KARATE-DO KYOHON - THE MASTER TEXT
THE VALUE OF KARATE
AS ATHLETIC TRAINING
The nature of karate is such that it requires the body to move in all directions, in contrast, for example, to the emphasis on the arms in rowing or the legs in jumping. There is absolutely no need for concern about one-sided development of the body in karate, and the fact of uniform development may be considered to be one of the benefits of karate.
In most cases, only a minute or two
is required to complete a kata. Moreover,as one continues to practice, the
movements become quicker and the training as a whole more vigorous, so that
one can get ample exercise from a relatively short period of time. This
is an ideal form of exercise for the many people. today who complain that
they would like to exercise, but they just do not have the time. The little
time required is, therefore, a second major advantage. Almost no other form
of exercise, be it judo, kendo, archery, swimming, or horsemanship, can
be performed at any time or place as easily as karate. Most sports require
a large area, equipment, or a partner, and in this regard as well, karate
is the most adaptable. No specific area,equipment, or even partner are necessary,
for it can be performed in a garden, living room, hallway, at any time or
place that one feels the desire to practice. This is the third significant
advantage of karate.
Usually, exercise suitable for men is not suitable for women, and that for women is probably not enough for men; that for people recovering from illness is not enough for healthy people, and similarly, sufficient exercise for healthy, young people is too strenuous for older people or young children. Karate, however, may even be practiced by the physically weak, by women, children, and by elderly people. In other words, since each individual may adjust the exercise to his own capacity, and with each unit of exercise being of but one to two minutes' duration, there is no danger of overexertion or physical exhaustion. Moreover, as the body is built up and the techniques become more skillful, the movements naturally become more powerful, so that the amount of exercise becomes sufficient even for the healthy young man in his prime. Thus, the amount of exercise increases naturally as the training progresses, a point that I would cite as the fourth athletic merit of karate.
The fact that karate may be practiced either alone or in groups is a feature unique to it. Finally, even considered purely from the standpoint of physical techniques of practical value, the individual hand or foot movements, each with its own meaning, and the many variations in the various kata sequences become challenges to learn. While enjoying and being engrossed in their study on this basis, one accrues their benefits almost without realizing it.
The value of karate as physical training may easily be demonstrated by scientific tests, and even after a year or less of practice, one can easily see for himself the tremendous improvement in his condition over its state before karate training.
My esteemed teachers, the late masters Shishu (in Japanese, Itosu) and Azato, were both very weak in their childhood, but after starting to train in karate as a means of improving their health, they developed so much that they seemed like different people compared to their old selves and lived to become famous, in our times, as old masters. Master Shishu lived to the venerable age of eightyfive, and Azato to that of eighty. Master Azato's own teacher, Master Matsumura, lived to be over ninety years of age. Other contemporary karate experts such as Masters Yamaguchi, Aragake, Chibana, Nakazato, Yahiku, Tokashiki, Sakihara, and Chinen, have all lived to be over eighty. These examples are indicative of the role of karate as a superior method of maintaining one's health.
Almost all living creatures have some mechanism for defending themselves, for, where this development is incomplete, the weaker are destroyed and perish in the fierce struggle for survival. The fangs of the tiger and lion, the talons of the eagle and hawk, the poisonous sting of the bees and scorpions, and the thorns of the rose and Bengal quince: are these not all preparations for defense? But if the lower mammals, birds, insects, and plants each have such specialization, should not man, the lord of creation, be prepared as well? An appropriate basis for the reply to this question is provided by the statement: We should have no intention of harming other people, but we must try to keep out of harm's way. To protect oneself, one must find a method that will give the weak the power to defend themselves against stronger opponents. The power of karate has become well known in these times for its effectiveness in breaking boards or cracking stone without tools, and it is not an exaggeration to assert that a man well trained in this form of defense may consider the whole body to be a weapon of awesomely effective offensive power.
Finally, although karate does have
throwing techniques, it relies principally on striking, kicking, and thrusting
techniques. These movements are much quicker and can escape the untrained
eye. Block-attack combinations are execute simultaneously, and weaker individuals,
women or young boys, do have ample strength to control a more powerful opponent
with them. In short, among the advantages of karate as a means of self-defense
are these: no weapons are necessary; the old or sick, or women, are able
to apply it; and one can protect himself effectively even with little natural
strength. These points combine to make karate a form of self-defense without
AS SPIRITUAL TRAINING
Karate is no different from the other martial arts in fostering the traits of courage, courtesy, integrity, humility, and self-control in those who have found its essence. However, most of the martial arts, since their practice is harsh from the outset, are not suited to individuals of weak constitution, poor build, or weak character, and such students, generally speaking, will lose spirit and drop out early in their training. Moreover, it is possible for a student, because of physical weakness, to train so conscientiously that he overexerts himself to the point of injuring himself or becoming ill, his body not being able to keep pace with his will, and early failures of this sort are encountered as well. For these reasons, many people, being physically weak, have had to give up hope of training in the martial arts, even though such training and its development of bravery and a solid, firm body could be of special importance to the constitutionally or spiritually weak individual. It is, therefore, important in this context as well that karate can be practiced by the young and old, men and women alike. That is, since there is no need for a special training place, equipment, or an opponent, a flexibility in training is provided such that the physically and spiritually weak individual can develop his body and mind so gradually and naturally that he himself may not even realize his own great progress.
This flexibility of training also makes possible great strides in spiritual training. For if training in any martial art is discontinued after half a year or a year, it can hardly be expected to lead to any degree of spiritual training. An insight into this art, a mastery of its techniques, a polishing of the virtues of courage, courtesy, integrity, humility, and self-control to make them the inner light to guide one's daily actions: these require at the least ten or twenty years, if possible a lifetime of devotion to the study of this art. In view of its adaptability to continued training, I consider karate to be the most suitable of the many martial arts in leading to fulfillment of the need for training of the spirit.