Posts Tagged ‘Sue Pogmore’

Philosophy & Martial Arts

Written by Sue. Posted in Black Belt Research Project 2013

Martial Arts Philosophy, Thinking, Dalai Lama, Karate-Do, Philosophy & Martial Arts

Susan Pogmore

SECOND REPORT – MAY 2013

“People like Funakoshi are attributed to writing things like “The 20 Precepts” relating to Martial Arts. What would a modern day equivalent be?”

 

Before I can offer a modern day equivalent I should really explain what the precepts are, as I understand them.
At first glance I thought they were rules or instructions for training in the art of karate. However, the deeper I delve into the history of Funakoshi and Karate; it seems that perhaps these precepts are instructions for the life that is the Way of Karate. Ambiguous, I know, I will try to expand.

“The ultimate aim of karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants” Gichin Funakoshi

Funakoshi wrote the 20 Precepts as one liners, with no further expansion or explanation. Many people have, along the way, translated and interpreted his words. Some suggest that he wrote them in such a fashion to entice the mind of the ardent karate student. A book was written in 1938 by Genwa Nakasone called Karate-do Taikan, which sought to expand on the precepts and received Funakoshi’s endorsement; so I hope that I am travelling down the right road. However, I have a sneaky suspicion that Funakoshi still meant for us to interpret these concepts ourselves. The act of seeking meaning is a lesson in itself.

 

1)       KARATE BEGINS WITH COURTESY AND ENDS WITH COURTESY

This point refers to respect; it not only covers the reverence for those who hold authority or seniority over us, but also humility towards others and all manner of life on this planet.

2)       THERE IS NO FIRST ATTACK IN KARATE

This is a moral instruction to avoid violence; he is telling us that we should not be the architect of violence.

3)       KARATE IS AN AID TO JUSTICE

We must have moral fortitude to do the right thing.

4)       FIRST CONTROL YOURSELF BEFORE ATTEMPTING TO CONTROL OTHERS

Recognise your own strengths and weaknesses and then, realise the strengths and weaknesses of your opponent. 

5)       SPIRIT FIRST, TECHNIQUE SECOND

Your mindset is more important than anything. You need a fire in your belly, the technique will develop after.

6)       ALWAYS BE READY TO RELEASE YOUR MIND

Thoughts can get in the way of performance. The aim is to be competent without having to think about it – ‘unconscious competence’.

7)       ACCIDENTS ARISE FROM NEGLIGENCE

Straight forward really, carelessness in our actions can lead to disaster.

8)       DO NOT THINK THAT KARATE TRAINING IS ONLY IN THE DOJO

Karate should be part of our lives. We should strive to lead wholesome lives outside of the dojo. There is a Buddhist saying that “any place can be a dojo.” Karate Do is not only the acquisition of certain defensive skills, but also the mastering of the art of being a good and honest member of society.

9)       IT WILL TAKE YOUR ENTIRE LIFE TO LEARN KARATE; THERE IS NO LIMIT

It is a lifetime dedication to the perfection of the human character through unlimited physical, mental and spiritual seeking.

10)   PUT YOUR EVERYDAY LIVING INTO KARATE AND YOU WILL FIND MYO

MYO is described as a wondrous & strange feeling, to have outstanding skill. Through the intensity of our training we develop attributes which help us to deal with life’s obstacles outside the dojo.

11)   KARATE IS LIKE BOILING WATER; IF YOU DO NOT HEAT IT CONSTANTLY, IT WILL COOL DOWN

To remain good at karate, you need to train constantly & consistently. If you stop training you start to lose your skills. “If one does not use it, one will lose it.”

12)   DO NOT THINK TO WIN; THINK ATHER THAT YOU DO NOT HAVE TO LOSE

I have come across two possible interpretations of this precept and both seem to me perfectly sensible. The first is to turn away and run; avoid confrontation. The second is that karateka understands the principles of fair play and excels in the celebration of competition. For those that win, it is a celebration of the tactics and skill that won the match. For those that lose, it was the experience of the loss and the chance to learn from their mistake. So there are no winners and no losers. Both are winners.

13)   VICTORY DEPENDS UPON YOUR ABILITY TO DISTINGUISH VULNERABLE POINTS FROM INVULNERABLE ONES

When the enemy strikes out, seek for weaknesses in your opponent. Every attack has its counter attack.

14)   THE BATTLE IS ACCORDING TO HOW YOU MOVE: GUARDED OR UNGUARDED

Traditional Karate Do uses combat situations called Ken & Tai. Ken is seizing the initiative; Thai is waiting for the enemy’s first strike. Water adapts to reach its goal, so must you.

15)   THINK OF YOUR HANDS AND FEET AS SWORDS

Hands and feet have power, combat is serious. Also consider that your opponent’s hands and feet have power.

16)   WHEN YOU LEAVE HOME, THINK THAT YOU HAVE NUMEROUS OPPONENTS WAITING FOR YOU

This is not advocating paranoia, moreover a healthy awareness and vigilance.

17)   BEGINNERS MUST MASTER LOW STANCE AND POSTURE; NATURAL BODY POSITIONS ARE FOR THE ADVANCED

“Karate has many stances and it also has none” This refers to the fact that stances are effectively the moving of bodyweight. When we first begin to learn Karate it is easier to understand a specific stance, where to place our feet, our posture and therefore our body weight will follow. Once we mastered the low stance we understand how to use our bodyweight and move it to our advantage.

18)   PRACTICING KATA IS ONE THING; ENGAGING IN A REAL FIGHT IS ANOTHER

Kata is precise and exact, developing finite movement and body awareness. In combat we flow and adapt.

19)   DO NOT FORGET CORRECTLY TO APPLY: STRENGTH AND WEAKNESS OF POWER, STRETCHING, CONTRACTION OF THE BODY AND SLOWNESS AND SPEED OF THE TECHNIQUES

Kata is the combative principle frozen, mindful of muscles, speed, size and in tune with our body.

20)   ALWAYS THINK AND DEVISE WAYS TO LIVE THE PRECEPTS EVERY DAY

Be mindful of your training; honest perception of where you are. Reflect on your training.

 

 

A modern day equivalent                                                                                                    

In my research I have looked at Codes of Conduct held by other clubs and organisations for ideas. The Bushido Code, the code of the Samurai Warriors is not a modern code but is inspiring. It holds fast, the seven virtues of RECTITUDE, COURAGE, BENEVOLENCE, RESPECT, HONESTY, HONOUR and LOYALTY.

Another ancient code, the Knight’s Code of Conduct is very similar holding the virtues of LOYALTY, SERVANT-LEADERSHIP, HONESTY, SELF-DISCIPLINE, KINDNESS, HUMILITY, EXCELLENCE, INTEGRITY, PERSERVERANCE and PURITY.

I have even discovered that there exists the moral and ethical code of the Jedi. Although fictitious, another ancient code:

  • Jedi are the guardians of peace in the galaxy.                                                                                                     
  • Jedi use their powers to defend and protect, never to attack others.                                                                      
  • Jedi respect all life, in any form.                                                                                                                                      
  • Jedi serve others rather than ruling over them, for the good of the galaxy.                                                           
  • Jedi seek to improve themselves through knowledge and training.

 

Girl Guides, Self Defence, Martial ArtsAnd the Guide Law:

  • A Guide is honest, reliable and can be trusted.                                                                                                            
  • A Guide is helpful and uses her time and abilities wisely.                                                                                             
  • A Guide faces challenge and learns from her experiences.                                                                                           
  • A Guide is polite and considerate.                                                                                                                                   
  • A Guide respects all living things and takes care of the world around her.

 

 

 

Instructions for Life by the Dalai Lama  (which just so happens to live on the wall in the office at the centre).

1)       Always take account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.

2)       When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.

3)       Follow the three Rs

  1. RESPECT for self
  2. RESPECT for others
  3. RESPONSIBILITY for all your actions

4)       Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.

5)       Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.

6)       Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship.

7)       When you realise you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.

8)       Spend some time alone every day.

9)       Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.

10)   Remember that sometimes silence is the best answer.

11)   Live a good, honourable life. Then when you get older and think back you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.

12)   A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.

13)   In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situations, don’t bring up the past.

14)   Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality.

15)   Be gently with the earth.

16)   Once a year,  go someplace you’ve never been before.

17)   Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.

18)   Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.

19)   Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon.

 

Okay, so here is the code that I have had hanging on my wall for the last 15 years. It has been my moral compass and I think it qualifies as a modern day equivalent:

 

21 Suggestions for SUCCESS by H.Jackson Brown, Jr.

 

1)       Marry the right person. This one decision will determine 90% of your happiness or misery.

2)       Work at something you enjoy and that’s worthy of your time and talent.

3)       Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully.

4)       Become the most positive and enthusiastic person you know.

5)       Be forgiving of yourself and others.

6)       Be generous.

7)       Have a grateful heart.

8)       Persistence, persistence, persistence.

9)       Discipline yourself to save money on even the most modest salary.

10)   Treat everyone you meet like you want to be treated.

11)   Commit yourself to constant improvement.

12)   Commit yourself to quality.

13)   Understand that happiness is not based on possessions, power or prestige, but on relationships with people you love and respect.

14)   Be loyal.

15)   Be honest.

16)   Be a self-starter.

17)   Be decisive even if it means you’ll sometimes be wrong.

18)   Stop blaming others. Take responsibility for every area of your life.

19)   Be bold and courageous. When you look back on your life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did.

20)   Take good care of those you love.

21)   Don’t do anything that wouldn’t make your Mum proud.

 

As I said at the beginning of this paper, this report is based on my personal interpretation of Funakoshi’s 20 Precepts. I believe they will hold many different meanings for others, but that is the very essence of Philosophy. I do not believe that the precepts are intended to be a rule book of what to do and not to do when studying karate. I see them as a much wider set of directions on how to live a good and honourable life. I offer the following 3 passages as ‘evidence’ to my conclusions.

 

Master Gichin Funakoshi, My Way of Life

“Each year in the month of April, a great number of students enrol in karate classes of the universities’ physical education departments – most of them, fortunately, with the dual purpose of building up their spiritual as well as their physical strength. Nonetheless, there are always some whose only desire is to learn karate so as to make use of it in fight. Those almost inevitably drop out of the course before half a year has passed, for it is quite impossible for any young person who objective is so foolish to continue very long in karate. Only those with a higher ideal will find karate interesting enough to persevere in the rigors it entails. Those who do will find that the harder they train, the more fascinating the art becomes.”

 

Vincent A. Cruz, The 20 Precepts of Gichin Funakoshi

“Karate Do is not only an instrument to attain physical abilities, but it is also an instrument to find the mastery in the art of being a good human being,”

 

In the book Moving Zen: Karate as a way of gentleness, the author C.W. Nicols travelled to Japan in 1962 to learn karate and judo. At the Yotsuya dojo, at the end of a lesson, the karateka would chant an oath with strength and sincerity:

“Dojo kun!”                                                                           (morals of the dojo)

“Hitotsu! Jinkaku kansei ni tstutomuru koto!”             (One! To strive for the perfection of character!)

“Hitotsu! Makoto no michi o mamoru koto!”                  (One! To defend the paths of truth!)

“Hitotsu! Doryoku no seishin o yasinau koto!”               (One! To foster the spirit of effort!)

“Hitotsu! Reigi o omonzuru koto!”                                      (One! To honour the principles of etiquette!)

“Hitotsu! Kekki no yu o imashimuru koto!”                    (One! To guard against impetuous courage!)

 

 

6th May 2013

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Philosophy & Martial Arts – Report # 1

Written by Sue. Posted in Black Belt Research Project 2013

Combat Karate, Karate in BasingstokePhilosophy & Martial Arts

Susan Pogmore

FIRST REPORT – March 2013

In the Beginning: A brief history of karate and an introduction to Funakoshi

Where to start?! At the beginning seems the most logical place. The beginning of karate; or at least, what is known of its beginnings….

The history of karate is long and uncertain, and undocumented for long periods. Although the island of Okinawa, situated between Japan and Taiwan, is regarded as the birthplace of karate, its origins can be traced back further to China.

Around 6th Century, the legendary Indian monk, Bodhidharma, is said to have travelled to China to spread the doctrine of Zen Buddhism. He settled in the Shaolin monastery where his teachings began. Many of the monks were very weak and found such physical exercise too exhausting. Bodhidharma devised a training method that would assist the monks both physically and mentally so that they could continue their Zen practice.

Zen approximately translated as “absorption” or “meditative state”.

Zen emphasizes the attainment of “enlightenment” and the personal expression of direct insight on the Buddhist teachings.

It is suggested that he invented a method of self defence using his hands, (his religion prohibited him using or carrying weapons) which he employed to defend himself against wild life and hostile natives on his journey to China through the Himalayas.

Eventually and there may have been influence from political and military leaders who frequented the monastery, the exercises developed into a fighting system known as kung fu.

Okinawa is a stepping stone between China and Japan and holds a position of historical importance where a blending of cultural, political and military exchanges took place. As a result of this position a number of successive weapons bans were imposed by domestic and invading rulers between 15th and 17th centuries.  It is believed that the unarmed fighting art, kung fu was adapted and further developed by the Okinawans and came to be known as te (meaning “hand”) or to-de (written to mean “Chinese hand” and pronounced kara-te in Japanese).
Over time different styles of te developed to suit practitioners with physical attributes. The Naha-te style focused on strong, heavy techniques, while the Shuri-te style specialised in light, fast techniques. Naha and Shuri are two towns in Okinawa where the different styles were popular. Two experts of note were Ankoh Azato (1827-1906) and Ankoh Itosu (1832-1915) who practiced Naha-te and Shuri-te respectively. These two experts had a student in common named Gichin Funakoshi (1868-1957) who would become known as the ‘father of modern karate’. He combined the principles from both styles in an attempt to create a well balanced style that could be easily learned by all.

 

Gichin Funakoshi was born 1868, in Shuri, Okinawa, to a low-rank Okinawan samurai. He was a sickly baby and a frail child and was encouraged to learn karate at any early age to overcome these handicaps. “Soon I found it had cast a spell over me.” Later he passed the entrance examination for medical school but was unable to pursue this goal because his family were stiffly opposed to the abolition of the Japanese topknot. Being trained in both classical Chinese and Japanese philosophies and teachings, he became an assistant teacher in Okinawa; losing his topknot in the process, much to the disgust of his father.

During this time he began nightly travels to the home of Anko Azato. Here he trained in Naha-te and Shuri-te under the tutelage of Azato’s good friend, Ankoh Itosu. Their styles were different as were some of their philosophies. Azato believed in thinking of his arms and legs as swords, Isotu trained his body to withstand any impact.

It was around 1901 and as a result of a visit from Ogawa, the commissioner of schools for Kagoshima Prefecture that karate had won the approval of the Ministry of Education. Once the decision had been made to include karate in school curriculums, it began to exert its inevitable appeal on all sorts of people, and after securing permission from Azato and Itosu, Funakoshi began teaching karate on a formal basis.

Funakoshi was, in addition to karate, deeply involved in calligraphy and the writing of poetry. He would sign his work using his pen name, Shoto. It is from that pen name that the creation of the word ‘Shotokan’ arose. Shoto, meaning waving pines (his verse was often inspired by the gently waving pines on the hills near his home) and the word ‘kan’ meaning house or school. His first school of karate, based at his home, therefore became known as Shoto’s kan, which was eventually shortened to Shotokan.

By the late 1910s, Funakoshi had many students, of which a few were deemed capable of passing on their master’s teachings. Funakoshi ventured to mainland Japan in 1922 in an effort to spread the interest of Okinawan karate. In 1939 he built the first Shotokan dojo in Tokyo. It was around this time and for political reasons, that the meaning of karate was changed from “Chinese hand” to “Empty hand”.  In 1949 Funakoshi’s students created the Japan Karate Association (JKA), with Funakoshi as the honorary head of the organisation.
Funakoshi published several books on karate including his autobiography, Karate-do: My Way of Life. His legacy, however, rests in a document containing his philosophies of karate training now referred to as the niju kun, or “twenty principles.” These rules/precepts are the premise of training for all Shotokan practitioners and are published in a work titled The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate. Within this book, Funakoshi lays out 20 rules by which students of karate are urged to abide in an effort to “become better human beings”.

Funakoshi died of colorectal cancer in 1957 at the age of 90. A memorial was erected by the Shotokai at Engaku-ji, a temple in Kamakura. Designed by Kenji Ogata the monument features calligraphy by Funakoshi which reads Karate ni sente nashi (There is no first attack in karate), the second of Funakoshi’s Twenty Precepts, and one of his poems.

 

So, a history filled with monks, teachers, poets and artists, ordinary family men, fathers and farmers, wishing no more than to improve their health and be able to defend themselves, their families and their masters.

Anko Itosu wrote a letter is 1908, “Ten Precepts of Karate,” to draw the attention of the Ministry of Education and Ministry of War in Japan. The first precept:

“Karate is not merely practiced for your own benefits; it can be used to protect one’s family or master. It is not intended to be used against a single assailant, but instead as a way of avoiding a fight should one be confronted by a villain or ruffian.”

 

Gichin Funakoshi, founder of Karate

In Funakoshi’s autobiography there are many tales illustrating the peaceful nature of karate. In one episode Funakoshi, his master and half a dozen other karateka were returning home late at night along a dark road, from a moon-viewing, when they were addressed by a party of ‘ruffians’ whose intent was to flex some muscle. Funakoshi, quite young at the time, was pleased with an opportunity to test his skills, however, Master Itosu instructed him to talk with them, do not fight.  The men taunted Funakoshi, but then another group of drunken men arrived at that place in the road and they recognised Master Itosu and turned to the first gang of men saying that they were crazy if they intended to fight with Master Itosu and his karateka. There was no apology but the band of men slunk off into the night and Itosu shepherded his own group home by another, longer road. Later Funakoshi learned that the members of the gang had indeed come rather shamefacedly to Itosu’s house to apologise.

Another episode Funakoshi, married with children at this time, found himself confronted by two men on a dark road. Their intent evident by the fact they had covered their faces with towels. They taunted Funakoshi and the angrier they got the calmer he felt. Funakoshi quietly addressed them “Haven’t you mistaken me for someone else? Surely there has been some misunderstanding. I think if we talk it over…” The two men moved in closer, one raising a club. Funakoshi did not feel intimidated in the least “It seems I am going to have to fight you after all, but frankly my advice to you is not to insist. I don’t think it’s going to do you very much good because if I wasn’t sure of winning, I wouldn’t fight. I know I’m bound to lose. So why fight? Doesn’t that make sense?”

The two men seemed to calm down a bit “Well” said one of them, “you certainly don’t put up much of a fight. Let us have your money then.” Funakoshi parted with the only thing he had, manju, cakes he was taking to offer at the altar in the house of his wife’s father.

A few days later in retelling the events to Azato and Itosu they both praised him. Itosu said that Funakoshi had behaved with the utmost propriety and that he now considered the hours he had spent teaching Funakoshi karate had been well-spent.

 

It is undisputed that an adept karateka has the ability to do another person serious injury, but in the study of karate we learn control and understanding and discipline, respect, honour, courtesy, justice, spirit, diligence, observance, imagination. I refer you to Funakoshi’s 20 Precepts, which I will concentrate on in my next report.

                                                                                                                                                          27th March 2013

 

The Twenty Precepts of

 Gichin Funakoshi

  1. Karate begins with courtesy and ends with courtesy.
  2. There is no first attack in Karate.
  3. Karate is an aid to justice.
  4. First control yourself before attempting to control others.
  5. Spirit first, technique second.
  6. Always be ready to release your mind.
  7. Accidents arise from negligence.
  8. Do not think the Karate training is only in the dojo.
  9. It will take your entire life to learn Karate; there is no limit.
  10. Put your everyday living into Karate and you will find Myo.
  11. Karate is like boiling water; if you do not heat it constantly, it will cool down.
  12. Do not think that you have to win; think rather that you do not have to lose.
  13. Victory depends on your ability to distinguish vulnerable points from invulnerable ones.
  14. The battle is according to how you move: guarded or unguarded.
  15. Think of your hands and feet as swords.
  16. When you leave home, think that you have numerous opponents waiting for you.
  17. Beginners must master low stance and posture; natural body positions are for the advanced.
  18. Practicing kata is one thing; engaging in a real fight is another.
  19. Do not forget correctly to apply: strength and weakness of power, stretching and contraction of the body, and slowness and speed of techniques.
  20. Always think and devise ways to live the precepts every day.

 

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Philosophy and the Martial Arts

Written by Sue. Posted in Black Belt Research Project 2013

Ladies Karate Basingstoke, Self Defence for Woman in Basingstoke, Ladies Judo in BasingstoklePhilosophy and the Martial Arts

by Susan Pogmore

 

Philosophy & Martial Arts

a)       What, if any, is the relationship between philosophy and Martial Arts in today’s society?

b)       What do you think the intention of the ‘old masters’ was with the philosophical aspects of their practice?

c)       People like Funakoshi are attributed to writing things like ‘The 20 precepts’ relating to Martial Arts. What would be a modern day equivalent?

d)       Karate is often said to be ‘Moving Zen’. Why?

 

Admin’s Note:- As part of the Black Belt grading requirements in 2013, candidates will have to complete and publish a given research project where they have to justify and prove all conclusions that they arrive at.

The aim of this is to challenge the individual on a personal basis to broaden and deepen their knowledge base over a longer period of time and ultimately with the goal to significantly improve their physical and non-physical skills.

Definition of PHILOSOPHY   from Collins Concise Dictionary of the English Language

1: the academic discipline concerned with making explicit the nature and significance of ordinary and scientific beliefs and investigating the intelligibility of the concepts by means of rational argument concerning their presuppositions, implications, and interrelationships.

2: the particular doctrines relating to these issues of a specific individual or school

3: the basic principles of a discipline: the philosophy of law

4: any system of belief, values or tenets

5: a personal outlook or viewpoint

6: serenity of temper

Definition of MARTIAL ART

1: any of various philosophies of self defence and techniques of single combat, such as judo or karate, originating in the Far East

The word “philosophy” comes from the Ancient Greek   φιλοσοφία   (philosophia), which literally means “love of wisdom”.

Documented philosophy dates back to the Ancient Greeks, but I suspect that man has been philosophising for as long as he has been able to express himself. And despite the enormous length of time that has passed, Philosophers are still not in complete agreement about the nature and methods of philosophy; what philosophy and its methods are, or should be, itself a philosophical question.

I really like Vincent A. Cruz’s conclusion that philosophy is most appropriately described as “unusually persistent attempts to think things out”.  

So for the purposes of this project, I will attempt to understand other people’s views of the Philosophies of Karate-do. Entering the minds of some of the greatest Karateka the world has ever known and the minds of those whom are yet to be recognised as great, maybe….

My research will take two forms. Firstly; copious amounts of reading about the ‘old masters’ and the greats. Their personal journeys & the lessons they valued. The second; talking to modern day Karateka about what karate means to them.

I also need to discover the meaning of ‘Moving Zen’. I have briefly touched upon it in my initial investigations and believe this to be more of an intangible concept than an actual practice or process.

Proving my research is going to be challenging. I will be able to list literature I’ve read and there will be proof of interviews I’ve conducted. I hope to be able to provide rational arguments to support my theories, but as this is philosophy, I shall leave it to the reader to decide whether I have ‘proved’ anything at all.

I strongly believe that the fundamentals of life haven’t changed over the years just the dressing that they are packaged in. Once I have discovered the principals of the ‘old masters’ then I will need to put together a ‘modern day’ equivalent and uncover the commonalities of our lives, decades apart.

I intend to provide a report at the end of March, April, May, June, July and August, and then a short summary of findings and conclusions and a 60 minute lesson plan for the beginning of November, in preparation for a class.

 

25th February 2013

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