Let’s learn a few new words that will be omnipresent on this blog: First, Dojo (道場) that literally means “place where the Way is practiced” or “place of awakening”, it’s a training room for martial arts or meditation (zen). Traditionally it is ruled by a Sensei (先生) or teacher (this word in Japanese means “more than me”), and last, but not least important, Karate (空手道) that translates: “the way of the empty hand”.
So, you’re an enthusiast of karate and want to give this path a try? Chiefly, you need to ask yourself, what concept do you have of karate? (sports, budo, commercial) Which one is correct? What do you expect from your dojo and sensei? These are relevant questions for a new disciple on this martial art.
What is The Disciple Looking For?
Some people mix two or several concepts “traditional-sports”, “budo-sports”, “sports-commercial”, “budo-commercial-sports”… Everything is fine, naturally understanding each one clearly can inform what we conceive as karate or karate-do.
Something that a new disciple should consider is, what is he or she looking for in karate-do?. According to the concept that the student has about karate, the degree could be, “martial”, “sports” or “political”. According to the Karate federation what sets the degree and changes the concept, and the values to be demanded would be different, not only on the athletic aspect but also in the technical and even personal levels.
There would be another aspect to examine. This would be the personal objectives on Martial Art of the student -as in economic, professional, personal development, inner growth, prestige, political goals-, any of it may have a place in current karate especially in the way the current official Federations are structured, where they are contained and intermingled some of these facets in the vast majority of its components.
What About the Traditional Ways?
Over idealizing the old ways can be a vain effort, in fact, it might be best to try harder to raise modern values to a higher standard. In the age of information and expansion of knowledge, it’s nonsense to try to keep knowledge “hidden” and “hermetic”, in any case, reserved for a few. When karate-do spread to the West, it was a very limited karate and was kind of amputated from its internal aspects, with much ignorance on the part of those pioneers who spread it with all their effort and enthusiasm.
Few exceptions, only furthered by the effort of some of the most privileged individuals that have been able to travel to study in the countries of origin of martial arts (Japan, China) allowed this valuable ancient knowledge to be spread through the world and benefit others.
Remember that “virtue” as a value is in every person; spirituality, materialism, ego, everything is inside all of us. There is a maxim that should be an example for anyone who wants to initiate on Karate-do: It is not the degree that gives prestige to a man, but rather it’s the person’s own value that gives meaning to the grade. Walk your path with pride and honor, and welcome to karate-do.