If we ask ourselves why we would like to learn “Karate-Do” some people may say, “to become strong”, or “for health reasons”, and others may say “to expand my spiritual world of perception”.
As long as we try to function as a member of society or as a student of a life shared in the presence of others we do live our life following the rules of society whether consciously or subconsciously.The rules that govern a society may be identified as laws and the spirit of morality. Karate-do mirrors those aspects of life. Whatever the motivation is, one has to follow the rules of “Do” as long as one chooses Karate-do as “Do”. ”Do” is not something that someone forced upon a disciple or gave to him or her. It is the road or way one has to discover by oneself, the road that will be marked by one self. ”Shi” as a leader does not teach “DO”. He or she offers you the place for “Do” by teaching or training techniques and indicating the way so that one does not choose the wrong “Do”. For that reason people, who learn Karate, at first, should not depend on someone. Improvement of oneself is the result of self training passing through ‘Shi’. Secondly, one has to be courteous. This applies to society, not only to Karate-do, but especially in “Do” it is very important. It comes from the spirit of “by burying the hatchet, you stop fighting”.
In Karate-do, through the process of entering into a stance from “Kiotsuke” to “Yooi”, we see movements that prevent a sudden attack by the opponent, combined with a move that extends ones’ dominant arm, showing “I do not attack suddenly”. This is Karate-do etiquette which follows the precept of “Karate ni sente nashi” or, “you don’t take the initiative in karate”.
This has the same meaning as an ancient martial art form of etiquette that by taking off one’s Katana from the waist belt and changing it to the right hand shows that a combatant is not going to attack suddenly without saying anything. This movement is done in a stance of “Naore” as well. One has to enter into that stance at the beginning and at the end. This applies to the spirit of Karate-do which says “Rei ni Hajimari Rei ni owaru” or “it begins with a salute and ends with a salute”. “Rei” is not only for ‘Shi’ but for everybody who is around you including seniors, equals (fellow practitioners) and juniors.
This shows the dignity and grace of people who practice “Budo”. There are some people who treat seniors as Gods, others are unkind towards juniors. They misunderstand the etiquette of the relationship between a senior and a junior.
Thirdly, you have to continue until you achieve results. If you quit in the middle, the training you underwent will be useless. If you learn only the techniques without knowing the essence of Karate, you can hurt yourself and there are many examples of that. You cannot learn the spirit of Karate in a short period of time. It is a lifelong dedication to training without a pre-destined endpoint and even if one does not attain levels of mastership[nbsp] it does not imply that quitting is an option. If having studied merely the superficial or surface aspects of Karate and then giving up, then one should have never started learning Karate in the first place. Anybody older, younger, man or woman can learn Karate, however the “Do” is strict and endless. It is said: “There is no secret to Karate”, which means that Karate has depth and there is no shortcut to master it.
In China there is a proverb that says, “If you don’t learn today, there won’t be a tomorrow”. It is the opposite idea of “I don’t have to do it today because there is tomorrow” which spoils a person. When people suffer, they look for an easy way out; one tends to indulge or spoil oneself, one tends to avoid hardships that are part of a growth process. From ancient times on it has been said that it is difficult to learn Karate by oneself because the ever present desire to make it easy for oneself, to “spoil oneself” is in us. However, these dangers can be kept in check through training in groups, as we all try to do our best in the presence of others.
As you become strict with yourself, practice gets tougher and tougher but the results that the disciple of karate-do will obtain will be greater and more significant.
Author: Gogen Yamaguchi 10th Dan, Founder of the International Karatedo Gojukai Association
Book: Goju Ryu Karate Do Kyohan