Karate Essence: 空手道
Karate-Dō: A Journey of the Self
The Cloistered Path
In this instance, the ‘cloistered’ path means being removed somewhat from the busy, claustrophobic ‘head space’ of the world around you. Karate-Do is a way of training, thinking, conducting oneself, a way of believing in oneself; for some, it is for life. In other words, Karate-Do is a lifelong journey of the Self. The motivating factors for beginning this journey are many and varied: self-defence, fitness, confidence building, or sporting competition, to name but a few, but goals change. Your martial path, should you choose to take it, will have many twists and turns along the way; some may be 180°.
Table of Contents
· One in 10,000 According to Dr. Bohdi Sanders PhD.
· The various motivations for stepping onto the Martial Path.
· How long is the Path?
· The shining few and the Full Mantle of the Spiritual Warrior.
One person in 10,000
According to Dr. Bohdi Sanders PhD – author of ‘Modern Bushido: Living a Life of Excellence’ – “For every 10,000 people who begin the martial arts, half will drop out within the first six months. 1,000 will complete one year of training. 500 will study for two years, and only 100 will last three years. On average, only 10 will earn their 1st degree black belt, and perhaps 2 will earn their second degree black belt.” According to some estimates, one in 10,000 beginners will go on to become an instructor and teach others ‘The Way’.
I have no idea of the accuracy of the above anecdotal evidence… but, after a lifetime of teaching, I do know that if you were to ask every wide-eyed beginner on their first day of training, “Why are you beginning Karate training?” their motivations would be many and varied.
What holds a person on The Path: the way of Karate… Karate-Dō?
I do know, from my own anecdotal evidence, that from all of those individuals who begin training, there are those who will find out quickly that it is not what they imagined, and not for them. Many won’t make it past the second week. Some will learn a few techniques, maybe even take a couple of gradings, and then life will get in the way, and they will drift away. They may even promise themselves that they will be back. Very few actually return.
There will be the achievers… those who will persevere until they achieve their goal: that coveted Blackbelt; and then they will move on to their next achievement.
There are the sports people, who excel in the sporting arena. They may even have a relatively long career in sport karate. After their own competition days have run their course they might continue in an official capacity judging, refereeing and coaching for sporting competition. They are the perpetual sports people; to them, Karate is a sport, period.
How Long is the Path?
· If you are seeking only physical benefits the chances are that, after your physical body peaks, you will lose interest.
· If it is a status symbol, the time it takes to get to Blackbelt will probably be your maximum.
· If it is about self-defence or confidence building and it doesn’t go beyond that, it may be a short term or a long term thing depending on your situation and lifestyle choices; but eventually, inevitably, it will wane.
· If it is mainly the sport aspect that attracts and holds you, then after peaking in the sport, it will fare much the same as any sport. The young will enjoy the competition, and as they mature they may continue in an official role, but not unlike any sporting involvement, it diminishes and eventually disappears.
The Shining Few
The shining few – enveloped in the Mantle (Zanshin, Mushin, Shoshin, Fudoshin and Senshin) of the Spiritual Warrior’s seamless, shining armour – will tread ‘The Path’ for life.
Zanshin raises your total awareness, enabling you to see everything, not missing anything. Mushin releases you from anxiety; acting and reacting without emotion allows your training, skills and abilities to function at maximum proficiency. Shoshin frees you from the frustrations that often accompany learning, giving you the sight to see what you may have missed. Fudoshin provides the confidence to stand your ground in the face of overwhelming odds. The fifth element, Senshin, has no exact, literal translation. However, concerning the Karateka/Budōka, Senshin might be said to be ‘the state of the enlightened mind’. Senshin completes the five spirits of Budō, or ‘The Full Mantle’ of the Spiritual Warrior. The Spiritual Warrior may indeed pass through some or all of the aforementioned phases; nonetheless, they will then don the mantle and tread the cloistered path of Karate-Dō.
If you were to ask any one of the shining few, “Why do you continue Karate training?” you would find that the answer varies very little and contains something about Karate-Dō having an honourable code of ethics – one worth aspiring to – and that Karate-Dō has woven itself into the very fabric of their being and is their path, for life.