Putting It Together

In class last night, we worked on blocking and countering drills, taking the various pieces of our kihon and putting them together. It was a lot of fun, but (as the best lessons always do) it also really made me stop and think about what I’ve learned so far, and how much I have yet to learn.

Footwork, stances, sinking the hara, blocking, striking, timing, distance, angle, speed… I’m still working on each of those pieces (and more!) individually, and trying to put them together coherently was simple, but not easy. So, my mind was occupied enough that I didn’t see the rest of what it was trying to tell me until I was on my way home…

To clarify, I’ve wondered before about the differences between karate-jutsu and karate-do, but always thought that my understanding was suspect. In a literal sense, I know that jutsu means the “method” of karate, and do is the “way” of karate. Jutsu focuses on the physical applications of karate (self-defense, fitness, etc.) and Do focuses on the aspects of karate that are designed for personal enrichment and improvement (patience, perseverance, teamwork, etc.). But, from a practical perspective, I wondered what it meant when I read, or heard someone say, that karate becomes a way of life. Finally, last night, it began to make some sense.

Can I throw a punch? Sure. Can I execute a block? Yup. Can I move between stances? Absolutely. Can I do all of it together, while changing the cadence and order in which they’re done so as to avoid settling into a pattern? Well, sort of. I wasn’t very good at it, and I can tell that it’s going to take me a lot of work to improve.

Enter the “do”. There are a lot of things I am not good at (Just ask my wife. Thanks. I’ll be here all week.), but, as in karate, if I am honest with myself and others, and if I have the desire, the motivation, the perseverance, and the patience to improve, I will. Simple, but not easy. And, also as in karate, repetition is key. There was a time when I thought to myself, “I’m not very good at changing diapers.” but now I’m an old pro (Actually, my initial thought was “What is that unholy smell and why is it that color and what in the name of all that is good and right have I DONE TO DESERVE THIS?” and then, firmly convinced that it must have at some point slipped my notice that I kicked a nun down a flight of stairs or somesuch, I got back to it.). What got me there was just doing it countless times. My roundhouse kick is currently pretty bad. But I bet if I just keep mindfully doing it, someday it will be as effortless as my diaper-fu.

Karate as life. It always seemed like such a big, nebulous concept to me… but I think that all it means is that one should constantly apply the lessons of each to the other, until you can’t tell them apart anymore.

(Edit: Dissatisfied with my own explanation of “do” vs. “jutsu”,  I’ll have Iain Abernethy come to the rescue again: http://www.practical-martial-arts.co.uk/practical_karate/iain_abernethy/ia_jutsu.html)

2 Responses to “Putting It Together”
  1. Colahan says:

    Great piece Brian – and funny! Glad it’s all coming together for you.

  2. Matt says:

    Great post, this reminds me of my early martial arts experience!


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