Kintsugi and the Self, in Karate-Do

More than a decade ago, perhaps even two, I went to visit a Japanese art exhibit in San Francisco with sensei. Of the many notable moments to me on that trip, was me commenting on the less than perfect condition of the porcelain tea and ramen bowls. Sensei explained how the bowls that are repaired, are actually more valuable than their original form, and that an entire art and beauty existed behind their repair and imperfection.

Karate-do is in many ways also, nothing but the art of repair and healing, the art of self therapy. It can be viewed as the art of Kintsugi (golden joinery), in human form.

The nature of traditional karate-do, with its precision and technical complexities and details, and our own human limitations and frailties, will never allow for perfection of technique… but their exists a beauty in acknowledging and accepting one’s imperfections, and lovingly tending to them. With a beginner’s mind, and the constant effort one puts forth in attaining technical excellence through repeated repetition and failure, one begins to bare the physical and emotional scars, and the marks of healing. The joinery left behind becomes a reminder and need, of not only our humility, frailty, impermanence, and fallibility… but also the hope, resilience, strength and loving acceptance of who we are. Nothing could be more golden than that.

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