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Following the usual ‘shenanigans’ this week ended on something that provoked some thought. I’ll share that here.

The Pandemic has made us all think and treat life differently, act differently and train differently. But what difference has it made to our training?

I have always said that the shared physical experience of the training in the Dojo is not enough to develop at the given rate. I have always said that Students should practice at home between sessions in the Dojo. Haven’t I?

It’s clear that although this time has been difficult for us all, some have still improved in their Karate, some have found new problems, some have worked on a different aspect of their physical and mental self and some have fulfilled a certain prophecy and some have proved a certain prophecy true.

Karate is many things to many people. That’s fine. As my wife and Son are always pointing out to me “not everyone lives and breathes Karate like you”. That’s a perception, but is it the truth?

That’s the trouble with perception and interpretation. I’m finding this out whilst trying to understand and apply the new Coronavirus Legislation!

So I was reminded by a Student and good friend recently that something I said weeks ago is coming to fruition. I talked about ‘True Colours’ and how this Pandemic will reveal them. Karate is the same, it builds Character but it also Reveals Character. Through the rigors of practice and various Instruction together with the reaction of the Student, you get to see what someone is really like and what they are able to change and what they are prepared to change. Let’s face it Karate is about changing for most of us. That change comes slow and sometimes with pain and certainly not without it’s share of Blood, Sweat and Tears! There’s Blood? It’s metaphoric of course. It should be noted though that it does take all sorts to make up a world and it’s ok that not everyone is able to change and fit into the ‘Karate Box’.

For those that have their own motives for training in Karate that change is hard for some people to take and some are even looking for a good reason to quit that arduous journey. I know about this as I’ve been there before. In over 40 years of Karate training I know how hard it is to grasp it’s concepts, I’m still learning and, like the rest of us, I’m learning a lot and rapidly right now.

Another lesson that I learned years ago from a well known Instructor is to just say ‘Osu’.

Following a Sensei or Organisation in it’s ‘way’ is a matter of trust. We have to trust that the desired outcome will be wholesome and good. We Bow when we enter the Dojo, we Bow when we leave. ‘Rei‘. It’s part of the same concept.

I’m reminded how Karate is ‘everything’. From the way I act towards others to the way I act to myself and the Universe itself. I see it in my habits and in the way I behave and influence others. I see it in others as they parade themselves and their Karate knowledge publicly on social media at the moment. They really are missing the Dojo aren’t they!

The Shared Physical Experience of Dojo training is important but no more inportant than your mind set. It’s easier to train when there’s a Sensei leading the way but what else can you do? ‘Easier’ does come with a lesser ‘value’. Sure we have the Video Consultations but how can you be Karate-ka in the absence of the Dojo meetings? That answer has already been given here and very much depends on your circumstances of course. Are you going to school/work? how much space/time have you got? Are you looking after others/Children? Why were you doing Karate in the first place?

I guess there are as many questions as there are answers and as Karate-Ka we are encouraged to have an ‘Enquiring mind’ (a phrase used by my Manager at Vauxhall motors when I was an employee on that YTS scheme back in 1983). I have never valued that scheme and it’s mentors and lessons as much as I do now.

So is this a Test? I personally think everything is a Test, I certainly feel I have had a ‘Testing’ time over the last couple of months or even the last year. No, the more I think about it it’s been for as long as I can remember. Someone or something has been testing me all of my life, they still are. The consequences of my answers, my decisions and the way that I have acted are apparent, ‘as you Sow, so shall you Reap’.

Karate is no different is it? Life is no different. As Karate-ka I believe in the Samurai virtues and the Dojo Kun :

Virtues of Bushido

  • Rectitude or Justice.
  • Courage
  • Benevolence or Mercy.
  • Politeness
  • Honesty and Sincerity.
  • Honour
  • Loyalty
  • Character and Self-Control.

Dojo Kun

  • Seek perfection of character
  • Be faithful
  • Endeavor for effort
  • Respect others
  • Refrain from violent behaviour

So for many that’s a tall order and the above is open to interpretation. Each will have their own understanding upon what each virtue means and how it should be applied.

I Guess it’s simple really, as is my message today. We can complicate it with notions of Bushido and glamour but in simple terms… Be nice, follow the rules and above all if you want something, do the same thing to get it as someone who has it. Balance that though with understanding that you are a different person, perfection doesn’t exist and you may respond differently to things and you may have different needs that influence and determine your outcomes, change is demanding!

Pay attention to the lessons in their many forms, enjoy the journey it’s yours, develop and be Karate-ka.

Osu!

Ash Hawkes

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