The 18th Precept of Sensei Gichin Funakoshi by Mireille Clark

Sensei Gichin Funakoshi said:

18. Practicing karate correctly is one thing; engaging in a real fight is another.

For many years now, I have been thinking about the concept of "truth".

What is truth?

Sensei Funakoshi's 18th precept brings a straightforward answer: Karate practice in the dojo, even when done well, is not the same as fighting. I will attempt to expand this explanation by offering what I see, and I would ask for some flexibility on you, the reader's part, when it comes to interpretation.

Truth relies on expectations. If I tell you that I'm going to give you an apple. Your mind will bring forth certain expectations of what that word means.

If I hand you a piece of paper instead of a fruit, (or a Macintosh computer :-) ), you will compare my action to your expectations and you will say "This isn't an apple."

If I point out the sketch of an apple that is on the paper.. you might accept it as a "truth" but just minimally. Your brain would assert that I gave a picture, not an item.. but that this is passable.

Real Karate relies on truth. If a person says that they are doing a middle punch, then there has to be some effectiveness to their action. Not only should their technique be correct, but there has to be a reality to the effort.

"You may train for a long time, but if you merely move your hands and feet and jump up and down like a puppet, learning karate is not very different from learning a dance. You will never have reached the heart of the matter; you will have failed to grasp the quintessence of karate-do."
Quote of Sensei Gichin Funakoshi

There HAS to be the essence of making the technique "work" for you in order to call the effort that we put forth in the dojo as being a Martial Art. The whole body, mind, and spirit needs to send forth that middle punch for it to "be" a middle punch. Otherwise, if ever you need to send a punch in a real fight, your body/mind/spirit will not know what to do because you have never trained for it.

Reality is that there are no rules in a real fight, and everything happens quickly. Technique can only happen if it's already ingrained in you... and that happens when you put your heart into every exercise, every stance, every strike, every block.

Have you ever listened to a concert and heard a technically correct piece of music, but felt within that there was something missing? Something essential to make that piece come alive? This is the same thing with Martial Arts.. There has to be a "focus", or "energy" that happens when the person is executing a technique that makes it come alive. One should work towards keeping this focus or "Kime" for each time they move.

Also, your expectations of what is happening, or of what should happen, depends on what occurs. You might believe that you are training with focus, but all along you've just been flailing your arms. How can you know? An experienced Instructor can guide you. He/she can see that your punch is still in the formation stage, and hasn't yet reached effectiveness. This is not a bad thing.. it is good to know the truth because now you can work towards improvement instead of being stuck in mediocrity. It's up to you to put your whole self into each movement without holding back so that you can last for the whole class, or so that you don't get tired. You will develop stamina, and learn how to breath/move properly by investing yourself in this way.

Yet, even so, we cannot delude ourselves that what we do in a dojo will be the same as engaging in the chaos of a random fight. In real life, we will be wearing normal clothes, and standing on uneven surfaces, and there will be many obstacles, and variables around us.

I wish you good training

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Ymar Sakar said…

A good explanation of the stages students need to go in rests in that article.

Many students in martial arts that I've seen or spoken with or communicated with, are in the shu stage. But they're not progressing because their mind cannot imagine doing something other than copy other people's movements. The idea of ownership, of mastery even, is alien beyond their ken and they shun such things as being illegitimate or "incorrect". I suppose given their level of comprehension it would become "incorrect", but that's a negative cycle.

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