To truly understand the essence of Karate or achieving success really is down to perseverance and hard work, but for many, even the most primitive benefits inherent in practising the art of Karate will always be beyond their grasp. If you take the time to look deep enough at the photograph above, you will see where the basis of true Karate really lies. Or “See what no one else chooses to see”, as Patch Adams once wisely said. Some may look and see this as visiting Japan or Okinawa for more in-depth training, others may see the tranquillity of meditating under a blossom tree, or maybe even training outdoors amongst nature. Some of you may just feel that I am promoting the Dojo of my Sensei, or for those of you who can read a little Kanji that I am pushing the Goju Ryu way of practising Karate. All are valid in a way, but to look at Karate like this is kind of missing the point, just like those who only see Karate as learning to fight or as a sport…
To train quietly and to do a Karate that no one else sees is where the true art is to be found and discovered. The Karate of Okinawa was always taught discreetly and without distraction or fuss for good reason, and it isn’t all about the secrecy of old and being arrested as so many would make us believe. I’m not saying that you can’t do some excellent training in large groups, publicly or on seminars, of course you can. But why loud!? What I am saying is that the true reflection and findings of a Karate Ka is what training they are doing privately, and not just what they show in public for all to see. “It is the Karate that you are doing quietly when no one else is around or sees is the true reflection of yourself as a person and a Karate Ka”. True Karate is supposed to bring about a humbleness and self discoveries.
In the photograph above is a Karate Dojo that has been there for near on fifty years, a Dojo that is out of the way amongst the back streets of Okinawa. A training place that will probably not be found unless you are advised of its location or shown of its worth and whereabouts by a fellow student. There are many Dojo’s just like this one to be discovered on Okinawa from which many a knowledgeable Sensei will guide students quietly and without fuss, just like they have been doing on Okinawa for decades. Or in the words of Shoshin Nagamine Sensei “The dojo is a place where courage is fostered through the ecstasy of sweating in hard work. It is a sacred place where the human spirit is polished”. Even wiser words spoken when he said this “As Karate Ka we must sweep from our minds all egocentric thoughts”. I do wonder though what percentage of the Karate Ka reading this actually spend more hours a week training privately alone without the need to speak of it than they do in a Karate Gi surrounded by others, be it in a class or teaching.
The most beneficial training that I have done over the years has always been done quietly, be this alone in the Dojo or working with one or two training partners, and of course under the close personal guidance of each of my Sensei. I just can’t imagine not spending the many solitary hours I do working on both my Karate and improvement of character, I really can’t. Why do so many though feel the need for or that the answer to Karate is in publicity and acclaim!? Because the answer here is no more than a modern-day phenomenon. It’s just like with Boxing, the work isn’t done when one enters the ring or during open training sessions. The hard work and real training is done quietly alone and with a small circle of like-minded others behind closed doors, where failure sweat blood trial error and tears are experienced and personal goals set.
Over the years I have like many others trained hard and travelled far and extensively in pursuit of achieving a deeper understanding of both Karate and the Martial Arts, in search of Budo maybe. Without a question of a doubt though both the most impressive Sensei technically and impressionable in a deeper sense, has always come from the little or less known practitioners and back street Martial Arts schools and teachers. The reason being is that few Karate Ka take the time to seek these people and places out, plus if truth be known, many of these teachers have no desires to seek fame or fortune from Karate or Budo. So of course, they do not shout out to be heard to attract attention, but on the contrary whisper so that you will not hear them, thus leaving them alone to quietly practise in a way that few others now still do. It’s surprising how many Karate Ka speak of understanding the essence of Karate, the hidden meanings and its Katas etc, when they fail to grasp this basis. My advice is to make the time to train alone and often and then watch and feel your Karate come alive.
One fine example of what I speak of is Shinjo Masanobu Sensei, a Karate Ka of past and the Goju Ryu way. Of which a few years ago old footage emerged of him practising alone privately in his Dojo and also demonstrating Kata. Further to this we saw many rave reviews of the Karate now witnessed, and in a way despite his passing fame was found. I do wonder though what Masanobu Sensei would have made of all of this fuss. As hard regular training quietly in Dojo like that seen in the footage, yes all without publicity or concern for the training of others is how this level of understanding was most certainly achieved. And for sure his answer would have been simple and to encourage students to just do the same as him, in go and train seriously but quietly.