I’ve had quite a productive training week this week in terms of karate sessions – a good session both Sunday and Monday night (not so much at home… but that’s a whole other story). That’s not really what I’ve been mulling in my head to post about today though.
Monday night at training Shihan said something that’s had me thinking all day. He’d made a silly reference to some mystical mythology in response to what a student had been doing. He joked that he shouldn’t really say that because I would probably take it as gospel and blog about it. It was only a passing comment, an off the cuff remark, but it’s had my brain whirring a little today (nothing like a bit of self analysis on a wintery Wednesday morning! LOL).
Clearly, I wouldn’t take what Shihan said in this instance as Gospel……..but I do in other things. When he (and the other Sensei) talk about things karate related, I do take them at face value. At this point in my training (12 months into my karateka journey) I don’t think I know enough to question what people with much more martial arts experience tell me.
So, when we begin to learn karate, we take things on trust. We have faith that our instructors know what they’re talking about. We believe what they tell us is right. That it will work. We trust what they tell us about effective blocks and strikes and kicks. We trust that they know what they’re talking about when they discuss body mechanics and pressure points. We listen when they tell us which moves belong in our kata and where their origins lie and how they should be interpreted and applied.
Conversely then, one must wonder if there will come a point where we start NOT to believe. When we start to think “Hey, I don’t think that’s right. I think it would work better this way”. When this question raises its head, then what? We have two courses of action it would seem. We can choose to ignore that inner questioning voice, to continue to trust what we’re told. Or, we can act on it. We can change what we do to reflect what WE believe, not what we’re told to believe. Is there a point when it becomes acceptable to do that? When is it?
At 2nd Kyu?
At 1st Kyu?
At 1st Dan?
At 5th Dan?
At what point, if any, is it okay to stop taking the word of your instructors as the truth and start defining your own truth?
From everything I’ve read so far about the history of karate its clear that the early karateka training under Okinawan masters didn’t question. If they wanted to learn karate they did as they were told. They worked one Kata for 4 years until they could do it perfectly, blind-fold, in the dark, on uneven ground, with 40 people attacking them (okay, maybe not quite like that, but you get what I mean ;)).
That said, if none of them had ever questioned the truth of what there were told, surely karate would just be karate. It wouldn’t be Shotokan, or Isshin Ryu, or Shito Ryu or Shukokai or Wado Ryu. There wouldn’t be diversity of karate styles if people didn’t at some point believe they knew a way to do it better.
I’m sure there are karate purists out there who would argue that change of any sort is a bad thing when it comes to martial arts. What do I think? Well, to me, everything must evolve. If things don’t they become stagnant, they can lose their fitness for purpose. Evolution breathes new life. It allows for growth, for improvement, for expression of changing times and environment.
Which brings us back round to the when. When is it okay to question the truth of what we’re told? When is it okay to act upon it to enact change?
For the moment, at this stage in my karate journey it feels disrespectful of me to question the truth of what my instructors (with 10/20/30 years karate experience) tell me. For the time being, should I hear that inner questioning voice I choose it ignore it. To have faith. To believe. To trust.
Later in my journey? Who knows? Only time will tell.
Acceptance of Truth.