Here We Go Again

I don’t know why I bother doing this. It’s more frustrating to me than to others, because others are blissfully unaware. I recently told an esteemed friend and sensei, that I was free from not to having to care anymore for students. Students who weren’t worth caring for. Why put in the effort towards a dead end road ahead, I explained? For me, the last part of the puzzle is this article. I still recall the animated frustration of my sensei, as he would reveal the long held stupidity of certain technical movements. Like me, he’d get exasperated, throw up his arms and just walk off, incredulous that people were like sheep when it came to an art that they proclaimed was so deeply important and impactful to them. He in fact (again like me) wrote an article about the first move of the first kata, Heian Shodan. I’ve promised myself not to fall into sensei’s frustration trap. Perhaps I’m more selfish and lacking patience, wishing to be free of pointless engagements with less critical thinking people.

At a recent seminar, I heard a sensei proclaim that in the kata Sochin, whilst moving into the second move of the kata, the hip should remain at shomen. This is a typical refrain from most karateka who have heard it and adopted it it without much thought, just as they’ve blindly accepted that the first move of Heian Shodan should be a reverse rotation of the hips (See the article: Heian Shodan and the karate expert). I am not saying that they are wrong and I am right. That’s a futile and pointless exercise in dogma. What I am asking, is what I ask of all my students….to look and reflect and ponder the possibility that something else could also be true. That the narrative we’ve been feeding ourselves, and comforting ourselves with, may not be the entire story. The other point I’d like to stress is that there are gradations. Not everything is black or white. Not everything is shomen or hanmi. Hanmi has degrees of hanmi. Take the first move of Sochin. One is not in shomen, in sochin dachi….and yet one is not in a full hanmi either. it is a slight hanmi. Continuing from there, if one’s hips are natural (relaxed), as the feet come together for the second move, the hips are again at a slight hanmi. The body is straight, it must remain straight, but the hips are ever so slightly in hanmi, and when the move is completed, it is in gyaku hanmi.

Am I splitting hairs? Possibly. But to me Heian Shodan and Sochin are mirror kata’s of deep discovery and refinement, really of the self. And as sensei would often say, words matter. How one teaches, microscopically, makes a difference over the course of time. How else did we get from Heian Shodan being direct rotation to reverse rotation? There’s nothing fancy to hide in both Heian Shodan, or Sochin. The truth is there. It is bared, and if one is aware and reflects….one feels. This is karate-do. Be compassionately critical of your life.

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