Thursday, May 17, 2007

Masters speak from the Past

Sensei Itosu sent a letter to the education system of Okinawa asking them to include karate in the schools in the year 1908. This letter was called "10 Articles of Karate". As I read the concepts, and philosophy contained by the Teacher of the founder of Shotokan karate, I find my spirit rejoicing that my vision of Martial arts is echoed in the words that I'm reading.

I especially found the admonition to not train until your face is red quite funny. I should have read that section 4 years ago. I was always red like a tomato as soon as I'd begin moving when I started learning karate. It would have been much healthier for me to have lowered my effort, and worked more on technique than to risk a heart attack trying to keep up with others. My Sensei had told me "Listen to your body". I listened to my body, sort of.. I just told it to keep going in spite of all of it's complaints. Ah.. no wonder I suffered so much at the start of my training. Too bad that knowledge comes from experience.

A translation of the Ten Articles of Karate
By Sensei Yasutsune (Anko) Itosu
October, the forty-first year of Meiji

Karate is not of Confucian or Buddhist origin. Shorin and Shorei schools were originally introduced from China into Okinawa. Each of the two styles has its strength, thus both should be retained.

1. You should not practice karate only for the purpose of developing your physical strength. What is essential is to serve your sovereign and your parents at the risk of your life in case of emergency. If you should involve in a fight with a robber or a rough neck by any chance, you should ward off a blow. You should not harm him.

2. By practicing karate one can develop a strong body and his fists and feet can be used as weapons. Thus if boys are trained in their youths, they will become men of special ability. Such men of martial arts can make contributions to the country as soldiers if need be. When he defeated Napoleon at Waterloo, Wellington said, "Today's victory is the outcome of lad's hard training on a training ground in England." A well put saying.

3. To master karate in a short time is extremely difficult. The proverb goes that practice makes perfect. If you practice for one or two hours every day, you will not only become physically strong but master the art of karate by the end of three or four years of training.

4. When you do makiwara-tsuki, keep these in mind: lower your shoulders, chest out, keep your feet and centralize your "ki" on the abdomen. Do the tsuki practice in this manner for one hundred or two hundred times.

5. When you assume a karate posture, bear these in mind: straighten your back, lower your shoulders, keep your feet, centralize your "ki" on the abdomen and harden the whole muscle of your body in such a way that the whole force is pulled toward the abdomen.

6. Learn various moves. But study when and how certain moves are applied and then practice the moves. There are many secrets handed down by word of mouth regarding stop moves and counter moves.

7. Study moves. Consider which move is good for building physical strength and which one is good for kumite.

8. You should practice karate in the following manor: glare, lower your shoulders, and harden muscles as though you were actually engaged in a fight. Practice in this way, then you will be able to move naturally in case of a hand-to-hand fight.

9. Do not put too much strain on yourself while you are practicing, otherwise you will get bloodshot and your face will turn red. These are signs of over-practice which will ruin your health in time.

10. Many karate masters enjoyed longevity in the past. Through karate one can build muscles, promote digestion, improve the circulation of blood. All of these contribute to the long of life. Therefore karate should be introduced into course work as the basis of physical education at the schools. Thus a lot of karate experts will be produced in the future.

7 comments:

Colin Wee said...

1. You should not practice karate only for the purpose of developing your physical strength.
Strength and speed are good. But if you don't think, all you're going to be is a dumb fighter. A dumb fighter is a dead fighter.


2. By practicing karate one can develop a strong body and his fists and feet can be used as weapons.
I'll think about that for my son (aged 5yo) when he does his daily PTs (physical training). I might start him on kata first.


3. To master karate in a short time is extremely difficult.
Tell me about it. HOWEVER ... even a white belt MUST be given some tools. Doesn't mean that if mastery takes a long time that you can just screw around with your white belts and give them jack.


4. When you do makiwara-tsuki, keep these in mind: lower your shoulders, chest out, keep your feet and centralize your "ki" on the abdomen.
That's the only way. Your lats tighten the weapon to your body, your body rotates quickly, driven by your hips. The tightness helps to transmit the power of your legs.


5. When you assume a karate posture, bear these in mind: straighten your back, lower your shoulders, keep your feet, centralize your "ki" on the abdomen and harden the whole muscle of your body in such a way that the whole force is pulled toward the abdomen.
I don't do Karate. May I ignore this?


6. Learn various moves. But study when and how certain moves are applied and then practice the moves. There are many secrets handed down by word of mouth regarding stop moves and counter moves.
YES! YES! YES! The when and how certain moves are applied to me talks about kata directly. You need to think about how kata is applied then you practice the moves. Such is only accessible to the student by instructors giving them the wisdom of their experience.

7. Study moves. Consider which move is good for building physical strength and which one is good for kumite.
If you don't consider what is good for *you* for kumite ... better hang up your gloves now. You need to prepare yourself for reality before it hits.

8. You should practice karate in the following manor: glare, lower your shoulders, and harden muscles as though you were actually engaged in a fight.
That's one way to do it.


9. Do not put too much strain on yourself while you are practicing, otherwise you will get bloodshot and your face will turn red.
That's my philosophy exactly!


10. Many karate masters enjoyed longevity in the past. Through karate one can build muscles, promote digestion, improve the circulation of blood. All of these contribute to the long of life. Therefore karate should be introduced into course work as the basis of physical education at the schools. Thus a lot of karate experts will be produced in the future.
REALLY? Experts are experts because of genius. I don't see many around.

Excellent post Mir!

Colin

supergroup7 said...

"I don't do Karate. May I ignore this?"

Colin.. I've seen you spar.. you don't ignore these principles at all. You have good posture, and control of your arms/legs. You move smoothly into whatever position you want by "hardening" your middle, and moving your center of balance where you want it to have the most effect. (Unless I am misunderstanding the message of Sensei Itosu..)

"Thus a lot of karate experts will be produced in the future."

Sensei Itosu wrote this almost 100 years ago. Maybe he meant in the FAR future we will see alot of Karate experts. We can always hope, and work towards this result.

dailyStrats said...

When I began training in martial arts, I was so damn sure, that when I will be Black Belt - I will be a master.
Nowadays, on the way towards 3rd Dan exam, I feel that I am only beginning to understand the martial arts! And I love it now!
Yet, when I reached Shodan I was SO disappointed.
Just wanted to warn you that Shodan is not a goal in itself!
Way to go!

supergroup7 said...

Hi Dailystrats!

That is a really nice start to a positive weblog that you have created. I could just do a pop in visit, but I promise to come back for a good read when I have more time.

Thanks for visiting me.

Thanks for the warning. I realize that Shodan, or black belt is not the goal in karate. That knowledge had to grow in me through experience, and time, but I learned it.

Colin Wee said...

Colin.. I've seen you spar.. you don't ignore these principles at all.

Thank you, Mir. Even though all it was was me prancing around.

Colin

Ikigai said...

Excellent write up! It's been quite a while since I read Itosu's articles and this was the refresher I needed. #6 - learning moves and when/where to use them is extremely important, but also allowing your body to explore those moves and make them fit your personal style/physique.

supergroup7 said...

So True Ikigai, the more you learn the traditions, the more you realize that you have to make them your own.
Thanks for your comment