Monday, July 30, 2012

Why do I study Karate?

While my direct instructor pulls lineage from Yamaguchi Goju Ryu and Toguchi Shorei-kan, I have been very lucky to be studying under Takafumi Hamabata (Eibukan 7th dan, Kyoshi) as he has been able to pull in his experiences with both aforementioned lineages of Goju Ryu Karate along with JKF Goju-kai standards, and Eibukan; under the tutelage of Yoshihiro Hisanaga (Eibukan Soke / Kagoshima Goju Kai - 8th dan, Hanshi).

I began my Karate journey January 1st, 1990 - 22 years ago.  It was an odd morning, as I remember curled up in a warm bed.  There was a heavy marine layer that built up along the foothills of the Angeles Crest and I recall heavy moisture in the morning air.  As I heard Rose Parade announcer blaring from the TV in the other room, I'd figured that the rest of my family was immersed in eating Osechi (traditional New Years food) along with Ozoni (either made from vegetables and chicken/seafood or sweetened red bean and rice cakes) while watching the parade coverage before the Rose Bowl game came on.

That morning, my father, Masato Sakaue (Eibukan 5th dan, Renshi - RET) threw a Karate Gi at me and told me that I was going to start my "training."  Now mind you that, I had been immersed in Kendo under the tutelage of my uncle, Masataka Sakaue (Covina Kendo 6th dan) for six years at that point and now THAT training was over.  According to my father, Karate was going to be my path. When you are 12 years old, you do not really understand much.  Heck when I was 6 years old and thrown into Kendo... I didn't know anything at all.  However, it took almost another 6 years of training for me to understand and accept my "path" in life.

In 1996-1997 I received my Shodan... during my pre-yudansha training I worked hard on my kihon, most of the time coping with my time between playing high school football, wrestling, and just being a teenager.  Per my senseis at the time, competition was mandatory to test our skills outside of the dojo regardless if we won or lost as pre-requisite qualification for intra-dojo ranking, especially for black belts. The other pre-requisite was to compile a essay justifying your reasoning of why you study Karate. While these are not mandatory for other dojos or for even JKF / JKF Goju kai, it was mainly adapted so that one could understand that his or her Karate is effective in practical / simulated use.  Our senseis didn't care about the points... they cared about developing quality karateka.  The first was no problem.  I liked competition and I like taking what I learned in the dojo and applying them in free form competitive kumite.  However, the latter, I had trouble with.  How do you express yourself when your path was laid down in front of you to follow? 

Sixteen years later, I find myself asking the same question and in another capacity.  Why do I study Karate?  Sixteen years ago, I don't think I could have told you.  I think I was still in the experimental mode.  I thought it was fun and competitive but lacked the depth of knowledge to explain the reasoning why. Today I can explain it very simply.  I study Karate because I like it.

I like the people who I train with.
I like the people who train me.
I like the depth of Goju Ryu Karate.
I like the connection that Goju Ryu Karate has with my family and my family's history.
I like that Karate has developed me as a person.
I like that Karate keeps me connected to my cultural roots.

The list goes on and on.  If I can pass any of the "likes" above to anyone who wants to learn or who wants to be apart of the Eibukan Family, then it is worth my travel as a karateka.  There is no other reason for me to study Karate.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Path. Choose Wisely.

Most karate practitioners may not know beyond the basis of their own dojo or ryuha / kaiha.  However, that is to say that many karateka yet to master their own style before pursuing another.  While I have dabbled in many different types of martial arts, I am one of the philosophy that one style is enough regardless of what strengths or weaknesses may lie in the foundation of the style.  The depth in technique and philosophy alone can be studied a lifetime and depending on your instructor and your development complete mastery can never be achieved.

That is what the "DO" in Karatedo, Kendo, Chado, Sado, Judo, etc. represents.  The continuous path of which the practitioner chooses to study the depth in length.  The "kanji" or the Chinese character represents this by bringing two distinct characters 1) longevity and 2) Neck to describe the spirit behind your training.  It is training that you are willing to pursue with your neck stuck out in a vulnerable fashion representing that it can be cut at any time. (Sorry for the Samurai reference).

Many traditional karate practitioners may ask... what does Samurai and Bushido have to do with Karate?  Especially when known that Karate comes from the oppressed Okinawan regime by the Satsuma Government predating the Meiji era.  The founders of Eibukan feel that while Bushido and Karate were formulated at different times and for different purposes, the ideals behind the 7 precepts are valuable to any karateka.

Eibukan and Bushido:  How they tie together
1 – GI (Justice / Moral Righteousness): A Karateka should deal openly and honestly with others and cleaves to the ideals of justice. Moral decisions do not come in shades of gray, only right and wrong.
2 – YUU (Heroic Courage): A Karateka should never fear to act, but lives life fully and wonderfully. Respect and caution replace fear.
3 – JIN (Benevolence / Compassion): A Karateka should take every opportunity to aid others, and create opportunities when they do not arise. As a powerful individual, a Karateka has a responsibility to use that power to help others.
4 – REI (Respect / Polite Courtesy): A Karateka has no reason to be cruel, and no need to prove his strength. Courtesy distinguishes a Karateka from an animal, and reveals one’s true strength.
5 – MAKOTO (Honesty / Complete Sincerity): A Karateka’s conscience is the judge of his honor. The decisions he makes and how he carries them out are a reflection of his true nature.
6 – MEIYO (Honor): When a Karateka has said that he shall perform an action; it is as good as done. He need not make promises; speaking and doing are as if the same.
7 – CHUUGI (Loyalty / Devotion / ***Duty***): A Karateka feels responsible for his actions and their consequences, and is loyal to the people in his care.
***One should reflect upon the samurai’s loyalty to his lord and understand that it was unquestionable and unquestioning.***
(Outdated… however the spirit of this is what helps us understand CHUUGI)