Karate-The Perfect Weapon
The best martial artist of all time Bruce Lee once said “While I point a finger to the moon, do not concentrate on the finger or you will miss all the heavenly glory”. To many people, Karate is learnt to inflict damage to an opponent. But those who think that way are concentrating on the finger and missing the heavenly glory of the moon. Karate is primarily learnt for self-defence and the punching, blocking, kicking and striking techniques taught in it can injure a person to such an extent that there are chances of him getting killed. However, history suggests that during the early sixteenth century its spiritual principles came into being adding a dynamic and profound dimension to the art. The Zen element began appearing in Karate and it was thus named Karate-do. Karate means ‘Empty Hands’ and do means ‘The Way’. Hence Karate and other forms of martial arts were given the ending – do which means the way to enlightenment, self realization and understanding one self.
Kyoshi Sensei Rajesh L. Thakkar — a 7th degree Black Belt and President & Chief Instructor of the Okinawa Meibukan Goju-Ryu Karate Do — says that in today’s times of nerve shredding pressures it is essential to face difficult situations with discipline. And Karate teaches you how to carry discipline from the training centre into your daily life. In a dojo (meaning a school in Japanese) a student has to confront an opponent, a partner to help him attain further level of perfection by drawing him out of his comfort zone. When one trains alone, this opponent could be his own fear, anxiety, anger and illusion. Sensei Thakkar says that learning the Zen principles through Karate is like meeting the inherent you on a daily basis and the conflicts the student learns to handle in a dojo enable him to face graver conflicts in the outside world. The master key to this is the attitude of the student and the right attitude is one quality that is looked at closely, by the teacher during Karate training.
Ask Sensei how has his experience been teaching and learning Karate for such a long time and he affably says: “To know how sugar tastes, it is essential that you taste it and discover it for yourself”.
The Chinese Connection
A famous legend says that Bodhi Dharma who is traditionally acclaimed for giving Zen to China was an Indian monk who travelled from the south of India to teach the principles of Buddhism to the Chinese Liang dynasty. He discovered that the monks engrossed in deep meditation were not physically strong. Since he was equipped with the knowledge of theories and concepts of martial arts, he induced physical and mental disciplinary practices amongst his students. He knew that to make the mind tougher, it is essential to strengthen the body. Slowly the students transformed themselves into formidable fighters. This art today in China is known as Shaolin-szu – The way of the fist. Okinawa, located in the south of Japan is very close to China and is therefore known to have imported the Chinese culture. Another story of its origin is that King Hashi, the ruler of the famous Japanese Okinawa dynasty succeeded in uniting the once separate RyuKyu Islands. To avoid a revolt, he imposed a severe law which disallowed his subjects to possess weapons. The people of Okinawa hence turned their attention to learning to fight without any weapons and thus Karate progressed.
Modern Karate as we now know it to be was reworked, refined and introduced to the world in the year 1920 by Master Gichin Funakoshi who found Shotokan Karate (Shoto -Pine Waves, a pen name of the master and Kan - hall) and Master Chojun Miyagi was also responsible for the emergence of Goju-Ryu (Hard & Soft) style in the year 1929.
Metamorphosis in Karate
In olden days an amateur student of Karate would wear a White belt, a symbol of innocence. Years of hard work and training would change the colour of the belt to Brown and then slowly into Black. With even more use and due to wear and tear the belt changes into White again which is a sign of the student’s returning to innocence. This in Zen is a characteristic of perfection. Today as students pass through the ranks taking grading examinations they are awarded with different coloured belts. The common order followed in Karate is White, Yellow, Orange, Green, Brown and Black. This system was first developed in Judo and later adopted across other martial arts.
Judo V/S Karate
Both Judo and Karate are Japanese martial arts but represent entirely different approaches towards the art of fighting. Judo adopts a gentle but firm defensive attitude where your body and the way balanced vis-à-vis the opponent lets you get the upper hand. It is more effective in dealing with a single opponent.
Karate on the other hand has a more aggressive approach in which you boldly block the opponent’s moves and attack him vigorously with your hands and legs. Karate is very effective for dealing with more than one opponent and hence an ideal option for the more vulnerable sex-Women.
Women kicking higher and higher
Sensei Thakkar says only a few years back the girl to boy ratio was 1:9 but today 40-45% of his students are women and this number is increasing every year. Off late there have been innumerable cases of rape, eve teasing and sexual harassment against women. Karate is therefore a must learn activity for them. It can sometimes help in saving your own life or the life of your family members.
Each of us needs to look ahead, to delve deep and to make the best out of the situation that presents itself and that is what Karate teaches you. The key is to not only keep the body fit, but keeping the mind fit as well. Sensei Thakkar insists that people trained in Karate should not be unconscious of its essence and involve in fights unnecessarily. More power indeed brings more responsibility, he says. To sum up the point in Bruce Lee’s words from the famous film Enter the Dragon, “A martial artist should perfect the art of fighting without fighting”.