Karate Reflections…

Posted: August 9, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

I’m pausing a moment from the usual pattern of academic and historical discussion in order to make a reflective detour into martial arts.  Those of you who have read my posts with any regularity know that Rob Redmond’s Shotokan blog, 24FightingChickens, has occasionally appeared therein.  I get an enormous amount of satisfaction from reading Sensei Redmond’s posts, which are thought-provoking, incisive, controversial, and sometimes just downright quirky.  Then again, he’s basically earned the right to deliver his opinion in a martial art that is NEVER short on opinions–that goes for any martial art, I suppose, from Western Martial Arts (check out SFI forums to see what I mean) to Kendo.  But I particularly like Sensei Redmond’s insistence on de-mystifying Karate, particularly in the philosophical and ethical aspects of the art. This can be as simple as “How to Practice Kata in Your Room,” from this July, to his weighty post “Deconstructing Funakoshi,” written back in 2006.

This last is particularly interesting to me, since, from my perspective (others may disagree), I didn’t enter Karate-Do because I was lacking an ethical system, and then found one in the guiding principles of the art (with which I agree and on which I ponder outside of practice time).  Rather, I came to find in Karate something that reinforced the ethics with which I’d been raised, and as time has gone on I’ve moved from simply valuing the physical discipline of karate (which I do value very much), to enjoying the overall mental and philosophical stability that it promotes.  But I had similar stability and discipline when practicing the medieval Liechtenauer system, and somewhat less so with fencing (though there I’ve  often felt like I’m swimming against the tide).  Karate is definitely proving to be a stronger influence on me through its physical rigor, and the character of my own sensei. But Karate works with the moral, religious, and ethical frameworks which I had to start with, and makes them stronger, giving them a discipline and a focus that works holistically. Basically, I don’t think of ethics and morality as things exclusive to Karate.   So, while folks might disagree with Senei Redmond’s assessments of the history of Karate and Funakoshi Sensei’s actual influence, I think his contextualization of the art, drawing parallels to sports ethics, is quite close to the mark.   If this line of thought makes any sense at all…

Just my opinion, but read the article first before passing judgment.

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