Friday 31 March 2023

回復力 (kaifukuryoku)

At nearly 50 years old, while I'm still very young. I can say that resilience has been imperative in my life. It is a concerted mental skill which everyone needs, and we all must continue to foster.

Back in October of 2013 I wrote an article titled ‘KARATE DO: A Powerful Mechanism For Resilience’; accordingly, it’s long overdue that I talk about this critical life-skill again.


Nevertheless, while nothing has changed in that time (in regards my views presented back then), I’d like to address the quality of resilience from some different angles.


Firstly, let’s look at in 日本語 (the Japanese language) which is, of course, most relevant to the art of karate.



This is read かいふくりょく (kaifukuryoku)


= ‘times’, ‘counter for occurrences’, 'swirl'


= ‘rebound', 'revenge’, 'return', 'recuperate', 'recover'

= ‘force’, ‘power’, ‘strength’


Combined together as ‘kaifukuryoku’ it means ‘THE POWER TO RECOVER’; so, like resilience in English, it implies ‘the capacity and will to bounce back’.


However, when considering the individual kanji making up the Japanese equivalent, we can ascertain typical linguistic and cultural underpinnings which shape ideas slightly differently. Indeed and to be clear, this applies when comparing and contrasting all languages. On a side note, as I’ve talked about before, this is why “…there are so many very senior karateka, and instructors, in the world with deep misunderstandings about karate technique”; moreover, when they physically train and teach others. Needless to say, this is one of the major disadvantages of non-Japanese Karateka, which is very sad, restrictive and, oftentimes, bad for the propagation of true budo karate. On a positive note, this is problem that we (IKS and others also) are working hard to fix.


Anyway, besides the imperative human foundations of love and empathy, to me, ‘kaifukuryoku’ (resilience) is a top priority in life and, certainly, in karate training as well.


When “…the persistent drive to try again, outnumbers the failures” —something very profound occurs. Not only for that person, but those witnessing it. To me, this is at the heart of 押忍の精神 (Osu no seishin)—‘the spirit/heart of perseverance’.


Like a basketball being thrust down to the floor, it rebounds instantly’. I always tell my students and trainees “come back ‘like that basketball’ in all of your endeavors”: karate and otherwise.


Irrespective of ‘success and non-success’, “…there is no failure within oneself—if one simply KEEPS TRYING”. Please pay attention here that: “…the plural word ‘keep’s’’ over-shadows the word ‘trying’.” This is irrespective of: (a) all personal limitations; (b) all external negativities including the naysayers; and (c) any self-doubt that maybe lurking in one’s subconscious mind. Put another way ‘winners never quit, and quitters never win’.


From jissen-kumite ("real" meetings of hands/fighting) perspective, it possible and actually commonplace for the more resilient person to actually defeat the more skillful opponent. In this way, besides developing technical skill, one simultaneously can develop the spirit of a tiger. Needless to say, this underpins the symbolic ‘tora no maki’ produced by the legendary Japanese painter, Kosugi Hoan. This makes a very important statement, which actually scolds present day Shotokan ‘nitpicking instruction’; “the focus on fine details, and feeling, at the expense of combative reality”. Yes, the fine details are very important and ‘give the edge’; nonetheless, they are “intrinsically secondary to the low motor skill large-scale actions”. Of course, this transcends movement, and, again, relates to strong 気迫 (kihaku/fighting spirit). Don’t be fooled by the charlatans.  

Ferocity and spirit usually overcome fine details and feelings.


The father of modern-day Karate and our Shotokan style said something that I believe fits very well here:


勝つ考は持つな; 負けぬ考は必要

 This  famous saying, which you’ll know all too well,  translates as: “Do not think of winning, rather think of not losing”.


As I have said countless times in past posts, two favorite sayings of Asai Tetsuhiko Shusei-Shihan were 少しずつ前進 which means to ‘move forward little by little’. This was always followed by him saying “Step by step” in boisterously. Another thing he often said in English, during the heat of keiko, was “Never give up!” In sum, his sentiments constantly echoed kaifukuryoku.


Kaifukuryoku, thus, is no only about outcomes. These are limited and short-lived . Rather, it is more about ‘the process’ or more better put: ‘the processes’ (again, always plurality). In this way, having resilience not only helps people to achieve. It also contributes greatly to personal happiness. 


© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2023).

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