Tuesday 8 April 2008

Karate-Do for Social Education

I still believe that Karate-Do keiko (training) fosters many positive attributes in young people, which are seriously lacking nowadays. Qualities such as humility, determination, etiquette, physical and mental awareness, focus/concentration, and even empathy. Of course this is only possible if training is conducted in a very serious manner.

When I say ‘serious’ I do not necessarily mean ‘brutal’ sessions, although I admittedly like this type of practice in my self-training, but rather keiko where concentration (mental discipline) is rigorously maintained for progressively longer periods of time. Naturally, in addition to these points, the traditional rules of etiquette must also be made clear, and enforced at all times. This type of karate club ‘brings out’ karate-do in its members, and clearly nothing else will suffice in regards to group training. In addition to the comments I’ve made thus far, it’s important to note that the instructor must be a model of these qualities without exception. They must also train more regimentally than the pupils in their respective dojo, and this must be seen each and every time he or she teaches. This modelling is not just ‘another way’, it is ‘the only way’... Karate-do keiko is physical in nature and must always be so, however, the mind/’spirit’ must be first priority.

The major problem with this is when ‘spirit overtakes technique’, when in actuality it must continually produce higher level technique within the karateka. The heart of this ‘spirit’ is having no lapses in concentration/awareness, thus allowing the karateka to discover and eradicate any errors or weak points. Any such lapse is indicative of the mind going into autopilot, which makes training no more 'mentally productive' than a couch potato staring at a TV. Naturally no one gets this 100% right every moment, but we must seek to progressively improve this ‘spiritual’ aspect of karate every time we practice. This discipline most certainly results in higher mental power and increased self-esteem. It literally is an understatement to say that this 'driving force' is lacking in modern society, especially amongst the youth.

What I am trying to say is that technique is a means of improving mental power/inner strength, and commonsense establishes that this strength transcends physical power. If more young people harnessed this power (which they all have) I believe we would see a colossal decrease in youth suicide, crime, and children failing at school. Much of these things occur because of children having no self-esteem, and this comes from not having a strong spirit (determination to keep going regardless of hardship and/or opposition). Let's face it, First World countries are producing 'quiters'.

Does modern education achieve address these needs? Well obviously not! I’m not implying that this is the fault of educators, but rather modern sociological issues, namely a decrease in fundamental discipline (due to bureaucratic wimps), increased acceptance of immorality, and modern life in general. Sadly, the majority of karate clubs are no better as they are conforming to modern social trends in order to recruit more students, and to retain existing ones. Such clubs are disgraceful, and in many cases have paid affiliations to Japanese organizations pretending to be traditional karate-do. I sadly saw this happen in my home country.

Karate if taught correctly can be a means of character development as mentioned above, but razor edged technique is the means by which this is achieved. Of course technique can be developed independently from mental/spiritual training; however this is not Karate-Do. If the mind is trained diligently, through vigorous practice (physical and mental concentration/awareness), technique will also develop. As Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei said when talking about this topic "this can only happen in a constantly pressurized environment of dire seriousness". Karate clubs that follow this way will always be small in numbers, but will produce students who are highly productive members of society. This is Karate-Do, and this is how Karate-Do can be an effective means of social education.

© André Bertel, Japan 2008

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