Senshin: The Enlightened Mind

Martial Arts Blog

normrobitza On January - 5 - 2015

It will take all of your life to learn karate
– Karate no shugyo wa issho

old-man-karateMaster Gichin Funakoshi wrote this precept almost 100 years ago and it is probably the most ignored of all the precepts. Everyone wants to become a master overnight. Putting work and effort into something is not a trait that people have anymore. I have had students come to me and ask, “How long will it take to become a black belt?” or “When will I know how to fight?”

The looks I get when I tell them that it will take years of hard training to become a black belt many will just turn and walk away. With today’s emphasis on the UFC and MMA, I have had students ask about fighting and when they will be ready for their first match. So many seems to think that we are teaching them to fight.

The mind set that a true karateka should have is one of the Infinite White Belt. What I mean by this is that you are always learning. If you start to think that you know it all, then you have not reached the level of mastery. You have actually reached a plateau in your training. A true master of anything believes that they are not good enough to be a master. Funakoshi himself refused to me called master like so many of the high ranking Japanese masters.

I like to think about a scene in an amazing film from 1985 called The Last Dragon. (I reviewed this film and you can find it in the archives of this page.) In this film, Leroy Green seeks the final level in his Kung Fu training. His instructor gives him a gold medallion and tells him to seek the Master to teach him the final level where he will be able to obtain a power so beautiful that his body would glow with energy. Leroy sets out on his journey but finds no master only a fortune cookie machine. Leroy returns to his instructor who hands him a fortune cookie which he removed the fortune from. He tells Leroy that the answer to all that he seeks is in the cookie. Leroy opens the empty fortune cookie and is confused. The instructor tells Leroy that he holds a cookie with no fortune written by a master that doesn’t exist. What he is trying to tell him is that the only person that can help Leroy reach that final level is Leroy.

In your training, you are your own best training partner and your on worse enemy. So one of the most important things to remember is to look at your training from different points of view. If you think that you are doing everything correctly, perhaps you need to watch yourself train in a mirror or have someone watch you and give you criticism. (Please Note: By not taking the criticism, you are only hurting yourself. Also tell the person that is watching your techniques to be brutally honest. Some people might be afraid to hurt your feelings. Always ask a senior student or instructor. Someone who is your rank or perhaps slightly higher would not have the years of training and understanding to be able to give a solid critique of your techniques.)

Black Belt is not the end of the road. If you think of the Black Belt ranks as a pinnacle of your training then you have fallen victim to the hype. Becoming a Black Belt is actually a return to the beginning. Ask any high ranking Black Belt what it meant to them when they put the belt on for the very first time. I can guarantee you that the majority of them will say that it was a return to the beginning. It was like becoming a white belt all over again.

Today some of the greatest masters in the World are not young men. They are in their twilight years and could easily dispatch of any would be attacker. These are the men and women who have dedicated their lives to their training. They do not look at themselves as masters but students of their art. They are dedicated to passing on the knowledge that they have received and do not go around looking for fights. This needs to be passed on to the new generation of students. Many of them think that they will achieve some great knowledge at some point. The greatest knowledge that they can receive is that they will never know it all.

Keep training and stay dedicated!



Categories: Teaching/Training

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