Ein kleines (?) Rätsel der Heian Kata 平安初段の小さな(?)謎

Hier geht es um ein kleines Rätsel, über welches sich einige westliche Lehrer wunderten, deshalb möchte ich meine Idee zu diesem einzigartigen Merkmal in der Heian Shodan teilen.

Das Rätsel ist die vierte Bewegung, dermigi jodan tate mawashi kentsui uchi. Nein, ich rede nicht über ihr Bunkai. Die Frage ist: Warum haben wir diese Bewegung nicht auch nach dem ersten Gedan Barai, der ersten Technik? Mit anderen Worten, einige dieser westlichen Lehrer dachten, dass eine identische Technik des jodan kentsui uchi zwischen der ersten Bewegung (linker Gedan Barai) und zweiten Bewegungen (rechter Oi-Zuki Chudan) fehlte. Wenn diese Technik da wäre, dann würde die Heian Shodan wirklich symmetrisch werden, nicht wahr? Wurde diese Technik vergessen oder fehlerhaft herausgenommen?

kentsui tate uchi

Lasst uns das alte Lehrbuch anschauen: Funakoshis Karatedo Kyohan 空手道教範. Ich bin mir sicher, dass Sie dort das selbe Ergebnis vorfinden werden; diese „fehlende“ Technik ist nicht da. Lasst uns nun die Pinan Nidan (unsere Heian Shodan) im Shito-Ryu und Shorin-Ryu anschauen: Wir stellen fest, dass die gesuchte Technik auch dort nicht zu finden ist. Daraus sollten wir schließen, dass die Kata so von Meister Itosu 糸洲(Ende des 19. Jh.s) konzipiert wurde. Wenn das der Fall ist, dann wirft es ein noch größeres Rätsel auf: Warum hatte er absichtlich eine Technik ausgelassen oder vernachlässigt und die Kata damit unausgeglichen gemacht? Ein Hinweis wäre das Stichwort „Symmetrie“ . Die ist nämlich ein sehr westliches Konzept von Schönheit, Richtigkeit und Vollständigkeit. In Japan sehen wir es jedoch, ob Sie es glauben oder nicht, ganz gegenteilig.

Die Japaner betrachten Symmetrie und perfekt ausbalancierte Geometrie nicht als richtig oder nicht schön. Sie betrachten diese sogar als falsch und hässlich. Ich weiß, dass einige Leser ein Problem mit meiner Aussage haben und möglicherweise damit nicht einverstanden sein werden.

Lassen Sie mich bitte Ihnen einige Beispiele zeigen:  Ikebana blue printIkebana 4

Abb.1                                                                                        Abb.2

                       

Eine der japanischen Künste, die in die restliche Welt exportiert wurde, ist Ikebana 生け花(die Kunst des Blumenarrangierens). Abb. 1 ist kein Diagramm des Enbusen einer Kata. Glauben Sie mir, wenn ich Ihnen sage, dass es aus einem Ikebana-Lehrbuch entnommen wurde? Es sollte die Grundlagenstruktur der Blumen, oder die Art wie sie fertig arrangiert aussehen sollten, verdeutlichen. Abb. 2 zeigt den fertigen Blumenstrauß, und Sie können sehen, dass der Bearbeiter sich am unbalancierten und unsymmetrischen Vorbild aus dem Lehrbuch gehalten hat. Ich weiß nichts über Ikebana, und ich habe noch nie am Ikebana-Unterricht teilgenommen, aber ich kann Ihnen erklären, warum es so sein sollte, da ich die Mentalität und den Sinn für Schönheit eines Japaners nachvollziehen kann.


Wir wissen, dass nichts in der Natur
wirklich symmetrisch ist. Mit anderen Worten: Alles, was symmetrisch ist, ist künstlich und wird von Japanern als unvollkommen und unschön wahrgenommen. Ikebana ist eine Art der künstlerischen Dekoration, bei der natürliche Blumen verwendet werden. Natürlich sind die Blumen an sich schön, und das Arrangieren, eine künstliche Handlung, darf die Schönheit dieser Blumen nicht beeinträchtigen oder zerstören. Um ihre Schönheit zu bewahren haben die Japaner sich dazu entschlossen diese auf eine unsymmetrische und unbalancierte Art anzuordnen. Macht das Sinn?

Nun ein anderes Beispiel. Schauen Sie sich die Tassen auf den Bildern unten an. Eine weitere berühmte japanische Kunst ist Sanoyu, die traditionelle Teezeremonie.

Auf der Abb. 3 ist eine Teetasse, die ihre Verwendung in Sado 茶道findet, zu sehen. Sehen Sie wie die Form absichtlich uneben, nicht rund und unsymmetrisch ist? Selbst die Gestaltung und die Farbe erwecken das Gefühl als hätte man bei der Produktion Fehler gemacht. Ich besitze keine Preisliste dafür, aber ich bin mir sicher, dass sie genauso teuer, wenn nicht sogar teurer ist, als die ideal geformte Teetasse von Royal Worcester auf der Abb. 4.

湯呑

Royal Worcester tea cup

Abb. 3                        

                                                                       Abb. 4

Das Konzept von Schönheit ist hier dasselbe. Wir schätzen das Natürliche und nicht das Künstliche oder die ideal aussehende Form. Hierbei vergleiche ich nicht die Schönheit, oder wer (die Japaner, oder die Abendländer) Recht hat und besser ist. Ich zeige Ihnen lediglich das andersartige Konzept der Japaner, welches tief in ihren Herzen und ihrem Lebensstil verwurzelt ist.

Hier sind zwei Fotos von Kimonos. Der Kimono auf der linken Seite besitzt das allgemeine Muster einer natürlichen Szene. Die Blumen auf dem rechten und auf dem linken Ärmel sind unterschiedlich gestaltet. Schauen Sie sich das Design auf dem rechten Foto an: Die Ungleichheit zwischen der linken und der rechten Seite ist sehr bedeutend. Ich denke, dass diese Gestaltung sich ziemlich von der der westlichen Welt unterscheidet, insbesondere wenn es um das traditionelle Konzept geht. 

着物2

着物色違い6

Interessanterweise hatte das Ukiyo-e 浮世絵und die Künstler der Edo-Zeit (17. und 18. Jhd. in Japan), wie z.B. Utamaro und Sharaku, einen großen Einfluss auf die westlichen Künstler, die bei den Impressionisten des 19. Jahrhunderts eingeordnet werden. 

ukiyoe

Seascape

Zu einigen dieser berühmten Maler zählen Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, Matisse, Pissarro, van Gogh und viele weitere. Die gelehrte Methode des Malens setzte das genaue Wiedergeben des vom Maler Wahrgenommenen voraus, doch die Impressionisten „schändeten“ die Regeln, indem sie mehr Gewicht auf das Gefühlte und die Impressionen, die sie von den echten Objekten oder der Szenen hatten. Ich vermute, dass diese Maler zu der Einsicht kamen, es sei unmöglich die Realität vollkommen mit ihren Pinseln zu kopieren. Die japanischen Künstler wussten das bereits seit mehreren Jahrhunderten und perfektionierten ihre impressionistische Malweise in der Edo-Zeit.

Ich könnte noch so weiter machen und viele weitere Beispiele aus der japanischen Kultur zeigen, aber lassen Sie mich Ihnen nur noch einige wenige Beispiele aufzählen, die wesentlich größer sind, als ein Blumenarrangement, oder eine Teetasse.


Wenn Sie Japan besuchen, möchten viele von Ihnen die exotischen Shinto-Schreine besuchen, weil diese so japanisch aussehen und die Fotos von Ihnen in einem Gi mit solch einem Schrein im Hintergrund wirklich toll aussehen (auch wenn das den japanischen Besuchern nicht gefallen dürfte). Nahezu niemand von Ihnen kommt dahin, um zu beten, sondern lediglich um die Schönheit der Gebäude und vielleicht der berühmten A-un
阿吽Statuen zu bewundern. Übrigens würde ich sagen, dass Letztere ein perfektes Beispiel der Anschauung des Konzeptes von Yin und Yang sind. A-un heißt wörtlich „Einatmung“ () und Ausatmung (). Dieser Begriff wird auch in der shintoistischen und buddhistischen Architektur verwendet, um die gepaarten Statuen, die in Verbindung mit japanischen religiösen Szenarien stehen, zu beschreiben: Die Nio 仁王(rechte Abbildung) und die Komainu 狛犬(die Wachlöwen links). 

狛犬 2

仁王像 4

Das Konzept des A-un ist sehr interessant und tiefgründig. Wenn Sie mehr darüber erfahren möchten, empfehle ich Ihnen auf Wikipedia über Thema nachzulesen: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A-un

Der Begriff der Unausgeglichenheit, oder der Asymmetrie erstreckt sich bis zu der Vorstellung vom Bau von großen Gebäuden, wie z.B. eines Schreines. Hier sehen Sie den Bauplan eines Schreines, der vor mehr als einem halben Jahrhundert gebaut wurde (Abb. 5). Der Hauptteil des Gebäudes ist zwar symmetrisch, doch wenn Sie sich das gesamte Gebäude mit den beiden Seitenflügeln anschauen, stellen Sie fest, dass dies nicht auf die gesamte Struktur zutrifft. Der rechte Flügel unterscheidet sich komplett vom Linken. Lassen Sie uns nun den Bauplan einer Kirche (Abb. 6) anschauen, um zu sehen, wie sie gebaut werden sollte. Dieser hier ist von der St. Thomas More Kirche in Darien im Bundesstaat Connecticut. Ich dachte mir, dass es ein interessanter Zufall war, denn der Name des japanischen Schreines ist „Dairen“ und der Standort der Kirche heißt „Darien“. Doch die Ähnlichkeit hört hier mit Sicherheit auf. Wenn Sie das Originalfoto im Internet finden, können Sie den Bauplan der Kirche ausweiten. Schon auf dem Foto unten können Sie sehen, dass sie schön symmetrisch ist. Der rechte Seitenflügel ist eine nahezu perfekte Kopie des linken und umgekehrt. Der einzige Unterschied besteht wahrscheinlich bei den Toiletten (Männertoilette auf der linken Seite, Frauentoilette auf der rechten).

St Thomas More Church

Dairen Shrine

Abb. 5                                                                                 Abb.6

Sind Sie nun mit meiner Schlussfolgerung über die absichtliche Unvollkommenheit der Heiangata einverstanden?

Ich kann mir beinahe denken, wie Itosu sich gefühlt haben musste, als er die Heian Shodan vor mehr als 100 Jahren erschuf. Es hätte eine sehr langweilige Kata sein können, wenn sie nicht diese bestimmte Technik, den Jodan Kentsui Uchi, enthalten würde. Mit anderen Worten ist diese Handlung eine kleine Würze für die Kata. Tatsächlich werden Sie, wenn Sie die Heiangata genauer betrachten, feststellen, dass einige der Schlüsselelemente nur zu einer Richtung ausgeführt werden (z.B. Chudan Nukite in Nidan und Sandan). Sie werden dies nicht nur in der Heian, sondern in allen Kata vorfinden. Sie könnten noch mal alle Kata unter diesem Aspekt betrachten und bemerken, dass keine von ihnen vollkommen symmetrisch ist. Nun könnten Sie vermutlich denken „OK, ich verstehe jetzt die japanische Vorstellung vom Schönen, aber dies ist eine Karate-Kata. Sollte die Kata nicht so gestaltet werden, dass man sie auf beiden Seiten üben könnte?“ Das stimmt, oder? Ihre Verwunderung ist nachvollziehbar, aber die okinawanischen Meister hatten die Antwort darauf: Meister Itosu und die Anderen hatten die Kata mit Absicht asymmetrisch gestaltet, um uns daran zu erinnern, dass die Schüler auch die Gyaku-Kata (spiegelverkehrt) üben sollten.Mirra image kata

Leider wurde das Üben der Gyuaku-Kata nicht von allen Shotokan-Dojos praktiziert. In meinem Dojo wird von allen Braungurten erwartet, dass sie die Gyuaku-Heiangata üben und eine dieser Kata kommt in ihrer Kyu-Prüfung vor. Außerdem verlange ich von den Schwarzgurten in meinem Dojo, dass sie die Gyaku-Versionen aller 16 Shotokan-Kata üben. Tekki dürfe nicht allzu schwer sein, aber versuchen Sie mal die Bassai-Dai und die Kanku-Dai spiegelverkehrt auszuführen. Wenn das Üben der Gyaku-Kata kein Teil Ihres.

Trainingsprogramms ist, würden nicht wenigstens die Gyaku-Heiangata üben, um das Meiste aus diesen Kata herauszuholen?

 

Что означают термины сэнпай и кохай на самом деле? 先輩と後輩とは?

Мне часто задают вопросы касающиеся этих друх популярных терминов. Я полагаю, что эти вопросы возникают, потому что люди с запада не понимают их настоящее значение и правила связанные с ними.

Эти слова очень распространенные в додзё, но Вы всё равно путаетесь и задаетесь вопросом о их значении. Путаница, или непонимание возникают потому что концепция этих слов тесно связанна с уникальным японским культурным восприятием и поведением. Позвольте мне объяснить это уникальное японское культурное восприятие, так, чтобы Вам стало более понятно, что скрывается за этими двумя словами.

Dojo line up

Для начала, давайте взглянем на кандзи и их значение, чтобы вам стала понятна основа и конструкция этих терминов. Кандзи先輩означает сенпай а後輩это кохай. Сэн () означает “раньше”, “впереди”, “первый”, или “прежде”. Вы уже знакомы с этим знаком, так как он используется в других словах из каратэ, вроде сэнсей, или сэн но сэн. Хай () значит “товарищ”, “персона”, “коллега”, или “люди”. Итак, сэнпай, это ученик начавший заниматься каратэ раньше. Ко () означает “позже”, “после”, “задний” и “назад”. Так что Вы с легкостью можете догадаться, что кохай, это кто то, кто начал позже другого, или других учеников. Как правило это сравнение применяется среди учеников одного и того же додзё, но оно так же может быть расширено на организацию и даже на целый стиль (вроде Шотокана).

Это очень простая и прямолинейная концепция. Поэтому она не вызывает среди Японцев каких либо замешательств. Позвольте мне назвать Вам пример: Если Вы начали тренироваться в Вашем додзё, скажем, в Январе 2000-го года, тогда Вы сэнпай для всех учеников, которые начали после Февраля 2000-го года. Вы кохай для всех учащихся, которые начали тренироваться раньше Вашей начальной даты. Некоторые Японцы очень точны и подробны, так что для них более коротких временной промежуток, чем месяц, уже является причиной различия. Даже один день разницы может решить является он сэнпаем, или кохаем. Если кто то вступает в додзё в тот же день и тот же момент, что и Вы, то его называют дохай同輩. До () значит “такой же” или “приравненный”. Звучание “до” описывается иными знаками, так что не перепутайте его с другим очень распространенным “до” (), который означает “путь” и используется в словах вроде каратэ-до.

В Японии представление о старшинстве очень важно и разделение, или классификация добиваются осуществления. Например есть определенная иерархия среди братьев и сестер, в зависимости от их возрастов. У самого старшего брата, или старшей сестры, больше всего власти и он(а) заслуживает больше всего уважения по сравнению с другими братьями/сестрами. Но у них так же больше ответственности. Это так же применяется ко всем аспектам японского общества, в разных степенях. Два очевидных мест, это додзё и школа. Ещё это правило применяется к рабочим, так как раньше пожизненные рабочие места были очень распространены в Японии. Не смотря на то, что этот обычай исчезает из японских фирм, его наследие, обращения сэнпай и кохай в компаниях, до сих пор очень распространено.
В западном мире нет строгой иерархией связанной со временем. Например брата просто называют братом. Для того, чтобы сказать, что он старше, добавляется слово „старший“. В японском у нас есть один знак (
) описывающий это. Кроме того жители запада менее оседлые и не остаются в одном и том же додзё на несколько лет.

Я полагаю, что в Вашем додзё сэнпай понимается как старший ученик, или даже ассистент, который не квалифицирован быть главным сенсеем. В некоторых додзё всех носителей черных поясов называют сэнпаями, а все носители коричневых поясов и более низкого ранга именуются кохаями. Я понимаю почему так получается. Позвольте мне поделится с Вами одним интересным фактом, который может случится в Японии с сэнпаями и кохаями: Представьте себе, что Вы шодан, так же как и Ваш сэнпай, который поступил в то же додзё, скажем, на год раньше Вас. Он стал бы пригодным на сдачу экзамена на нидан раньше Вас. Но представьте себе, что он заболел, или прекратил заниматься каратэ на несколько лет. Вы можете идти дальше и прогрессировать на нидан, в то время как Ваш сэнпай останется шоданом. Если Ваш сэнпай возвратится в додзё, то Вы будете сидеть на позиции более старшего. Это сидячее расположение одинаково в Японии, но что меняется это то, что он остается Вашим сэнпаем, так как его отсутствие не влияет на дату начала его обучения.
Это может создать путаницу даже в Японии, поэтому в японском додзё Вы не смогли бы сдать экзамен на следующий ранг, если все Ваши сэнпаи сначала не сдали свои. Как правило это случается в клубах общеобразовательных школ и университетов. Все старшие ученики получают шодан, или прогрессируют на нидан и т.д. в одно и то же время.

Я знаю, что эта концепция не сработает в западном мире и по этому не может осуществляться. С другой стороны, я думаю, что было бы неплохо для старшего ученика знать о японском культурном восприятии того, что дата начала Вашего занятия каратэ может стать решающим фактором в определении сэнпая и кохая. Зная это, Вы будете способны ответить на маленькую загадку, почему Окадзаки сидит перед Канадзавой не смотря на то, что он получил свой десятый дан после Канадзавы.

Line up with Kanazawa

Was bedeuten Senpai und Kohai wirklich? 先輩と後輩とは?

Ich erhalte oft Fragen, die diese zwei sehr populären Begriffe betreffen. Ich habe festgestellt, dass die Westler ihre wahre Bedeutung und die dazugehörigen Regeln nicht kennen.

Diese beiden Begriffe sind sehr verbreitet im Dojo, aber man ist trotzdem verwirrt und fragt sich, was sie wirklich bedeuten. Die Verwirrung, oder das Missverständnis entsteht, weil die Idee hinter diesen zwei Begriffen eng an das einzigartige japanische kulturelle Konzept, oder Verhalten gebunden ist. Lassen Sie mich diese einzigartige kulturelle Auffassung erklären, damit Sie ein besseres Verständnis davon haben, was hinter diesen zwei Wörtern steckt.

Dojo line up

Lassen Sie uns zuerst die Kanji und ihre Bedeutung betrachten, damit Sie die Grundlage und Konstruktion der Wörter verstehen. Die Kanji für Senpai sind 先輩 und für Kohai 後輩. Sen () bedeutet „früher“, „fortgeschritten“, „zuerst“, oder „voraus“. Sie kennen dieses Zeichen, da es in anderen Karate-Bergriffen wie „Sensei“ und „Sen no Sen“ verwendet wird. Hai () bedeutet „Gesell“, „Person“, „Kollege“, oder „Leute“. Also ist ein Senpai ein Schüler, oder Übender, der früher mit Karate angefangen hat. Kobedeutet „später“, „danach“,

dahinter“, oder „nach hinten“. Sie können also leicht die Bedeutung von Kohai schlussfolgern: Es ist eine Person, die später mit dem Training angefangen hat, als ein anderer Übender. Es ist ein Vergleich, der normalerweise unter den Übenden im gleichen Dojo aufgestellt wird, aber er kann auch auf größere Organisationen, oder gar Ryuha (solche wie Shotokan) ausgeweitet werden.

Das ist ein sehr direktes und einfaches Konzept. Deshalb gibt es im Bezug darauf unter Japanern nur sehr wenig Verwirrung. Lassen Sie mich Ihnen ein Beispiel nennen: Wenn sie mit dem Training in, sagen wir, Januar 2000 begonnen haben, dann sind Sie ein Senpai für alle Schüler, die mit ihrem Training ab Februar 2000 begannen. Sie sind ein Kohai für alle Übenden, die mit ihrem Training vor ihrem Anfangsdatum begonnen hatten. Manche Japaner sind sehr präzise und pingelig, sodass für sie eine noch kürzere zeitliche Differenz, als ein Monat, bereits den Unterschied ausmacht. Sogar ein Tag der Differenz könnte darüber entscheiden, ob man Senpai, oder Kohai ist. Wenn eine Person am selben Tag und zum selben Zeitpunkt beitritt, gilt sie als Dohai 同輩. Do () bedeutet „gleich“. Der Laut von do wird mit anderen Zeichen beschrieben, verwechseln Sie dieses deshalb nicht mit einem anderen populären do (), welches „Weg“ bedeutet und u.a. in Karate-do verwendet wird.

In Japan ist das Konzept des Vorranges von großer Bedeutung und die Unterteilung, oder Klassifikation wird ausgeübt und erzwungen. Zum Beispiel besteht unter Geschwistern eine bestimmte Hierarchie, die von ihrem Alter abhängt. Der/die älteste Bruder/Schwester, hat die meiste Macht, oder Respekt im Vergleich zu den anderen Geschwistern. Selbstverständlich kommt einhergehend damit auch die Verantwortung. Das gilt für alle Seiten der japanischen Gesellschaft in verschiedenen Ausmaßen. Die zwei offensichtlichen Orte sind das Dojo und die Schule. Das gilt auch für Arbeiter, da eine lebenslange Beschäftigung in Japan einst sehr verbreitet war. Obwohl dieser Brauch in japanischen Firmen immer mehr schwindet, findet das Erbe davon, das Bezeichnen des Kollegen als Senpai, oder Kohai, immer noch weite Verwendung.


Im Abendland gibt es keine strenge Hierarchie, die an Zeit gebunden ist. Zum Beispiel wir ein männliches Geschwisterteil einfach nur Bruder genannt. Um zu zeigen, dass dieser älter ist, muss man das Wort „älterer“ vor „Bruder“ hinzufügen. Im Japanischen haben wir ein Zeichen (
), um dies zu beschreiben. Außerdem sind Westler viel mobiler und bleiben nicht im selben Dojo über mehrere Jahre.

Ich vermute, dass in Ihrem Dojo unter Senpai ein älterer Schüler, oder sogar eine ausbildende Hilfskraft, die nicht dazu qualifiziert ist ein Sensei zu sein, verstanden wird. In manchen Dojos werden alle Schwarzgurte als Senpai und alle Braungurte und darunter als Kohai bezeichnet. Ich verstehe wie es dazu kommt. Lassen Sie mich mit Ihnen eine interessante Sache, die in Japan mit Senpai und Kohai passieren kann, teilen: Nehmen wir an, Sie sind ein Shodan, genau wie Ihr Senpai, der dem Dojo, sagen wir, ein Jahr früher beigetreten ist. Er würde vor Ihnen als geeignet gelten eine Prüfung zum Nidan ablegen zu dürfen. Und nun stellen Sie sich vor, dass er krank wird, oder für einige Jahre mit dem Karate-Training aufhört. Dann können Sie weiter machen und zum Nidan fortschreiten, während Ihr Senpai ein Shodan bleibt. Wenn Ihr Senpai nun zum Dojo zurückkehrt, werden Sie in der Reihe in der Position des Älteren sitzen. Diese Sitzordnung bleibt in Japan die Selbe, was nun aber anders ist, ist die Tatsache, dass er weiterhin Ihr Senpai bleibt, denn der ursprüngliche Zeitpunkt seines Beginns mit Karate ändert sich nicht. Das kann sogar in Japan für einige Verwirrung sorgen, deshalb kann man in einem japanischen Dojo normalerweise keine Prüfung ablegen, wenn nicht erst alle Senpai zuvor die Prüfung abgelegt haben. Das passiert für gewöhnlich in Oberschul- und Universitäts-Karate-Vereinen. Dort schreiten alle älteren Schüler zur selben Zeit zum Shodan, Nidan, usw. fort.

Ich weiß, dass dieses Konzept in der westlichen Welt nicht funktionieren wird und nicht angewendet werden kann. Andererseits finde ich es gut, wenn fortgeschrittene Ausübende Ahnung über die kulturelle Auffassung in Japan, dass der Zeitpunkt des Beginns mit Karate der entscheidende Faktor über die Ernennung zum Senpai, oder Kohai ist, haben. Wenn Sie dies verstehen, dann werden Sie auch die Antwort auf das kleine Rätsel haben, warum Okazaki in der Reihe vor Kanazawa sitzt, obwohl er nach Kanazawa den zehnten Dan verliehen bekam.

Line up with Kanazawa

What is “Online” Dan Examination? インターネット段位審査とは?

 

Online paradigmThe subject of online or internet dan (black belt) examinations is a very controversial one. When I posted that our organization, ASAI, provides this option I received a lot of feedback. Much of the feedback was positive but many others were negative. At that time my friends and colleagues approached me and advised me to stay away from the subject. One even warned me that supporting this method would affect my credibility. I know all those who advised me against it were sincere and worried about my reputation. I appreciated their concern for me but I had to respond back with a statement that I believe in this method and I feel very strongly that it was about time that someone would come out and educate the public. It is really my hope, from the bottom of my heart that this method would gain the respect and acceptance it deserves. I am aware that many practitioners of all ranks and seniority are against it or at least skeptical of it. Let me emphasize that I am not here to convince anyone. All I am trying to do is to simply present all the facts and to share my analysis with the readers. I believe one can judge any subject appropriately only after obtaining all the facts including not only the advantages and the benefits but also the limitations and the short comings. After that process it is up to the skeptics if they wish to change their mind.
First, we must look at the distance learning or the computer education in general to understand what it really is. Many readers may have already heard about this but the term “distance learning” meant something completely different during most of the 20th century. For the students during those years, it meant to learn subjects through textbooks and to send the homework and examinations by regular mail to a teacher. Now, the distance learning is another name for online or internet education. Online education has made many advancements and created many opportunities for the unconventional learning process. When first marketed, it was geared toward the working adult who wanted a college degree but didn’t have the time to attend a “brick and mortar” location. In 1990s, the dot-com boom gave schools the necessary tools for a more Internet-based teaching module. The creation of text-based involved using slides for instruction and the presentations. In 1996, Jones International University became the first fully accredited web-base university. It was founded by Glenn Jones and Bernard Luskin. Online education has graduated to fully flexible environment that has implemented streaming media, web-cam access, even blackboards and Flash presentations. Nowadays, online education is regarded as a credible way to study and learn in order to obtain a higher education. It is very common now among the universities and colleges that almost all of them offer some form of online courses.
Online or internet education in general is no longer a new fad or something foreign. I do not need to try to convince you about this as there are numerous statistics and reports to support my claim. Here is one example, a graph showing the growth of US online higher education students for the period between 2009 and 2014 (shown below). It is very obvious how online education has become even more pervasive over the last five years.
2009-2014GrowthHEOnlineEd
However, the education mentioned here is a “static” one meaning that the students typically sit and learn the subjects just by listening to the instructors. The physical movements and requirements are minimum or none at all. Even for the instructor, other than putting some presentation or writing something on the white board hardly move either. It is very true that the online education in the moving arts is still new and it is almost unheard of in the martial arts including karate. This is why I am writing this article.
Next, we need to touch lightly on the history of the internet. By doing so it will explain that I am not a stranger to the internet world. OK let us start. World Wide Web known simply as WWW was introduced in 1989, however, the industry pundits claim the start of the internet for the general public was in 1991 when dot come (.com) became available to the public. Interestingly, I found my first software industry job in 1992. It was at a subsidiary of Xerox that developed the internet language called Smalltalk. I was hired as a sales executive to market the software development tool to the Asia Pacific region. During the five years of my tenure at this company, besides selling the software tool I was involved in the establishment of the very first online university in GB. I recall it was around 1993 so it was some twenty years ago. At that time, no one was sure if it would be accepted by the public and we thought it would take many decades before it would eventually be accepted then become popular. Of course, we were totally wrong as it took less than 20 years to become almost a standard offering. As you may know, you will have a very difficult time now to find an institution among the accredited universities that does not offer some kind of online courses or classes.
Since that job my professional career progressed as the internet industry boomed with the dot com bubble until I lost my last job in 2009. During those years the online business literally experienced a revolution as many new business models appeared such as the online book store (Amazon), search engines (Google), social network (Facebook), auction (eBay), video (YouTube) and many others that you are already familiar with. The history of the internet is really a fascinating thing as I sort of grew with it. If you wish to learn more about it, you can find a brief history at the following page in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Internet
Timeline-Internet-history
Yes, all through those years I was not a full time karate instructor. I believed my livelihood should not depend on my karate income so as to keep my karate teaching pure. After passing the age of 60 it became impossible to find a high tech job so I was forced to take on a full time karate instructor status which, by no means, I am complaining about asI feel I came back to my passion and “home” now. Anyway, I wish to mention that my experience in the internet did not stop with the retirement from the high tech job. My involvement is found in three different areas of karate teaching that is related to the internet; my virtual dojo, a partnership in an online karate teaching company (Karate Coaching) and actual execution of a few DVD exams. Let me cover those three areas in a chronological order.
The first experience is with a DVD examination that I executed in 2005. I gave an examination to some JKS practitioners in Mexico after receiving permission from Master Asai. In fact, he was the one who told me that we should do this for our members who live remotely and are too poor to make a long trip to an examination site. Even though I was already familiar with the video conference, I must admit it was not very easy to evaluate the practitioners via DVD performance. However, a big advantage of a DVD method is that I could repeat the viewing until I was totally satisfied. I believe there were eight of them and I passed them all and I believe I did the right thing. After that I examined two more practitioners. Both of them lived in east coast states (NY and Florida). I failed one and passed the other. I will talk about this more in depth later but it was very easy to determine the ones who are not up to par.
The second experience with the internet started more than two years ago when I started a virtual dojo called Online Dojo. I created a group of programs of learning karate kihon and kata using an online video conference tool. Currently I have two students, one in the US (New York State) and another one in Asia. I also have a couple of potential online students who may start their classes in 2014. With this actual teaching and coaching experience over the last two years I believe I have learned a great deal about the benefits and the limitations of this teaching method.
Karate CoachingThe last involvement is the partnership at Karate Coaching (www.karatecoaching.com), the largest and most reputable online karate teaching service provider. This company had been in operation for 4 years when I joined in December 2012, exactly a year ago. I knew the owner of the company because he also runs another enterprise called Tokon, karate uniform manufacturer. When I was invited to join the team I immediately accepted the invitation. As I wrote earlier that I had started the online teaching service but the method I use can reach out to only a few individuals. Through Karate Coaching media I realized that I could reach out to thousands of people. Interestingly, in this format I am the one who will be filmed and viewed by the students. I found it to be a good compliment to my Online Dojo project. I also found that video recording can be almost cruel as it records all the flaws and mistakes one makes.
OK, enough of my background but I hope I made it clear that I am not an amateur in the area of internet or online karate experience. Now, we need to look at the program we offer. The online examination is not a standard examination method for our members. We encourage all our members to participate in the non-virtual (in person) examinations. We reserve the online examination only for the practitioners who find it economically impossible to participate in such an “in person” examination. An online examination is available only for the dan ranks of shodan up to godan. Those who apply for rokudan and above must have an in person examination. In addition, an online examination cannot be repeated. For instance, if a student takes a shodan exam online then they cannot take another online examination and they must take an in person exam for their nidan diploma. We believe there will be sufficient time to prepare for their next exam with not only one’s karate skills but also meet the financial requirement.
ASAI LogoLet’s look at the syllabus in general. Due to the space limitation, I will not list it here but the entire syllabus for both the kyu and dan ranks is available for anyone to see and review. I am proud to say that ASAI (www.asaikarate.com) has one of the most challenging exam requirements of all shotokan organizations. I would like to hear from you if your organization has a more challenging syllabus than ours. We always need to sharpen and modify our requirements to make them better.
I was a life time member of the largest shotokan organization in Japan for a period of 40 years. I find it sad to confess that I do not recall any improvements or major changes to its syllabus. If this lack of recollection comes from my poor memory, I apologize but I do not think that is the case. After resigning from this major organization I belonged to two other organizations and they had a very similar “antiquated” syllabus. As the main topic of this article is not the context of the exam syllabus so I will not go into the details of this in this article. Maybe, this subject is important enough to write a separate article and point out why I consider the exam syllabuses of those organizations antiquated or not proper. OK that will be my next project. Back to our syllabus…..what I began to say with pride was that ours is one of the best exam syllabuses one can find. Anyone who takes an exam using this syllabus should be proud if and when they pass. For an online exam, the syllabus becomes more challenging because there will be some additional requirements. There are two different online methods. I will describe what those additional requirements are along with the general explanation of each program below.
Real time online method:Skype conference
By using the internet video conference tool, namely Skype, an examinee can perform his/her exam requirements in front of a camera or an examiner in far distance. By the way, I am not limiting this to Skype as the conference tool. There are other internet video conference tools that are free and commonly available including Google Plus and even Facebook. Whichever works the best should be considered and used. There are a few requirements. One is the high speed internet on both sides; an examinee (the sender) and an examiner (the receiver). The other is a large screen especially at the examiner side (32” or larger) so that the examiners can view the performance adequately.
For those who will use this exam method, the contents of the syllabus itself will be the same or very similar. The additional requirements will be the repetition of doing some if not all of kihon, kata and kumite performance. In other words, an examinee will be asked to repeat some or all of the syllabus two times or more if necessary. For instance, he/she will be asked to do a kata not only facing front as he/she would do in a standard exam but also facing other directions such as backward or sideways. This is a necessary requirement as the examiners will have only a two dimensional thus a limited view. A typical exam for a shodan in a standard exam would take about 30 minutes. The time requirement for a Skype exam may last as long as one hour or more. Another requirement is that only one examinee is allowed at a time even if there are more than one person taking the same exam. In a standard examination, I have in the past witnessed as many as 5 or 6 students lined up at one time to take an examination. I have always been opposed to this process as it is almost impossible for any examiner even if they are very senior and experienced to review each examinee’s performance with sufficient attention and to make a sound judgment.
2. DVD recording method:DVD screen
I suspect this method is the one that would receive the most concerns and objections. I am aware of this and I agree that it has many limitations which I will discuss later. Having said that, I still consider this to be a viable option and can be valid. Let me explain. We must recognize that there are many countries where high speed internet services are not available or are too expensive even if they are available. For some practitioners, an open space that is large enough to hold an exam may not be available even if a high speed internet service is available. I prefer to do a real time exam by using a video conference tool, but for some people it is just not possible, thus for them a DVD recording method is the only option.
The syllabus for this method becomes most demanding as the examiners cannot have the two way communication. I plan to publish a syllabus that is specially improvised for this exam method sometime in the future. So you can see the details once the new syllabus becomes public. For now, I can say that the examinees will be asked to perform the kihon and kata requirements in at least two directions. In addition, an examinee will be asked to do more katas to show his/her ability. For instance, in the standard shodan exam, the kata requirement is to do either 2 or 3 katas. For the DVD recording method, he/she may be asked to do all the Heian katas, Tekki Shodan and one tokui kata from the list of Bassai dai, Kanku dai, Enpi, Jion and Jutte. With Heian katas the requirement will be gyaku kata which means mirror kata or starting a kata to your right side. Now you saw that the exam syllabus for the online exam will not be a piece of cake for many practitioners. In fact, some practitioners would feel the syllabus is too difficult but that is exactly the intention to discourage the examinees who want an easy exam.
ASAI Class A&B Examiner License Proof FinalIf the syllabus is acceptable then, what is the next concern? I suspect it is with the qualification of the examiners. Can this be performed at a satisfactory level by any examiners? We do not believe so. In our organization, there are four levels of the examiner’s licenses, starting from D all the way up to A Class. To receive a D Class license an applicant must be 3 dan and above. With a D Class license an examiner can grade his students to shodan. The requirement goes up as the degree of the license moves up. The dan requirement to receive an A Class license is rokudan (6th degree) and above. These requirements are for the standard examinations. To qualify for an online exam the examiner one must have an A Class license and he must receive an authorization by the Shihankai board, a group of senior instructors who are 7th dan and above. The Shihankai members will check out the experience and the ability of an examiner to determine if they are qualified to conduct an online examination. If approved, the Shihankai members will provide advice and suggestions to an examiner applicant before they grant the special license. We will not grant this special license to all the examiners and we will select only the most qualified senior examiners.
I am well aware that an online exam is not a perfect exam method and it has some limitations. Thus, it definitely is not something to replace a standard, in person examination. Even though there are several inherent limitations, most of them can be managed and kept to a minimum negativity. Let me describe those limitations and also share with you how we can cope with them. I have described the syllabus so as to take the shadow off an “easy” exam. We also discussed the qualifications of the special examiner for the online exam options.
* Technical feasibility: High-Speed-Internet 2
There are two aspects of the limitations; one is that of the internet itself and the other is the technical difficulty to watch a student through a small screen. The internet limitation is its data flow capacity. When the internet connection is poor or the speed is slow video freeze up is common. This happens easily as the object, the student, moves very quickly which requires a lot of data volume to send via internet connection. I resolved it initially by getting a better modem but eventually by having the downstream capacity of 3.0 M bps (megabyte per second) increased to 6.0 M bps. In January, I will have a new service using fiber optics which will provide the amazing speed of 45.0 M bps. so I will have no more problem on my side or receiving side. There can be a problem if the sender, the student does not have a high speed line on his side. Yes, it requires the internet capability of both sides. It is unfortunate that there are many countries in the third world where a high speed internet is either not available at all or offered at an extremely expensive cost. However, the technology is advancing almost daily and I am convinced that this limitation will be resolved in the near future. The other limitation is the technical issue of viewing a performer on a small screen. This problem is twofold. Once again the problem resides on both sides, the sender and the receiver.
* Financial hardship:broke
It is true the exam fees for the online examination are higher than the one for a standard exam. For example, the online exam fee for a shodan exam is 50% more for a video conference exam, and for a DVD recording exam the fee is double that of the standard fee. Are these higher fees justifiable? I definitely believe they are. Just think of the amount of extra time an examiner has to spend for an online exam. Even if an examiner does not get paid for the time but rather for the expertise on judging, an online examiner should get paid more. It really requires more experience and a unique ability to judge the karate skill level under the more challenging conditions of the online tools. Then, how about for the examinees? How does the online exam fare economically to them? I can emphatically tell you that the saving for the examinees is unbelievably huge. For instance, if a shodan candidate wishes to take an in person exam he/she has two choices. One is to travel to a city of an examiner and the other is to invite an examiner to the candidate’s city. Remember these candidates are not located in UK or US. We are talking about the practitioners who live in the remote countries like South Africa, Argentina, Indonesia, etc. Just imagine the cost for the airfare, the hotel stay, the meals and other transportation. It could easily add up to $2,000 and possibly even more for a weekend visit. The cost will be much more if he invites an examiner to his city as the examiner will charge a teaching fee for each day he spends at the site. So, for a lone practitioner in a remote city who has almost no opportunity to participate in a local exam event, isn’t an online exam a life (or wallet) saving option?
* Not being there in person:
This limitation is real and true. However, I have already discussed how it can be overcome and compensated with the added syllabus requirements. In the 21st century with so many advanced communication tools, not being there is no longer a significant requirement nor a show stopper.
* Not formal: Informal
What makes anything formal? The examiners will wear their gis and an examinee is required to wear his/hers. If he/she takes an exam in the living room of his/her house, will this make the event informal and inappropriate? To take an exam does it have to be held at a dojo or a gym? How about the formality of the event itself? I have seen more than once an examiner was wearing a T shirt and casual attire instead of their gis. If the requirements for being formal include an ambient then I feel examiners should wear their gis. So, just because the distance between the examiner and the examinee is hundreds or thousands of miles away does not automatically make the exam event an informal one. It will be totally up to how an event is conducted and it can easily make it a very formal one by running the event just as we would in an in person exam.
* Less pressure: Text Anxiety Chalk Drawing
This may be partially true as the exam will be very private and exclusive. In an exam held in a dojo situation, there may be many of your senpai and kohai watching you. So, if you think this pressure is a must requirement for an exam then it is true that an online exam can be “easier”. However, if you consider again the reasons why you are taking an exam, you will realize that it is to judge your karate skill. Is it fair that in an “in person” exam an examinee performs very poorly because he/she gets stage fright? A shy person is always at a disadvantage and I do not consider that fair. Some may say that in a DVD recording method an examinee can retake the video if he/she makes a mistake or if he/she is not satisfied with his/her performance. This is true but once again we must consider the objective of an exam which is to determine the person’s skill level. As an examiner I will consider the performance in a DVD disk is the best performance of the examinee. If an examinee shows any flaws or mistakes, those will be counted as VERY negative. Also, you must consider the disadvantage of a DVD method that an examinee’s performance can be reviewed many times. Having a DVD recording the recorded performance can be and will be not only viewed repeatedly but also scrutinized very closely.
* Unethical touch up on the DVD performance:
I understand that some examinees can be mechanically skilled with the DVD recording and they may be able to speed up the performance. It is true that there is no indication on the screen if such an edition was implemented. If the speed is increased by 10% or so then I may not be able to detect it. If the speed increase is by more than 20% or 30% then an examinee’s performance will look very unnatural and it will be very easy to detect foul play. If such a thing is found, of course, this examinee will be immediately disqualified. I doubt anyone would be stupid enough to risk such a thing by doing this. Even if an examinee risks this by increasing the speed by say 10% what good will it be? The mere speed cannot correct or improve a technique. It will work only if a technique is correct to start with. If a technique is poor at a slow speed then a little faster speed will not make it any better. If there is a mistake then it will still be mistake even if it is at a higher speed. So, in the end I do not worry about this possibility.
* Possibility of identity dishonesty: Identity switch
This means an examinee will not perform the exam syllabus him or herself. He/she will have someone else who is supposed to be better to perform for him/her.It is like having a stant-man in a movie. I hope no one is that stupid to do something like this but it is indeed possible. So we ask the examinees to submit their photo with their exam application forms. When they pass their exam we will post the photos so everyone can see if a name and a face in the photo do not match. When they take their next exam they have to show up to take an “in person” exam so an identity switch is not really possible.
What else? One person on Facebook wrote that an online exam was disrespectful to Master Funakoshi and Master Asai. He was even worried that Master Asai would roll over in his grave. It would be wonderful if Master Asai would appear in my dream even if he would be unhappy. But I do not think that would be the case. As I wrote earlier it was Master Asai’s idea to do this in 2004 or 2005. As many of you may already know that Master Asai was a very innovative person. He created not only many new kata but also kihon and kumite systems. He even invented the kata and kumite for the practitioners in wheel chairs. An online teaching and examination were in his agenda and approved by him. How about Master Funakoshi? I believe he was as inventive and creative as Master Asai in his own way. He did not create the new kata but he changed many things about the kata such as the names and the techniques. I have written about this in the past so you can find those articles in my blog. He not only changed but also invented some key things such as the new stance, namely kokutsu dachi and the famous dojo kun. If he were alive today and if he understood what the internet can do, I am totally confident that he would approve this examination method.
Conclusion:
So, what do you think? I hope at least you learned the full scope of the program and my analysis on the feasibility of this examination method. Now it is up to you to decide if this option is a good thing for the remote area karate practitioners and as a result it is beneficial for the karate in general. As I stated at the beginning I am not here to convince anyone so I will respect your stance if you still believe this method is not, for whatever the reasons, good for karate. Regardless, I will continue to provide this option to our members who need this to get their rightful ranks recognized. I hope one day, not too far in the distant future, the online examination method will win the citizenship in the karate world. 

What is “complete”self-defense? 完全なる護身とは何ぞや?

 

self defense with a fist

Self-defense; these two words are very popular and we, as karate practitioners, are all familiar with this concept. So why am I writing an article about this, apparently not a mystery subject?

 

I am happy to explain the meaning of this subject because I feel something important is being missed. I have noticed that there is a big gap between what the general public believes and the full meaning of self-defense. What concerns me more is that I get a feeling that the majority of the karate practitioners also seem to accept the general belief of self defense. It is my grave fear that for this reason many karate practitioners may not be receiving the full potential benefits of true self defense from our daily karate training. I can almost hear the loud disagreement from the readers, “Hey what do you mean? Our practice include both bunkai and in depth self defense techniques. I can handle an attacker in a dark alley.”

Great……. but unfortunately, this very mind set is exactly what I am talking about and the reason for me to write this article. So, my claim is that one would be missing a lot if he believes the main purpose and objective of karate training is to defend oneself from an attacker in a dark alley or a bar or wherever else. I even have to say that one may be wasting their training if he cannot acquire the rest of the benefits. Yes, the term, “waste” that I used here may be a surprising word for the readers but I feel strongly enough to use this word. Do you realize that defending yourself against an attacker in a dark alley is only one side of a coin, so to speak, when you consider all the benefits you can get from total self defense? Without attaining the benefits from both sides of a coin, you could be “wasting” your karate training.

If we can define what “the total self-defense” really means then it will naturally reveal what is entailed for the “other side” of a coin. So, we should step back now and check out the standard definition of “self-defense”. The best way to get that is probably to check what is written in Wikipedia. Here is the link to this subject: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self_defense

Let me quote from the page here: (note: I took out the reference numbers, under bars and different font colors).

Self-defense or private defense is a countermeasure that involves defending oneself, one’s property, or the well-being of another from harm.The use of the right of self-defense as a legal justification for the use of force in times of danger is available in many jurisdictions, but the interpretation varies widely.

Very concise and short explanation. It adds some sub topics to explain further. It lists “Physical” and explains “Physical self-defense is the use of physical force to counter an immediate threat of violence.” I expected to see the section for “Mental” but it does not exist. One should come in the future. Then it lists “Unarmed” and “Armed”. Martial arts is included in “Unarmed”. In “Armed”, of course, they list many weapons. Wikipedia continues with other forms; “Avoidance”, “De-escalation” and “Personal alarms”. I am sure you understand what is entailed in the first two. The last one is interesting and it means a personal alarm; a small, hand-held device that emits strong, loud, high-pitched sounds. Most of you have this device with your car key.

self_defense_cell phoneWikipedia also includes “Self defense education” and “Legal aspects”. Both are interesting especially the second one (California and a few other states consider nunchaku as an illegal weapon) but I will not go into this here.                               

You can summarize that “self-defense” means the idea of defending oneself (including family and protecting material things that belong to him or them) from other people. I suspect many of the practitioners must have started karate training with a hope of learning self-defense abilities. There is nothing wrong with that and we should keep this mind set in our karate training too. It is a shame that you have to watch out for not only the criminals and strangers but also, unfortunately, we need to include friends, relatives and spouses. In addition to the physical attacks, we also need to consider the verbal attacks and and other attacks that affect us psychologically, emotionally and even financially. I am sure I do not need to go into the details as all of us are familiar with the various situations and cases that require some measures to defend ourselves. I strongly recommend de-escalation techniques and the passive self-defense tools (such as alarm bells) that can be carried or learned. There are many specific programs such as self defense for women, children, and senior citizens and even against the verbal attacks. I respect them and there is definitely a place for these programs. I am skeptical; however, if karate ability could help in a real life and death situation, especially if an attacker has a lethal weapon such as a knife or a gun. I prefer to put more value and emphasis on some other ability you could gain in karate training such as alertness and confidence rather than the actual karate techniques to fight an assailant. Staying calm and using a common sense approach tends to result in a better outcome when you face a mugger or a robber.                                         

Unless you live in a slum area or a third world country where robbery with a gun is very common, a possibility of facing a robber with a gun may happen only once in your life time. If you wish to subdue such an attacker I would not recommend karate training at all. I suggest that you hand over your wallet or even a car to stay safe. None of the worldly possession is worth your life. However, if you do not wish to hand over your wallet or a car then I suggest you carry a gun. I personally oppose gun ownership but that is another subject. Though this is a controversial subject and much can be discussed about it, I will proceed to the main subject of this article.

So what I have discussed above is only one side of the complete self-dense issue and that there is another side. I consider this flip side to be more important and it must receive more attention. The concept I will share with you is not that difficult or foreign to the readers. However, it is rarely considered as a part of self-defense by most of the public and unfortunately by many of the karate practitioners as well. OK that is enough of an introduction, what is the other side? Which is our biggest enemy? The answer is simple it is ourselves. Yes, that is correct, ourselves. What we need to do here is that we must shift our attention from an attacker in a dark alley to the hazards and incidents caused by our own actions. To complete our self-defense we must have the strategy to prevent them. There are two major areas of the self-caused hazards. We will examine each of them and we will check why they are ignored I will then present what can be done about them.

The first one is both physical and mental health (there is a spiritual aspect also but we will focus on the first two in this article) aspects. This is a big subject and we will take a look at it closer in the first part of this article. The other area involves the self inflicted accidents including automobile collisions, slipping/falling, sports related accidents, and other accidents.

Let’s face it, we are more dangerous to ourselves than a mugger in a dark alley or a drunk in a bar. We hurt ourselves more frequently and possibly bring more damage to ourselves. They can be prevented or avoided and that would complete our self-defense. Even though the problems from this side are more pervasive and common, yet they are rarely considered as the matters of self defense that need and can be managed. Further we do not tie karate training and discipline to this concept.

HealthyLiving it feels goodLet me start with the health subject. I am sure you agree that health is an important subject. At the same time, you may believe that sickness comes from outside like a mugger in a dark alley and we are the helpless victims. Or you may also believe that we have no control over illness and catching a cold once a year is normal and cannot be helped. You may not agree with me but I believe that most of sickness is self inflicted or self caused. Though most of the cases it is not intentional in some cases intentional without recognizing it. Statistically shown that most sick calls to the work place are reported on Mondays.

Once we get seriously ill we may have to spend many days in a hospital which is very inconvenient and can also it be very costly. We know this acutely, then why not spend more time and attention in preventing or avoiding the sickness? Yes, if you go to your dojo three times per week then you are doing a positive thing for your health but this is only a start and not enough. I have written an article about 7 tips for the good health in the past. I described my ideas and recommendations to make you healthy or healthier. I request that you read that article to complete your understanding of this subject. There are two parts to health; physical and mental. These two parts are closely entwined and integrated thus they should be considered as the two sides of the same coin. However, for this article, I will discuss them separately and reserve the integration part for an article in the future.

Let us start with the physical side of the health.

When we talk about our body we must be aware of five major flows in our body. You know them but how often do we pay enough attention to their functions and affect to our health? Probably not too often.

Here they are;Brain waves

  1. Blood stream

2. Breathing (air)

3. Digestive system (food)

4. Excretion (bowel, urine and sweat)

5. Ki flow, nerve system flow (brain waves)

I am aware that there are other flow systems in our body such as the body temperature, the hormone level and the heart beat (pulse) but they are kept fairly constant so I did not include them in the list despite their smaller scale of flows and rhythms.

I do not think I need to explain about each item of the five items above. I suspect that you are familiar with all of them, except possibly for Ki in #5. If you do not believe Ki exists, just consider the electrical static flow that can be shown as brain waves or electrocardiography normally called as EKG or ECG, used to determine the heart problems. Here is a Wikipedia page for electrocardiography: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electroencephalography to learn more about it.

The point I want to make here is that to keep our body healthy we must keep the flows of all these system smooth and continuous. The easiest one to control and manage is breathing. If it is suspended for more than five minutes you know for sure what the consequence will be. You must breathe several times per minute to stay alive. The other is blood system. Your heart pumps diligently without stopping all through your life. If it ever stops it means the end of your life. We eat food three times every day and go to the toilet daily. As you think about them you can see and possibly feel the flows in your body and hopefully you agree that they are important to your health.

Ying yangBy keeping the smooth and fluid circulation of those five flows it will contribute greatly to your health. This concept is well expressed by an Asian wisdom of yin yang 陰陽 (left). One must know that a slower flow is better than a fast one. I have mentioned in another article about the deep breathing (slow breathing) and its importance and its good effect for the heart and health in general. To have a smooth digestive system naturally moderate your eating and making a habit of eating at certain times are important. If you eat too much your body would tell you with certain symptoms like heart burn or extra secretion of stomach acid.

The excretion part of the flow is not a pleasant topic and many people tend to ignore it but it is extremely important for our health. Constipation is a very common problem among women. Correct diet with natural fibers will solve most of the cases. Popular fast foods certainly does not help this trend. Regarding the last item, Ki, you can probably understand better if I tell you that a meditation will help you with your emotion and peaceful mind. Meditation provides the harmonizing and the calming effect to the brain waves. I have also mentioned that deep breathing will help with the calming of the mind. They are all connected and tied together. When you observe the whole system and understand how they work, it will all make sense to you.

healthy eatingFor your health there are several things that are recommended such as correct diet, proper exercise, getting enough rest and sleep, taking supplements, and regulated life style (time to get up and a time to go to sleep, and time to eat three meals). I will not go into these items as it can expand this article to a book. I will cover these items when I write a new article on the health matter. In addition to the recommended matters, there are things we must avoid or minimize.Fast food kills They are smoking, alcohol consumption, unhealthy diet (soft drink, processed food and Mac diet), overweight, an irregular life style, and there are many more that I will not list in this article.

If you are truly interested in complete self-defense then you would want to know all the details and you will implement them. By doing all that are recommended and avoiding those that are not healthy you will strengthen the immune system in your body. Even if you encounter the flu virus you will not catch a cold as your immune system will take care of it. You may be exposed to extra pollens in the spring but you will not suffer from hay fever because your well functioning body system will not over react to the environment. On the other hand, by doing the opposite such as poor eating habits with unhealthy diet, smoking, drinking too much alcohol, being overweight, etc., your body’s harmony gets unbalanced and your immune system becomes weakened. With this condition, many different viruses can affect your system. You will catch a cold every winter, you will have an allergy every spring. In addition, you may not be able to sleep well at night or youd would get an upset stomach after each meal.

You may say, “OK these may be good hints and ideas but what do they have to do with our karate training?” The key words here are “will power” and the discipline in our life. We learn discipline in our dojo and now we must expand it to our daily life and all the things we do every day. This is exactly what Funakoshi was trying to tell us in his Niju-kun 二十訓; “Karate goes beyond the dojo” and “Apply the way of karate to all things. Therein lies its beauty.” Please ask yourself if you are applying your will power and discipline that you learned in the dojo into your daily life.

Niju kunAnother person may ask and complain, “You listed so many things to do and what not to do. I can understand that we must not smoke and stay away from a Big Mac, but you talk about taking supplements, immune system, brain waves and so many other things. Aren’t there too many for a regular practitioner to cover them all?” Yes, if you try to cover them in one day or even in one week, maybe you cannot cover them all. You need to expand your time to months and years then you can cover them all. When you talk about the other self-defense you think about many different situations and conditions. I am sure most of you have seen the self defense demonstrations where they exhibit many different situations including being grabbed in many different ways, arm or arms being twisted, sitting down, against different weapons, etc. You do not become an expert in all those situations in a day or a week or even after training for a year. You must practice for many years before you can reach that level. Then, why not with the flip side of the self defense? You have much more time when you are outside of the dojo so there is no excuse for not having thetime. All you need is a desire and commitment to complete your self-defense and to become super healthy.

In health there is another aspect however, called mental health. The feeling of happiness comes from your mind. If you have a negative mind or attitude you tend to be unhappy and dissatisfied. All of us are under some type of stress in our life, of course, and if we succumb to a big stress then that could cause you to have an illness. As I mentioned earlier, the physical body and the mind are tightly connected and they influence each other.Laughter therapy article photo It is proven medically that your attitude or mind set affects your immune system. In my article on health I have mentioned several of the alternative treatments to cancer. One was laughter therapy and the other was music therapy. I will not go into the details of these treatments here. You can read my other article to learn about them if you are interested.

 

Love and affection are important to keep your health. All of us agree that our family is important and a happy family gives us much affection. I am blessed as I have three sons. A member of a karate dojo learns not only the respect but also comradeship between the members. We refer to our dojo as a karate family and the relationship built there is so strong the friendship can last many decades. The doctors recommend that a single elderly person should have a pet especially a dog to keep his health. It is very true and statistically proven that the life expectancy of an older person with a living spouse is longer than the one who lost his or her partner. As I mentioned earlier that physical and mental parts are closely entwined. If your body is healthy then it is easier to feel happy. If you keep the positive attitude your immune system will stay strong and it will sustain your good health.

So, karate discipline, the spirit of Oss or the “can do” attitude indeed does help in your quest to the super health. Your teacher may have told you in the past that you will not be defeated until you give up. Funakoshi also told us in one of his Nijukun, “Do not think of winning. Think, rather, of not losing.” So, we must not lose to the negative attitude, stress, bad news, sorrows, etc. It is natural to have the emotional ups and downs but with your will power you can make the waves as small as possible. If you have trained very hard in your dojo then you will be calm at a tournament match, at a dan examination or even in front of a mugger. The same thing can be said about the mind training for your mental health. A true karate expert will not get extremely angry or be defeated in sadness. Moderation is the key word in the mind of the karate experts.

The second area where you need to pay attention to in your complete self-defense is accidents. It includes slipping/falling, vehicle accidents (car, motor cycle, bicycle, etc), incidents in sports activities and even the small things like cutting your face from shaving.

You may believe an unfortunate accident like slipping and falling from a staircase or a car accident happens because you are simply unlucky and it cannot be helped. I disagree. By applying your karate expertise you are able to prevent and avoid almost all accidents. You cannot call yourself an expert if you cannot prevent those accidents. Though you may not like to hear this, but you failed in one of the key aspects of self-defense. My statement is once again very controversial and it may sound extreme. I can almost hear the voice of a disbeliever, but I can confidently tell you that you will be able to avoid almost all accidents I listed above once you achieve the true martial arts mind and ability. In other words, you need to take your karate training outside of the dojo and apply the complete self-defense mind set to your daily activities.

senior falling from stepsThe most dangerous things for the senior citizens are not the muggers or the purse snatchers. What they have to protect themselves in each and everyday are the car accidents and falling. I have witnessed the seriousness that the falling of an aged person can be by my mother’s experience. She was probably one of the most active and healthy persons in Japan when she was in her 70’s. She practiced Yoga and Tai Chi daily and she looked 20 years younger than her age. When she hit 80 I truly believed she would live to 100. Unfortunately she passed four years ago and she was only 88. She fell when she was 83 and broke her arm, then she fell again when she was 85 and this time she broke her hip. After this accident her health went down very quickly. She was over confident as she was carrying shopping bags when she fell thus she could not fall correctly.. I asked her to use a cane when she walked but she refused to do so. She walked without a cane but very slowly which reduced her exercise and her Tai Chi training. At her age I wished she was more humble and had been more cautious about her safety. But you know how a determined a mother can be; she was a very independent and self sufficient person so no one could tell her what to do.

Let me share another story to show you the common mentality of the senior citizens. I teach a class at a senior citizen’s hall in San Jose. The management requested me last year to talk to its members about self-defense. They offered me a free lunch with them so I took the offer. There were more than 20 members who were older than 60 years old (one was over 90 and she was in her wheel chair). I started to talk about the most dangerous thing for the senior citizens, the same things I described above such as correct diet, car accidents and falling. They stopped me even before I got through the first 10 minutes of my talk. They said, “We are not interested in those things. We want to know if you can teach us a karate technique to fend off the muggers and the purse snatchers.” So I told them, “OK, I teach you a good karate technique for that situation. “ I continued, “When you meet a mugger, just give him your wallet. If you encounter a purse snatcher, do not resist let him have it.” The audience protested after a short laugh. They asked, “Is this a joke?” and I replied, “No, this is not a joke. This is what I truly recommend.” They looked at each other then said, “Common, you are a karate sensei. You can teach us a real karate technique.” So, I replied, “Fine, the true karate technique is not to get into that situation. The prevention is the key. Drive extremely carefully or take public transportation whenever possible. Do not walk in a street alone and avoid shopping at night.” They did not like my answer at all. At this point I asked them a question, “Who takes medication of some kind daily?” All of them raised their hands. I continued with my question, “How many different kinds?” The answers ranged from one kind to more than a dozen different pills. My next question was, “Do you know what are in those pills? And do you know exactly what those pills are doing to your body?” None of them could answer. One guy said, “Hey, these are prescribed by my doctor and I trust him.” I realized that this is the common attitude of the audience. They are not taking charge of their health matters. They go to a doctor so they believe they are taking care of their health. They say ok to all the shots and pills. The doctors love these patients as this is where they make their money. I am sure most of the doctors are prescribing those medications believing that they are good for the patients. At the same time, it is also true that medications are over prescribed in most of the country. I am not guessing, it is documented. Here is an article by Enlighten America, “US Health Statistics: Americans Most Over-Prescribed Country in the World”:

http://www.enlightenamerica.com/files/Over-Prescribed.pdf

Read it yourself if you do not believe me. If you Google “over prescription” you can find 218 million results on this subject and many of them tell you the facts and the statistics.

My last message to the senior citizen members was “Take charge of their health that is facing them daily”. I do not know how many of them really heard my message but they realized that one karate teacher was not thinking of kicking and punching when he was talking about “self-defense”.

How about the younger people? I say an automobile accident is the most dangerous and likely accident one can expect in the modern world. I wrote an article about this, “Jidousha Dojo (Automobile Dojo)”. In it I described in detail how to avoid the accidents and even traffic tickets. For the younger generations falling may not be a real threat but cutting your face while shaving may be a daily irritation. I also wrote an article about this, “The art of perfect shaving”. If you are interested you can find these articles in my blog (www.asaikarate.com).
Your body is more capable

 

 

Conclusion:

Sun Tzu, a Chinese military general, strategist, and philosopher of the 5th century BC., is best known for his book, “The Art of War”. His famous quote is “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles”. He is right. If we know ourselves then we can avoid almost all illness and avoid almost all accidents. By doing them you can finally complete your true self-defense training.

 

Was bedeutet der Begriff „Sensei 先生“?

 

Portrait sitting and seriousWir wissen alle, dass Sensei als „Ausbilder“, oder „Lehrer“ übersetzt wird. Diese Übersetzung ist korrekt, also besteht darin kein Problem.
Ich bekomme einige Fragen bezüglich der Qualifikationen, welche einen Sensei ausmachen. Hier scheint es einen unerwähnten, oder unerklärten Bereich zu geben, welcher für Rätsel im Karatetraining sorgt. Ich mag Rätsel nicht, deshalb werde ich mein Verständnis für den Begriff „Sensei“ mit Ihnen teilen. Ich hoffe, dass es Ihnen bei der Beurteilung, oder auf der Suche nach einem Lehrer helfen wird.

Lassen Sie uns zuerst die Schriftzeichen für „Sensei“ betrachten (先生), welche uns zu einem besseren Verständnis dieses Begriffes verhelfen könnten. Vielleicht erinnern Sie sich an unsere Betrachtung des Zeichens „先“ in dem Wort „Senpai“: Es bedeutet „fortgeschritten“, „voraus“, „älter“, „zuerst“ usw. Aber was ist mit „生“? Dieses bedeutet „Geburt“, oder „Leben“. Insofern bedeutet es wörtlich, dass jemand früher geboren wurde. In anderen Worten heißt es, dass dies eine ältere Person ist, als Sie selbst. Es verrät jedoch nichts über das Alter, oder die Fähigkeiten dieser Person. Interessant, nicht wahr? Die japanische Auffassung besteht also darin, dass man von denjenigen lernt, die älter sind als man selbst, da sie angeblich mehr Erfahrung haben und daher sind sie weiser. Diese Auffassung dürfte nicht allzu sehr überraschend sein, wenn Sie sich an die japanische Vorstellung des zeitlichen Vorranges erinnern, unabhängig davon, ob Sie damit einverstanden sind, oder nicht.

Nun sagen Sie: „OK, ich bin 50 Jahre alt und mein Ausbilder erst 25, also genau halb so alt wie ich. Kann er mein Lehrer sein?“
Um diese Frage zu beantworten, müssen wir die Auffassung von Zeit auf Karate-Verhältnisse umstellen. Nehmen wir an er hatte vor zehn Jahren mit Karate begonnen und Sie erst vor fünf Jahren. Er ist Ihr Senpai im Karate. Wenn er regelmäßig in Ihrem Dojo unterrichtet, dann ist er Ihr Sensei. In einem Dojo zählt der Altersunterschied nicht und der zeitliche Vorrang hängt davon ab, wann man mit Karate angefangen hat. Ob dieser Sensei reif genug ist, um geachtet zu werden und in der Lage ist, Sie auf einem Weg im Leben zu führen, ist eine andere Geschichte.

Haori hakama seiza

Eine weitere Person fragte mich: „Mein Lehrer ist erst Nidan. Ich dachte, dass ein echter Lehrer Yondan, oder höher sein sollte. Als was sollte ich ihn nun ansehen?“
Meine Antwort ist: „Er ist Ihr Sensei.“
Jeder, der im Unterricht vorne steht und diesen leitet, gilt als Lehrer, unabhängig von seinem Grad. Ob dieser qualifiziert ist, zu unterrichten (durch ein Zertifikat berechtigt), oder nicht, ist eine andere Frage. Außerdem macht eine Lizenz zum Unterrichten nicht sofort einen guten Sensei aus. Ich kenne einen Nidan, der diesen Grad seit 30 Jahren trägt. Sein Training und seine Unterrichtserfahrung übersteigen womöglich die eines jungen Yondan. Ich habe auch schlecht geplante Anweisungen von älteren Leitern (7. und 8. Dan) gesehen. Der entscheidende Punkt besteht darin, dass der Lehrer begeistert genug ist, um das Wissen und die Kenntnisse, die er besitzt, zu teilen. Wenn Sie etwas von ihm lernen können, dann ist er Ihr Sensei. Wenn Sie kein Bisschen von ihm lernen, dann können Sie jederzeit das Dojo verlassen und sich ein anderes Dojo, oder einen anderen Sensei suchen.

 

Wir erwarten von unserem Sensei mehr zu sein, als jemand, der uns nur beibringt wie man schlägt und tritt. Das ist wahr, denn der Karate-Do ist mehr als nur Schlagen und Treten. Sie haben Glück, wenn Ihr Sensei Ihnen mehr als das beibringen kann. Können wir das von einem Sensei erwarten, der 25, oder 30 Jahre alt ist? Manche könnten sehr reif sein und viele Jahre des Trainings hinter sich haben, doch die Meisten davon sind zu jung und ihnen mangelt es an diesen Eigenschaften. Haben Sie also keine falschen Erwartungen von einem jungen Sensei. Seine minimalen Verpflichtungen als Übungsleiter bestehen darin in der Lage zu sein Karate-Techniken beibringen zu können. Das bedeutet, dass er diese Techniken zeigen und erklären kann. Auf der anderen Seite besitzen nicht alle fortgeschrittenen und älteren Lehrer diese Eigenschaften und Qualifikationen. Reife und Weisheit kommen nicht unbedingt mit dem Alter. Viele von ihnen verlieren ihre Form. Wenn ein Übungsleiter übergewichtig und nicht in Form ist, um eine Technik vorzuführen, dann betrachte ich diesen nicht als verantwortungsvoll.

Portrait 4

Mir gefällt das, was Musashi vor einigen Jahrhunderten sagte. Er sagte, dass jeder, außer ihm selbst, ein Lehrer für ihn ist. Ich folge dieser Idee. Meine eigentlichen Lehrer (Sugano und Asai) sind tot und beerdigt. Ich glaube aber, dass mein jetziger Lehrer jeder ist, der in meinem Leben auftaucht, egal ob er eine Kampfkunst ausübt, oder nicht. Ich möchte etwas von jeder Person und allen Erfahrungen in meinem Leben lernen (sei es gut, oder schlecht). Das ist meine Philosophie und ich erwarte von den Lesern nicht, dass sie mit dieser einverstanden sind, oder sie akzeptieren.

 

 

(Fazit)

Wie Sie sich Ihren Sensei aussuchen ist Ihnen überlassen. Jeder von uns hat unterschiedliche Erwartungen und Zielsetzungen im Training. Ich hoffe, dass Sie einen Sensei haben, mit dem Sie zufrieden sind. Wenn nicht, dann hoffe ich, dass Sie einen finden, mit dem Sie zufrieden sein werden und von dem Sie eine Menge lernen können.

Wenn Sie ein Sensei in einem Dojo sind, dann ist die minimale Anforderung an Sie die korrekte Lehre der Karate-Techniken. Das bedeutet, dass Sie in Form sein sollten, um die Techniken, die Sie unterrichten, nicht nur erklären, sondern auch vorführen zu können. Ergänzend dazu hoffe ich, dass Sie mehr als nur die Karate-Techniken aufbieten. Viele Ihrer Schüler erwarten dies von Ihnen.

 

 

Optional disclaimer about the genders:
Yokota-Sensei verwendete in dem englischen Original die geschlechtsunterscheidenden Begriffe „he/she“ im Bezug auf den Lehrer. Im Englischen ist das machbar, doch im Deutschen wird es durch die zahlreichen Artikel und Wortendungen zusätzlich erschwert und führt zu einem schwer lesbaren Text mit vielen Schrägstrichen und Klammern. Ich habe mich in der Übersetzung dazu entschlossen, den Begriff „Lehrer“ auf das männliche Geschlecht zu reduzieren, was keineswegs zu einer Dezimierung des weiblichen Geschlechtes führen, sondern lediglich dem Zweck der Textkürzung und Lesbarkeit dienen sollte.

Why does Asai sensei’s butt stick out? 浅井先生、骨盤の位置の謎

 

Asai kiba dachi 1When I posted a photo of Master Asai (right) on Facebook, someone commented that Master Asai’s butt sticks out. The same person commented that Master Kase (France JKA) also had the same posture. I cannot write about Master Kase as I know almost nothing about him and his karate. But I believe I can present my theory on Master Asai. I will, hopefully, be able to shed some light on why he stands that way. I believe there is a good explanation for his posture. I have studied Asai karate for over 10 years and had a very close training relationship with him for the last few years of his life, between 2003 and 2006, the year he passed.

 

Before I go into my theory, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce Tetsuhiko Asai. Of course, most of the readers already know who Master Asai was. He was a world renowned Shotokan master who traveled around the world and awed everyone with his almost magical techniques. I am well aware of his abilities but I want to speak about Master Asai because I have a compelling reason. This will also explain as to why I started my organization, ASAI. Some people have blamed me for taking advantage of his fame by naming the organization using his name. On the surface indeed it does appear so. Hopefully by reading my explanation the readers will understand that I have a much deeper motivation to keep his name and his karate alive. Let me explain…without any exaggeration he saved my karate and in essence my karate life (I will explain the details later). I owe him so much and now it is my turn to pay it back to the karate world since I cannot do so to him. It became my conviction to spread and share the karate I learned from Masai_logoaster Asai. As long as I live I do not want anyone to forget about Master Asai. I want the name of Asai to be remembered. This is the exact reason why I created the organization, ASAI (Asai Shotokan Association Interantional). We are not an organization that just happened to pick up a famous name or to be part of a fad, we are an organization that intends to do the following:

 

  • Give everyone access to the Asai Karate System

  • Provide a home for karate ronins

  • Make the dan grade examination available to all organizations and styles

  • Unite all karate practitioners regardless of the organizational differences

  • Improve the karate skills of all members

  • Preserve the discipline of Dojo Kun

  • Pass the legacy of Master Asai on to the next generation

 

Let’s look at the history of Master Asai from his birth to his last day. I could write something from my memory but I think it is more accurate and complete to quote from the page of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetsuhiko_Asai

Here is the direct quote from the Asai page (I took out the reference numbers, under bar and different font colors):

 

Asai was born on June 7, 1935, in Ehime Prefecture (on the island of Shikoku), Japan. He was the eldest of seven children. As a boy, he trained in sumo. In addition, his father (a policeman) taught him judo, kendo and sojutsu. When he was 12 years old, he witnessed a fight between a boxer and a karateka (practitioner of karate); the karate combatant was able to disable his opponent with a kick, and Asai was impressed.

 

Karate career

Kanazwa & Asai Sensei In 1958, Asai graduated from Takushoku University, where he had trained in karate under Gichin Funakoshi, Masatoshi Nakayama, and Teruyuki Okazaki. He trained hard and was allowed to sleep in the karate dormitory. At Nakayama’s recommendation, he entered the JKA instructor training program and graduated from the course three years later.Asai won the JKA championship in kumite (sparring) in 1961, and in kata (patterns) in 1963. He was overall JKA champion in 1961, having come in first in kumite and second in kata that year. Asai became the first instructor to introduce karate to Taiwan. Through the second half of the 1960s, he taught karate in Hawaii for five years, among his students included Kenneth Funakoshi.

Over the years, Asai advanced within the JKA, and was appointed as Technical Director. Asai demo jumpFollowing Nakayama’s death, the JKA experienced political troubles and divided; Asai and colleagues (including Keigo Abe and Mikio Yahara) formed one group, while Nakahara Nobuyuki and colleagues formed another group—which in 1999 was officially recognized as the JKA. In 2000, he founded the International Japan Martial Arts Karate Asai-ryu and the Japan Karate Shoto-Renmei. Apart from the ranking of 10th dan in Shotokan karate, he also held the ranks of 3rd dan in jodo, 2nd dan in judo, 2nd dan in jukendo, and 2nd dan in kendo.

 

Later life

Reflecting on relations between JKA instructors who had graduated from Takushoku University, Asai said, “We all pretty much get on nowadays, contrary to our official stances and federations. In saying that, some of us don’t, but isn’t that life? … I am happy to say that most of the deep rooted rivalry has gone amongst my peers. I think that the passing of Mr. Enoeda, Mr. Kase, Mr. Tabata and Mr. Shoji and so forth has brought many of us back to reality. Obviously this is not limited to Takushoku University, it is all about us international karate pioneers getting very old.”

Asai’s health deteriorated with age, and he underwent liver surgery on February 10, 2006.He died at 2:50 PM on August 15, 2006, leaving behind his wife, Keiko Asai, and their daughter, Hoshimi Asai. More than 2,000 people attended his funeral, which was held on September 1, 2006, at Gokokuji Temple in Tokyo. Asai received the rank of 10th dan posthumously from the JKS, and was succeeded as President of the IJKA by his widow. Since that time, IJKA in Europe has apparently separated from K. Asai’s IJKA. In 2013, Asai Shotokan Association International (ASAI) was formed by a former student of Asai, Kousaku Yokota, to teach Asai’s style of Shotokan. http://asaikarate.com/

 

In the past I have already written about how Master Asai saved my karate life. I suspect that many readers may have not read it yet so I would like to share my short explanation here.

I had been a lifetime member of the JKA and I was a godan in the mid 90’s after having practiced shotokan karate for more than 30 years and my age was approaching 50. At that moment I keenly felt that I had reached my plateau with my karate training and I could not find any challenge or pleasure in any further training. I visited different senseis and went to seminars given by the masters such as Kanazawa and Tanaka but none of them could inspire me. As a result I decided to retire from karate in 1997. This was a big move as I had always believed karate was part of my life. But I decided to do so because I could not find a way to improve myself any more. So, I decided to study Ki and hoped I could find a solution in this art.                                                                                                                             

Nishino Ki

 I found a job in Tokyo where I lived for 2 and a half years and during this period I did not wear my gi, not even once. I entered a famous Ki school called Nishino ryu Ki dojo in Shibuya. To make a long story short I could not find my answer in Ki training. I came back to California in 2000 and decided to teach karate in San Jose. At that time I had already given up on improving my own karate. In 2001 Asai sensei was giving a seminar in the area and I participated. Of course, I knew Asai sensei from my JKA time and had met him several times in the past. I also had witnessed, with my own eyes, the impressive demonstration he performed in the JKA’s All Japan Championship (1981 and 1982). But until I participated in this seminar in 2001 I only considered him as one of the shotokan famous instructors and nothing more. This seminar event happened 5 years before his passing so he was in his mid 60’s. By observing his techniques and moves very closely I was simply dumbfounded by his agility, flexibility and speed. I knew immediately that he was the answer to my question of “how can I improve my karate when I am in my 60’s?” It took me a year before I finally left the JKA and became a follower of Master Asai. My close association with Master Asai was only five years before he left us all too young. He knew so much and I just did not have enough time or occasions to ask all the questions I had. I can never claim that I learned all of his techniques. He knew more than 100 katas and I have only learned 25 Asai katas. Despite this I feel I learned enough that I can share this knowledge and the techniques with all shotokan practitioners especially the advanced (technically and age wise) karateka. His karate was different and my karate became different from the standard shotokan karate. It is different because I feel my moves are more natural and smoother. I guess I have to ask the readers to watch me either in person or in the video performance to see if they think that this is true. I am convinced that the benefits to the karateka of all styles and all ages are great. I can never replace or duplicate all of Asai sensei’s techniques but it is my lifetime mission to share what I know and what I can do. This year I am 66 years old and I plan to do this for at least the next 34 years (God willing) so I will be around and so will ASAI. OK that is enough about my karate life.

 

If you know Master Asai’s karate you agree that his karate was not only great but it was different. You can see him in action and right away you will see the definite differences. His moves and techniques are more circular and smoother compared to the linear and somewhat ridged techniques that many Shotokan practitioners exhibit. You may ask “why his karate was so different?” this is quite difficult to explain. How did he develop his karate? The answer to this question will give you a hint to the original question regarding his butt position.

Demo shuto uchiHe became the Technical Director of the JKA in the 80’s but before that time, there was a very important stage of his karate life, specifically between 1965 and 1975. The JKA had dispatched him overseas to teach karate starting in Hawaii. After completing his assignment in Hawaii he went to Taiwan in late 60’s. I heard that Master Asai had some exposure to other styles of karate and even to some kung fu styles while he was in Hawaii. He was always looking for something new to try and to learn so it is easy to guess that the diversified martial arts found in the islands of Hawaii would have given him many opportunities. However, when he was sent to Taiwan he got into an intensive training with a kung fu (White Crane) style. He became a close friend with a kung fu expert, Master Chen whose sister would eventually become his wife. Master Asai was already a karate expert so Master Chen did not treat him like a student but a martial arts partner. I heard from his widow that they exchanged their techniques all the time whenever they met. Master Chen would show a new or an interesting technique one day then Master Asai would master that technique almost instantaneously which impressed Master Chen greatly. Obviously he received a lot of influence from White Crane kung fu.                                                                                                                                 

OK so you may ask “what has this got to do with the butt of Asai sensei?” I believe there is a strong relationship and let me share this new idea with you.

There is an interesting finding I made as I did research into the martial arts of Japan and China. What I found is that there is a difference in the pelvis positioning between the two categories. In other words, among the Japanese martial arts the correct pelvis position is to tucked up or the tail bone to point downward. On the other hand, in the Chinese martial arts the pelvis is positioned upward or pushed out. The visible difference is minor but if you examine closely you can see the difference.

Let’s look at the photos of Judo, Kendo and Iaido.

Judo Kendo sonkyoIaido

 

 

 

 

 

 What do you see? Can you detect the pelvis positioning? Especially in the Judo photo (far left), we can see the tucked under pelvis position. By the way, this photo is one of the rare historical ones of Jigoro Kano, the founder of Kodokan Judo (on the right, taken early in the 20th century).

Sumo 2Not convinced? Look at the two photos of Sumo. Sumo 1Even though those sumo wrestlers are big and “fat” their pelvis position is down and tucked under. I put fat om quotation marks because the fat contents of many of the sumo wrestlers is much lower than we think and they are medically not fat. Regardless of this point, I hope you can see the pelvis position better as they are without any clothes except for their mawashi.

 

Next, let’s look at the photos from the Chinese martial arts and see if we can detect any differences. Here are three typical kung fu photos that are in horse stance or a similar stance.

Kung fu stance 2

Kung fu stanceKung fu hips

 

 

 

 

By checking the pelvis positioning of these female performers do you agree that all three are sticking their pelvis backward and not tucked in? Of course, I showed you only a few photos so you may not see the clear differences between the Japanese and the Chinese. However, the difference is a common knowledge among the senior martial artists in Japan. I am afraid not enough research has been done yet to investigate why there is a difference in the basic concept of the pelvis positioning between the two groups.

 

Now what I dare to present here is my hypothesis for the difference. The base of the Japanese martial arts is kenjutsu, the sword fencing. Unlike some of the light weight kung fu swords a Japanese katana is quite heavy. If you happen to practice Iaido you know what I am talking about. Obviously, it will be very difficult to swing it around quickly let alone jump with it. Therefore, the fighting style of the samurai was almost with no moving around. The posture was very straight with their legs almost fully extended and the backbone straight to support the weight of the sword. You may have seen this in a Japanese samurai movie in which two samurai face each other in a duel with almost no moving until the decisive attack at the end. In this situation, it makes sense to keep the pelvis tucked under to support the body weight and to assist the forward movement (remember the first move in Bassai dai?). Judo and Sumo are also the same. In those arts kicking is prohibited and there are almost no jumping techniques in these arts. They need to stand firmly on the floor rather than jumping around thus the tucked under pelvis gives more balance and stability in their stance. On the other hand, in kung fu, especially the Northern styles there are a lot of kicks and jumps. To jump and to rotate the body quickly from the low kiba dachi stance I find it easier to do so with the pelvis pushed back. Please try it and see if what I am saying makes sense.

Another thing I need to bring to your attention is the difference we see in zenkutsu dachi between karate and kung fu. The first two photos are from kung fu and the last one on the right is by Yoshiharu Osaka, JKA instructor. You can clearly see the pelvis is pushed backward in kung fu front stance while Osaka sensei had definitely tucked in his pelvis.

Kung fu zenkutsuShaolin kung fu 2  JKA前屈立ち

 

 

 

This again comes from the difference in the concept or the use of the stance. In other words, in kung fu the moves are not always to the forward but can be to the side, back or in rotation. As you can see with the very Shotokan technique of Osaka it is a strong oi zuki going straight forward. For this move tucking the pelvis in and aligning the fist with the rear foot with the straight backbone bring the most powerful technique. Karate punch is “ikken hissatsu” or one punch one kill while kung fu attacks are multiple and each punch or an attack may not be a “sure kill” technique.

As a bonus, I will share with you another interesting point. Take a look at the photos below.

 Shorin ryu inclineShorinryu bassai

 

 

 

 

 

The first two photos are from Okinawan Shorin ryu. Master Chibana, the first photo, doing Bassai is somewhat keeping his pelvis tucked, but the second one shows that the pelvis is positioned more toward the back. Regardless of the pelvis position, you notice that both of them are leaning forward similar to the kung fu practitioners shown earlier. The next two photos, third and the fourth, are showing a technique from Bassai dai. They are by Shito ryu and by Shotokan respectively.

バッサイ大糸東流バッサイ大

You can assume that the original Okinawan karate kept some of the Chinese influence but when karate was introduced to Japan it changed with the influence of the Japanese martial arts. In the Japanese martial arts such as kendo and even in karate we are taught to have our upper body always straight and never to crouch forward or lean to the sides. I suspect the influence to our karate in our posture came mainly from Jujitsu and Kendo. The posture of Judo practitioners has changed drastically after it was inducted in Olympics in 1964 but that is a different subject that is not related here directly so I will not discuss it here though it is a very interesting subject to think about.

So, you can probably easily guess what my theory for Master Asai’s posture is. You probably want to conclude that the kung fu influence he received in Taiwan changed his posture. However, maybe to your surprise my theory is slightly different. Master Asai was known for his Tenshin (body rotation) techniques but at the same time he was known for high and low techniques. Low means a technique he ducked for example under a kick. High means he jumps around the opponent and hit him while he is still in the air (see the photo below).

 Asai Tobi

 

I do not believe he learned those techniques from White Crane kung fu or any other styles. The characteristics of White Crane kung fu is the open hand techniques and whipping techniques (coming from the fast wing flapping). I can easily suspect that he took those techniques in and made them into his signature techniques. However, jumping and ducking under, I believe, were his own creation. Asai-sensei-vs-Mikami-sensei-2

Look at the famous photo (right) of him fighting Mikami sensei (JKA Louisiana) in the JKA’s All Japan Championship in 1961. Mikami (left) is delivering a beautiful long distance Oi zuki, very much a Shotokan technique. To this attack you can see Asai on the right jumped to dodge it (I wish I could have been there to watch it). This shows he was already jumping in his early karate career (he was 26 years old in 1961). He was a very creative martial artist and I understand that he has always tried different things and ideas that would work for him. He was a small man, even for a Japanese, (a little over 160cm and less than 50kg) so he needed the techniques that would overcome his “handicap”. He found the jumping and Tenshin techniques. To jump and to rotate his body quickly having his pelvis not tucked in worked better for him. He probably developed his unique posture early in his karate career but his peculiar pelvis position was not that noticeable then. With many years of training including the kung fu techniques his posture became more prominent and noticeable.

 

Finally, here are two more photos (below) of Master Asai at two different stages of his karate life. One on the left is a young Asai in his 20’s and the right one is a legend in his 60’s.

asai (2) Nijushiho young

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think? It is true that he went to Taiwan and he had a close encounter with White Crane kung fu, but there were, I assume, many other Shotokan practitioners who went to China and Taiwan. In fact Master Nakayama was stationed in China for several years during WWII. Only Asai picked up many ideas and techniques from the Chinese styles. This proves my point that his body was far more adaptable to the Chinese method because of his own unique training and his own style.

I am not sure if my theory about his pelvis position has successfully convinced you but one thing I can tell you confidently is this. Master Asai needed his pelvis position in that specific way to deliver his unique and fast techniques. He was the one and only true master of Asai-ryu karate and his posture is a signature of his style.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas especially if you are a sports scientist or your expertise is in kinesiology.

 

 

O Que É Ki? (Parte 2)

(Se você não leu a Parte 1, por favor, leia-a antes de ler a parte 2.)

Breathing 2Ok, então você pode estar se perguntando por que o desenvolvimento do Ki tem algo a ver com a respiração, e particularmente com respirar profundamente. Em primeiro lugar, vamos ver se a respiração profunda também é considerada benéfica no mundo ocidental. Acredite ou não, se você pesquisar no Google, você verá muitos artigos e sites sobre o assunto. Um desses sites, chamado Uma Palavra Poderosa [no original, One Powerful Word – N. do T.], é voltado para a motivação e conscientização do público, e lista 18 benefícios da respiração profunda:

  1. Respirar desintoxica e libera as toxinas

  2. Respirar libera a tensão

  3. Respirar relaxa a mente/corpo e traz clareza

  4. Respirar alivia problemas emocionais

  5. Respirar alivia a dor

  6. Respirar massageia seus órgãos

  7. Respirar aumenta os músculos

  8. Respirar fortalece o sistema imunológico

  9. Respirar melhora a postura

  10. Respirar melhora a qualidade do sangue

  11. Respirar aumenta a digestão e a absorção de alimentos

  12. Respirar melhora o sistema nervoso

  13. Respirar fortalece os pulmões

  14. Respirar adequadamente torna o coração mais forte

  15. Respirar adequadamente auxilia no controle do peso

  16. Respirar estimula os níveis de energia e melhora o vigor

  17. Respirar melhora a regeneração celular

  18. Respirar melhora o humor

São benefícios suficientes? Para o artigo inteiro, acesse aqui:

http://www.onepowerfulword.com/2010/10/18-benefits-of-deep-breathing-and-how.html

É verdade que o editor desse site não é da área médica. Então vamos conferir o que os especialistas médicos dizem sobre respirar profundamente. Eu vou postar apenas um deles aqui, mas você pode procurar na internet e encontrar muitos outros sites similares. O site a que eu estou me referindo chama-se “Mulheres para mulheres; Mudar a saúde das mulheres – naturalmente” por Marcelle Pick, Enfermeira Especializada em Obst./Ginec. [no original: “Women to women; Changing women’s health – naturally by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP” – N. do T.]. Em uma página, ela escreveu: “Em uma revista e análise de vários estudos de 2005, Richard Brown e Patricia Gerbarg, Doutores em Medicina, informaram que as técnicas de respiração profunda de yoga foram extremamente eficazes no tratamento da depressão, ansiedade e transtornos relacionados ao estresse. Essas técnicas podem servir como um excelente complemento para o tratamento médico convencional – ou, em alguns casos, como um substituto adequado – no tratamento de incontáveis distúrbios psicológicos, bem como distúrbios alimentares e obesidade”.

Se você estiver interessado, você pode ler o artigo inteiro aqui:

http://www.womentowomen.com/fatigueandstress/deepbreathing.aspx

Assim, a sociedade médica moderna também reconhece os benefícios da respiração profunda. É uma pena que não é popular entre as pessoas comuns, incluindo os atletas. É ainda mais lamentável que poucos instrutores de karate enfatizem a importância da respiração profunda e a incorporem em seu currículo. De qualquer modo, os povos asiáticos conheciam esses benefícios por séculos e incorporaram a respiração profunda em diferentes métodos de treinamento. Nós acreditamos que a energia Ki deve ser ativada e distribuída através do nosso corpo para produzir resultados positivos, e é por isso que o método de respiração profunda foi usado para energizar a circulação. É como quando você ferve a água em uma chaleira. Conforme o fundo da chaleira recebe calor, a água sobe numa trajetória circular, e desce em seguida. Você pode formar essa imagem com seu Ki em seu corpo. A respiração exerce duas tarefas. Um é ajudar a energia Ki a circular (interna). A outra é fornecer a fonte de energia (ar) para as partes distantes do seu corpo (externa). Esta última é realizada pela circulação sanguínea, sendo que a respiração profunda auxilia aumentando a inalação de oxigênio e a liberação de dióxido de carbono.

経絡図 OK, então você se perguntaria por onde a energia Ki viaja em nosso corpo. Os especialistas chineses desenvolveram um diagrama de meridianos chamado Keiraku (経絡), para mostrar os caminhos exatos e o sistema (veja a ilustração). Existe muito debate entre os médicos ocidentais sobre a existência de tais caminhos ou rotas porque nenhum órgão físico que cuide disso é visível ou detectável, enquanto os dos sistemas circulatório e nervoso são. O diagrama Keiraku foi desenvolvido pelas experiências físicas realizadas pelos especialistas da acupuntura e da moxa ao longo de milhares de anos.

O fluxo suave de seu Ki é a chave para a sua saúde e força vital. A respiração lenta e profunda coordenada com o movimento físico lento auxilia e promove a circulação. Repito que é por isso que eu mencionei que o Tai Chi Chuan é um dos melhores métodos, de todos os sistemas de artes marciais (contanto que você concorde em incluí-lo nessa categoria), para desenvolver o seu Ki. Então naturalmente você vai querer saber como fica o karate nesse contexto. Sim, é hora de falar sobre o nosso treinamento de karate, mas o que você acha? Infelizmente, exercícios específicos de respiração ou treinamento especial para respirar são incluídos no currículo de poucos dojôs de Shotokan. E é assim, então você pensa no treinamento que você faz com seu kata. Infelizmente, mais uma vez, nenhum dos katas é ensinado com instruções adequadas com relação à respiração, e poucos instrutores sabem como harmonizar a respiração com os movimentos do kata. O único kata com respiração evidente que nós temos no Shotokan, ou seja, o Hangetsu, perdeu seu método de ensino de respiração há muitos anos. O sensei Kanazawa e eu somos os únicos que realizamos esse tipo de ensino. Além disso, este kata não só quase perdeu o seu método de respiração, mas também o ponto-chave mais importante da base Hangetsu dachi. Eu escrevi sobre isso em meu livro Shotokan Myths (capítulo “Hangetsu”) para que os leitores possam lembrar-se. Eu pretendo colocar um vídeo instrucional do Hangetsu na sessão de vídeos do site Karate Coaching (www.karatecoaching.com), onde vou explicar como se deve fazer, incluindo alguns métodos de respiração diferentes.

KiaiVocê está familiarizado com Ki-ai (気合), que você pratica frequentemente durante nos seus treinos. Ele significa literalmente reunir ou coletar Ki. E isso não ajuda a desenvolver o Ki? Como é irônico! O uso constante ou excessivo de ki-ai, acredite ou não, impede que o Ki flua. Pode ser uma declaração chocante, mas é verdade. Um ki-ai barulhento corresponde a uma perda de energia, e interrompe o fluxo de Ki uma vez que o seu corpo precisa contrair-se. É como um som forte quando uma bomba explode. Esse som não acrescenta à energia, e em vez disso ela é desperdiçada, já que é uma energia que se dissipa. Assim, se um som vem de uma técnica poderosa, então está tudo bem (como um som alto de uma explosão de dinamite), mas se você faz um ki-ai alto só por fazer, você está simplesmente desperdiçando sua energia. Talvez isso seja aceitável para aulas para crianças, para que possam desenvolver o espírito ou liberar sua energia, já que elas são cheias de energia. Eu também escrevi em meu livro Shotokan Myths (capítulo “Ki-ai”) que não existia ki-ai nos katas antigos e durante os treinamentos em Okinawa antes do século XX. Até mesmo Funakoshi não enfatizava o ki-ai, e emitir um ou dois ki-ai em um kata era opcional (talvez você queira reler o Karate-do Kyohan). Tudo mudou quando kata tornou-se um evento de competição, onde são necessárias algumas regras rígidas para avaliar os competidores. Todos os ki-ai são ruins? Não, como eu disse antes, está tudo bem se for praticado corretamente. Ele pode trazer um poder extraordinário de uma técnica e eu não estou falando de um poder mágico. É difícil explicar em palavras, mas um ki-ai correto atua como um ponto de ligação que reúne toda a energia muscular harmoniosamente a partir das diferentes partes do corpo. É por isso que a tensão do corpo, ou kime, deve durar um centésimo ou mesmo um milésimo de segundo. Este é o verdadeiro kime e ele pode ser visto em Hakkei (発剄), que é traduzido apenas como poder explosivo, e seria considerado uma espécie de técnica secreta ou definitiva de treinamento de kung fu. Esta é a energia utilizada no soco de uma polegada. Você pode ver a minha demonstração do soco de uma polegada na sessão de vídeos do site Karate Coaching.Ibuki breathing

Então, e quanto à respiração ibuki (息吹き) usada no Goju-ryu e outros estilos de Okinawa? Eu tenho apenas uma experiência limitada com treinamento de Goju-ryu, então eu não sou um especialista neste estilo, e por isso contribuições de pessoas mais experientes em Goju são bem-vindas. O meu entendimento é que existem duas partes para os objetivos da respiração ibuki. Uma é usada no kata Sanchin, e visa coordenar os movimentos do corpo com a respiração. O conceito é semelhante ao Tai Chi, mas há uma grande diferença, no fato de que no Tai Chi a ideia é relaxar os músculos, enquanto no Goju o praticante aprende a tensionar seu corpo. Assim, os braços que bloqueiam e socam no kata Sanchin (三戦) movem-se lentamente, mas parece haver muita tensão em todo o corpo, de modo a desacelerar a circulação do Ki. Hangetsu KaseO objetivo deste kata e do Hangetsu original não era auxiliar a circulação, mas talvez apenas fortalecer o Ki local. O outro aspecto do treinamento da respiração ibuki é exercitado enquanto um praticante fica parado realizando essa respiração pesada (inspiração rápida e expiração lenta e forçada). O instrutor irá verificar a tensão do praticante socando-o e chutando-o com força. A ideia que eu entendo é que o praticante de Goju vai preparar o seu corpo para suportar os golpes e chutes de um oponente. Obviamente esse conceito vem de um método de luta de curta distância e com base na situação de luta desarmada. Em Okinawa todas as armas (espadas, facas, etc.) foram proibidas por centenas de anos, então esse conceito pode ser considerado. O Shurite, incluindo o Shorin-ryu e o Shotokan, foi baseado em um método de luta de longa distância, o que significa lutar contra um adversário com uma arma. Esta é uma das razões pelas quais Funakoshi não adotou o treinamento de respiração Ibuki e deixou de enfatizar essa respiração no kata Hangetsu.

SeishanO outro motivo foi a forma como ele é praticado: parte superior do corpo nua. Funakoshi sabia que isso não combinava muito bem com a cultura japonesa, já que apenas os trabalhadores braçais tiravam a parte de cima de sua roupa. Ele queria introduzir karate para o Japão como a arte marcial de samurais ou de cavalheiros. Um grande benefício da respiração ibuki, no entanto, é o treinamento do diafragma. Durante a prática do ibuki você tem que prestar muita atenção ao seu diafragma e ao comportamento dele. Você vai aprender a “empurrar” e “puxar” o diafragma, enquanto controla e administra a sua respiração. No entanto, este exercício também é praticado em Yoga. Eu gosto mais do exercício desta última, pois ele é feito com muito menos tensão. Além disso, o seu treinamento é incorporado ao movimento dos órgãos internos (para cima e para baixo ou numa direção circular), juntamente com a respiração profunda. Esse exercício é excelente para fazer circular o seu Ki e irá lhe ajudar com a sua saúde. Eu recomendo fortemente esse exercício e espero que os leitores experimentem-no.

De volta ao kime. O kime estendido ou tensão muscular não é bom para o fluxo de Ki, e você pode ler sobre isso no capítulo “Kime” do Shotokan Myths. Para desenvolver o fluxo de ki no seu treinamento de karate, você precisa aprender a relaxar mais enquanto está treinando. Se você gosta da tensão no seu treinamento, então eu recomendo que você tenha uma sessão separada para exercício de respiração. Eu expliquei como praticar a respiração longa e profunda anteriormente no meu blog. Existem outras formas de desenvolver o Ki, e eu as incluirei em um artigo mais longo sobre o assunto.

Agora que você sabe como exercitar um método de respiração longa e profunda, deixe-me concluir este artigo com os benefícios de mais alto nível que vêm quando se possui um Ki forte e um fluxo de Ki saudável desenvolvido com exercícios de respiração profunda.

Você será capaz de controlar os batimentos do seu coração e sua pressão sanguínea. Você terá um sistema imunológico mais forte. O que isso significa? O resultado é que você terá uma vida muito saudável. Funakoshi gabava-se quando estava na casa dos 70 anos e no início de seus 80 anos do fato de nunca ter ficado doente. Ele atribuía isso ao treinamento de karate, o que eu considero correto. Ele viveu até os 88 anos, o que era uma longevidade surpreendente naquela época. Ele até mesmo atravessou o período de guerra em Tóquio onde a comida estava escassa e o saneamento era extremamente precário na década de 40. Eu concordo com o Mestre Funakoshi, e eu escreverei um artigo separado sobre como o treinamento de karate pode produzir boa saúde. Quanto mais eu pratico karate, eu percebo como o ser humano foi criado de maneira maravilhosa e que o nosso potencial é quase ilimitado. Então, você não ficaria feliz se você simplesmente não adoecesse mesmo quando estivesse na casa dos 70 ou 80 anos? Você pode alcançar essa saúde com a respiração profunda e o treinamento de karate.

Brain Waves GraphVocê também será capaz de controlar as suas ondas cerebrais e seus estados emocionais muito melhor que as pessoas não treinadas. Em situações de grande estresse ou em uma emergência, você não gostaria de ter uma habilidade de manter-se calmo e controlado? Você pode fazer isso se puder manter suas ondas cerebrais em modo relaxado. Tendo um Ki forte, você não ficará deprimido e será menos influenciado pelas notícias ou incidentes ruins. Isso certamente irá capacitá-lo a ter uma vida mais feliz.

A sua atenção mental vai melhorar com respiração melhor e Ki mais forte. O que isso significa? Você será capaz de evitar os acidentes enquanto anda, corre, conduz uma bicicleta, dirige e em quaisquer outras atividades que você realizar. De todos os acidentes que podem acontecer com você, um acidente de automóvel pode ser o mais perigoso, um que você quer evitar ao máximo. Eu escreverei outro artigo especificamente sobre esse assunto e vou compartilhá-lo com você no futuro. O título do artigo é Jidosha Dojo (Dojô de Automóvel), como praticar karate enquanto você está dirigindo seu carro.

Eu espero ter abordado tudo o que pretendia sobre Ki e o seu relacionamento com a respiração profunda. Este artigo tornou-se muito mais longo do que eu previa, então eu ficarei por aqui. Eu aguardo as contribuições e as perguntas dos leitores.

 

O Que É Ki? 気とは何ぞや? (Parte 1)

Este é um assunto profundo e complexo. Há um grande número de livros escritos em japonês sobre o assunto, mas infelizmente os artigos e os livros em inglês ou outras línguas (não-chinesas) são raros. Tenho pensado em escrever um artigo sobre esse assunto por muito tempo, mas sempre hesitei, pois ele é muito intrincado. Eu pretendo escrever um artigo mais longo e mais abrangente no futuro, mas para este blog vou cobrir principalmente a parte que está relacionada ao karate e sua relação com a respiração.

Ki exchangeOK, vamos começar. Para muitos dos leitores, Ki pode ser um conceito misterioso e possivelmente duvidoso vindo da Ásia, mas esse não é realmente o caso, e eu gostaria de lançar um pouco de luz sobre o assunto hoje. Em essência, Ki é “a fonte ou a energia que dá a vida”. Em outras palavras, é algo que está nos permitindo viver. Enquanto você estiver vivo, você terá Ki em você como um ser vivo. Quando você morrer, acredita-se que o seu Ki retorna à natureza. Todas as coisas vivas, como animais, insetos e plantas que estão vivos têm o seu próprio Ki. Na verdade, nós japoneses acreditamos que até mesmo matérias não-vivas e objetos na natureza, como pedras, montanhas, lagos, rios, chuva, relâmpago, nuvem, estrelas, etc., têm o seu próprio Ki dentro deles. É por isso que temos feng shui (風水), um sistema chinês de geomancia que busca usar as leis do Céu (astronomia chinesa) e da Terra para ajudar a melhorar a vida ao receber qi ou chi positivo. O termo feng shui se traduz literalmente como “vento-água” em português. Se você estiver interessado nesta arte, você pode conferir na Wikipédia, onde se explicam a sua história e as teorias. O conceito básico vem de diferentes fatores naturais, como por exemplo a ideia de que as direções, e coisas tais como montanhas, rios, etc., possuem diferentes energias. Combinações diferentes têm um impacto positivo ou negativo nas pessoas. Os orientais, particularmente os chineses, levam isso muito a sério, e o feng shui torna-se um dos fatores decisivos quando escolhem uma casa. Isso é muito popular mesmo com os chineses que vivem nos EUA e provavelmente também na Europa.

EinsteinDe qualquer modo, acreditamos que tudo tem a sua própria energia e sua vibração única (波動) chamada Ki (). Este é um conceito profundo, considerando que a física moderna (relatividade especial e geral) veio a perceber apenas um século atrás que tudo no universo é constituído de energia, e a estrutura fundamental assume a forma de vibrações (ondas) criadas pela energia. Mesmo se você não sabe física quântica, você conhece a famosa fórmula de energia de Einstein, E = MC², que ele anunciou em 1905. A equivalência massa-energia é o conceito de que a massa de um corpo é uma medida do seu conteúdo de energia. Neste conceito, a massa é uma propriedade de toda a energia, a energia é uma propriedade de toda a massa, e as duas propriedades estão ligadas por uma constante. Assim, o conceito chinês de 3000 anos não pode ser considerado totalmente infundado ou inacreditável.

Embora o conceito de Ki estenda-se a tudo no universo, vamos olhar apenas para o Ki que está relacionado a nós, as pessoas aqui neste artigo.

Quando olhamos para o nosso corpo, encontramos ondas e padrões diferentes. Os mais óbvios que todos conhecemos são nossas ondas cerebrais. Outro é a pressão sanguínea, que muda em padrões gerais ao longo de um dia. Há outras condições físicas não tão visíveis ou perceptíveis, como a temperatura do corpo e o nível hormonal, que também variam durante um dia. Um ritmo circadiano é algo que você vai notar somente quando viajar uma longa distância cobrindo diferentes fusos horários. Segundo a Wikipédia, um ritmo circadiano é qualquer processo biológico que exiba uma oscilação endógena, induzível por fatores externos [no original em inglês: entrainable oscilation – N. do T.], por cerca de 24 horas. Esses ritmos são conduzidos por um relógio circadiano, e ritmos têm sido amplamente observados nas plantas, animais e cianobactérias. O nível hormonal de uma pessoa muda ao longo das horas e é ligado a um ritmo circadiano, e você pode precisar de uma ajuda de comprimidos de melatonina para ser capaz de dormir durante as suas viagens ao exterior. A maioria desses ciclos e ondas estão intimamente ligados às marés, e ao fato de termos dia e noite.

Assim, Ki é a fonte de energia em nosso corpo que pode afetar as ondas e os ciclos de nossas funções corporais. Todo mundo tem seu Ki, então como podemos aumentá-lo? Na verdade, existem duas maneiras de aumentar a energia em seu corpo. Uma delas é o que todas as pessoas fazem todos os dias, comendo e bebendo. É uma fonte externa. É por isso que sua dieta é importante para a sua saúde. A outra fonte é interna, e trata-se do Ki, que foi descoberto ou reconhecido alguns milhares de anos atrás na China. No mundo ocidental, o Ki não foi descoberto ou reconhecido. Em vez disso, os tratamentos na área mental foram desenvolvidos pela psicologia moderna, notavelmente por Freud e Jung. Ela surgiu apenas a partir de meados do século XIX. Se você sofrer de depressão, o seu médico lhe dirá que você está com uma disfunção na sua química cerebral, então ele recomendará que você tome uma medicação para melhorar o seu humor. Por outro lado, um mestre ou médico em Ki lhe dirá que o seu Ki está fraco (e apontará uma ou mais áreas específicas do seu corpo onde falta o Ki, ou onde o fluxo de Ki está lento ou bloqueado. Ele pode sugerir tratamento com acupuntura ou moxabustão, juntamente com exercícios respiratórios. Esses tratamentos estimularão o Ki local e isso proporcionará um fluxo melhor por todo o corpo. O médico de Ki também pode dar-lhe alguns medicamentos, mas não constituídos por produtos químicos, e sim principalmente por ervas e ingredientes naturais. Esse tipo de remédio é tomado em forma de chá ou sopa.acupuncture

A diferença entre os tratamentos e diagnósticos das duas escolas ocorre não apenas na saúde mental, mas também na física. Quando você tem dor nas costas ou se você sofre algum tipo de alergia, você pode recorrer à acupuntura, moxabustão e/ou tratamentos com ervas. A acupuntura () é famosa mesmo no mundo ocidental. moxaO cautério de moxa ou simplesmente moxa () é provavelmente menos conhecido, mas é um tratamento médico muito popular para muitas doenças na Ásia. Lembro que minha avó costumava colocar uma boa quantidade de moxa sobre os ombros e costas para aliviar suas dores de cabeça, nas costas e as causadas pela artrite. Caso você não conheça a moxa, você coloca fogo em peças que se parecem um pouco com uma vareta de incenso. Ela queima muito lentamente, e na verdade chega a queimar a sua pele, e esses estímulos dão um choque ou injetam uma energia para o ponto de Ki que precisava dessa energia. Eu já experimentei, então eu sei que queima. Eu também experimentei acupuntura, e eu prefiro esta em relação à moxa. De qualquer modo, existem tratamentos médicos mais radicais utilizando Ki. Um deles é a anestesia de Ki e o outro é a operação de Ki. Você pode ter visto os vídeos sobre esses tratamentos. Eles são todos relacionados com Ki e seu fluxo. Eu não vou entrar nesses tratamentos específicos, pois eu não tenho nenhuma experiência com eles e o meu foco neste artigo não é nas aplicações médicas do Ki. Existem alguns relatos extraordinários desses tratamentos, então você pode procurar os vídeos e outros relatos caso esteja interessado.

Eu acredito muito na medicina ocidental moderna e em suas conquistas, então eu não pretendo desconsiderar ou falar mal dos seus tratamentos. Para encontrar um sintoma de câncer, você deve ir a um hospital e tirar um raio-X. No entanto, na área da prevenção, em doenças leves e, especialmente, numa fase inicial da doença, eu acredito, tratamentos naturais e treinamento de Ki podem ser uma escolha melhor e que faria mais sentido adotar. Eu quero enfatizar que eu não sou um médico, então eu não estou qualificado para dar um conselho ou recomendação nessa área.

Tai_chiAcreditamos que nosso corpo é conduzido ou preenchido por ondas e ciclos. Quando eles estão fora de sintonia ou desequilibrados, nós entramos em uma situação ou condição chamada de doença ou enfermidade (física e mental). Assim, os povos antigos criaram várias formas de fortalecer o Ki e manter os padrões estáveis ​​e em equilíbrio. Os métodos incluem o Chi-gong ou Kiko (気功), Yoga, meditação Zen (座禅), Tai chi chuan ou Taijiquan (太極拳), juntamente com alguns estilos de kung fu e algumas outras artes marciais, como o Aikido (合気道).

Eu pratiquei Kiko estilo Nishino em Tóquio durante três anos (1997 – 1999). Eu incluí as experiências que tive no dojô Nishino no meu livro recente, Shotokan Mysteries, por isso não vou repeti-las aqui. Digo apenas que o treinamento envolvia principalmente relaxar os músculos com exercícios de respiração profunda. Permitam-me observar que o Tai Chi pode ser um excelente sistema de construção Ki, mas só quando é ensinado o seu método de respiração correto. Trata-se de uma arte marcial interna praticada tanto pelo seu treinamento de defesa quanto por seus benefícios para a saúde, mas apenas mover-se lentamente não vai garantir a construção de Ki. Isso deve ser feito com um exercício de respiração adequado e em harmonia com os movimentos corporais. Na verdade, considerando apenas o objetivo de construção de Ki, o Tai Chi é um método melhor do que o treinamento de karate. Vou explicar mais adiante por que eu digo isso.

Zen meditation 1Chi-gong, Yoga, meditação Zen e Tai chi chuan são em essência os exercícios de movimentos lentos que estão intimamente ligados à respiração profunda. Você pode se perguntar por que eu incluo a meditação Zen na construção de Ki. Eu percebo o sentido do questionamento, já que não há ações corporais na meditação Zen. Pode parecer que não há movimentos uma vez que os braços e as pernas ficam parados. No entanto, a meditação Zen, se praticada com respiração profunda, requer uma grande quantidade de movimentos com o seu pulmão, diafragma, músculos abdominais e músculos internos. Ao respirar profundamente você vai fortalecer o diafragma e os músculos internos na região abdominal inferior chamada de Tanden (丹田), que é considerada fonte de energia ou armazenamento de Ki.

 

What are Internal system & External system? 内家拳と外家拳とは何ぞや?

I assume the readers already know that there are some categorization measures in martial arts. Each one shows the characteristics that supposedly differentiate one style from another, but the fact is that all the styles contain different amounts of the characteristics of both opposing personalities.  The categorization of a style itself will not bring any positive effect or a merit. The benefit comes only when we understand better about our style and to be able to include some training that will make our style more effective and meaningful.

 

asai (2)So, let us start with a few popular categorization methods. The most common one is probably the differentiation by the long distance 遠距離and short distance 近距離 fighting styles. Shotokan is a good example of the long distance fighting system and Goju-ryu, on the other side, is of the short distance system. Asai ryu karate is based on the standard Shotokan, a long distance fighting method, with an addition of the techniques from a short distance fighting system; White Crane kung fu was incorporated by Master Tetsuhiko Asai. This categorization method is rather obvious and comparatively easy to grasp. I do not believe it needs further explanation on this categorization method.

 

Another popular categorization in karate is Shorin 松林system and Shorei 昭靈system.  Shorin represents the system with the light and fast techniques and this is exemplified by kata such as Enpi, Kanku, Gankaku and Unsu. Shorei is, on the other hand, the system supposedly designed for the larger built karate-ka for the powerful movements and the slower techniques. Jion, Jutte and Sochin are the typical kata of Shorei style. This categorization has been explained by many other writers in the past.  I have my doubts on the legitimacy of this categorization method but I will not touch on it in this article.

One other popular categorization in karate is Naha-te 那覇手and Shuri-te 首里手. Naha and Shuri both indicate the particular regions of Okinawa where the different styles of karate were developed and practiced.  Shotokan belongs to Shuri-te as our style came from the most popular Shuri-te style of Shorin-ryu 松林流. The most popular Naha-te styles are Goju-ryu and Uechi-ryu.

The categorization I wish to focus on in this article is called Internal System and External System. As far as I know this categorization method has not been explained too well to the Shotokan practitioners in the past. Among the Chinese martial arts this categorization method is as popular as the Northern Style and the Southern Style. The Internal System and the External System are written in kanji as 内家拳 and 外家拳 which literally means “inside house (or family) fist” and “outside house (family) fist”. Most of the practitioners now explain the meaning of “inside (family) house” as the internal workings of our body such as breathing and the mental aspect of a martial art.  However, it originally meant “not staying with the family” or “not living in one’s house” but living in a Buddhist temple.  Therefore, a famous Shaolin Temple kung fu (Photo below) and its derivative styles (literally hundreds of them) are called 外家拳, “outside house fist”.

Shaolin kung fuShaolin kung fu 少林拳法 refers to a collection of Chinese martial arts that claim affiliation with the Shaolin Monastery and the style generally emphasize long range techniques, quick advances and retreats, wide stances, kicking and leaping techniques, whirling circular blocks, quickness, agility, and aggressive attacks. Due to numerous Hong Kong movies, Shaolin Kung Fu is well known in the western world. However, there seems to be a lot of misconceptions and false beliefs about this fighting style. I suggest that the readers will learn more about it by reading the Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaolin_Kung_Fu

 

The other group, “inside (family) house” or staying with the family means that a practitioner is not a professional monk. This is a group of the fighting methods that are not linked to the Shaolin Monastery.  The famous three styles of the Internal System are Tai chi Chuan 太極拳, Xing Yi Quan 形意拳 and Ba Gua Zhang 八卦掌.  They are classified as “inside house” fist.

 

Tai_chiTai Chi Chuan (photo right) is a slow-motion and meditative exercise for relaxation, health and to a lesser degree self-defense. Tai Chi has gained enormous popularity throughout the world for its health benefits. In Chinese philosophy Tai Chi means the ultimate source and limit of reality, from which spring yin and yang and all of creation.

There are many different styles of Tai Chi from a popular slow motion style mainly for a relaxation and health purpose to a style that has some explosive moves that is better fit for self-defense training. To learn more about Tai Chi Chuan check the Wikipedia page here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T’ai_chi_ch’uan

 

形意拳Xing Yi Quan or Hsing I Chuan (photo below) may be a lesser known Internal System or 内家拳 to the karate world but it is one of the best known internal martial arts and is recognized as the most effective fighting style. Xing Yi means “Shape Mind”, and Quan means “Fist”. The name derives from the style’s imitation of the movements and inner characteristics of twelve animals (dragon, tiger, eagle, bear, chicken, hawk, horse, monkey, snake, phoenix, swallow and alligator). The style was created by Marshal Yeuh Fei, a famous general of the Chinese Song Dynasty. One of the purposes of Xingyiquan training, like Taijiquan is aimed to improve Qi or Ki circulation in the body and to maintain health. The training is supposed to build up a level of internal Qi and this leads to the strengthening of both the physical body and the mental body.

For more information on Xing Yi Quan read the chapter in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xing_Yi_Quan

 

Ba GuaBa Gua Zhang is one of the three orthodox “internal” styles and the name literally translates to Eight Trigrams Palm. These trigrams are symbols which are used to represent all of the natural phenomena as described in the ancient Chinese text of divination, the Book of Changes (Yi Jing). Zhang means palm as Ba Gua Zhang emphasizes the use of the open hand in preference to the closed fist. Ba Gua Zhang is based on the theory of continuously changing in response to the situation at hand in order to overcome an opponent with the circular and smooth skill rather than brute force. Its embusen is very unique as it is built on complex circular lines and the techniques are delivered not to the direction of the moves but mainly to the center of a circle or a side of a performer (photo right). I personally like this style as its foot work is based on normal walking steps which I really think makes sense. The performer walks with fast steps in circular lines and deliver the techniques while he is “walking”.

To learn more about Ba Gua or Pa-kua, read the chapter in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baguazhang

Also, there are many good video clips of Ba Gua kata performance by some elder masters.  Here is a link to my favorite Ba Gua kata called “The old 8 mother palm” performed by Master Sun: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8agvbyMDkU

 

OK these are all Chinese style martial arts so you may ask “What is the relationship to our karate? “  We need to look at the other interpretation of Internal System and External System. You will see the relationship as we go over the key points of the Internal and External systems according to the second interpretation. I am aware each martial art and karate style has a characteristic of all the categories and the categorization including Internal and External System method any categorization does not clearly divide the styles. By learning the categories and the characteristics I wish to present the general nature of Shotokan and to show the whole perspective so that the readers can understand where our style sits.  With this exercise I hope we can identify the strength of Shotokan as well as the possible areas where it is lacking. The ultimate goal of this article is the knowledge and the better understanding of Shotokan karate and the possible improvement in training as the knowledge would, hopefully, reflect in the training menu.

Let us start with Internal System or styles. This system’s focus is on the practice of such elements as awareness of the spirit, mind, qi (breath, or energy flow) and the use of relaxed leverage rather than brutal muscular tension. While the principles that distinguish internal styles from the external were described at least as early as the 18th century.

Push hands 2Components of internal training includes stance training, stretching and strengthening of muscles, as well as on empty hand and weapon forms. In addition to the solo practice of the forms, many internal styles have basic two-person training, such as pushing hands. A notable characteristic of internal styles is that the forms are generally performed at a slow or normal pace. This is thought to improve coordination and balance by increasing the work load by moving slowly in low stances, and to require the practitioners to pay close attention to their whole body and its weight as they perform a technique. In some styles, for example Chen style of Tai Chi and Ba Gua, there are forms that include sudden outbursts of explosive movements. At an advanced level, the techniques are performed quickly. The ultimate goal is to learn to manage and control the entire body in every movement keeping relaxed with deep, controlled breathing, and to coordinate the body movements and the breathing accurately while maintaining perfect balance.

Let’s look at External styles or System next. External System is characterized by fast and explosive movements. Its focus is on physical strength and agility. External System includes both the traditional styles focusing on application and actual fighting, as well as the modern styles adapted for competition. Shaolin quan have many Wushu (martial arts) forms both with and without weapons that include the aerial techniques and explosive attacks. External styles begin with a focus on muscular power, speed and application. They generally integrate their qigong (Ki training) aspects in advanced training, after the excellent physical level has been reached.

 

From these definitions to which group do you think that Shotokan belongs? I guess the answer is easy. Shotokan definitely has many characteristics of the External System. By learning more about the characteristics of the other system, we can identify the area where Shotokan may be lacking. I hope you can make your karate training more comprehensive by adding some exercises to supplement the missing area. So, where are the areas in Shotokan that are possibly missing? They are probably Ki or Qi training, the breathing exercises and the softer movements. Can you identify if any of these may be missing from your training syllabus?

Breathing 2For the breathing training Hangetsu is an excellent kata through which you can learn to coordinate the kata techniques with breathing. However, you may complain that this is the only kata that was designed for such training in Shotokan. You are correct about this, but once you learn the breathing training idea of this kata, you can apply it to any kata you may know. The best kata to practice the breathing method from the JKA kata line up may be Jion, Jutte, Nijushiho, Meikyo, Sochin to name a few. Regarding the breathing exercise and method, I have written an article on this subject so you are welcome to refer to that article which can be found earlier in this same blog.

 

Ki exchangeOne other training that I consider missing in the standard Shotokan syllabus is Ki or Chi training. This is an important subject that needs to be understood by all the senior karate practitioners. It is also a deep subject that requires a lot of explanation. I also have written about this subject previously (What is “Ki”? and Ki exchange with a tree). If you are interested in the subject I suggest that you will read those articles that can be found in this blog. One more thing I wish to call your attention here, is that deep breathing is closely linked and is critically necessary to Ki training and exercise. Even if you do not understand anything about Ki, when you do your deep breathing exercise, believe it or not, you would be strengthening your Ki at the same time.

As Asai sensei introduced a short distance fighting method to the standard Shotokan karate to make it more effective, you can add the exercises of the Internal System to your Shotokan training syllabus. By doing so, you will be expanding your karate system beyond the standard Shotokan into something more comprehensive that you can call an Internal and External System. I hope this article has raised enough interest in the readers and that you will go out of the box and consider to invest some time and energy to make your karate “better”.