Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo Essay
Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo Essay
By: Michael Sampat
Dedicated to my mother,
For whom all of this was done
Without whom none of this was possible
Table of Contents
Karatedo and I – Past, Present and Future 6
Unique Aspects of Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo 7
Comparison of Shorinjiryu Kenkokan and other styles (general/specific) 8
Comparison of Shorinjiryu Kenkokan and other sports (general/specific) 9
Personal Interpretation of Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Motto 10
Personal Interpretation of Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Dojo Kun 11
Personal Training for Karatedo in Daily Life 13
Dojo Etiquette 14
Being a Black Belt 15
In Gratitude 17
Appendix A 18
Appendix B 19
Appendix C 19
A Moment on the Beach
the spark waited there,
I blew on it and it flamed,
it will always be
I have waited a long time for this moment. I am about to do the black belt exam. I am nervous but I am also eager. I want to feel this pain. I want to earn the right to be called a sensei. I want to prove my hard work and determination. Today will be a good day.
Full Name: Rajendra Michael Sampat
Date of Birth: June 23, 1978
Place of Birth: Toronto, Canada
Height: 5’ 8”
Weight: 155 lbs.
Eye Colour: Brown
Hair Colour: Black
Marital Status: Single
Permanent Address: 23 Muirbank Blvd., Toronto, ON M1C 4T7
Educational Background: - 4th year Sociology Specialist at University of Toronto
- Applying to Masters Program in Criminology at several universities in January 2010.
Date of Commencement of karatedo training: Wednesday, October 19, 2005
- Style: Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo
- Sensei: Shihan Paul Jackman
- Dojo: Ken Nin Kai Dojo
- Founder: Shinan Masayoshi Kori Hisataka
Present Dojo and Sensei/Shihan’s Name and Rank: Ken Nin Kai, Shihan Paul Jackman, Kenshi, 4th Dan
Records: see Appendix A - D
Karatedo and I – past, present and future
When I first began to study karatedo, it offered me a path out of darkness and into the light. I had chosen a course in life that I thought would make things easy, but which had in fact made them more difficult and dangerous. My bad decision making reached its peak when, in spite of being intoxicated and incapable of safely operating a motor-vehicle, I took the wheel and almost myself killed in a car accident, recklessly endangering others in the process. Fortunately no one else was hurt, and although I sustained some fairly serious injuries, they would turn out to be a blessing in disguise – karma. My doctor said I would need to use crutches for 8 – 10 weeks and he assigned me a professional physiotherapist. But Shihan Paul Jackman, who had befriended me years earlier when we worked together at a stock brokerage, offered me some very practical exercises and techniques to improve my condition. These were far more effective than what the therapist had advised, and I was off the crutches in about 6 weeks. This convinced me that Shihan Paul’s karatedo must be very good, so I joined his school. When I arrived I was struck, both by the incredible knowledge and the friendly reception I received there.
Presently I am happier than I have ever been, and I have karatedo to thank for it. It has given me a new lease on life, opened my mind to limitless possibilities, and introduced me to a side of myself I never knew I had. Karatedo has instilled incredible confidence in me, and helped me cultivate self-esteem. Equally vital, karatedo has greatly improved my relationships with friends and family, by developing my interpersonal skills, but more importantly, by improving my sense of empathy and general good-will towards people. I believe that because karatedo causes the student to experience the feeling of defeating an opponent and being defeated, of causing and feeling pain, that the student develops a deep understanding and sympathy for the suffering of others, as well as taking great pleasure in their happiness. For me this has translated into a love of teaching. I thoroughly enjoy showing what I have learned thus far to new students, helping them reap the many benefits that karatedo has brought to my life and seeing their excitement at learning. Having just returned from competing in Japan, and being honoured to meet and spend time with many illustrious karateka there, I now seek to devote more time to studying karatedo, so that I can repay the masters there for the knowledge they imparted to me. I will return their kindness forward, by passing it on to other students, as we have all been taught.
As I look to my future in karatedo, one giant question looms in my mind – will I have what it takes to pass the black-belt exam? I keep telling myself that I can do it; that I just have to remember not to give up, no matter how hard it gets; that if my senior karateka-family can do it, so can I. I know all of these things are true, but I still doubt. Maybe that is one of the lessons of the exam – to believe in one’s self. Once the exam is behind me, I look forward to studying karatedo at a higher level, learning new kata and kumite, bringing honour to my dojo and spreading the word about karatedo as a qualified instructor of this beautiful art-form. The futures of karatedo and I, look very bright to me.
Unique Aspects of Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo
A number of unique elements impress themselves immediately when considering Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo. Those which have had the greatest influence on me include:
1) Breathing methods which emphasize inhaling and holding the breath in the tanden, until after one has performed the technique or combination, before finally exhaling during zanshin.
2) The use of full-body motion.
3) The use of anzen bogu, particularly Supersafe protective equipment, with bare hands and feet.
Proper breathing is absolutely necessary in order to develop fast, accurate, and powerful techniques. In “Essential Shorinjiryu Karatedo”, Hanshi Hisataka explain’s the benefit of retaining oxygen in the tanden during the execution of one’s technique. Accuracy is improved, as in the example of an archer who holds his breath before he lets go his arrow; power is amplified, as when we instinctively hold our breath when pushing a large object; and one’s speed increases, as a ball full of air bounces lightly (Hisataka, 1994, p. 72).
Observing the methods of other styles, including karatedo styles, and other martial arts and sciences, I have never seen any that advocate such complete use of the entire body, in the full articulation of one’s technique, as does Shorinjiryu Kenkokan. This allows for greater impact, since one is applying more mass by using the entire body and greater energy, since all the muscles of the body are providing power (Hisataka, 1994, p. 73). Hanshi Hisataka also notes that muscular force is “cumulative” (Hisataka, Scientific Karatedo, 1976, p. 29), meaning that the progressive addition of more and different muscle groups to the mechanics of the technique, increases the power in a snowballing effect. The minute detail with which one must control one’s entire body in order to execute a proper technique, also forces the student to learn their own body very well in order to survive. As the years go by, I begin to see details in my technique which I would never have been aware of before, and these continue to emerge as I learn more about karatedo and myself. By using the entire body, the student is also able to realize the full unity of his physical, mental and spiritual aspects, as all of these are necessary to achieve complete technical expression.
The Supersafe protective equipment was devised by So Shihan Hisataka, at the specific request of the Technical Research Committee of the World Union of Karatedo Organizations (Hisataka, 1994, p. 63). Although many other karatedo styles utilize bogu, few emphasize this sort of instruction to the degree that we do in Shorinjiryu Kenkokan. This method has been a part of our style from its earliest days, when Kaiso began training with kendo equipment (Hisataka, Scientific Karatedo, 1976, p. 244). Furthermore, the Koshiki Karatedo tournament system under which we compete uses this equipment exclusively. Other styles which utilize bogu often advocate the use of gloves or other means of protecting the hands or feet, but in keeping with karate’s ancient meaning – “empty hand” – Shorinjiryu teaches us not to clad our weapons. The equipment protects our targets, our bodies’ vital areas, while allowing us to condition our hands and feet for powerful attacks (Hisataka, Scientific Karatedo, 1976, p. 244). This gear is an ingenious addition to martial arts training technology, allowing highly realistic practice in relative safety.
Comparison of Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo to Other Styles (General/Specific)
Generally, karatedo styles which practice non-contact fighting are less prepared for real combat; their method of training does not provide the level of realism we are used to in Shorinjiryu Kenkokan. Having sparred with a number of non-contact karatedo players, who are black belts with years more experience than me, I am convinced that this is an ineffective and perhaps even dangerous method of teaching karatedo. It is ineffective because it leads students to believe that they can do things which they cannot do in more realistic circumstances, such as stopping much larger assailants with one technique, or blocking attacks directly with one’s limbs instead of escaping. Styles I have observed that do utilize bogu training to a high degree, do not have the emphasis on spiritual development, or the technique informed by modern scientific and medical principles, that Shorinjiryu Kenkokan offers students. I find our style to offer an excellent balance of hard training and spirituality; science and tradition.
A Chito Ryu school which I have observed at the University of Toronto’s Scarborough Campus, exhibited markedly less body movement in the execution of its techniques. For instance, they advocate complete stillness of the feet during the execution of basic punches, as a means of providing stability, whereas Shorinjiryu teaches students to pivot for greater power and balance. Chito Ryu practitioners also exhale during the execution of techniques, not after as we do in Shorinjiryu. Another interesting difference between the two styles which I observed was a far less developed regimen for observing etiquette and spirituality in the Chito Ryu environment. The classes which I observed did not meditate, and the bowing in and out ceremony consisted of one quick bow to the shomen. These karateka did not bow when they entered and left the dojo either. I believe that because they do not observe etiquette in a systematic manner, this school loses out on a lot of the benefits of communication and personal interaction that karatedo has to offer. I noticed that the black belts were reticent to even introduce themselves to the students or others observing the class. The instructors would often forget the students’ names, and would not communicate with them at all after class. The two groups changed in the same room, but separated by twenty feet, with absolutely no interaction. This lack of camaraderie was probably the most troubling difference I noticed about this school. Strict adherence to a protocol which pays respect to everyone, provides a framework within which people can control and understand the powerful emotions engaged during karatedo practice.
Regarding other martial arts and sports specifically, I am very interested by Muay Thai, Ju Jitsu, and boxing/kick-boxing. I admire the hard work ethic and tough training methods of Muay Thai, but I find their techniques and strategy underdeveloped, without enough emphasis on escaping and movement. I enjoy Ju Jitsu training on the ground, and believe it is absolutely essential to have good basic skills in this area, but I also advocate developing a strong take-down defense and I think going to the ground is generally a bad strategy in a street fight situation. Boxing and kick-boxing are interesting, both for the realism and the fascinating footwork and head movement; here my only complaint is that they tend to downplay the significance of spirituality and mental discipline because they are very focused on athleticism. All things considered, Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo offers the most comprehensive and practical system for defending one’s self in a street fight situation, while also benefitting the student through mental and spiritual advancement.
Comparison of Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo to Other Sports (General/Specific)
All sports share certain important considerations including diet, physical fitness or conditioning, and safety. Knowing this we can learn from other sports, borrowing from their experiences. For example, by studying the nutritional intake of other athletes and the logic behind their choices, we can arrive at better decisions in terms of our own food. We can also borrow techniques from other athletic pursuits, such as the widely used visualization method, which Hanshi advocates (Hisataka, 1994, p. 50). New fitness routines, various calisthenic exercises, and novel training methods and technologies are constantly being developed by other athletes and fighters. We can study these and adapt them for our specific needs in karatedo and other areas of life. Similarly, all sports require the player to develop skills and attributes so that they can execute techniques with precision and timing. By studying the means other sports use to build their athletes’ abilities, we can acquire new ways of learning and teaching. Although all sports require discipline and a framework of rules and etiquette, few display the strict adherence to propriety and respect that Shorinjiryu Kenkokan does. Similarly, though almost every sport requires a spiritual commitment, as players strive against one another through pain and danger, there are none that I know of that have such a consistent emphasis on continuous spiritual development as this style does. For this reason, I have always felt that karatedo goes beyond what any sport can mean to an individual.
There are a number of specific parallels which can be drawn between Shorinjiryu Kenkokan and other sports. The unified movement utilizing the entire body is simply the most practical method for generating power and can be seen in numerous sports, where they apply the same principles of natural and medical science that Shorinjiryu does. The swing of the golfer is often compared to our punches, because of the way the athlete must completely rotate the hips in order to generate torque. Other sports maneuvers which involve this sort of unified body motion, with full rotation of the hips, include the hockey slapshot, the baseball swing and the field hockey swing. In the area of track and field, we can see a number of sports which utilize breathing techniques which are similar to Shorinjiryu Kenkokan’s. Shot putters, pole vaulters and discuss throwers all inhale and retain their breath throughout their technique, only exhaling after they have completed the motion (zanshin). Kaiso emphasized this breathing method because he believed that in the state between inhalation and exhalation, when the body is retaining oxygen, it can react with optimum power, accuracy and speed (Hisataka, Essential Shorinjiryu Karatedo, 1994, p. 72). Another interesting parallel can be made between Shorinjiryu and fencing; both use protective equipment. Although many sports use protective equipment, such as hockey and football, fencing and Shorinjiryu have something in common in this area which few other sports share. In most sports, protective equipment is worn to shield the athlete from impacts which are frequent but unintentional (e.g. the idea in hockey is to get the puck in the net; the goalie wears equipment so he can stop the puck without injuring himself). In our style and in fencing, the protective equipment protects a specific target; the idea is to attack the equipment in such a way that, if it were not there then someone would get hurt. This is highly unusual in sports – most will either protect the person, or in the case of some other combative sports such as boxing, cover the weapon. But protecting the target offers clear advantages over protecting one’s weapons, such as the ability to use a variety of techniques and natural weapons which would be impossible to cover safely (e.g. the knee, the foot, the elbow, the heel). Kendo practitioners are well aware of the benefits of this type of training, as it is from them that Kaiso got the first bogu (Hisataka, Scientific Karatedo, 1976, p. 244).
Cite and Provide Personal Interpretation of Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Motto
Dokuji Gyo Seiki
Spiritual Development of Individuality in Mind and Body
As I understand this motto, there are three essential elements which can be discussed separately: the mind and body, individuality, and the spirit. This approach allows us to see the way different concepts within the motto interact with each other. By examining these notions in this order, I draw attention to the way karatedo can spread outward from the student to “complete harmony with creation” (Hisataka, Essential Shorinjiryu Karatedo, 1994, p. 217). This view of the dojo kun should not take away from the understanding that these component parts are all inextricably linked, and constantly reproducing each other.
The mind and body are of course the essential components of human life, and are utilized in everything we do. Karateka are always engaged in promoting the health and development of these parts of themselves, but they must also seek to encourage their harmony. Mind and body must be unified so that when it is time to act there is not hesitation or confusion – only certain action. This part of the motto is concerned with the karateka personally.
It may seem odd that karatedo is considered to develop individuality. Everyone wears the same clothes at karate, everyone does the same kata; the only differentiating thing between karateka is their rank – the colour of their belt. But individuality is developed from the very beginning of karatedo training and continues to do so throughout the learning process. I see this occurring in two principle ways:
1) Through years of training physically and mentally, tremendous confidence and self-esteem are acquired, which allow karateka to express themselves fully.
2) By practicing the same basic techniques, kata and kumite as everyone else, the student learns how to make these methods work for them – maximizing their strengths and minimizing their weaknesses.
Over time the student begins to realize parts of his personality that he never knew before – developing an individuality that may never have even come to light without the daily practice of karatedo and the lessons in confidence and courage that it teaches. I see this part of the motto as broadening outward to affect others, despite the fact that it is about individuality. Only through engaging other karateka can you build yourself.
Karatedo is very concerned with spiritual matters as well. “Zen has brought karatedo into the realm of religion” (Hisataka, Scientific Karatedo, 1976, p. 15), Hanshi proclaims on the very first page of “Scientific Karatedo”. By practicing karatedo we are engaging in active zen, a form of meditation done with full movement of the body, unlike mokuso, when the body is still. Of course spirit, or fighting spirit, is one of the essential qualities of a good karateka. We need good spirit to practice karatedo; spirit is what gives us strength when we are tired; spirit is what keeps us walking into the shiaijo even when we are scared. Through meditation, propriety, and active zen,our style always maintains spiritual development. This is where karatedo expands outward into all creation, as zen philosophy and spirituality have no limit.
Cite and Provide Personal Interpretation of Dojo Kun
Dojo Kun: The Kenkokan School Principles
1. Maintain propriety, etiquette, dignity, and grace.
2. Gain self-understanding by tasting the true meaning of combat.
3. Search for pure principles of being, truth, justice and beauty.
4. Exercise positive personality – confidence, courage, and determination.
5. Always seek to develop the character further, aiming toward perfection and complete harmony with creation.
“Karatedo practice begins and ends with courtesy”, Hanshi reminds us (Hisataka, Scientific Karatedo, 1976, p. 23). Good manners are a very important consideration for any person, and we should all try to develop this characteristic. But for the karateka, remembering courtesy is extremely important. These customs are handed down from ancient karate practitioners, but there are a number of salient reasons why they remain as important today as ever. First and foremost, karateka must maintain an “attitude of restraint, respect for each other, and sportsmanship” (Hisataka, Scientific Karatedo, 1976, p. 23), or risk serious injury or even death. Our style can be very dangerous so we must always bear in mind that we are friends, trying to help each other to learn and grow.
Through shiai and other forms of training, Shorinjiryu Kenkokan students are able to simulate combat very realistically and this allows us to learn much about ourselves. If sports allow us to strive against each other, to push ourselves to the limit in competition, then fighting takes this to the next level. Not only are we struggling against our opponent to the best of our ability, we are striving against ourselves. We are battling our own fear and rage. We are engaging the darkest parts of our own personality, and turning them to constructive ends. Furthermore, through these teachings we are learning a great deal about our strengths and weaknesses, our talents and our limits. These lessons apply to physical confrontations such as in shiai, but also in every other area of life.
By searching for “pure principles of being, truth, justice and beauty” (Hisataka, Essential Shorinjiryu Karatedo, 1994, p. 217), the dojo kun grounds our training and philosophy in concepts which carry intrinsic and universal value. Nearly all human beings acknowledge and promote the value of these concepts. Karateka must always defend and uphold these values, and search for their manifestations in daily life, in karatedo practice, and in one’s self.
In karatedo practice, we are constantly being called upon to exercise confidence, courage and determination. This is an excellent attitude to put forward as it stresses the output of our most positive characteristics. By always keeping these attributes foremost in our personality and attitude, we will always put our best foot forward and be ready for any new challenges in the dojo or in life.
Finally, we are never satisfied with our development in karatedo, but always seek to improve ourselves further. Since the final goal is perfection, there is very little chance of us achieving that anytime soon, so we might as well just keep going. We can never learn all there is to know in karatedo. When we begin on this path, we must pledge ourselves to be forever students, to always seek to expand our horizons and discover new possibilities. It is interesting that “perfection” is linked so intimately to “harmony with creation” – only when we are truly perfect can we achieve harmony and only when we have harmony will we be perfect.
Cite and Provide Explanation of Favourite:
My favourite hand technique for attacking is hineri zuki or twist punch. It is my most powerful and accurate technique and I have scored the most with it in shiai. I will usually start attacking with my feet and then go to my hineri zuki.
When attacking with my feet I like oi mawashi geri or lunging round-house kick. This technique is powerful, fast and easy to follow-up with my other favourite attacking technique – hineri zuki.
Hineri zuki is my favourite hand technique for defense as well. I try to set it up by waiting for my opponent to throw a hineri mawashi geri and then stepping in with the hineri zuki. This technique has worked well for me in the past, but the timing must be very good.
I like to throw my hineri mae geri defensively, usually as a jamming technique, in a sen no sen timing strategy. This technique flows very well for me and is very powerful.
My favourite combination is shomen suki, hineri zuki, oi mawashi geri. This technique has allowed me to score many times in shiai. When I throw my punches to jodan, my opponents will often step back and raise their hands, which leaves an opening for my chudan mawashi geri.
I have always liked Kata Nijishiho the most of all. The opening sequence with my favourite technique, hineri zuki, was exciting the first time I was taught it. I also like the angular movement and attacks because it is when I learned this kata that I first began make good use of angles during shiai. This kata demands that student have good angles or it will not look correct. Most of all, I like the energy I get when I perform Nijishiho. It makes me feel like a kid again, light and quick, but strong.
There is no kumite which fascinates me more than Rangori Go. I like the beginning, because it requires hangeki to make the first move, by faking an opening for kogeki. This was very intriguing to me when I first learned this kumite and it still is. I also like the ending, when both players throw mawashi geri and cover with kosa uke.
Personal Training for Karatedo in Daily Life
Karatedo has heavily influenced my daily routines in a number of important ways. It has certainly introduced a lot more regular exercise to my regimen, it has improved my diet, and it has given me the knowledge and strength to try new and different activities.
Before I began studying karatedo, I would get very little regular exercise. It simply was not a part of my routine, although I would engage in casual sports games around my neighbourhood. Outside of the dojo, karatedo has first and foremost introduced me to running, and I love it. I never jogged before karate but now I usually jog three to four times a week for a half an hour to forty five minutes. When I was training for Japan 2009, looking to cut weight for the light division, I would run for an hour a day and I felt great! I like running because I can forget about my problems for a while and just focus on what I am doing, staying in “the zone”. In order to simulate fighting situations in my running, I will alternate bursts of intense speed with slower jogging, which I have found to be very effective in improving stamina during shiai.
Another skill which I improved during training for Japan was maintaining a healthy diet. Losing weight requires exercise, but the really important issue is your intake – diet and nutrition. Karatedo has taught me to be conscious about what I eat because I would notice differences in my performance in class depending on my diet. Also my energy level both in and out of the dojo would fluctuate wildly from day to day until I began to consciously eat balanced meals. But losing weight for Japan taught me how little I could eat and survive, and even exercise strenuously. I was amazed at how little food the body really needs to maintain weight. I now realize that maintaining a healthy diet is essential to karatedo training.
I have also begun to read more about karatedo, in order to broaden my knowledge and the sources of my learning. I continue to study “Scientific Karatedo” and “Essential Shorinjiryu Karatedo”, but I also read about other martial arts styles or concepts. I am now interested, after writing this essay, in looking into the strategy and tactics of fencing, which may have some interesting parallels with our own ideas.
Karatedo has profoundly affected my life, but my life also profoundly affects my karatedo, so I try to maintain a balance between the different spheres of my life such as home, school and the dojo. In the dojo, we train for what we may encounter on the street. Does this mean then, that we should train on the street for what we may encounter in the dojo? At any rate, wherever we go, we are karateka. We must always seek to improve our knowledge and understanding of karatedo. There is no use in trying to separate daily life from the dojo or vice versa. Karatedo is life and vice versa.
Explanation of Dojo Etiquette
Maintaining propriety, etiquette, dignity and respect are the focus of the first principle of the dojo kun. The reason it is placed first is because, “karatedo begins and ends with courtesy” (Hisataka, Scientific Karatedo, 1976, p. 23). Without common courtesy, the practice of karatedo cannot continue, for a variety of reasons. These include the violent nature of karatedo training, the attitude of modesty which is so important, and the outlook necessary in order to teach and learn.
Etiquette is very important in the dojo because of the violent activity we are practicing in karatedo. Powerful, negative emotions are released during this kind of learning. Without any malice on the part of the competitors, it is common to see aggression get out of hand in situations such as these. In order to maintain a spirit of friendship, we must always be polite and show each other the utmost respect. Dojo etiquette makes this mandatory, and stipulates exactly how this should take place and when. By taking the guess –work out of courtesy, dojo etiquette prevents misunderstandings from turning into ugly incidents.
Bowing and showing proper courtesy also cultivates an attitude of modesty and humility. Because we always show everyone respect, it becomes part of our habit, our very nature, and happens without any thought. Soon showing respect to people happens automatically, and this sense of esteem for our fellow human beings will translate into their greater admiration for us. As with basic techniques, by practicing manners in the dojo in an exaggerated way, we prepare ourselves for situations when we are called upon to act without thinking. Since we always practice our punches with a full rotation of the hip, when are called upon to throw a punch in the street, chances are we will utilize at least some hip motion. The same is true for manners, where the overstated manners and gentility displayed in the dojo translate into a natural tendency to be polite and respectful, a good quality to maintain.
Finally, learning is impossible in an environment that is hostile or where one does not feel comfortable and safe. The regimen of dojo etiquette prevents personal problems between students from interfering with the operation of the school or the learning of individual students. It further prevents any teachers who may have personal issues with students from using their power against the powerless. While these examples are rather extreme, they illustrate the nature of the mundane sort of misunderstanding that happens every day in these environments. Whenever you have a group of people who do not know each other very well, or have a lot of experience with each other, there will be small misinterpretations, different ways of doing and seeing things, etc. These may tend to conflict unless there is an overarching framework which governs most of the major decisions. The situation becomes even more complicated when dealing with karateka on the international stage, when you have very different cultural understandings of courtesy and etiquette clashing. Dojo etiquette provides a standard by which all can and will be judged, so that no one can feel insulted for private reasons, unrelated to that central outline.
What Being a Black Belt Will Mean to Me
Being a black belt has a number of meaningful aspects for me. I look forward to being a sensei, and teaching what I know to younger students. I am also aware of the heavy responsibility that being a black belt carries, that I must always uphold the honour of my dojo and my senseis. Most of all, I see the black belt as a chance at a new beginning.
Being a sensei, from what I can see, means being a student and a teacher at the same time. All the black belts I know are teaching mudansha until Shihan Paul comes around, and then they are learning. They take their duty to teach very seriously and enjoy sharing their knowledge. But they still seek knowledge, as if getting the black belt really excited them about learning. They are always discussing questions of karatedo technique or philosophy, or discussing the finer points of a kata or kumite. I think that this will certainly apply to me as well, since I already feel this way when I am asked to show some basic techniques to new students.
Being a black belt also means that one must uphold the dignity and reputation of the dojo, both in karatedo matters and in daily life. Black belt means you have been admitted to the ranks of serious karateka, so anything that I do will affect the reputation of all students of Shorinjiryu. This means that it will be my responsibility to always behave in an upright and honourable manner. Karatedo has already instilled this attitude in me, but being a black belt will make it that much more serious and important. Knowing that I will bear the reputation of my dojo wherever I go will make me very proud indeed, since our dojo has produced so many good and honourable karateka. But it will also make me feel very humble, since there were many great figures who wore this belt before me and now I must attempt to live up to their memory.
The most important thing I see about being a black belt is that I feel it will offer me a new chance at life. I felt when I joined karate that I had made a lot of mistakes in life, perhaps too many. I now feel like I have a chance to make up for those. Passing the black belt exam will convince me that my luck has turned, that I can finally move forward in life. But now I will be moving forward as a black belt; stronger, happier and more sure of myself than ever before. I look forward to a new day, a new life, a new beginning.
If this essay has been an exploration of what karatedo has taught me, then let me try to express in the conclusion, what karatedo means to me. Karatedo represents a philosophical, social and spiritual ideology – an approach to life which promotes strength, independence and courage as well as good health and long life. Karatedo has affected every aspect of my life, and on a daily basis I continue to notice the benefits of my training. I will probably never be able to really know all the many, interwoven advantages and rewards that I have reaped from this art-form. Karatedo’s influence has affected every part of my mind, my reality, my soul. I would like to analyze here some of the influences karatedo has had on my life, discuss its effects on my interpersonal relationships with family, friends and business associates, then assess some of karatedo’s broader social implications.
I have already discussed the gains to my health which karatedo has brought, through general physical fitness and increased attention to diet, but there are many other subtle boons which people garner from martial arts practice. The introduction of a stable routine and the reduction in stress that are associated with karatedo have demonstrable health benefits. It is also difficult to quantify the numerous blessings conferred by socializing with other karateka, in terms of physical, mental and emotional well-being. Mental health and acuity are also increased through karatedo training; in part because of the constant learning and strategizing that karateka must undertake in order to remain competitive. Physical and mental strength lead to greater confidence and self-esteem, the psychological elements of good health; these qualities prepare the karateka to face the challenges of life.
Life is about people and the relationships we build. Karatedo has introduced me to some of the most amazing people I have ever met, and I am not only referring to the mysterious masters and great champions from foreign lands the world over. I am also talking about the ordinary people I have met who had an interest in this art form and took it up. It takes a special kind of person to practice karatedo day in and day out, and I am proud and honoured to call many extraordinary people my friends, whom I met through karatedo – though they may be “ordinary”men and women like me. Karatedo’s psychological and emotional rewards have produced better relations with my family and friends as well; I think we can give love better, when we love ourselves. By promoting the karateka’s self-image, karatedo improves his interaction with others. These attributes, along with the perseverance and dedication that are so essential to a karateka’s personality, will provide invaluable aid in educational and business settings as well. Every sphere of the student’s life is affected positively by his training and mental/spiritual discipline; this is the beginning of harmony.
These benefits to the student and to his immediate sphere of intimates will ripple outward into the community and society. Ken Nin Kai dojo provides a good example of this process; located in an economically depressed and sometimes dangerous neighbourhood, where students are often disadvantaged not only because of their family’s low income, but also socially and culturally due to poor language education, lack of access to services, and the systemic racism which is endemic to Canadian society. Our dojo is a place where kids can be safe, learn valuable lessons in life, and are not judged, but accepted. Students of karatedo grow well in these positive environments, becoming excellent citizens, who are hard working, upstanding, and not afraid to defend what is right. As good citizens, karateka affect their national institutions and environments; this effect is then felt across the world. Karatedo is a global, cultural and artistic phenomenon. Those karateka who go forward with a strong, positive spirit will spread our message of peace and love throughout the world.
Karatedo has allowed me to become happier and healthier than I have ever been and I would like to thank the many people who helped me reach this point in my life. Without the love and support of the people around me, I would not have been able to succeed as a karateka or as a human being. Those to whom I am beholden, in terms of my progress in karatedo, can be seen as comprising three distinct groups. I will begin with my immediate family, move to a thank you of my dojo-family, then look outward onto the global family.
My father has been a solid presence throughout my life, always believing I would make something of myself. Becoming a sensei will validate his belief in me in many ways, and I hope to see him smiling proudly at me one day in my black belt. My mother passed away when I was eighteen, but the years she spent raising me, her memory, and her felt presence, still influence me to this day. When I was training for Japan last summer, I would run through the parks and see all manner of wildflowers. I began transplanting them to my garden at home, which I had not worked on very much since my mother died - the garden in front had been one of her favourite pastimes. As the garden began to look beautiful again, I felt like she was with me there. I would run with flowers to my house as part of my training, thinking I could feel her with me. In this way my mother’s memory and karatedo are linked, so I must offer her thanks as well. My sister has always been an immense support to me, both in my daily life and in karatedo. She always encouraged me to pursue this art-form, even though she does not quite understand it or why I do it. She knows that it makes me happy, and that is enough for her. Without her generosity, I would never have been able to make the trip to Japan. I would like to offer my deepest appreciation and gratitude to my family, for making me who I am.
To my dojo-family, my sincere appreciation is also owed. My sensei, Shihan Paul Jackman, has been my friend for over ten years, and taught me many things in that time, even before I began training in karatedo. I think now, that he was always my sensei, but I could not see it. To the other yudandsha in the dojo, I am also eternally grateful. Their encouragement and advice has been an indispensable element of my training. Finally, to those mudansha junior to me, I would also like to offer my thanks - the adults’ strength and determination drive me to work harder; the kids’ joy in learning and innocence inspire me.
Karatedo is a global phenomenon, with practitioners in practically every nation. My own experience in karatedo has taken me to many locations in Canada and to the other side of the planet to compete in the 2009 World Cup. I would like to thank all the shihan and sensei in the Canadian federation, including especially Shihan Robin Campbell, Shihan Phillip Nadeau and Shihan Luc Gilbert. From my trip abroad I would like to send my sincere appreciation to Shihan Mamadou Diallo and the Swiss team, Shihan Nigel McReaddie, Shihan Nick King and the Australian Team, Shihan Olaf Lotze-Leoni, and everyone else we met there. To Hanshi Masayuki Kukan Hisataka, Shihan Masamitsu Hisataka, Shihan Hiroshi Hisataka, and all my other friends from Japan, my gratitude for my short time spent with you can never be expressed in words. I only hope to gain enough wisdom to one day repay your kindness and friendship. Because of your amazing gift to the world (i.e. karatedo), students from around the globe can relate to each other, despite extreme cultural and linguistic differences. Karatedo brings people from many walks of life together, showing us how much we all have in common. In a sense, we are all connected, as human beings in a global ecological system, and depend on each other to survive. If karatedo is about seeking “complete harmony with creation” (Hisataka, Essential Shorinjiryu Karatedo, 1994, p. 217), then I must offer my thanks to creation – to life itself. Here at the end, the place of honour, my most undying gratitude goes to the Creator.
Appendix A – Promotion Record
Date Examiners Name Rank Graded
Dec 2005 Shihan Paul Jackman 8th kyu
Apr 200 6 Shihan Paul Jackman 7th kyu
Jul 2006 Shihan Paul Jackman 6th kyu
Sept 2006 Shihan Paul Jackman 5th kyu
Jan 2007 Shihan Paul Jackman 4th kyu
Jun 2007 Shihan Paul Jackman 3rd kyu
Jan 2008 Shihan Paul Jackman 2nd kyu
Jun 2008 Shihan Paul Jackman 1st kyu
Jan 2009 Shihan Paul Jackman Shodan Recommended
Nov 2009 Shihan Robin Campbell Shodan Exam
Appendix B – Tournament Record
Date Place Kata Kumite Shiai
Mar 2006 Toronto, ON 4th N/A 3rd
Mar 2007 Mirabel, PQ - 2nd 3rd
May 2007 St Jerome, PQ - N/A -
Sep 2007 Toronto, ON (Ken Nin Kai) 2nd N/A 3rd
Mar 2008 Toronto, ON - N/A 3rd
Sep 2008 Toronto, ON (Ken Nin Kai) 2nd N/A 2nd
Mar 2009 Toronto, ON 1st N/A 2nd
Sep 2009 Tokyo, Japan - N/A -
Appendix C – Demonstrations Record
Oct 2006 Crescentown Community Centre, Toronto, ON
Oct 2007 Crescentown Community Centre, Toronto, ON
Oct 2008 Crescentown Community Centre, Toronto, ON
July 2009 West Scarborough Boys and Girls Club, Toronto, ON
Sep 2009 Japanese Cultural Festival, Tokyo, Japan
Appendix D – Seminars, Training Camps, Clinics
1. June 2006, Koshiki Karatedo Seminars, Toronto, ON, 1 day, So Shihan Masayuki Hisataka
2. July 2006, Ken Nin Kai Summer Camp, Long Point, ON, 2 days, Shihan Paul Jackman
3. January 2007, Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Winter Camps, St Agathe, PQ, 2 days, Shihan Robin Campbell, Shihan Philippe Nadeau, Shihan Luc Gilbert
4. May 2007, Ken Nin Kai Summer Camp, Turkey Point, ON, 2 days, Shihan Paul Jackman
5. January 2008, Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Winter Camp, St Souphie, PQ, 2 days, Shihan Paul Jackman
6. June 2008, Ken Nin Kai Summer Camp, Turkey Point, ON, 2 days, Shihan Paul Jackman
7. February 2009, Ken Nin Kai Winter Camp, London, ON, 2 days, Shihan Paul Jackman
8. September 2009, Koshiki Karatedo Seminar, Tokyo, Japan, 3 hours, So Shihan Masayuki Hisataka
9. September 2009, Koshiki Karatedo Referee Seminar, Tokyo, Japan, So Shihan masayuki Hisataka
Hisataka, M. K. (1994). Essential Shorinjiryu Karatedo. Singapore: Charles E. Tuttle Publishing Co., Inc.
Hisataka, M. K. (1976). Scientific Karatedo. Tokyo, Japan: Japan Publications Inc.