Thursday, January 10, 2008

Kyokushin Dojo Kun: Fourth line

Hitotsu, wareware wa, reisetsu o omonji, chojo o keishi, sobo no furumai o tsutsushimu koto.
"We will observe the rules of courtesy, respect our superiors, and refrain from violence."

The above English translation of the Japanese alerted me that I needed to try to understand what each word was saying. "Reisetsu" refers to politeness, decorum, propriety.. or in other words being courteous. "Omonji" means to honor, esteem, and respect. This points to me that COURTESY goes beyond just observing the various rules in the Dojo such as responding to a command with "Osu", placing our shoes neatly against the wall, not swearing, or eating in the dojo, showing respect to our Sensei/Sempai etc.. It embraces these specific rules, and includes being respectful in daily life towards all things, and all people. The Japanese language, and culture contains many symbols of respect. One speaks differently to someone who is of higher stature than the other, using the addition of the word "Gosaimasu" to show respect. Bowing at the right time, in the right way, and with the correct posture is very important in showing respect. There are rules for eating, and drinking that reveal if you are a polite person, or not. You do not fill your own glass, but wait for someone to fill it for you. You receive a gift using both hands. These little daily signs, and signals are important to make people feel comfortable in your presence, and to have them see you as polite rather than rude. Kyokushin-kai are to make public decorum important to them not only in the dojo, but outside of it.

The fact that the first three words of this line already refers to showing respect to our teachers, I had to look more closely at the next three lines: "Chojo" gives the indication of someone or something superior/divine, "Kieshi" refers to consulting, asking for instructions, and seeking approval. What is a "Sensei" in the eyes of the Japanese?

"The term "sensei" is an honorific accorded to teachers, with a meaning transcending that of professor. It has been suggested that if a Japanese prime minister were to meet a former teacher, it is the former student who would bow low as a matter of acknowledging his proper place. The prime minister might later tell someone about having met his onshi, a word translated in the dictionary as "former teacher" that also connotes a person to whom one owes a debt that can never be fully repaid. Sensei, then, is not only a person of wisdom but also a major actor in the intricate web of obligations, group memberships, and dependencies that define Japanese social life and culture." Quote from The Professor and the Sensei: Faculty Roles in the United States and Japan by Robert Birnbaum

In other words, we are being called to refer to our instructors for direction in our path. We consult them, and rely on their guidance as we walk in our Martial Way. We turn to them as the primary source of the knowledge, and skills that we are hoping to attain. Through our training, we might be able to find out new things from other teachers, but we make an effort to stay faithful to the expectations, and philosophy of our chosen teacher. We owe them a debt of gratitude for all of the time, energy, and instruction that they have invested into our learning.

The last concept in this line is to "refrain from violent behaviour". At first, it seems that this is a separate idea from the first two. However, I'd like to offer that thought that a student's behaviour reflects on their Sensei. If a student is rude, impolite, ungrateful, and violent to others during class, or outside of training, he/she casts a bad shadow on the dojo. Daily decorum, patience, and politeness in word, and in deed, builds up the relationship, and honor given to one's Sensei.

So.. where do we get the motivation to live up to the difficult expectations of politeness, and courtesy? I would suggest that this is centered on the aspect of "love". I am talking about the kind of affection wherein we value ourselves, and those people around us so much that rudeness would not be a possibility. Sensei Gichin Funakoshi said "Love of Karate, love of self, love of family and friends; all lead eventually to love of one's country. The true meaning of Karate can be acquired only through such love." Karate Do: My Way of life

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