Karate is often described as being a 'Do' art, a Way of life, not just a means of self-defence or sport. Most martial arts have a 'do' side and a 'jutsu' side. Practitioners of karate-jutsu are very much focused on applied karate: the development of karate as a realistic and effective fighting system. Practitioners of karate-do use karate as a means of improving the self through the development of positive character traits, the elimination of ego and the unity of mind, body and spirit. A karate-do practitioner may also look at how this self-development can be applied to other aspects of their lives.
This does not mean that karate-do practitioners are not interested in learning effective applied karate or that karate-jutsu practitioners do not develop any of the mental or spiritual aspects of a martial Way, but their focus may be different. In fact, you may argue that you can't become an effective 'fighter' without developing some of the deeper mental/spiritual states associated with the 'do' side of the art; or that you won't develop the desired mental states without hard training and developing the practical application of fighting techniques.
How do you teach someone the 'do' aspects of karate in a dojo? Can you teach this? It is easy to see how you can teach the practical side of karate - how to block and punch, how to kick, how to escape from grabs or defend from various attacks. But how do you teach the higher mental states such as zanshin, mushin or kime? Are these just the consequences of years of hard training or do they require acquisition through more conscious, active means?
Take kata for instance. Some people refer to kata as moving meditation. It has been said that all martial artists should learn to meditate in order to develop focus, mental clarity and mind-body unity. Well we don't meditate in our dojo so does kata practice count as meditation? People's attitude to kata practice varies enormously. For some people it is just about learning a pattern (a 'dance' mindset); for others it's about perfecting the pattern for competition (an 'aesthetic' mindset); for others it's about learning fighting techniques ('practical/applied' mindset) and only for a few does kata seem to be about mind-body unity (a 'do' mindset) and can therefore be considered meditational. In other words it doesn't matter how you teach kata, it's how you learn it that matters.
What about kihon practice? Does that teach the 'do' aspects of karate? I have often thought that standing in lines doing constant repetitions of punching and kicking in front of a 'critical' instructor who makes constant corrections is not just physically exhausting but is a test of the spirit too. One competes with oneself not to slow down or give up - to put the same effort into the last punch as the first. Is forging the spirit in this way intentional on part of the teacher or is it a 'side-effect' of this teaching method?
My more limited experience of training in a jujitsu club is that this repetitive training to the point of exhaustion is not in their teaching repertoire. Teaching is much more pragmatic and technical in nature. Does that mean that jujitsukas don't have a mental/spiritual dimension to their training? I find that hard to believe, after all, the samurai (the original jujitsukas) had highly honed mental focus and clarity of mind when going into battle.
Perhaps the 'do' aspects of a martial art are taught through the dojo rules and observance of etiquette? The emphasis on bowing and showing respect, the honouring of your partner's technique and working cooperatively with each other for mutual benefit. Perhaps insisting on this type of behaviour helps to hone the positive character traits required in one who 'seeks the Way'.
I can't help thinking that perhaps the onus is more on the student than the teacher. Perhaps only those that seek the Way will actually find it.....
So, is it possible to teach student's about the 'do' aspects of karate or other martial arts within the dojo? Do you actively do this in your dojo? How do you teach it?
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