Shotokan, the Art of Fortitude

President Johnson was once interviewed and he commented something to the effect that, the Vietnam war was lost because the North Vietnamese soldier would sit for as long as it took in a fox hole while the American soldier, after 20 minutes, would need to get up and go for a smoke.

In our affluent suburb in Orange county, we see the same. We have kids, incapable of fulfilling a task without being entertained, or without causing some sort of disruption by bringing negative attention to themselves. In adults, we see an inability to follow direction and an assumption that they know better, by doing something other than what is prescribed. I can’t tell you the number of times a student, be it an adult or a child, has come up to me asking if we can open the windows, or close the windows, or if we can do something “fun” in class, or asking me not to pair them up with a particular student. Just the mere fact that a student asks what we will be doing in class, is enough to know we have lost the war.

If any of you follow MMA, you’ll know the Muslim Dagestani fighters, chief among them Khabib Noormagedov. Outsiders who have observed their training camps have commented that the reason for their success, is that they have a no nonsense approach to life. All they do is pray, train, attend to family. They don’t drink. They don’t party. They don’t swagger in with pink and blue dyed, funky hair styles. They don’t bring attention to themselves, except through their devotion to the task at hand. Most camps have sparring on certain days. They don’t. Whatever is presented to them, they face and they don’t complain.

My dojo, is not a fighting dojo. Not because we can’t, but because we have not achieved the first step….the art of fortitude. Sparring when students don’t have self discipline… when students have not fully trusted their teacher, leader, sensei…is akin to sending those American soldiers to Vietnam and expecting them to do what war requires. No responsible sensei would do such a thing. It is a recipe for the disaster that has created the downfall of shotokan karate, and its merits and potential as an effective method of self defense, and as a spiritual path, and way for inner peace.

The only way back to the straight path, is submission. This is true in religion, this is true in karate. Get rid of the ego, get rid of the sense of self entitlement, and follow exactly what is told. In that struggle, there is an art. It is the art of fortitude. It is the art of Shotokan.

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