Thursday, October 21, 2010

Karate Training: The Introspective Approach

Last week when rei was done, the class stood in yoi waiting to be officially dismissed when Sensei told us to close our eyes. "I want to ask you a rhetorical question - and I want you to think about it," he said. "Why do you train?"

The first time someone asked me that question, I hemmed and hawed before eventually articulating some half-baked thought about what a good workout it was. But truthfully, it has always been much more than that.

Most of you know that karate began for me smack in the middle of radiation treatments for breast cancer. What got me onto the mat then was the need to do something other than work, go for treatment and study my graduate school lessons. Then, the actual hitting of pads (and sometimes people) helped me feel like I had at least some control over a body that had totally betrayed me - and that betrayal pissed me off to no end as I'd been a competitive athlete since I was a freshman in high school, I didn't eat red meat, I watched my fat intake and still my cells somehow decided to mutate. All that made me really, really want to hit something and scream as loudly as I possibly could. So eventually, my explanation of what karate meant to me included the "It's cheaper - and a whole lot more fun - than therapy!" line I still use today.

I had some physical problems as a result of radiation and surgery, including mobility and chording issues, but I consider myself lucky because I know too many breast cancer survivors whose treatments resulted in lymphedema and/or frozen shoulders. Knowing what I know now about how those things develop, I'm convinced that had I not thrown myself into such a physical activity as karate (which also led me back to the gym for regular weight lifting and running so I could be fit enough to train the way I wanted to), I might have had those difficulties, as well.

But back to Sensei's question: Why do I train - NOW?

Fellow blogger Sue C tackled the same question in her recent post about self-defense training. And I'll ask you here what she asked you there and my sensei asked us the other night: Why do you train?

For me, the answer is simple: I train because I can.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Quotations, Quotations, Quotations

For whatever reason, most writers tend to have lots of reference books laying around and I'm certainly no exception. On my book shelves are a very dog-eared AP Stylebook, actual print copies of a dictionary and thesaurus (I know, right?!?) and several quotation dictionaries - including one with inspirational entries for African-Americans, authors, women and athletes.

If I were to edit one for martial artists, it would definitely have sayings I've heard over the years from my senseis and fellow karateka in it, like:

"The three rules of this and every Goju Dojo are: Everyone works. Nothing is free. All start at the bottom."
- every USA Goju sensei I've ever trained with

"It's karate, not knitting, so expect there to be some contact."
- Sensei Maloney

"Nobody gets hurt in my dojo. Understand?"
- Sensei Maloney

"Avoid before block. Block before maim. Maim before kill - for all life is precious."
- Sensei Rinaldi

"Kata is the art of martial arts. Kata is MOTION plus EMOTION."
- Sensei Fiore

"There are two types of Black Belts: those who HAVE one and those who ARE one."
- Sensei Dammann

"The most powerful techniques are delivered when the body is relaxed."
- Sensei Suggs

"I tell my students that when someone who knows absolutely nothing about the martial arts watches you execute kata, he or she should see two things. First, you are in a real fight, not just dancing - and that should be evident. Second, you are winning."
- Sensei R. Murphy

"It is better to have one sharp weapon than many dull ones."
- Sensei Fiore

"Not every technique will work for every BODY in EVERY situation."
- Kyoshi Williams

"Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're probably right."
- Sensei Suggs

"Do the best you can with what you've got."
- Sensei Sullivan

"Hold your tongue for a moment and avoid 100 years of sorrow."
- Sensei Suggs

"I always view the ring in tournament as MY ring. In my head, I think my opponent has absolutely no right to be in MY ring. And I fight accordingly."
- Sensei Ansah

"A ship docked in a harbor is safe, but alas, that is not what ships were meant to do."
- Sensei Suggs

"What do we do pushups for, class?"
"Punching power, sir!"
"And WHY do we do pushups?"
"Because they're FUN, sir!"
- Sensei Sullivan

"Martial artists are strange people. We train for hours at a time on something that we hope we never have to actually use."
- Sensei E. Williams

"Better to be safe than sorry is what we practice and preach at [our] dojo."
- Sensei E. DelDuca

"We are the same but different; different but much the same."
-Nakamura Sensei (on the differences between Goju-Ryu karate and USA Goju)

"Don't ever forget to use your hips."
- Sensei Maloney

"Master yourself and another master will be hard to find."
- Sensei Suggs

"[The student/teacher relationship] is like a finger pointing at a beautiful sunset. The teacher is the finger - not the beautiful sun. The sunset is the principle and that is what the student should try and see. To only look at the finger means the student will miss the best part."
- Grand Master Kim Soo

"Marital arts is to the dojo like faith is to the church. If you have faith and your pastor is not giving you the food you need, find a new church, but keep the faith. If your dojo is not feeding but you still have the martial art desire to learn, find a new dojo that feeds you and allows you to continue growing. It's not about the dojo or the sensei, it is about the student and the learning."
- Mudansha Griffin

"The single most fascinating thing to me about the martial arts is that no matter how long you train, there's always more to learn. It's never ending."
- Mudansha Miench

"Karate ni sente nashi (In karate, there is no first strike)."
- Gichin Funakoshi

"That's it, in a nutshell."
- Chrissette Michelle (a singer/songwriter - but it summed up everything very nicely, I think :-)

What would you add?