Sensei used to have a drill in sparring where we were not allowed to to take more than two steps back. One either had to step to the side to counter, or alternatively, we were afforded the two step retreat only because it tactically presented a better advance. There was no retreat in karate, no going back. My karate never took shape or became serious, until I fully adopted this philosophy. Sensei’s idea was to instill decisiveness, and to seize on opportunities when they presented themselves. He would often tell me, that it was better to not engage at all, than to waver. when you are in, you are all in, he’d say.
The damage caused to oneself and others by wavering, by not recognizing opportunities that may not present itself again, is something I often see outside the dojo, be it at one’s job, one’s relationships, or even one’s health. The foundational ethos of shotokan, the decisiveness in intent and execution, is the antidote for todays excessive flakiness, and hedging bets to be safe.
I’m not saying this path easy. I’m not saying that it will remove the fear, but I am saying that if one is intent on engaging in change (assuming one wants change because one is not content with the status quo), the “always forward” commitment of shotokan is one’s only hope for success. Most people will talk a good talk, but they will take a step forward only to soon beat a hasty retreat. I’ve seen it time and time again. If I had a partner like that, I wouldn’t have faith in that partner. If I had an illness and dilly dallied with it, I’d probably be dead by now. If I had a dojo and wished it to encapsulate the real essence of what I wished, I would never achieve it by compromising, cutting corners, or selling myself to the safe bet. I would rather not have that partner. I would rather not be alive, than be continually sick due to my negligence. I would rather not have a dojo, and self train in peace, than know what I have is fake.
I thank sensei for the life lessons he gave me. Though difficult, he gave me what is most important. clarity and integrity, or as it is said in shotokan karate-do, the purest form of ikken hitatsu.