Judi Goldman: The Plant – March 7, 1980
Almost everybody’s interest has been aroused by the martial arts at one time or another.
Karate, a manifestation of a distinctly Oriental intellectual approach, has a long history as a method with two purposes. First, it trmrls the individual to defend himself. Second, it disciplines the mind with the ultimate aim of spiritual enlightenment.
Today, however, Karate has lost much of its original technical and spiritual meaning and has become a kind of sport in which techniques required for victory in matches and tournaments are overemphasized. It is obviously important to be constantly devising new methods and ways of thinking to conform to the needs of the times. In other words, mature thought must be directed toward continued development. But it is scarcely wise to exclude from consideration all ancient meanings and history because to do so can have a detrimental effect on the future of Karate. Realizing the importan tce of the old and the new, this imformative series offers a complete commentary on the Karate heritage from the past and an analysis of techniques and spiritual elements in terms suited to the modem scientific age.
Many of the numerous books available on Karate treat physical, physical-educational, dynan1ical, and winnii1g in mat,ches. As a consequence of this kind’ of emphasis, the books concentrate on kicks ahd chops and omit all of the other aspects of Karate.
But Karate is a complete combat system including throws, joint holds, and techniques involving the use of weapons. Furthermore, all of these various elements, are interrelated within ,the total Karatedo system. For this reason it is impossible to discuss Karate adequately by presenting only one or two of its component parts. To give an overall understanding of Karate requires a harmonious presentation of all its parts and the relations among them.
In essence, Karate is a set of techniques and mental attitudes ‘systematized and codified in a martial art which, through a rigorous and systematic training of the mind and body, strive to achieve knowledge of oneself and others to ultimately create a state of complete harmony between oneself and the universe. It is a discipline which advocates the development of a strong body and the awakening’ of the mind by a constant search for self-perfection both physically and spiritually in order to fully realize oneself.
Karate is also one of the most efficient fighting arts. Initially it was developed as a training method for personal combat and war, where vanquishing the adversary was the only important goal. However, like the other marti,al arts of the budo, (Japanese warrior class) the need to win over oneself is inseparable from the goal of combat. Thus, Karate is an all-encompassing way of life which, teaches himility with’ confidence and courage, and self-defense with respect for life and restraint. It contributes to giving man a placid mind by surmounting his fears and pride. At peace with himself and others, and in possession of a strong’ mind and body, man can fulfill his commitments to himself and to society. To reach these goals, the mind and body are trained and developed through use of the punchii1g, kicking, striking, thr’owing, strangling, and armlock techniques which constitute karate-ho. (the empty-hand techniques), and through L’le use of long and short weapons, as an extension of the hands to t thrust, throw, sweep, and strike buki-ho (the weapon techniques). In a book written by Masayuki Hisataka, he explains that the word”karatedo” is composed of three ideograms:’ kara, te, and do. Kara (in Japanese) ‘refers ‘to one of the most’ brilliant periods in Chinese history when the T’ang dyn~sty ruled China (A.D. 618-907) and has ‘come to represent China itself for the Japanese. Te means “hand” or “technique”. Do signifies “philosophical way” or “principle” with which to realize oneself. So karatedo literally means “the way to selfperfection through the practice of techniques originating during the T’ang period.” The word “karate” was first introduced in Okinawa to designate “Chinese fighting techniques” which included both bare-hand and armed techniques (karate-ho and bukiho). But as is often the case in the Japanese use of Chinese ideograms, kara can also mean “empty”. “free like the air” , or “infmite like the sky”. Thus, another sense of karate do is “the way to self-perfection through the practice of techniques of emptiness” emptiness being understood both physically (emptyhand) and mentally (with a free mind).
Karatedo is essentially a martial art that requires a solid discipline. The body must go through long and strenuous exercises for many years. this develops not only a strong body but also great strength of charachter. Control is required over not only one’s techniques but also over emotions such as fear, pain, and hate. As a fighting art, karatedo involves the confrontation of two wills, each determined to win. This develops such qualities as fortitude, but also himility and respect for others.
Karatedo is a formidable means of self-defense which does •not require any particular weapon. A considerable advantage . of karatedo for self-defense Durposes is that the de feuse ca~ be matched exactly with the aggression; if you use a gun for self-defense, you can not do anything but shoot your opponent. With karate do, you can completely dispose of your opponent without maiming or killing him. Self-defense attitudes help the individual avoid many natural accidents by developing a more careful approach to everyday life.
The physical value of karatedo is unique. It is an all-around activity which equally develops every part of the body without having to worry about some muscles being overdeveloped or underdeveloped. It can be practiced anywhere; there are no particular reqUirements. It can be practiced with or’ without a partner; this. being a defmite advantage over most sports. Anyone can practice karate do and benefit from it. There is always the possibility of matching your training with your physical condition or goals. It has now become a very popular competitive sport amoung peoples of all ages.