What is the Core Principle of Karate-Do?

It is my belief that all that is created, is created with degrees of consciousness…that what is created, be it animate or inanimate, with free will or not, acknowledges or should acknowledge the majesty of its creator. It is my belief; therefore, that the birds, mountains, trees, angels, rocks, etc…, even our shadows, prostrate in recognition and loving submission to that which is greatest. We may not understand or recognize this cosmic chorus, but like the rapid flow of a river, it takes place constantly and incessantly. The beauty of joining the cosmic chorus, and surrendering to its natural flow, is what contributes to inner peace and positive energy.

What happens on a cosmic spiritual level, beyond the minds imagination, beyond the universes and the veiled realms, also takes place in more quotidian settings…hence the birth of communities, nations, religions, places of worship, teams, extended families, and even basic husband and wife relationships or friendships, etc… These relationships exist because there’s some level of unity of belief and cooperation…a chorus, if you will. Otherwise they wouldn’t exist.

One such community, is the dojo. Whilst techniques ebb and flow according to the needs and whims of the time, perhaps even improving from generation to generation, the CORE principle is not chasing the latest technique. Technique is important….but as Sensei Funakoshi warns us…”spirit first, technique second”. And here, spirit is defined as that river’s flow. The bends. The ups and downs. The changing flow of the currents, from fast and furious, to slow and enduring. Like life itself, it has a duration and an unknown destiny. Those who submit to this way, doggedly and stoically, enduring years of repetition before daring to express opinion…these are the ones who truly experience, not on an academic level, but on a transformative level. The given path for these seekers, belies the newest, latest, more improved technique. That, my friend, is karate-do’s core principle. Karate-do is entering the dojo with the cumulative chorus that we strive through the struggles together…. because it is the shared experience of the struggle…the journey that is important…not the technique or end result.

Students have asked me if karate-do has the best technique. It does not. If it did, Ray Dalke would not say the best technique is ” front kick…crow bar”. He’d just say front kick. And yet, we do front kick over and over again. I have told my students that the importance of stance diminishes over time…and yet we do stance work all the time. It doesn’t mean that I am teaching something I do not believe in…It means the process of forging spirit through unity and tradition is the core principle of karate, and that is where the deeper understanding of karate reveals itself…after decades of quiet repetition. So yes, if you are joining a chorus, but wish to sing a different tune because you think you understand things differently and cannot change, you are indeed being selfish and a cancer to the those on the way. Such a person needs to….as I often said…either open their own dojo, or quit.

Sensei once told me that two karateka under the same sensei, should ultimately have different looking karate because they have different abilities, bodies, understanding, etc… This process comes about naturally, from years of training, and not from looking at videos or books, or intellectualizing. At about the 4th dan level or 25 years of training, one can establish ones own ideas and enter the early phase of “Ri” in the “Shu Ha Ri” process. Many from the JKA did exactly this. Kanazawa Sensei’s karate was starkly different than Kase Sensei and Enoida Sensei’s karate. Ultimately each formed their own organization with their own ideas, because they (ideally) believed their chorus no longer matched the community they belonged to. One may look at this phenomenon with chagrin, ruing the fact that the JKA is a shell of what it used to be. I; however, look at it and see it couldn’t have continued, because salt water and fresh water can never blend.

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