jumped in the middle of the altercation. When it was plain that I was a skilled fighter, I announced to them that you can fight me and wait until the police arrive. Or you can get out of here now and save yourself from being arrested. In that situation, A cool head not only helped the young man but saved me from unnecessary conflict as well. Because the gang of bullies got in the car and left quickly.
On another occasion, I remember seeing a group of teenagers one night, brawling in a parking lot of a restaurant in Florida, where I lived. I had just finished teaching a karate class and was dropping in to get a bite to eat. But as I saw this, my plans changed. I could see that the situation was really getting out of hand and that a lot of innocent kids were going to be hurt.
So I jumped in the middle and told everybody to cool their Jets and go home that there was going to be no more fighting tonight. One of the drunk provokers bucked up and said: and just who are you? I Started handing out karate business cards and told them if they would show up tomorrow, at my Dojo; they could fight all they wanted to. But that everyone needed to go home tonight while everybody was still ahead. The conflict was quickly resolved, and everybody went their own way. And of course when they slept off the too many drinks, nobody really showed up at my dojo, the next day.
So this injunction to refrain from violent Behavior, has seemed at sometimes to actually lead me, to step in moments of tension and conflict. But only When I feel led to as as a matter of courage and conscience. And only when I could do so with a passive heart to dissolve the agitation and not contribute to it.
Honestly, I feel that age has made me a little grumpier and I am less likely to do these type of tactics anymore. But I believe the principles just as much and probably more. So, I really do pray about being a man of peace, even though I have keenly developed the art of hand to hand combat.
So I train when I feel like it. And I also train, when I don’t. Because the art that I practice, is an everyday thing. And I am missing The deeper aspects of the moral conduct required to go along with the physical training; if I don’t treat it as a daily Pursuit, of the highest priority.
So here I am late on a Saturday night, in My Little Gym exercising my body, stretching my heart, and applying my mind to the service of God and the development of my art. And yes tonight was one of those nights when I really didn’t feel like it. But now I am most certainly glad that I trained anyway.
God bless you, if you let read through this lengthy dissertation. It is in my heart and mind to bless as many as I can, by being the best I can be for God and my fellow man, throughout the course of the rest of my life. This is what having an excellent Spirit in #Shotokan requires of me.