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"Karate the Okinawa way"     Blog posts by Glyn Jones

“If the Heart is Right, the Hand will be Right”   An Old Okinawan Saying.

The problem with much of the Karate that is around today is that many fail to ever get taught the art from its true basis, it
has lost its craft as Senaha Sensei says. Yes we can talk about Karate as a fighting art, used for fitness or even as a pass
time or a sport, but deep down the art has so much more to offer us than this, way more in fact.  

As one becomes more appreciative of the art of Karate, we should see that both the Sensei who we seek out and the Dojo
we belong to, and who we are surrounded by on a near daily basis within, is actually one of the most important commodities
to absorbing a real depth of understanding of the true benefits that Okinawan Karate has to offer us, especially so if we
wish to maintain standards and avoid dilution by practising the True Art.

Over the past week or so I have had two people approach me to teach them Karate, to their credit both have sincerely
asked if they can become a member of our Dojo, and their intentions seem good too. The answer may be Yes! The answer
may be No!, I haven't decided yet. I already know that both of these guys are decent nice people, because if they weren't
there would be nothing to consider. I will first see if their interest remains in a month or so, then I will invite them to the Dojo
for a green tea and a friendly chat to discuss the Dojo and the training that we do. Thereafter if both they and I are happy to
proceed, I may offer them a trial period of training with the other members of the Dojo. I'm not interested in money, peoples
age, fitness levels, race, gender, being tough or having natural ability. I'm looking for nice hard working people who are
prepared to embrace the art and face challenges without excuses.

Who I share my Karate and Dojo with is something that I never stop questioning or reavaluating, as serious Karate Ka it is
our duty to be honest and true to both ourselves and the art itself, as accepting anything, being weak, or even dithering will
result in the lowering of standards and a lack of progress for either the Sensei, the in Dojo students and the standing of the
Dojo itself. The integrity, honesty, and good natured people that I wish to share my Karate with is of major importance to me,
just as I'm sure it is to my present students, and as it was to the teachers of old. When one is to share so many hours of
their precious life with others in Karate, it is only right and of then of the upper most importance that we choose our
teachers, students, training partners, or friends to be, very wisely indeed.

The Okinawan Karate teacher Gichin Funakoshi Sensei is probably the most prolific teacher in the history of the art. But
how many Karate Ka these days really take in the full understanding of the many wise words that he spoke!?
"Karate is an Art for Gentlemen" and whereby he spoke of the ultimate aim of Karate being about looking more
"The Good Character of  its Participants".  

Many years may have past and many changes may have taken place since the photos put up above were taken, but the
values of the art and the integrity from which it is based should be one and remain the same. Not everyone is capable of
facing the challenges of true Karate training, just as true Karate should not be taught to anyone, especially not to those of
poor character or with a nasty or violent disposition.

I will leave you with a few words from my old notes that I heard were spoken to this effect by Onaga Yoshimitsu Sensei many
years ago
"Ti s not for everyone! Some people lack the aptitude, with others it's the commitment, with
others it's the physical ability, and then there are those who just lack the right character".
It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. That being so, if we view the wonderful old photographs of the Okinawan
Karate teacher Choki Motobu above, what is clear to see is the realism of the Karate being executed. From the posturing
and the muscular alignment to the focussed intent, there is no doubt at all that this is true Karate of old Okinawa that oozes
both seriousness and effectiveness.There is just something that so tells us this.

As is well documented, the teachings of Okinawan Karate were passed on by the prominent teachers of the time, as in the
likes of Matsamura, Higashionna, Itosu, Azato, Miyagi or Chibana. However, these teachers or Sensei did not and would not
pass the teachings of their art on to anyone!!!  Regardless of if you believe this to be right or wrong, the fact of the matter
is this, the Art of Karate was never meant to be easy or for everyone or anyone, this is why teachers chose their students
wisely and put many challenges and obstacles in their way. Students were certainly not offered fancy or nice incentives to
keep them coming back for more.
"Is Karate Really an Art for Everyone & Anyone"?
Many years ago now my father drove me down to Croydon in South London to attend a training session under Sadashige Kato
Sensei, I was a brown belt at the time. I can still remember this like it was yesterday. Kato Sensei walked in as he did in those
days with a big smile on his face wearing his trade mark body warmer over the top of his Gi, which he kept on most of the time.
The training session was demanding as always whilst being very technical, this was always a definitive trade mark of Kato
Sensei, he was always correcting you, but more than that, he was a true Karate Sensei who always lead by example and from
the front.

My father had spent the day watching and observing the training that took place, he was never a Karate Ka I may add, but he
was a Budo Ka who was very proficient in the arts of Judo and Jutsu Ka to the point that he could and he would make
thingswork at times of needs be, enough said there really. He was a stickler for good manners, courtesy, and having respect
for others too. He certainly didn’t like big heads, bullies or idiots of this world I will tell you that.

Anyway, during our drive home it was our time to analyze. We discussed the training and I was guided and advised on what he
felt that I needed to improve on, together with what he felt would never pass the reality or effectiveness test. Then my father
asked me this question,
“What did you learn the most today son?”  I answered with some technical issue or maybe a new
drill that I may have learned.  Then he stopped me mid sentence and said
“It’s not the belt or grade is it son?”!!!   I had
never been a grade or belt seeker and had always been advised against this way of thinking, even though of course achieving
them was always nice, and kind of a marker that I was making progress in the art.  Then we both looked at each other and I
“No it’s not!”  We both knew why and nothing more really needed to be said on the matter, even though my father
then proceeded to lecture and warn me against being a talker or a grade rider.

So let’s go back to the training! When Kato Sensei entered the Dojo that day he was met by a Dojo full of Dan grades, many of
whom held the grades of 2nd, 3rd or even 4th Dan, which was quiet high back then. There was much loud talk and comrade
ship, some though still had their training shoes on and very few even bothered to bow as they entered the Dojo door. The
junior grades were also ordered around or pushed to one side in a disrespectful manner too. Even once the training
commeced it was clear to see that many of the Dan grades had a mind that was already full as though they already knew it all.
Or so they thought!!??  In reality they had inflated egos and knew very little at all about Karate, and there was only one way
that they would be going. Up in grade!  Down in Budo understanding and ability!

Kato Sensei was accompanied by just one assistant on this day, and I still remember him well.  He entered the Dojo behind his
teacher, and he was carrying his teachers bag. He had already removed his shoes before entering the Dojo and then he
placed them down to one side awaiting his departure. With a large bow he entered politely and said a few words in Japanese.  
His courtesy and etiquette on that day was poetry and admirable, he quietly stayed back and away from his teacher in one
way, but was always there at hand in another kind of way. Whilst most of the Dan grades were back slapping and loud chatting
prior to the training commencing he quietly went about his own warm up drills without fuss.  As for the training…… Once the
training did commence, he stood out like a sore thumb, it was more than obvious for all to see that this guy was by far superior
to all of the Dan grades in attendance in technical standards, ability, and Karate understanding too. But, so much more than
this, he did so with humility, there was no ego or high status about him at all. He was both demonstrated on, and demonstrated
many techniques and drills with his teacher too, whilst being corrected and corrected some more. Of which it was more than
obvious to see that he was taking in each and every word of his Sensei. But more than this, he was on the path to discovering

The lesson that Kato Sensei brought to the Dojo that day was far more important than anything he taught technically. He
brought along a student to give out a message to all in attendance, I honestly wonder though how many on that day actually
saw this lesson at all.

Oh, and by the way…… The assistant to Kato Sensei on that day was wearing a white belt, and before anyone thinks that this
was just a gimmick is so wrong. I recall training alongside the guy again a time or two over the next year or so, and smiled to
myself as I remember him entering the Dojo wearing the higher, and well deserved brown belt.
Glyn Jones Outdoor training as a Brown Belt.

Brown Belt and White Belt both with the Beginners Mind.
"The Way of the Belt or The Way of Budo"
I always find it a little strange that if someone practises or trains in Karate, then people automatically believe that they can fight
effectively, and subsequently that they do Karate because they are training to fight. With all the mysticism and hype that surrounds
the Martial Arts these days I suppose I can see why people think as they do.

So let us get the Black Belt misconception out of the way first. Being the wearer of a Black Belt is no indication at all that a person is
proficient at Karate or a Martial Art, or that they can fight or protect themselves effectively either! Don't get me wrong there are
many that are and can, but there are many more than this who cannot! One needs to realise that we now have; Seven year old
Black Belts / Two years Attendance Black Belts / Sport Karate, Family Karate /  Bunkai Karate. All of this is fine, but you can't water
your whisky down and still expect it to give you the effects of pure alcohol can you?  Karate is so like this.

"I do believe that where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence".  Mahatma Gandhi

A far as effectiveness goes, in reality this will depend on many factors, but primarily it is down to the Dojo and type of guidance or
training that one has received or endured, this being combined with the mind set and back ground of the individual too. A lot of
Karate Ka won't like to hear this. But, there are many Karate Ka out there who would struggle to deal with the reality of
confrontations. Why you may ask. Well to start with it's nothing to do with changing their Karate to include self defence techniques,
learning loads of Bunkai applications, or having a super Mawashigeri or Gyaku Tsuki. The basis of Karate was always about
effective in combat, but to retain thus it has to be intact and based off firm fighting principles and these values. Not fanciness and
frills!!!  So... If you start watering Karate down, turning it in to a sport or a once a week activity, then it will of course lose its flavour,
or shall I say effectiveness.

Two big factors that many fail to understand are in line with the words of the Chinese strategist, Sun Tsu, where he speaks about
knowing your enemy and knowing yourself. In brief; the mind set of lifes idiots or bullies as they tend to be, is very different to that of
the decent people of this world. People like that tend to get off on the lack of caring and compassion for others, as the things that
some people will do to other human beings even over the most trivial of things, can be quite sickening. And like it or not, and quite
understandably, until it is too late many decent Karate Ka are not always prepared for the levels of ferocity or violence that they may
encounter during confrontations. Onaga Sensei of the Shinjinbukan hit the nail firmly on the head when he made the following
statement, or words to this effect.

"There is no prize for second place or a silver medal in confrontation, losing can mean death". Onaga Yoshimitsu Sensei

Do genuine or serious exponents of authentic Karate train in the art because they wish to fight or have intentions of fighting? No I
don't believe that they do, I know that I don't, and most of the genuine Karate Ka that I have acquainted and shared a Dojo with
don't either. Most Karate Ka as a rule are usually very decent and nice people, with the training in Karate having many benefits
including one's wellbeing and health at the forefront of ones training. With this approach far outweighing the value of fighting
anyone. That aside though... I still train and teach with the inherent characteristics of authentic Karate in mind, as in self protection
and self preservation. Or as my Sensei so wisely puts things
"Karate is not about winning, it's about not losing". Genuine and
true training Karate Ka, just like the peaceful people of Okinawa, have no intention of fighting, hurting anyone, or defeating others.  
But quietly, they have no intention of being bullied, beaten or defeated by others either.

So.... I will leave you with the wise words spoken by Dave Hazard Sensei of the Shotokan way, in his work Born Fighter.  

"In most situations (in everyday life) if you miss your one chance life still goes on. You might be upset or angry, or have
other people upset or angry at you, but at least you still have the opportunity to try again. Miss your one chance in a fight
without rules and you can be dead".
 Dave Hazard Sensei
"The Most Important Karate Lesson of All"    
"Karate Training & Fighting"     
Quite a few years ago now we were in the Dojo about to start training, when Brian Hinchliffe Sensei suddenly asked me this. "Glyn, why
do you have so many photos up of past Dojo members"?
 He'd taken me back a little as I wasn't really sure, so I replied like this "I like
to remember the past and those who I have shared training with over the years"
.  Then he said "There is nothing wrong with the past,
but didn't these people give in or change direction due to being unable to face Karate training"?

"I'm not really sure, I just see them as part of our Dojo history or my training history"  Hinchliffe Sensei then said words to this effect
"They are not the history of the Dojo, or the Karate training that you or we do. The history of the Dojo and Karate is in the Karate Ka
who are presently training, that is the future of a Dojo and the Art".  

I wasn't really taking the lesson in.... "Well don't you have photographs up with past Dojo members on"?  I asked. "No!  I don't wish to
be looking at photos of those who gave in, that's negative, so I take them down !!
 He then proceeded to lecture me a little further
along these lines.
"I have photos up of my teachers, training of old, and students who are presently training in Karate, this way is
positive and motivational to all who enter my Dojo and practise the art".

I have never forgotten the words spoken by Hinchliffe Sensei from years ago, even though at the time I didn't really understand the
sentiments being expressed or the value of the lesson that he was trying to pass over to me on that day. Now though I fully
understand!!!   Because when I look at photographs like these presented here, the most important thing is not that they were taken a
few years ago, where they were taken, or that I don't see some of these fellow Karate Ka as often as I would like to.

The most important lesson of all is that everyone pictured is still training in Karate without excuses or having giving in, they continue to
train regularly whilst face up to the many challenges that training in the art of Karate presents.
"A Karate that is Easy and for Everyone" ?    
I started my training as a youngster in the rough and tumble art of Judo under the tutelage of my father. Over the years and decades
that followed my direction in the fighting arts naturally changed and evolved. There was Japanese Karate in my early teens whilst also
studying Ju Jutsu, and later on I went on to study the more authentic ways of practising Karate, as in the Okinawan way. Much of the
training that I have done over the years has always been very hands on and physical, even as a youngster the training was still always
disciplined and challenging. No different really to the training that I've witnessed being taught to youngsters in Dojo on Japan and

"Karate is based on loyalty, honour and respect". Shigetoshi Senaha Sensei

Even though my training has always been very demanding and differing from art to art, for many years I always believed that the
challenges of the Martial Arts were always a physical one as I gave little thought to the mental. Now though I am firmly of the belief that
the biggest tests and challenges that a Karate Ka will ever face are not of the physical, but a mental battle within. Why.... Well in all my
years of training I have never come across anyone who is not capable of reaping in the many rewards and benefits that practising the
art of Karate has to offer physically. I have seen the most un fit and uncoordinated individuals achieve remarkable results and
unprecedented improvements through sheer hard work, determination and perseverance. Instilling motivation, desire and an
enjoyment for life long training is a must, but this shouldn't be confused with watering down Karate and giving in to the wishes of all or
the masses.

"Improving ones physical ability is easy, improving ones character and mindset is much harder"

As I say physically I am 100% sure and of the belief that anyone and everyone can and will make progress through training in Karate if
the art is studied correctly. Mentally though I do not believe so, as personally I feel that the mental challenges are by far the biggest
tests a Karate Ka will ever face. This is the area that will determine the true moral fibre of all students who choose to practise the art,
regardless of ones age or if it is just a few months or even after many years of serious training. Sadly this is where most exponents will
end up failing or be defeated, or in some cases show that there is a flaw in their character.

Being appreciative and respectful to training partners or for the teachings that one has received from ones Sensei is a basic trait and
character test in itself. I'm not talking about loyal worshiping here or becoming a disciple to anyone. Of course not! What is surprising
though is the amount of Karate Ka who quickly forget the Sensei who may have spent many precious years helping them out and
guiding them along the way. Some even have a memory relapse or respect lapse, maybe even twisting things around to suit their own
needs. Is this really the way of true Karate and Budo?  

"The Ultimate Aim of Karate lies not in Victory or Defeat, but in the Perfect Character of its Participants".

I liken my different Sensei to my grandfathers, father and my uncles, each of which may have differing experiences, view points,
opinions and advice to offer me. Each though still shared a common goal which is/was having my best interests at heart.  They also
had a major influence on my life. So I will always be appreciative of this as I still listen and learn from their teachings. I always have and
I always will respect them for all that they have done or do for me, be this in the past or the present. Did I follow or agree with all of the
advice that they ever given to me? No of course I didn't, but I certainly listened, then they left me to go on my way to make my own
decisions in life.

I am often asked what I look for in a student, the answer is a simple one. Their Character! Nothing else concerns me! I have never
refused to teach a student due to physical considerations. Being surrounded by nice decent people is so infectious so I like this.  I do
though repel those who have a bad disposition or poor character. As just like most other decent people I have little or no time at all for
those who are bullies, have a bad attitude or have little or no respect for others? Deep down no one likes people like this. And for this
reason alone I won't teach or train alongside just anyone these days. I will of course refuse to teach people who I feel are not going to
be serious or dedicated, as time is precious, so I encourage them to better spend their time elsewhere.

People may be able to change their ways or character, but the change must start now, and it must be shown and proven, not just
talked about in words, as change of character is rare. Ones true character though is always of major importance. This is why
character evidence and valid inferences about the disposition of an accused from specific instances of prior conduct is used often in
courts of law. Evidence of ‘prior bad acts’ – one is, in truth, dealing with whether this gives us some basis to draw inferences about the
character – the disposition of the individual.  

"If you are a nice person, then you will surround yourself with nice people also". Meitoku Yagi Sensei

Over the years I have seen some of the most gifted, talented, and year hardened Karate Ka give up practising the art over the most
trivial of reasons. Being unable to get off the sofa or out of their front door and make the walk down in to the Dojo to practise, or the
thought of a hard nights training ahead is where many will fail, even though few will ever admit this. Being pessimistic about ones
progress in Karate or worrying about failure instead of looking at the benefits to ones life, or self believing poor excuses for not
training are common reasons for parting ways with the art.

Maybe Karate has now gone full circle again and to find the true teachings of the art, the student will yet again have to put the effort in
to seek out the Sensei who are teaching quietly and from small Dojo, a Dojo that will test the character of each and every student. Yes
there is a Karate out there now that is to the pleasing of everyone and easily available to everyone. But as my father always used to
"Anyone can do the easy things in life"!   A Karate that is easy and not challenging, a Karate that is ineffective, a Karate that
has few long term benefits of physical or mental value, a Karate that is openly taught to thugs, bullies and those of poor character.
Sorry... But this is not true Karate!!!   Yes Karate is open to everyone, but the openness and friendliness of the art and the Okinawan
people is often misunderstood. Everyone who is a decent person yes, easy no...

I will leave you with the words of one of my students.
 "To many people think about things to much, which stops them doing
things like Karate or ever achieving. They give in, they end up failing, or they walk away. They will be like this all of their
lives, when in reality all they need to do is just stay around and do it, and be positive".

(Friday 4th November 2016)
Training in Karate under Tamaki Sensei is never easy and
constantly challenging.

Where so many talk, his Karate speaks for itself.

With over 50 years of training on Okinawa as a student, he will
not only lead by example, he sets high standards when passing
on the art for all to follow.