Through karate training one can attain the highest ideals of beauty and strength. This beauty and strength is both inner and outer, mental and physical.” (Master Nagamine in The Essence of Okinawan Karate-do, 1976, p. 271)

Did you know…

  • Master Ankichi Arikaki was unique as a bujin, one who places very high value on balancing physical training with artistic study, and was skilled across many areas: dance, poetry, calligraphy, Ryukyu music, and sports;
  • Master “Bushi” Matsumura was a master calligrapher;
  • Master Anko Itosu also had a “remarkable aptitude for writing skills”

Hanshi Scaglione has written about the analogy of the practice of basic moves of karate being like the practice of learning to write the alphabet, with much practice and repetition until we know them. Kyoshi Kaplan explains the analogy: first we observe what the letter is an “A”, we see how it is put together. Then we practice copying it over and over until we can write it ourselves. We add new letters to our repertoire, and can start to write sentences (e.g., a series of offensive/defensive moves, as in yakusoku kumite) and paragraphs (e.g., complete katas telling the story of fighting multiple attackers).

In calligraphy, each written kanji/alphabet has a very specific way to properly make each of the two-dimensional characters/letters: stroke 1 starts here, goes there; stroke 2, stroke 3, etc. Similarly, individual moves in a kata must go in a particular order and direction in three-dimensional space. We practice kata over and over to get as close to perfection as we can so that each of these moves are automatically accessible to us should we need them in the face of adverse circumstances.

The concept of ken-zen-sho captures the idea that to fully develop as a human being we need a balance of three things: Ken (“sword”/martial arts), Zen (philosophical/spiritual/mind), Sho (“brush”/art/aesthetics). Our karate principles of mushin and zanshin and others apply to any endeavor we might undertake in life: our relationships, our work, our hobbies, our activities. Focus your attention, clear your mind, be present, listen carefully, be persistent, practice well, learn from others, and apply yourself with full speed and power.

“The true study of karate must transcend the mere physical – it must become a way of life.”

“Earnestly cultivate your mind as well as your body and believe in yourself”. (Master Nagamine in The Essence of Okinawan Karate-do, 1976, p. 47).

Arigato gozaimasu,
Barb Schaefer, Ni-dan
Ueshiro Okinawan Family Karate Club