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The concept and philosophy in here can be labeled as neither right nor wrong – the fact is, it exists and will continue to influence the future of karate. In modern society, karate is still young and growing. Growth usually signifies change. The change should be in a right direction without altering the true principles of karate. Karate should mean a training system for the correct development and growth of the individual, which in turn will prove of benefit to the society. Without discipline, philosophy, social and more responsibility, character-forming potential for the young exponent and stable techniques it can not be classed as an art form.
The concept of karate is increasingly becoming misunderstood by the general public. This fault does not rest with the public alone. Many young students are enamoured by feats of amazing power and what they perceive occult ability. The breaking of concrete blocks, house bricks, wood and tiles has a certain fascination. The breaking techniques are no reflection of actual ability; they do not fight back, avoid the blow and give with the force used – which is why they break. The performance of high kicks and extra ordinary jumps has another false fascination in new students. We must advertise the true meaning of what the art of karate stands for.
The concept of self-defence greatly influences a young exponent to learn karate. In ancient karate, it is the last resort to employ self-defence. It always reminds us of the story about a thug bothering passengers in the boat. The thug, having insulted the passengers to a great depth challenges the master of karate in the boat to a fight. Having agreed to fight, the master requests the fight to take place on the near-by island to avoid the injury to the other passengers. Being in such a rush to fight, the thug gets off the boat first. The master requests the boat to leave the island without the thug on board and no fight at all and the peace is restored on the boat. The concept of self-defence is an important part of karate but it should not be the only reason to take up karate. This is why students drop out after a few months of training as they believe they know enough to defend themselves.
In ancient karate, when a student wanted to study karate he found a teacher that he had a total faith in. Then he had to prove his intent and good character in the hope that the teacher would accept him as a student. This could have taken a long time during which the teacher decided whether the individual was the right candidate to learn karate.
In modern karate, the teacher has to advertise himself to prospective students as the best and has to convince the student of his abilities. It is then left to the student to decide whether to join or not. In ancient karate, the student is in the teacher’s debt while in modern karate the teacher is in the student’s debt for joining his class.
In ancient karate, the teacher is not only critical of his new students but expects them to obey instruction without any question. After all, he is the master and knows what is best – this is why the students come to him initially. In modern karate, the teacher will often not push his students to do something that they do not want to do in case they leave. He answers all questions and avoids repetition to keep interest.
In ancient karate, the teacher instructed at an intuitive plane of watch, copy and experience. He repeated the move until the student grasped it. The student took the information from the teacher and he used his mind and body to learn. In modern karate, the teacher instructs on an intellectual plane. He explains verbally over and over again and the student does not have to think. The teacher even places the student’s hands and feet in the right position. In ancient karate, the student took his knowledge from the teacher but in modern karate, the teacher gives the knowledge to the student.
In ancient karate, the teacher believed that learning is a process of trial and error and that making a mistake was part of the process. He only pointed out on of two serious mistakes within the training session and he believed that the student would have corrected most of his minor mistakes himself. In modern karate, the teacher spends a great part of a lesson constantly pointing our error after error, sometimes not allowing time for the first error to be corrected.
In ancient karate, the number of training sessions in adojo in a week was a lot more than for modern karate and the prospective student was expected to practice in his own time. The students were taught fewer moves in a session. They had to practise the move time and time again until they got it right. In modern karate, the number of training sessions is only a few a week and the students often do not have time to practice on their own. To keep the interest going in training sessions the teachers has to often cover more moves and less repetition.
Attention to etiquette and gratitude were also important character-forming aspects of ancient karate. Having a proper and clean kit was a sign of commitment to train and mandatory in order to join the class. Gratitude was not just bowing to everyone or the lip service of thanks. Like respect for the teacher it must come from the heart.
In ancient karate, the training would have always finished withsempei sayingdojo code and students repeating after him. It was a constant reminder of why the students were learning karate. It was a reminder that they are not only there to learn the physical aspects of the art but learning to moral of what karate is based on. Character building aspects of karate respect for thedojo, instructors and fellow students are essential principles.
It has been said that the ultimate aim of the art of karate lies not in victory or defeat but in the perfection of the character of its participants through hard training, sincerity, effort, etiquette and self-control.
The future of karate is in the hands of the teachers and students who must recognise the quality of karate. Breaking techniques, high flying kicks, enormous strength, speed and power are not the only concept of learning karate, otherwise a student having all the above aforementioned characteristics can be awarded 9th or 10th Dan black belt in his early youth. We should stress the point that what we lend to learn in a few short years about principles of karate has taken a life time of its masters to perfect.
The teachers and students must help in the development of it as a full concept of ancient and modern to serve and benefit all. We should ensure what has survived so far goes on to survive a long time to come.
The key lies in the Japanese character ‘和’ - Peace and harmony.