I woke up this morning realising that my body was feeling the demands from last nights training session. In truth I smiled to myself as I realised that after all these years of training in the Martial Arts I’m still experiencing that same old feelings that I first did. Even though I had entered the Dojo with just a handful of personal students yesterday evening, and being their Sensei it was my job to guide them, I do not enter the Dojo to make the numbers up or to just give out orders! Yes of course there are spells when I correct and look over students. If students practise Kata, then I practise Kata! If students practise Kumite, then I practise Kumite! However, if I’m there to lead them, then lead them by example and from the front I will.
“Karate is about training, but many forget”. Brian Hinchliffe Sensei
One of the things that differentiates the Dojos of Okinawa compared to those in the West is the number of seniors who are in the Dojo training regularly. Yes, training and not teaching! I’m talking 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th Dans here.The thing is this, regardless of age, grade, sex or whatever, the Okinawan Karate basis is about enhancing ones personal wellbeing. Their goals or thoughts are certainly not focussed on high grades or teaching others, these things tend to just happen naturally or are born out of necessity.
I teach students for two reasons; The first is to create a good training environment which also gives me quality training partners. The second is to keep the true art of Karate alive by passing it on to others, which kind of gives something back. Be these not just good reasons alone, this also surrounds me with nice likeminded decent people who bring positivity in to my life.
Most black belt Karate Ka who witness the ability of senior long standing Sensei, be it Senaha, Tamaki, Taira, Hokama, Higaonna, Masanobu etc, or closer to home and in fighting ability too as in the likes of O’Neill or Hazzard. They then try to emulate them by attending a training session or two under their guidance, and maybe even learn a few of their training methods or drills. Which is all good, but many then think that they now do and practise Karate just like these Sensei do? However, they miss the most valid points of all… How did these Karate Sensei reach the level of ability that they have!? Certainly not just from teaching, riding on their high grades, or trying to be a Martial Arts celebrity.
They have reached this high level of deep understanding, be it mental or physical ability, through hard work and regular quality training over many years. Teaching or talking up your Karate won’t get you there that’s for sure, but regular training just may. Retaining the beginners mind really is the key to understanding Karate, on the whole beginners are enthusiastic and they train hard and regular with an open mind.