Saturday, November 19, 2011

Exspository Essay

Renshi Brian Robinson
World Sansei Koryu Goju Ryu Organization

I am pursuing my 1st college degree at the age of 50 years old. Truly proving "Nothing is Impossible".For my Critical Writing course the Professor said we could choose the subject format for all our required essays. I choose ,"How the Art of Traditional Karate Helps Me to Create Leaders of High Integrity". I will be posting the Essays for the readers of this blog to enjoy.

What is Traditional Karate and What are the Benefits of Traditional Karate?
Traditional Karate has its beginning dating back as far as 2000 B.C. in India. A Buddhist monk named Bodhidarma traveled from India to China to teach. Upon arrival to a Chinese Buddhist Monastery he found the Monks there in extremely poor health. They had been spending all of their time meditating, and they had let their bodies become very weak to the point that they could hardly even sit upright to mediate any longer. Bodhidarma knew he had to get the monks in better health mentally and physically. He developed a series of exercises and conditioning for the monks to practice, which is somewhat similar to Indian Yoga called “Eighteen Hand of Lo-Han” (World Sansei). Soon thereafter the Monks, who were very close to nature, began studying the various animals and their natural movements used to defend themselves against the other predators who were attacking, and killing their prey. The monks imitated and adapted the movements of the animals to what later came to be known as the art of Chuan-Fa or Kung-Fu. It should be noted that the art of Chuan-Fa was originally developed by the Buddhist monks for physical and mental conditioning, and lastly for self-defense only. For centuries the monks became very proficient and developed the art of Chuan-Fa. Around 600 B.C. the monks were attacked by raiders looking for treasure. They then used their art of Chuan-Fa to defend themselves victoriously. Shortly thereafter the word spread throughout China of the monks’ victory and many people came to study Buddhism and also to learn Kung-Fu at the Shaolin Temples. Since then, the art has branched off to as many as a hundred different variations and styles. During the 14th century, Chuan-Fa was introduced to Okinawa by the traders and sailors who traded with Okinawa from China. For 200 hundred more years, Chuan-Fa was practiced in the open by the Okinawans. In 1609, Okinawa was defeated and taken over by the Japanese. As a result, all weapons of any kind were destroyed or taken and the practicing of any type of martial arts was made punishable by death by the Japanese conquerors. The Okinawans still practiced and further refined their Chuan-Fa and even developed many weapons using every day farming implements in total secrecy for nearly 300 hundred years.
At the beginning of the 20th century, a sensei named Hanryo Higaonna started teaching Karate at a high School in Okinawa. Karate became a respected martial art in the Okinawan public schools system. He had spent 13 years in Fuzhou, China as a disciple of the great Ryu Ryu Ko. “In order to teach the youth of Okinawa, he developed a teaching method specifically designed to develop the mind and body; to improve both physical and spiritual well-being” (Saavedra). That style of karate known as Naha Te in Okinawa and known later as Goju Ryu in Japan and throughout the world became a systemized discipline, which means that it no longer belongs only to the Okinawan’s or the Japanese, but to the world. A very great Japanese sensei named Gogen Yamaguchi further developed Goju Ryu to include Yoga and the study of Zen Buddhism. All the teaching and methods of the great old masters are part of the style of Sansei Goju Ryu founded by Hanshi Manny Saavedra in 1979. Hanshi Saavedra continues to refine the principles, philosophies, training methods, and wisdom of the great Master Senseis of the past. He explains, “Modern traditionalist philosophy, which is ever changing and improving Karate system known as the World Sansei Koryu Goju Ryu Organization” (Saavedra). The World Sansei has a membership from all over the planet dedicated to this mission statement: “The mission of the World Sansei Koryu Goju Ryu Karate Do is to promote excellence in its members. Students becoming members in the organization will grow physically, mentally, and spiritually. Karate provides knowledge that will last the lifetime of the student. Discipline and preparedness learned in the dojo will allow the students to perform at higher levels, giving them a competitive edge, both in school and in the workplace. The student that accepts the Karate way sets himself or herself forever on the path of excellence” (Saavedra).
A traditional Karate curriculum is defined as being based around the historical roots and theories of self-defense that have been tested and perfected over many centuries. The Katas are centuries old predefined set of defenses and offenses that begins with the basics and gradually builds in complexity; each being a building block for the next. The Katas can also be referred to as a historical language of karate movement and philosophy. “Kata is meditation in motion” (Saavedra). The class curriculum instructs the students in basic, complex self-defense drills, and concepts also using the Kata curriculum as the primary reference. Ancient Kobudo (weapons) are taught as well. These concepts and drills can also be used in self-defense with common instruments found in the everyday environment. Kobudo requires years of dedication to master the Katas concepts thoroughly. “Discipline of both mind and body are developed as one strives towards perfection in thought and movement” (Saavedra). The rules of Dojo (school) etiquette are a big part of the Traditional Karate experience. Meditation and physical conditioning are an integral part of the curriculum. The sensei dedicates a portion of class time to discuss the life skills and philosophy of behavior as well as martial arts levels of life and reality.
Traditional Karate instruction and behavior rules are like no other types of systemized instruction or sport. The precepts of behavior, etiquette and instruction are very traditional; they are practiced the same without major differences in all Traditional Karate Dojos throughout the world. Upon arrival to the dojo, all students are required to remove their shoes at the door and bow to the Shomen (a symbol that represent the Dojo’s respective style) and to the sensei. The bowing is not a display in servitude or inferiority, but a display in respect and formality. Next, all students (De-shi) will line up according to rank; the highest ranked students closest to the sensei. Then the students will assume the sitting posture of Sieza, which awakens the mind and is a traditional way of formal sitting. The senior student will give the command to bow to the sensei and then the sensei will give the command to bow to the Shomen. Furthermore, the sensei will give the order to sit in the cross legged posture called the Lotus position and the class will begin a short meditation period to clear the mind for the day’s karate instruction. Afterwards, the students will repeat the Dojo Kun out loud. Sensei will then give a lecture of on a lesson of the Virtues and Ideals of the Traditional Martial Artist. The students will next begin a series of ancient and modern stretching exercises called Taiso, which closely resembles Yoga to enable them to be more flexible and of course injury free, for the rigorous practice and instruction to follow. The remainder of instruction can be in a multitude of skills, defensive or offensive techniques, Nage Waza (throwing techniques), Kansetsu Waza (Joint locking techniques) and of course Kata is always taught. At the Sensei’s discretion, he or she will teach Jiu Kumite (free form, controlled sparring) or Kobudo. At the end of class, the De-shi will again meditate, repeat the Dojo Kun, and bow out to the Sensei and to the Shomen. This is a very brief and simplified example of a usual Karate class.
The benefits of Traditional Karate on a physical fitness level are many. The most basic level is just simple breathing to the most complex ability to generate an incredible amount of speed and power in striking and blocking techniques. The breathing methods of Goju Ryu Karate have been shown to help increase concentration and help alleviate the symptoms of asthma. The stretching and flexibility exercises help the young, middle aged and especially the elderly to maintain good balance, coordination and healthy joints. Traditional Karate teaches the student that all movements need to be from stances that are firmly rooted and grounded to the earth. At the present time the levels of obesity and other health related issues due to a complete lack of any physical exercise in the United States and throughout the world are at unprecedented and alarming levels. The training called Martial Fitness Conditioning solves that problem. Senseis have incorporated Martial Fitness Conditioning into the curriculum which focuses on core body movements, calisthenics, flexibility, balance, endurance, plus life skills coaching on the importance of nutrition and self-control. For instance, as mentioned by Funikoshi, “I was rather sickly baby and a frail child; accordingly, it was suggested when I was still quite young that to overcome these handicaps I ought to begin the study of Karate” (Funikoshi, Preface XIII).
The family of Master Funikoshi was aware of the physical benefits of karate in the eighteen hundreds. The incredible speed and power is demonstrated by the advanced karate student; nothing more than a culmination of lots of hard work and practice in developing the physical and the mental. “The tremendous speed and power generated in the execution of Karate techniques has long been thought to have originated from the occult, knowledge shrouded in secrecy and mystery. When analyzed, all Karate techniques are based on, and governed by scientific principles. Similarly, the lightning fast reactions, which appear to make the attack and counter-attack one and the same, can be understood by applying psychological principles. At a very high level, it is possible to sense or feel the other person’s intended move, an ability present in move animals, but usually dormant in man”(Saavedra).
The benefits of Traditional Karate on a mental level are many. The mental abilities enhanced by traditional Karate training can be realized in the beginner and the advanced student. “Discipline of mind and body are developed as one strives towards perfection in thought and movement” (Saavedra). Most Traditional Karate Dojos practice meditation, meditation in the sense not as to be able to levitate off the ground or some absurd concept as that; yet, to be able to concentrate fully and with 100% of your mind on one task. One of the most important aspects of Traditional Karate that develops the mental strengths is Kata. “A kata is an arrangement of movements, which contains a series of logical and practical attacking and blocking techniques. In each kata there are certain set or prearranged movements, which the student can practice alone, without a partner. These katas have been shaped after many years of research, training, and actual combat experience.” (Saavedra). The perfection of a karate student’s kata is also a perfection of one’s self. The basic kata learn in the first few months of a student’s lessons are elemental in building a true foundation for his character and mental development. The first series of katas taught help to give the student an understanding of the basic stances, strikes, and blocks. Like the foundation of a great building, they must be firmly rooted to the earth and also perfected. Most students tend to become disappointed finding out how tedious and difficult it is to master them. Even the Sensei of 20 or 30 years experienced constantly practices the basic katas. The intermediate and advanced katas build upon the basics increasing in complexity, theory and real world applications. The intuitive levels of understanding the katas are developed after many years of constant practice. The attention perfected to the smallest detail, the breathing, focus, intent of emotions, and the clarity of movement is very Zen and meditative. “Both external and internal disturbances fade away until they are no more disturbing than the distant sound of rolling thunder. Slowly but surely an immunity to life’s trivia and detachment from illusion becomes easier and quicker. Here again, Buddhist thought, as applied to kata, as "Moving Zen" is very appropriate” (Saavedra). The first true opponent or conflict is oneself to perfect your mind and character is the goal of Traditional Karate.
The benefits of Traditional Karate for society are many. A traditional karate style sensei believes that his or her goal is to keep the traditions of Traditional Karate alive by helping to create men and women who represent the qualities of honor, integrity, high character, loyalty, and to be our future leaders.
Furthermore, karate also helps to develop the individual’s character, and to become a better person. In other words, as mentioned by Funikoshi, “The most important aspect of Karate is the development of character. What is character in terms of the philosophy of Karate-Do? Character is simply exercising discipline, exhibiting honor, duty and self-control, while continually adhering to humility. Without character and a strong foundation, nothing of substance can be accomplished. Winning championships is fun, having excellent technique is desirable, understanding kata and bunkai are optimal, but as wonderful as these things are, they should never replace a strong, disciplined character. Masters who have perfected character do not criticize others, nor do they seek the approval and admiration of other men, but rather exist to learn, teach, and develop in the way of karate-do. To develop character is to understand life” (Funikoshi, Sansei Blog).
The art of Karate is a martial art; in meaning that to be used in fighting and or battle. “Traditional Karate is truly about learning to fight so that you never have to fight” (Saavedra). The first fight is to perfect your character and lifestyle to not put yourselves into places or situations that would force you into a confrontation. Only by truly knowing yourself can you perfect oneself. “How does one go about teaching fighting techniques and instilling morality at the same time? The answer is found in kata, the heart of karate. Kata is meant to train the mind, and is not solely for conceptual and intellectual self-defense. Indeed, to bring it in contact with the real self is its true purpose” (Kim, 105). All traditional katas begin with a blocking technique because traditional karate teaching is that one should only use their karate except for self-defense. Traditional Karate schools have a list of virtues that the students are expected to live by, to represent their dojos, and Sensei’s of past and present with in and out of the dojo. Students represent loyalty to karate by reading aloud the dojo virtues of the World Sansei Koryu Goju Ryu Organizations, which is as follows:
“Dojo Kun
1. We shall always practice and study. 2. We shall always be humble and kind. 3. We shall always be courteous. 4. We shall be quick to seize opportunity. 5. We shall always practice patience. 6. We shall always believe that nothing is impossible. 7. We shall discard the bad. 8. We shall keep the good. 9. We shall always be loyal to: Ourselves, Karate, Family, Community, and Country.
Love is our law.
Truth is our worship.
Form is our manifestation.
Peace is our shelter.
Nature is our companion.
Order is our attitude.
Beauty and perfection is our life.” (World Sansei)
These virtues are taught by all of the Sensei’s of the organization.
A truly traditional style of karate is about ideals, principles and ethics. The added benefit is to be able to defend yourself, to protect the defenseless, and the ones you love. Traditional Karate is a very positive and rewarding endeavor that is a benefit to the student and society.

Works Cited
Funikoshi, Gichin. Karate-Do: My Way of Life. Tokyo, Japan: Kodansha International Ltd, 1975. Print.
Kim, Richard. The Weaponless Warrior: An Informal History of Okinawan Karate. Santa Clara, California: Ohara Publications Inc, 1974. Print.
Saavedra, Manny. Personal interview. 22 October 2011.
Saavedra, Manny. Sansei Page. N.P., 13 October 2011. Web. 13 October 2011.
Saavedra, Manny, ed. World Sansei Koryu Goju-Ryu Karate-Do Organization. N.P., 2011. Web.13 Oct. 2011..
Urban, Peter. The Karate Dojo: Traditions and Tales of a Martial Art. Tokyo, Japan:
Charles E. Tuttle Publishing Co. Inc., 1967. Print.