"The Author, it must be remembered, writes from his own standpoint!"
My personal "Interpretive" Lens!
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"Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider..." - Francis Bacon
Warning, Caveat and Note: The postings on this blog are my interpretation of readings, studies and experiences therefore errors and omissions are mine and mine alone. The content surrounding the extracts of books, see bibliography on this blog site, are also mine and mine alone therefore errors and omissions are also mine and mine alone and therefore why I highly recommended one read, study, research and fact find the material for clarity. My effort here is self-clarity toward a fuller understanding of the subject matter. See the bibliography for information on the books.
Note: I will endevor to provide a bibliography and italicize any direct quotes from the materials I use for this blog. If there are mistakes, errors, and/or omissions, I take full responsibility for them as they are mine and mine alone. If you find any mistakes, errors, and/or omissions please comment and let me know along with the correct information and/or sources.
True ki, my theory. There are stories and posts on "ki" as an energy. A term for the martial arts that is most often thought of as a form of energy with no real definition to attach but here in this post I will try to convey my theory, my perception, as to what "ki" is.
Ki is a combination of things with the three main essentials being "spirit, mind, and body." This is insufficient to convey a meaning understandable to all who practice martial arts.
So, lets start with spirit. How does one develop and strengthen spirit and how does that add to ki in the overall fundamental meaning of energy? Mind-set, attitude and intestinal fortitude to name a few. Development of the spirit through these and other traits that strengthen the mind and by that strengthen the body.
Have you ever witnessed a person of large size with an appearance of great strength who when confronted by the unknown huddles and sniffles like a new born scared baby? When you defeat an opponent who outweighs you is it strength of body, mind or spirit - try spirit, that attitude and belief of self that allows you to do amazing things.
Ki is composed of spirit.
Now, how about the mind. The level of strength within the mind governs how the body acts, reacts or takes actions. It can make the difference in whether one can move mountains or simply roll up on the floor in a ball and become like a child. Tasking and straining the mind can be done by confronting your greatest fears and by physically taking your body, thus your mind, to beyond its perceived limits into exhaustion - shugyo.
Witness how masters of marital arts in the late or winter years of life can still take on young strong athlete type martial artists with apparent ease or stop an attacker by their mere presence.
Ki is composed of mind.
Third, lets talk about body. This one is last but important for it has effects and affects all three for it is how we handle our bodies that brings about a stronger spirit and mind. It is tasking the body to do things that are perceived as far and above individual capability to demonstrate that there are no limits of the body thus the spirit and mind that cannot be reached if all three are wholeheartedly and holistically practiced, trained and applied in both martial arts and life.
The body needs a variety of things to become strong and to be able to endure and act at its absolute peak. Mental attitude is first for it feeds a stronger chemical dump from the brain and other chemical body producing areas for maximum body efficiency in everyday activities to combat modes. Then there is its yin of fuel, the foods that are burned by the body to give the cells, muscles, bones, mind and spirit the fuel to generate the fire that is energy - ki.
What you put in for fuel is also a determinate as to energy levels and how well that energy is dispersed to the body, mind and spirit. The body also needs a mixture, like fuel and air for the combustion engine, so proper breathing methods are necessary to get the right mixture's to burn the fuel that runs the body, mind and spirit.
Mix in a bit more mechanics so the body is at its best, i.e. learning and applying fundamental principles that maximize the bodies functioning in all area's of physical movement, etc. Things like economic movement, body alignment and posture are but a few directly affecting the body and its efficiency. This efficiency also determines the amount of energy applied in movement and in the final technique application. The more the body or fundamentals are deviated from in application the greater the drain of energy internally that will not be applied externally and efficiency drops burning fuel inefficiently taking away maximum energy consumption and use.
Ki is composed of the body.
This explanation is far from complete. Ki is not some mystical energy that is like magic but a completely physical and psychological manifestation of efficiency that promotes what can be perceived as magical actions. Ki is what is generated and used when the mind perceives a great danger that allows small petite women to lift a car to save a child, their child. The difference is spirit and mind because the body when treated and used justly, correctly and efficiently can already do wondrous things.
Systems, there is actually only one system of karate once referred to by the Okinawans as "Ti (pronounced tea)." It is the Okinawan dialect for Te or hand. It was also called Tou-di (not sure of correct English spelling). Touda maybe. Anyway, it was a indigenous fighting system that later became influenced by the Chinese systems of empty hand and weapons training.
The styles came into being when individuals began making Ti there own unique practice which is correct. Then they actually wanted to differentiate between one and the other so they named them after the three main villages, i.e. Shuri-ti, Tomari-ti and Naha-ti, as we know it here in the west. Then as the styles began to grow they branched off from these three main styles into Goju-ryu, Shorin-ryu and Uechi-ryu and so forth. Isshinryu was named and practiced officially in the mid to late fifties and is considered a branch of Shorin-ryu.
In my mind I often call the branches styles. I say that the system is Ti or Te and the styles are Goju, Shorin, etc. and branches are those practices considered children of the main styles, i.e. Isshinryu a branch of Shorin-ryu.
In my mind Isshinryu is actually a branch of both Shorin-ryu and Goju-ryu, i.e. the two most influential styles resulting in its creation. I agree that Shorin-ryu had the greatest influences on Isshinryu as evidenced by its greater status as to kata inclusion in the Isshinryu branch.
It gets convoluted because you can call any or all of them systems of those individuals who caused their creation and styles of karate as well as a branch of the indigenous system of Ti for Okinawa. Fun isn't it?
Now, this should answer why some are hard and some soft, a matter of personal preferences of the creator of the system, style or branch of karate where my practice of Isshinryu actually works the mean of hard and soft, and equilibrium or balance of both which is as it should be for all martial arts but that is another post/story.
I have written a lot on teaching/instructing/mentoring martial arts, i.e. being a good Sensei, like sense modes, i.e. sight, hearing and touch, but also needed to find methods that are written as well to reach more via a blog or book or what ever means that would "strike a cord" on the receiving end.
A new method came to me not long ago so I have focused a lot of effort on this "form" or "method" of conveying thoughts, idea's and other knowledge of my views, experience and knowledge of martial arts in all its forms, the terms/phrases blog site.
If what I am doing here can be viewed as another path to follow that strikes a cord and makes the reader interested and thinking then it works - as I hope it does.
So, if you find my lack of posting here as such please do me the honor of going to the "Martial Art Terminology/Phrases" blog and take a look. I would be interested in thoughts and idea's on the form and function of this method.
I believe we focus on the two main area's because we perceive those as the targets that will one, get us the tournament point or two, disable the attacker. Not always true especially if the blow, strike, etc. is direct. The body is armored or protected from direct impacts. One who is well developed can absorb strong blows or strikes directly applied to the trunk of the body. If one takes the counter attack off center line and comes in at an oblique angle along with a strike or blow that is angled in lieu of direct the body loses its natural armor significantly.
Example, I sparred with a fellow practitioner of equal ability and skill. It was a blow that came in a downward angel into the floating ribs with what seemed little or no power that dropped him to the floor. Interesting ....
Is it possible that we have point tournament targeting mixed up as combat targeting? If I can attack the legs and/or arms immobilizing them, making them ineffective and useless does that give me some advantages to gain safety with minimal damage? Something to consider, contemplate and study .... maybe.
Being a Sensei in a traditional/classic dojo also requires so much more which would include a certain level of maturity that I would attach both an age and a years of experience where the experience encompasses things like; dojo experience, real life experience and teaching experience (under the guidance of a qualified teacher/sensei.).
I would say one must have between ten and twenty years experience. If they also want to teach self-defense they must have personal experience in that area as well (not just one or two encounters of social school yard type but a professional level encounter such as combat in military or police or prison officers, etc.)
If one is strictly practicing sport oriented martial arts then the criteria is the same but the experience needs only be in the sport oriented arena. Regardless, all Sensei must have from ten to twenty years and be at the ripe old age of thirty to age forty - minimum.
You diligent studies to gain the knowledge of the zone is the key to your avoidance and survival. Beyond the safety of your life lies the zone: a zone of sights, a zone of sounds, a zone of mind; a zone of shadows and substance, of things beyond normal perceptions. You have crossed over the edge of society into .... the Twilight Zone.
There is this predatory zone of violence and conflict beyond what is know to man. It is vast and dangerous as infinity. It is that zone between light and dark, a shadow that is between safety and reality but is real. It lies in a pit of man's worst fears and beyond the summit of his knowledge. This zone is a dimension only entered in imagination. It is an area I will call the twilight zone - a world of predatory violence and conflict.
We stand as martial artists on the edge of this zone. Only those who dare to work the zone take that first step, that one step beyond normalcy taking them deep into the zone. We may step over the edge to the peripheral of the zone and experience the conflict and violence but we will quickly step back into that safety of normalcy. It is those who dare to step across the edge and continue to walk deep into the zone, this twilight zone, this one step beyond and assume the role of professional - in the Twilight Zone.
What we must learn from those who take one step beyond is the truth, the dangerous world of our unknown, the danger of taking "One Step Beyond." Then we may understand the heart, courage and determination of those few, proud and professionals who live, breath and work in "The Twilight Zone."
Many of the things quoted and mentioned in the post speak volumes to my views on this subject. First, being a black belt, specifically sho-dan, does not mean or make one an expert. Using some insight from Coles Sensei here is what I feel denotes the belts we wear:
1st Kyu brown belt is like moving or graduating from middle school to high school. To be awarded sho-dan is tantamount to graduating from high school. It does not guarantee the privilege of entering into college or university (that is another whole post on its own). If one is allowed to participate in the college/university levels then to earn San-dan is to graduate with a degree from college/university - an undergraduate. Again, no guarantee that you will attend grad school here either.
Now, to attain a graduate degree of say a PhD or Masters means you have attained the level of roku-dan. Between san-dan and roku-dan one may or may not be accredited the ability to "teach, mentor or instruct" in the system, style or branch of martial art.
If allowed to gain entrance into upper education in martial arts one can achieve a degree and the experience necessary to be awarded the levels of shichi-dan, hachi-dan, ku-dan and ju-dan, i.e. like taking the requirements the the residency necessary to be a doctor.
This is how I envision the belt system with emphasis on the black belt system. One knows instinctively in the martial arts that the label "black belt" covers far more than that first one, sho-dan. Even if the system, style or branch practiced uses the paneled belts and red belts not to forget all those other colors used depending on the systems, etc. that the black belt actually covers, fundamentally, all ten levels of the dan grades.
Making, earning or the award of the sho-dan black belt simply states that one has entered the beginning and is no longer a novice but now a deshi, a practitioner or a disciple, your choice as to perception.