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KARATE’S MISSION and AIM
Karate was born when peace, the heart of the Okinawan people, was incorporated with the spirit of Zen as embodied in Chinese Shorin Temple boxing. Its aim, therefore, is completely different from any other martial art. Whereas the chief aim of all other martial arts is killing and wounding as many opponents as possible, karate’s primary concern is simply self-defense. Of course, defense and offense cannot exist without each other. Consequently, training in superior defensive techniques necessitates training in superior offensive techniques.
Now, the growing interest in karate results not from the excellence of its technique or the Oriental mystique: rather, this interest stems from an ever-increasing appreciation for the spirit of Zen Buddhism and the Okinawan spirit of peace. It is this author’s fervent hope that the spirit of Karate-Do presented in this book with be understood and peace will come to the world through an appreciation of this spirit.
HISTORY of OKINAWAN KARATE-DO
Okinawa, an island country with few natural resources to support its large population, has historically imposed great physical and political hardship of its inhabitants. In spite of this, the people maintained an indomitable will to survive. When unprovoked persecution and hostility greeted them, these basically peace-loving people drew on their inherent martial arts spirit. They then fought weaponless against armed opponents, using only their bare hands in a self-defense method called karate-jutsu. Their hands and feet, normally occupied with non-violent activities, became, in themselves, weapons through the use of these techniques. The technique called shuto (chop), still in use today, is a vestige of those early times when hands first functioned as swords.
Though much of their defense was unarmed, the Okinawans occasionally used weapons against armed opponents. These weapons included the nunchaku, a neck of stringed instruments used as a wooden sword, and reels which were thrown as missiles. Perhaps the prohibition of weapons by Lord Shoshin in 1488 and the famous battle of Keicho in 1609 were factors in the development of these karate weapons. In the battle of Keicho, the people of Shuri City, lacking weapons utilized instruments of daily life. The nunchakubegan as a horse bridle or wagon shaft, tonfacame from a potato digger or crop grinder, and timbeicame from a pot cover.
Some have argued that development of Okinawan karate techniques resulted from the use of these weapons, particularly at the battle of Keicho. This, however, was not the case. Karate techniques facilitated use of these weapons, not vice versa, and presupposed their utilization at the battle of Keicho. In fact, deprivation of the right to bear arms stimulated the development of karate-do in Okinawa.
An osteopath friend of mine speaks of the midline. He describes this midline as our natural state of being, the place where it all exists together as one, undifferentiated. We live a differentiated existence, mind, body, spirit, energy, ego. In fact, we split ourselves up into many more compartments than just these five. We create different aspects of our mind, many fragments of body, our spirit goes by many different names with just as many descriptions and uses, not to mention the varied energy bodies we have manufactured as we try to make sense of it all and I won’t even get started with the ego.
All of that may be justified as the human experience and the game of separation that we have been playing. However, as we end this game and look to bring ourselves back together as one, back to the midline, it is worth looking at how we fragment ourselves day to day.
Our natural state is that of the midline, unity, oneness. Every time something happens in our lives that we have to deal with, cope with, adapt to endure, (and these do not have to be big things) we move away from this mid line. If when all was said and done, and when the situation had passed, we returned to the midline then that would be ideal, as we do require these adaptations to live in this world. But as humans that seldom happens and even if we move back closer towards the midline, we do not return completely. We hold a little in reserve just in case the same thing was to happen again. We adapt to life.
The result of many years and countless adaptations is that we are left holding ourselves separate,
fragmented and even worse struggling to find peace and unity while also struggling to hold on to our adaptations for safety. As we move towards our awakening, our return to oneness, balance, the midline, we can unwittingly make things more difficult as we TRY so hard to DO the right thing. As we strive for this new way of being, we can create even more adaptations as we so strongly try to make shifts. We have all done it along the way. We force ourselves to change, berating ourselves when we get it “wrong”, we deprive ourselves of what we believe is no longer good for us. Even when we have passed through those stages and are now working to simply follow our joy, to live as love, how much are we really trusting the universe to support us fully?
As I said when we started this midline, zero point, what ever name you give it, is our natural state. It is like a giant magnet pulling us towards it. Bringing us home. Holding ourselves away from this midline requires work and is largely responsible for the aging process, and all that goes with it. The solution is so simple and yet seems to be the hardest thing for us to do and that is simply to let go. To let it be, to allow the universe to support us completely, without fear or concern about outcome. To know from the deepest parts of us that everything is and will be perfect. To let go of all need for control.
This is not a new concept by any means, what if we took a deeper look to see where we are still holding on to our adaptations. Even being diligent in our spiritual practices can become an adaptation if they start to run on automatic, or are done out of fear, or a striving for an outcome. Even an outcome as virtuous as our awakening. Can we completely trust, let go and let it be.
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Photograph: Shimooka Renjō
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