Saturday, August 21, 2010

What is a Martial Art?

Kobudo training at the Arizona School of Traditional Karate (Seiyo No Shorin-Ryu Karate
Kobudo Kai Hombu) at the borders of Chandler, Gilbert and Mesa Arizona.
In 2004, I spoke to the Cheyenne Rotary Club about martial arts history, philosophy, and benefits to society. One question that arose was what was martial art? How does it differ from boxing? Actually, this could involve a long and involved answer. It could actually require a book to answer (and I am writing a book about this) but it basically gets down to the fact that boxing is a physical activity and sport with little to no redeeming social value.

Martial art is both physical and spiritual but the true value of traditional (non-sport) martial art is that its main purpose is to develop positive social values in the person while training in martial art. This is one reason why many sport martial arts are no longer true martial arts, as they have reneged on the spiritual side of martial art. 

One very important part of martial arts is Rei, or bowing- this gentle gesture is cultivated in all traditional schools. Participants bow when entering or leaving a school (dojo) or training center, bow to one another at the beginning and ending of classes, and bow at the beginning and ending of all techniques to show respect, compassion, and gratitude to all members. We show respect to our teachers and seniors, compassion for our juniors, and gratitude for our parents and friends, and by all means to God.

Self-defense training in karate
According to the great karate legend and master of Shorin-Ryu karate, Gichin Funakoshi, one who truly understands karate-do is never easily drawn into a fight. Funakoshi placed no emphasis on competitions or tournaments (in fact he and other great Shihan of Okinawa opposed introduction of sport karate), but instead placed emphasis on self perfection & believed common decency & respect for other human beings were the highest precepts taught in karate. The bottom line of karate-do lies the wish for harmony among people. Such harmony is based on courtesy, and it is said that the Okinawan martial ways begin with courtesy and end with courtesy.

These concepts are emphasized in traditional Okinawa dojo kun or dojo precepts. The kun consists of character building, sincerity, effort, etiquette, and self-control. They are attributes one must constantly cultivate in the practice of martial arts. Karate teaches effective self-defense as well as zen, meditation and kata.

Kata - moving zen. White Crane karate kata
demonstrated at Chinese New Year at the
University of Wyoming by Soke Hausel.
To accomplish this there exists one simple vehicle. "That vehicle is kata, and it is the essence of karate. Kata embodies all the secrets, the mystery, the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual concepts of the masters. Kata is the key, the answer, the solution to everything we search for in karate. Kata is Zen. Kata is simple yet difficult. Like the wind, it is motion as in the physical performance, yet motionless. It is attainable yet unattainable. Once grasped it may slip away only to be grasped once again. It is a perfect imperfection. Kata is real yet a dream, a very possible dream. It shows our strength while making us aware of our weakness. It is a passive way to destroy and kill. It is brutal and vicious in a most humane way. Kata transforms destructive power into a flurry of beauty. To teach kata is to learn kata, and from that maxim applied to life an unbroken cultural chain is created and sustained. This is karate-do".

We teach karate as a way of life, a way of peace, but if there is no choice, we teach karate to finish aggression. And here is the paradox. Karate is the art of peace, but it is also an art of peace-keeping. 

We teach people to be respectful, but if all else fails we teach people to defend or defend others. Karate is not a sport, it is a way of non-corruption. One might note there are very few politicians and lawyers involved in daily practice of martial arts - one reason is that martial art teaches them to be ethical and show concern for others, something that has been eliminated by the majority of these people. And if they would practice TRADITIONAL martial arts, they would stand out as positive, honest, and ethical people - something this is very uncommon in politics, lawyers and judges.

This is how we teach karate in our Seiyo Shorin-Ryu style.


Our center is open to the public - we focus on Adults and Families. Come learn the traditions of Okinawan Karate & Kobudo, where much of the class is conducted in Japanese and English to help students learn Japanese. 

"Those who are skilled in combat do not become angered, those who are skilled at winning do not become afraid. Thus the wise win before the fight, while the ignorant fight to win." - O Sensei Ueshiba

Karate and Kobudo can be likened to tires of a bicycle. Both are needed to make the bike move.

"Nunchaku is like a snake - mistreat it & it will bite" - Soke Hausel

"A traditional karateka is prepared at all times – for self-defense and courtesy!"

“With kama, you can cut weeds or cut those who plant weeds” – Soke Hausel.

"The enemy we train to face are uncertainties in life that confront us on a daily basis"

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer (Romans 12:12).

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