Friday 7 November 2008

Japanese Temples and Shrines

Finally the weather has reached an optimum period for outdoor training, in particular, at local temple grounds, and around the various shrines. No longer do I have to put up with multiple mosquito bites, and people coming over to get a free karate exhibition. At most, I occasionally get a friendly "ohayo gozaimasu" or “konnichi wa” from a Buddhist monk or Shinto priest.

Coming from Christchurch, New Zealand, known as 'the Garden City', I have to admit that, comparatively speaking, Japanese parks are downright ugly. However, religious and cultural monuments are equally, if not, more gorgeous. In my experience, from my many times here in Japan, the very best gardens and parks in this country (with the least foot traffic) are located at the temples and shrines. The castles are also beautiful, however, people are always wandering around.

Karate-do and Japanese religion: Another point worth mentioning is karate's particularly strong connection to Japanese Shinto. Most of the major Shotokan karate organisations (JKA, JKS, SKIF and others) here in Japan bow to the dojo 'kamidana', before and after practice. It is essentially worshiping the 'karate god's'. This is coupled with mokuso (meditation), which is connected directly to Zen-Buddhism. Even so, I've been told by Japanese seniors that outdoor training at jinja (Shinto shrines) is more meaningful for karatedo practitioners.

Just train! Really speaking it doesn’t matter where you practice your karate, but if you have the opportunity to train outside, an aesthetically beautiful (and quiet/undisturbed) environment is a real luxury. Such training can only further motivate you to practice what you are learning, or working on, in the dojo. Here in Japan, if you decide to do outdoor practice, you simply cannot get ‘a better spot’ than the numerous shrines and temple grounds.

I wish you the very best in your karate training.

André Bertel
© André Bertel, Japan 2008

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