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Karate is such a complex study. Not only does it entail learning new physicality but also some mental development. After all we’re talking about the perfection of one’s character right. So trust plays a big part of that. Also a certain amount of faith. Quite a lot of faith actually. As you walk into the Dojo you are supposed to bow to the centre of the training space and you do the same as you leave. You line up and address your Sensei as ‘Sensei’ with lots of ‘Ossing’. We’re talking about Reigi Saho or Dojo Etiquette for those of us who aren’t actually Japanese. For those intrigued by it’s culture and full of respect for it’s art you’ll keep using the Japanese version. The characters/ideograms mean “etiquette; courtesy (Dojo Customs / Courtesy / Respect).” The first character means, “salute; bow; ceremony; thanks; remuneration,” the second character means, “ceremony; rule; affair; case; a matter,” the third character means, “make; production; prepare; build,” the fourth character means, “method; law; rule; principle; model; system.”

It matters not how you say it, what does matter is that we understand why certain things are done in a certain way, or do we need to understand? maybe we should just do…ergo…. Just Say Osu! Trust, shut up and train! We must also be careful of the erosion of ‘the way’ in favour of the comfort zone and customer service in order to gain large Dojo numbers and therefore more financial income.

Karate does not build character so much as it reveals it. Life is full of bullies, favouritism, discrimination, prejudice, hypocrites, Sexism, misunderstanding, bad humor and Sinicism to say the least. A Karate Dojo or the larger organisation can be just as bad. In fact in the Dojo these things can be often be exacerbated. We go to the Dojo to expose ourselves to the rigors of training. It is there that we find out who we really are. The comfort zone holds little value for our development, physically or mentally. So the concept of trying to change that environment to one that suits you better and to one that you ‘like’ more and fits your ‘personal needs’ is a little skewed. Sure, as the head of an Organisation I want people to attend training but only for the purpose of their true development. That is where we will succeed as an orgainsation. The Student’s own pleasure must be derived only from their accomplishment doing something that is difficult on many levels. Remember, what comes first in the Forge is the Fire!

Very recently I had cause to think deeply about this matter. Actually it was I that was questioned by a Student (Kyu Grade) in terms of how I teach Karate and my demeanour when doing so. I always say that I am by no means the best at Karate and I too have my own personal battles and struggles on both a physical and mental level. I am only Human! I do however have one prerequisite when teaching and that is the Student must try, and try without question. I don’t mean if they don’t understand what I mean not to ask. I encourage all students to have an enquiring mind. I mean that there needs to be an acceptance that I might just know best, where Karate is concerned. At 6th Dan and after 43 years of studying Karate I think I can say that without coming across egotistical or arrogant. I always try and keep a ‘beginner’s mind’. Once the explaining is done and communication is successful and I am happy that I could not have put things in any clearer way, if, after all that, if there is still a reluctance to ‘accept’ I would suggest that this person is not able to be taught by my methods. You see as a Sensei, a Teacher, I am not about to change you, that’s your job to learn and practice, I am merely going to give you tools to use. The work will always be yours. If however we are not ‘like minded’ then we will struggle. I accept there is a period where I have to enlighten the student to a point and there has to be tolerance on both sides but from there on we forge a Teacher/Student relationship that may not be apparent immediately, with some however it is.

So be a Student or don’t be a Student is about handing some trust over to your Teacher. With a spirit of perseverance, it’s about adopting acceptance and trusting that the Teacher knows what is best for you, after all they have gone before! It’s about putting up with and looking past idiosyncrasies. We all saw what happened at the point when Daniel San had enough of doing Mr Miagi’s DIY!

“If at first you don’t succeed then try doing what your Sensei told you to do”

– Ash Hawkes 6th Dan ISKS ASKA CRK

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