A lot of myths surround the martial art of traditional Okinawan karate. Here are eight that you may have heard and the real truth.
Recently, a gift of a tiny Geisha doll reminded me of something. She reminded me that when you fall down (or get knocked down) you get back up. And, you keep getting back up every time. It doesn't matter what challenges are thrown your way or what situation is occurring in your life at the time.
You get back up.
It doesn't matter if you are flat on your back at a low point in your life.
You get back up.
It doesn't matter if you are sick.
You get back up.
It doesn't matter if you weren't successful before or how many times you've tried and failed in the past.
You get back up.
It doesn't matter if you don't have anyone to lean on, pick you up, carry you or encourage you.
You get back up.
It doesn't matter if you've had your bell rung or your heart broken or your pride shattered.
You get back up.
You see, the world loves an underdog. The world wants to see you succeed. The world wants to see you get back up.
Because it's the glorious grit of never quitting that emotionally charges the masses and inspires them. Then, when they fall down, and everyone does eventually...
THEY GET BACK UP.
~ Vashon Borich, Sensei
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It's been a while since I last posted! It dawned on me that we have several new students that have recently joined our organization. One of the biggest initial challenges is learning how to tie your obi (belt). I decided to create a video demonstrating how to do it.
There are several other ways to tie your belt. If in doubt, you should ask your Sensei at your home dojo how they prefer to have you tie your belt. Many Sensei's require a unique belt tying process in order to denote their martial arts school vs. another. For instance, in my dojo, it is important to me that everyone's knot on their belt points to their left hand side. In this way, we all are consistent within the dojo. For me, it is also a nod to the East... the birthplace of karate.
If you are interested in receiving regular email updates when new blog posts are added, be sure to Subscribe to the Branson Karate and Kobudo Blog! Also, I encourage all students of Seiyo No Shorin-Ryu Karate to register as a member on our National Web site at www.seiyonoshorinryu.org. In this way you can receive rank requirement checklists, instructional videos and other tools to help you in your karate training.
I stumbled upon a video recently that deeply moved me. A martial artist demonstrates kata and self defense. However, this was no ordinary martial artist... this is someone who has profound physical challenges. But yet, in this video there is power, strength, beauty, creativity, respect and amazing technique. I found myself cheering him on as I watched him perform. In the self defense portion, when he took on two men, there was emotional joy at seeing him perform.
The man's name is Said-Elmahmoudi from Morocco. Watch the video below (note the video is in another language, but you don't need to speak the language to understand what's going on.):
If you have trouble viewing the video here is a direct link:
I am inspired by this man. He is proof that karate is for everyone, not just those who are privileged with perfect health. Never say, "I can't!" As there are people who may have told this martial artist he couldn't do something, but as you can see, he is proof that nothing is impossible. I hope you are as inspired as I was after watching him perform.
"There are many people out there who accomplish a little bit and decide that they are an expert. Humility is knowing what you don’t know." ~
(The Psychology of Life)
In the martial arts world, I have noticed a trend with different practitioners and karate instructors. There appear to be two types of people, type A and B.
Type A, are the people who have a big mouth, who regularly talk about the things they have accomplished, they exaggerate their success and point out their trophies and belt ranks. Type A demands attention from those around them. They often dole out their sage wisdom to anyone and everyone who will listen.
Then there is Type B, who downplay their successes or doesn't even mention them. Type B often admits when they don't know an answer, they aren't afraid to say when they make a mistake. They ask questions and learn from those in ranks below them and ahead of them. They regularly examine their own weaknesses and strive for constant improvement. They say very little, but demonstrate much through their actions. Although they may hold a very high rank in their primary martial art, they could be seen strapping on a white belt to learn a second, third or fourth martial art.
The trend appears to be that the Type A's are only moderately successful in their martial arts. They may have had some accomplishments, but they had never achieved true master status or respect within the martial arts community. Where the Type B's are usually found to be legitimate masters in their art often with very high ranks. Not only were Type B's successful in their primary martial art, but in other arts as well. The Type B's had climbed to very peak of the martial arts community and achieved great respect from those around them.
Taking on a type B attitude, pun intended as reference to the Beatitudes, is necessary for true success. This humility separates the wheat from the chaff.
If you look through history and even the present, the greatest martial artists all have a humble spirit. Although many may not be widely known, they are at the top of their craft. They are male and female martial artists that have great knowledge, amazing levels of skill, true passion for their art and an ability to share their wisdom with others in ways that make their students passionate about the martial arts.
Perhaps you don't have a deep desire to be a life-time martial artist. You can take these "Type B" traits and be a leader in any field, trade or industry. In summary, those traits are:
It's been a while since I last wrote. I've been involved in some introspective work and have been re-reading the Bubishi. If you are not familiar with the Bubishi, it is the classic manual of combat and was once considered a secret document passed down from master to student for centuries. The Bubishi is a classic Chinese work on philosophy, strategy, medicine and technique as they relate to the martial arts. It is sometimes referred to as the "bible of karate." There are several translations, the one I recommend is by Patrick McCarthy.
One section that especially struck me was on the topic of balance.
It goes on to state that "Perfect balance is a reflection of what is within." Balance can mean your physical capability to stand on one leg, for example. It can also mean the internal balance of your emotions and serene focus. In the Bubishi, physical and internal balance are one and the same.
Balance is a requirement to be proficient in combat. If you have mastered balance, you are able to easily take advantage of or create a weakness in an opponent's posture. In the dojo we call this Kuzushi. Kuzushi is the Japanese term for unbalancing an opponent. It is the moment of weakness in which you can quickly overtake an opponent. The description that the Bubishi gives for the qualities contained in a balanced individual is poetic and beautiful...
Like the sun's strength, your energy must radiate outward, your eyes should be as clear as the moon, and your legs should be like the rolling wheels of a cart. Your posture too, from head to toe, must be evenly balanced so that footwork and hand techniques support each other. If everything is in balance, no one will be able to defeat you.
What I found most fascinating is that in order to have physical balance, you must first have internal balance. To cultivate internal balance one must grow in wisdom. The Bubishi lists nineteen laws of Wisdom. Here they are:
In today's digital age we are fortunate as we can share information quickly to anyone that has access to a device with an internet connection. I have a personal goal to make karate training more accessible and easier to learn for anyone. In pursuing this goal, I've helped organize a curriculum database Web site that contains promotional checklists, detailed technique description sheets and kata outlines for each rank up to 1st Kyu (brown belt with a black stripe.) In working with other members of the Seiyo No Shorin-Ryu organization we have also started adding multimedia files such as videos and photos to rank sections. We believe this will be a tremendous training resource for all our members.
To access this new database, you will be required to register as a Seiyo No Shorin Ryu Karate & Kobudo Kai member. If you already have an up-to-date annual Seiyo No Shorin-Ryu Karate membership, you will be credited the membership registration fee. Colored belts (kyus) are $25/yr. Black belts (dans) are $50/yr.
As this site is brand new, it is currently in BETA status. This means, that it's a work in progress. We appreciate any helpful suggestions or tracking of any errors that you may find. Please click on the "contact" page to send that feedback.
Let's get started! Visit this link to access the new Web site: http://snsr.wildapricot.org/
NOTE: This is the BETA site address provided by our Web site database hosting service. The official Web site address will be http://www.seiyonoshorinryu.org and will be activated by June 1, 2013. So, don't bookmark the "wildapricot" address.
The site will constantly be growing and improving as we add more photos, videos, helpful documents and tools.
It may sound like the lead in for an email in your Spam box, but you really can change your life in 30 days. The secret is selecting a single, meaningful change, goal or project that you commit to doing for 30 days in a row.
I was inspired when I watched a TED talk by Matt Cutts. If you are not familiar with TED, it is a Web site that contains a full library of "riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world." You can watch the video that inspired me here:
If you can't see the embedded video, you can navigate to it with this link: http://www.ted.com/talks/matt_cutts_try_something_new_for_30_days.html
Come to think of it, watching one TED video for 30 days could be a positive life changing endeavor. I challenge you for the next 30 days to do something amazing. If you are short on ideas here are just a few in various categories. (Thank you to my students who offered up a number of these!)
I welcome your comments on this blog as to what you selected as your 30 day challenge, what happened along the way, if it was successful for you or how it changed an aspect of your life.
Ranks and titles in the martial arts can be confusing and intimidating. But, they aren't meant to be. They are useful in recognizing who is the most experienced or highly honored in the room. Ranks are earned with hard work, sweat and years of practice.
Honorary titles are given to esteemed practitioners out of respect for what they contribute to the martial arts and for the level of responsibility they have in the organization.
It is good reishiki or manners in the dojo to respect rank and title. Think of it as honoring a special dignitary in your home. Although a distinguished guest is usually humble enough to not expect special treatment, it's polite to honor them.
For new students it can be confusing understanding the etiquette of the dojo. There are many different ranks and titles. The title heard in most dojos is Sensei. Pronounced as "sin say" it means "teacher" and is usually reserved for black belts who are authorized to teach classes. Though, not all black belts are called Sensei. Typically, a black belt must have attained a 3rd or 4th dan to be recognized as an instructor. A dan, sometimes called a degree is represented by stripes on the belt. Think of it as the level of experience and training that a Black Belt has. In traditional martial arts dojos, stripes are hard earned through years of training. There are ten degrees of black belt. Once a person attains 5th dan and higher they are considered a master. Master ranks are often represented with different types of red belts. In Seiyo No Shorin-Ryu we use the Red and white striped belt for 5th and 6th Dans, red and black striped for 7th and 8th Dans and solid red for 9th and 10th Dans. But, these master ranks may also choose to wear a solid black belt.
There are also additional titles that may be used. To simplify, here is the basic hierarchy in Seiyo No Shorin-Ryu:
KAIDEN is the Family Elder
SHIHAN is the Family Senior
SENSEI is the Family Junior
STUDENT is the Family Member
Titles for different ranks may be awarded at 4th Dan.
YONDAN (4th Dan) = RENSHI
GODAN (5th Dan) = RENSHI
ROKUDAN (6th Dan) = KYOSHI
NANADAN (7th Dan) = KYOSHI
HACHIDAN (8th Dan) = HANSHI
KYUDAN (9th Dan) = HANSHI
JUDAN (10th Dan) = KAICHO
Below I have outlined and defined many of the ranks, titles and honors that may be used in a traditional dojo.
KYU Grade: A rank designation for all colored belts under black belt.
DAN Degree: A rank designation for first to tenth degree black belt.
MUDANSHA: One without degree - A student not yet at black belt.
YUDANSHA: Black belt holder - A title designating rank of first to tenth degree black belt.
DESHI: Disciple or trainee - A student regardless of rank.
KOHAI: Junior - A beginning student.
SEMPAI: Senior Student - used to signify a black belt who is not yet a teacher. Usually, this is for 1st-3rd dans. The title may be given to brown belts if no black belts are present.
SENSEI: Teacher or instructor - A black belt qualified to teach. Usually awarded at 4th dan but may be authorized for lower black belt ranks if they are teaching.
SHIHAN: Master teacher - Instructor of very high rank, sixth degree or above.
HONORARY TITLES (Not all receive titles)
RENSHI: Polished expert - Discipled self to a master & is a highly qualified teacher. Usually a 4th Dan or higher.
TASHI: Great teacher about 7th dan. A teacher of the art with special dedication to one's teaching.
KYOSHI: Senior instructor a.k.a. faith teacher. Has learned and contributed a dedicated proponent of the ryu. A sixth or seventh degree black belt.
HANSHI: Master Teacher of teachers - A respected master of eighth to tenth degree black belt. Senior master/exemplary teacher.
SOKE-DAI (pronounced So-ka-die) is the Assistant Head of Family. This position is honorary and is selected by the Soke to help with administration and to lead the organization after the Soke can no longer do so.
SOKE (Pronounced So-ka) is the head of the Family. This is typically the highest ranking member of the organization. Our Soke is Harold Mead, 10th Dan.
More on the significance of the Soke and Soke-Dai was written in a previous blog.
O'SENSEI: Great instructor - Highest master within a system.
KAICHO: Master of the house - Senior master of a system.
MEIJIN: Expert - One who has mastered an art beyond the boundaries of physical prowess. Wise man of high spiritual level. Advanced age. Special dedication to the art.
MENKYO-KAIDEN: A certificate of full proficiency in a Japanese martial art.
Some members of the dojo may have multiple titles. If you are ever unsure how to address certain people in the dojo ask your Sensei.
My philosophy of the martial arts is based on three things: Mind, Body and Spirit. My goal as a Sensei (teacher) is to facilitate growth in all three areas for every student that comes into my dojo. For good health I believe it is important to strive to improve these three areas of ones life.
First, it helps to understand the meaning of each of these elements:
The Body = represents your physical health; strength, flexibility and stamina
The Mind = represents your mental health; alertness, expanding ones knowledge through learning new things and stretching the mind with new challenges, ideas and thought processes
The Spirit = your spiritual health; development of strong character, positive attitude, slow to anger, a purposeful life, belief in a power greater than yourself.
I believe that each of us, myself included, must constantly work to hone our minds, bodies and spirits. Karate and the martial arts are methods for improving all three. But, it is important to also seek opportunities for improvement outside of the dojo.
Just for today, do something healthy for your body.
Just for today, read or talk to someone about something that expands your mind.
Just for today, take time to meditate or pray to your higher power. Focus on finding the positive aspects of any situation.
If you choose to do these three things each day, you may soon find peace and the rewards of a healthy and fulfilling life.
Vashon Borich, Sensei teaches traditional karate & kobudo in Branson, Missouri. She considers herself a life-time student of the arts. Her blog is an open journal of lessons learned in the martial arts. If you are a martial artist and would like to contribute to her blog please contact her.
©2012 Branson Karate & Kobudo™