In the historical narrative, the Boxer Uprising of 1899-1901 serves as a pivotal episode in the tumultuous era of East Asian history, marked by vehement anti-foreign and anti-Christian sentiments in China. For the most part, Martial Arts history texts and articles fail to account for the seismic impact the failure of the Boxers had on the perception of the utility of traditional martial arts. Indeed, the past decade has witnessed a similar derision of so-called traditional martial arts in light of the so-called advantages demonstrated by MMA. While the repercussions of the Boxer Rebellion reverberated across the region, a particularly intriguing facet of its impact lies in its influence on Japan's martial identity development.
The Boxer Uprising: A Catalyst for Transformation
Amidst the transformative Meiji Era, Japan vigilantly observed the unfolding events in neighbouring China. Contemporary newspapers such as The Japan Times provided an insightful lens into the fervent resistance of the Boxers against foreign influence. The uprising captured Japan's attention due to its strategic implications and sparked deliberations regarding the nation's martial identity.
Government Responses: Deliberate and Cautious
Official responses from the Japanese government during the Boxer Uprising reflected a nuanced and deliberate approach. Diplomatic statements emphasised regional stability and a meticulous balancing act to safeguard Japanese interests. This calculated response indicates an acute awareness of the significance of martial prowess in the geopolitical landscape, laying the groundwork for a more deliberate cultivation of Japan's military image. Indeed Japan"s military came to the aid of the failing Chinese's Empire in suppressing the rebellion on what was, ironcially, not to be its first footing in Beijing in the 20th Century. But that is another story.
Public Sentiment: Pragmatism and Empathy
As discerned from newspapers and public discourse, public opinion exhibited a spectrum of sentiments. Specific segments of society expressed empathy towards the Boxers' struggle, aligning with broader anti-imperialist sentiments. Conversely, in a pragmatic vein, the educated elite underscored Japan's imperative to protect its interests amidst regional unrest. These nuanced public discussions reflected a growing consciousness of the importance of martial strength in navigating a shifting global order. During this rebellion, those Japanese who had eradicated the samurai class in the name of modernisation appeared to have been on the winning side. A caste system of warriors armed with 16th-century technology did not match the mechanised, modern killing machine that professional armies offered. So-called "ki" or 'qi" could not stop bullets and shrapnel, regardless of how much had been cultivated. The slaughter of the boxers was a cold testament to this complex reality.
Traditional Martial Arts under Scrutiny: The Aftermath of Shortcomings
An integral facet emerging from the Boxer Uprising was the critical reassessment of Japan's traditional martial arts. Specific Japanese sources from the period, notably within newspaper articles and academic discussions, began questioning the efficacy of conventional martial arts. The perceived shortcomings during the Boxer Uprising prompted a rigorous examination of their relevance in the face of contemporary challenges. It is of note that no-were in the upsurging of rediscovering their ancient martial arts (Koryu) or their modern derivatives (kendo, karate, judo) was their primogeniture offering them as a means of self-defence during the Meiji years. Instead, the martial arts were to consistently billed both within japan and to a lesser degree within Okinawa as a means of 19th century health and well-being, a tool which was to be used be used to build sports fitness and a national corpus of Japanese spirit. Moroever, especially in the hands of Kano, Japan's Budo was to be a gift from Japan to the world - hence the inclusion of Judo in Olympics.
During these late years of the 1800s within the public discourse there is little naiveté that the martial arts, both ancient or new, were in any way effective against modern paradigms of violence and their accompanying tools. If anything was true, this notion of Japanese martial arts as 'effective self-defence' was something added to them once they were exported to the UK, aka Bartitsu, or other places where a large cohort of Japanese were absent. Generally a Japanese and Ryukyuan assertion with these martial arts offered pragmatic self-defence was a later invention circa 1930s with it primarily being a pos-war marketing phenomena.
For those of us in karate, the boxers name of 義和拳; 义和拳 contained the character for kempo so often utilise by Okinawan's to identify their art - the danger and irony of this could ot have been lost on Chinese scholars such at Itosu as the sought to promote their new for of TouDi...
Transformation of Perception: Martial Arts as National Assets
In the wake of these discussions, a subtle transformation transpired. Traditional martial arts, hitherto principally regarded as cultural heritage, began to be reevaluated as potential assets for national defence. The perceived inadequacies underscored the necessity for adaptation and modernisation within martial arts schools. This shift in perception marked the nascent stages of the development of Japan's martial image, aligning traditional practices with the evolving concept of national strength.
Conclusion: Navigating Identity in a Shifting Terrain
The Boxer Uprising played a pivotal role in shaping Japan's martial identity during a profound global transformation. Government responses, public sentiment, and the reevaluation of traditional martial arts collectively contributed to Japan's martial and military identity evolution. In the aftermath of the Boxer Rebellion, Japan embarked on a journey not only to navigate its own identity but also to position itself as a formidable force in the dynamic geopolitical landscape of the early 20th century.
NB - The visual above offers a some evidence of the gross stereotypes western powers had of the Chinese during this period. It also offers witting evidence as to the greed of those who went to the 'aid' of the Qing dynasty.
Gallant Little Soldiers: The Boxer Uprising and the Development of a Martial Image of JapanJ Fonseca - War and Stereotypes, 2020.
Multinational counterinsurgency: the Western intervention in the Boxer Rebellion 1900–1901. E Ouellet - Small Wars & Insurgencies, 2009.
Modern martial arts and the reinvention of tradition. 2015. B Wilson.
Delicate Balance: The Interplay Between Safety, DEIJ Initiatives, and the Erosion of Personal Privacy
In contemporary governance, an unprecedented emphasis on safety and diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) has become a hallmark of public policy. This essay aims to unravel the paradoxical consequence accompanying these well-intentioned initiatives—the gradual erosion of personal privacy. While governments, organizations, and institutions globally focus on fostering a more secure and equitable society, this pursuit inadvertently poses challenges to individual privacy. This essay examines the intricate interplay between governmental efforts towards safety and DEIJ and their unintended consequences on personal privacy.
DEIJ and Personal Information
A discernible trend in data collection is the shift from traditional demographic inquiries to more nuanced questions in the name of DEIJ. Governments and institutions, ostensibly pursuing social justice, now delve into personal details that were once deemed private. For instance, the transition from asking about gender to inquiring about sexual orientation reflects a commendable pursuit of inclusivity. However, this trend raises legitimate concerns about the extent to which individuals should disclose their personal lives to external entities.
In the pursuit of diversity, a thin line separates the promotion of inclusivity from the invasion of personal privacy. While understanding and acknowledging diverse identities are essential, the intrusive nature of some inquiries may compromise an individual's right to keep certain aspects of their identity confidential. Striking a balance between fostering an inclusive environment and respecting personal boundaries is crucial to prevent unintended consequences.
Safety Measures and Surveillance
Governments globally have heightened their focus on safety, implementing measures such as increased surveillance through city cameras and the establishment of national identification systems. Although these endeavors aim to enhance public safety and security, the collateral effect is an escalation in the level of monitoring citizens endure in their daily lives.
City surveillance cameras, ostensibly installed to deter criminal activities, inadvertently infringe upon the privacy of law-abiding citizens. The omnipresence of surveillance technology raises concerns about the constant observation and recording of individuals' activities, potentially leading to a society where every move is scrutinized. Furthermore, national identification systems, like Japan's 'My Number,' originally introduced for administrative purposes, can easily be repurposed as tools for extensive citizen monitoring.
Some Examples Worth Considering
1. Employment and Diversity Data Collection:
In addition to government initiatives, corporations are increasingly delving into personal details to showcase their commitment to diversity. Job applicants are now often required to disclose personal information, such as ethnicity, sexual orientation, and disability status. While the intention is to track diversity metrics and promote inclusive hiring practices, this practice raises concerns about the potential misuse of such sensitive information and its impact on an individual's employment prospects.
2. Health Surveillance and Contact Tracing:
In the wake of global health crises, governments have implemented extensive health surveillance measures, including contact tracing apps and monitoring systems. While these tools aim to control the spread of diseases, they also involve the collection of personal health data. The challenge arises in ensuring that such data is used exclusively for public health purposes and does not become a tool for unwarranted surveillance or the violation of medical privacy.
3. Educational Institutions and Student Information:
In the education sector, institutions are increasingly collecting comprehensive data on students to address diversity and equity concerns. This may include information about students' socioeconomic background, family structure, and cultural identity. While the goal is to tailor educational programs to diverse needs, the extensive collection of such data raises questions about the potential stigmatization of certain groups and the long-term implications for student privacy.
4. Social Media and Government Collaboration:
Governments are actively exploring collaborations with social media platforms to monitor public sentiment and identify potential threats. While this is framed as a measure to ensure public safety, it raises significant privacy concerns. The sharing of data between social media companies and governments can result in the surveillance of individuals based on their online activities, blurring the line between public security and unwarranted intrusion into personal lives. The funds tunnelled into social media giants during the 2008 financial crisis have gone unquestioned and yet what has emerged is the domination of this area by both the USA and China - why has nowhere else in the world managed to offer alternative platforms with potentially a different world order view?
5. Smart City Initiatives and IoT Devices:
Cities worldwide are embracing smart technologies, integrating Internet of Things (IoT) devices for efficient governance. However, these devices, ranging from smart streetlights to intelligent traffic systems, often involve extensive data collection. While the goal is to enhance urban living, the mass surveillance inherent in these technologies poses risks to individual privacy. Striking a balance between smart city innovation and safeguarding personal information becomes imperative in this evolving landscape. While the WHO meets to discuss need safety measures and many governments send ministers to attend these meetings, why is it so hard to find out who these 'public' servants actually are? Arguably the idea of public service has been flipped on its head with the public servant entitle to enhanced privacy as their 'bosses', the public have their privacy legislated away under the guise of safety and DEIJ?
The examples provided underscore the diverse ways in which personal privacy is being impacted by safety and DEIJ initiatives across various sectors. As society grapples with these challenges, policymakers must navigate a complex terrain, ensuring that the pursuit of safety and inclusivity is accompanied by robust safeguards to protect individual privacy rights. Balancing the collective good with individual freedoms is a nuanced task that requires continual scrutiny and refinement of policies in this rapidly evolving technological and social landscape. Striking a delicate balance between the commendable goals of safety, diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice and the preservation of personal privacy remains an ongoing challenge for contemporary governance. Indeed who is watching the watcher?
Ah, my dear friend, imagine a scenario wherein one, through a capricious alignment of celestial whimsy, finds oneself in the esteemed company of a gentleman whose intellectual acumen, alas, resembles that of a turnip rather than the sagacious scholars of yore. To usher such a fellow into the sacred sanctum of a karate dojo would be akin to inviting a bull into a china shop – a cataclysmic convergence of clumsiness and cognitive consternation.
In the hallowed halls of martial enlightenment, where the swift mind is as crucial as the nimble foot, one cannot in good conscience extend an invitation to a dunderheaded disciple. Picture, if you will, a protagonist whose cerebral faculties are akin to a befuddled bumblebee trapped in an existential quandary, unable to discern between a jab and a jest.
Karate, my dear interlocutor, demands a dance of dexterity both mental and physical. The subtleties of strategy and the finesse of footwork are a delicate ballet, and to introduce a neophyte of negligible noggin into this cerebral choreography is to court catastrophe. One cannot wield a katana with the finesse of a poet if one's mental faculties are akin to the disarrayed verses of an inebriated bard.
In the elegant parlance of Wilde, to admit a person of intellectual torpor into the disciplined domain of karate would be a veritable fiasco, a spectacle eclipsing even the most absurd of his celebrated comedies. Let the dojo doors remain a threshold to enlightenment, not an unwitting portal for the thick-headed to stumble into a symphony of kicks and contemplation. For in the arena of martial arts, the battle is not only fought with fists but also with the faculties of the mind, a realm where the thick-witted may find themselves woefully outmatched.
We have all be exposed to them. At meetings, in public maybe even in the professional development arena. Those who can spout the latest catch phrases about such and such an ideology yet when question fail to understand the nuances of the situation they spout about or even undertand at a deep level the meaning of the terms they haphazardly throw around. They sit on all pasts of the spectrum and can, when unchecked, do incredible damage to staff morale and institutional integrity. They have listened to all the relevant podcast and they are armed...or so they think. Confidence is a great bedfellow for ignorance and hubris.
The surge in popularity of podcasts has introduced a wealth of information and diverse viewpoints, providing a convenient and accessible means for individuals to explore a wide array of subjects. Podcasts span everything from history and science to politics and popular culture, delivering valuable insights and often entertaining content. Nevertheless, while podcasts can be a valuable source of information and entertainment, there are reasons to exercise caution regarding what may be referred to as the "podcast intelligentsia" – individuals whose primary understanding of the world is shaped by podcasts, particularly when they have not delved deeply into the fields of their interest. Here are several reasons why a prudent approach is warranted:
1. Surface-Level Knowledge: Podcasts, by design, tend to provide succinct and simplified information, making it more accessible for listeners. While this is advantageous for ease of consumption, it can result in a superficial comprehension of complex topics. The limited duration of a podcast episode often means that the content merely scratches the surface, omitting critical nuances and details.
2. Absence of Context: Podcasts frequently present information in isolation, making it difficult for listeners to grasp the broader context of a subject. This lack of context can impede a comprehensive understanding of the intricacies involved in any field. In contrast, delving into in-depth books or scholarly articles can furnish a more holistic perspective.
3. Overreliance on a Limited Spectrum of Sources: Podcasts typically depend on guest speakers and experts for insights. However, listeners may not always be aware of the biases or limitations of these sources. Relying exclusively on podcasts can result in a restricted range of voices and perspectives, potentially reinforcing pre-existing beliefs and hindering exposure to opposing viewpoints.
4. Confirmation Bias: Listening predominantly to podcasts that align with one's pre-existing beliefs can foster confirmation bias. Individuals might gravitate towards podcasts that validate their views while avoiding those that challenge them. This can contribute to an echo chamber effect, where one's perspective is never truly questioned or broadened.
5. Shallow Critical Thinking: In-depth reading and research frequently necessitate critical thinking and the ability to evaluate sources, evidence, and arguments. Podcasts, due to their spoken format, may not actively encourage the same level of analytical thinking. Passive listening can discourage active engagement with the content.
6. The Peril of Misinformation: Although many podcasts are meticulously researched and fact-based, the medium is not immune to misinformation and pseudoscience. Listeners who heavily rely on podcasts may be more susceptible to accepting unverified or false information.
7. Overlooking Unpopular or Specialised Topics: Podcasts tend to concentrate on mainstream and trending subjects to attract a broader audience. As a result, they may not address less mainstream or highly specialised topics, leaving listeners unaware of valuable information in niche areas.
8. Deficiency in Depth and Rigour: Academic disciplines and intricate issues often necessitate rigorous, in-depth exploration, typically found in books, research papers, and academic journals. Podcasts, while informative, may not provide the same level of depth and rigour.
In summary, while podcasts can be a valuable resource for learning and entertainment, it is vital to approach them with a discerning mind and supplement them with other forms of information and education. The "podcast intelligentsia" should exercise caution in not replacing the depth and context that can be acquired through reading, academic research, and a diverse array of sources. An informed and nuanced perspective on the world often demands more than mere passive listening; it calls for active engagement and critical thinking, which can be cultivated through a blend of mediums, including books, articles, and scholarly resources. The key is to strike a balance between the convenience of podcasts and the deeper, contextual knowledge that other sources can provide. Indeed with the onset of mass media with their roots primarily is a US world view, with the odd smattering of the UK (on English platforms at least) we must be consistently mindful of "podcast intelligentsia".
Several people have reached out to me asking what the kanji at the centre of the ToshiKai ‘patch’ means. On a trip to Okinawa, Patrick McCarthy, Hanshi 10th Dan gifted me this calligraphy created by Tetsuhiro Hokama (外間哲弘) of GoJyu Fame. I was struck not only by the beauty of the work but also its layered meaning as it cut to what I believe, for me, was the essence of my karate journey.
In Japanese the proverb "率先垂範," (sossen suihan), when translated, conveys the idea of "Leading by Example" or "Setting a Good Example" - or as I like to think of it, “live a life worth emulating”. For those of you who know me, you know that karate was a way to calm a rather violent and self-destructive disposition - one which was inevitably going to lead me to a purposeless place. Thanks to luck, perseverance and a selection of solid people, my disposition has mellowed and these days is usually kept under wraps - where it belongs ;-). However, I daily reflect upon why I started this karate journey and all it has led me to - the proverb, as brushed by Hokama-sensei, sits in the tatami room of my house where I do my morning and afternoon training. I visit it daily.
More generally, this adage holds profound significance, mainly when applied to Japanese Budo, a collective term encompassing various martial arts disciplines such as Judo, Karate, Kendo, Aikido, and more.
In Budo (and Bujyutsu historically), the emphasis extends beyond mere physical techniques, delving into the moral and ethical dimensions of practice. For those who wish to claim Okinawan karate is solely about self-defence, then they need to read the works left to us by Matsumora (among others), where it is clearly stated karate must be for the betterment of your life and those around you. While several authors, usually they have never lived in Japan nor speak the language, assert that the notion of “do” only arrived with the Japanization of Okinawan karate - nothing could be further from the truth. Reflecting the region with its ties to Confucianism, Daoism and Animistic religions, Okinawa's budo DNA is impacted by the moral thoughts of these worldviews.
Within the context of Japanese Budo, "率先垂範" underscores the pivotal role of those with seniority or experience. It compels them to become exemplars by embodying the desired conduct, values, and principles. They serve as beacons of guidance, ensuring that the ethical and moral tenets of the art are not just spoken but lived. This principle, thus, fosters a culture of respect, discipline, and integrity.
The martial arts community is not confined solely to the dojo or training hall; it permeates everyday life. "Leading by example" in Budo extends beyond technical proficiency; it signifies adhering to the core ethics and values in all aspects of life. Practitioners are encouraged to apply the principles from Budo to their interactions with others and their conduct in society, thereby promoting a more harmonious and respectful way of living.
In summary, "率先垂範" is an invaluable proverb in the context of Japanese Budo, emphasising the imperative of setting a positive example, steadfastly upholding ethical principles, and nurturing a firm moral foundation within the martial arts community and the wider society.
It recently came to my attention that with the passing of two of my sensei, both of whom had been foremost authorities in their respective field their students had stopped training. What made this even more heartbreaking for me was that several of these people had held high 'rank' within the respective budo. As a non-Japanese I have always felt a huge responsibility to pass along those lessons which my teachers had bestowed upon me. Indeed aside form the children of both these sensei no-one now taught at the hombu dojo despite the fact that in some cases the children were juniors to some of my sensei's more senior students. In this post I want to reflect on the notion of 'giri' within Japanese culture and specifically the role is does and should (imho) play in Japanese Martial Arts.
In Japanese culture, the concept of "giri" (義理) stands as a fundamental and intricate principle that exerts a substantial influence on personal relationships and social interactions. It is intrinsically connected to notions of duty, obligation, and reciprocity. The comprehension of giri is of particular significance in the sphere of Japanese martial arts, where it significantly shapes the rights and responsibilities of both adult students (disciples) and instructors (sensei). This discussion will delve into the essence of giri, exploring its meaning, historical underpinnings, and its pertinence to the practice and instruction of Japanese martial arts.
Giri, depicted in kanji as 義理, is a multifaceted concept encompassing various facets of social and moral duty. Its etymological roots can be traced back to the Chinese characters 義 (gi), signifying "righteousness" or "duty," and 理 (ri), connoting "logic" or "reason." When combined, these characters create the concept of "giri," representing one's sense of obligation, responsibility, or duty, primarily stemming from social or familial relationships.
At its core, giri embodies the notion of reciprocating kindness, favours, and gestures. It functions as the unspoken code of ethics that underpins Japanese society, regulating relationships in both personal and professional spheres. It necessitates individuals to reciprocate favours, express gratitude, and conduct themselves in harmony with their assigned roles. This sense of duty is deeply entrenched in Japanese culture, with wide-ranging implications that extend into the realm of Japanese martial arts.
Within the milieu of Japanese martial arts, giri plays an indispensable role in shaping the rights and responsibilities of both adult students and instructors. The martial arts dojo (training hall) transcends mere physical training, serving as a domain where ethical values and life lessons are conveyed. Giri is woven into the very fabric of this educational environment, permeating every facet of the relationship between martial arts instructors and their mature students.
For the student, giri manifests as a duty to exhibit respect, loyalty, and dedication towards their sensei. The student is expected to heed the instructor's guidance and uphold the principles of discipline, humility, and perseverance. This entails not only mastering the physical techniques but also embracing the moral code of martial arts, encompassing virtues such as respect for others, self-control, and integrity.
The responsibilities of the student towards their sensei are deeply rooted in the concept of "on" (恩), translating to "obligation" or "debt." The student accrues a debt to their teacher for the knowledge, guidance, and mentorship bestowed upon them. This obligation is profound and may extend beyond the precincts of the dojo, influencing the student's broader life choices and actions.
In return, the sensei, too, bears a substantial sense of giri towards their students. The instructor is tasked with disseminating knowledge, instilling discipline, and nurturing the development of the student. This task must be carried out with dedication and care, given the position of authority and influence held by the sensei. The sensei's giri also extends to the cultivation of the character and values of their students, emphasising not only the physical aspects of martial arts but also the moral and ethical dimensions.
Furthermore, the sensei may experience a sense of duty towards the lineage and the preservation of the martial art itself. This lineage's historical continuity and the transmission of knowledge from one generation to the next are integral aspects of the concept of giri within Japanese martial arts.
The reciprocity inherent in giri cultivates a harmonious and mutually beneficial relationship within the community of martial artists. This spirit of give-and-take ensures the perpetuation of knowledge and the safeguarding of the art form. Both students and instructors are bound by a shared sense of duty and responsibility, thereby reinforcing their connection and contributing to the overall advancement and integrity of the martial arts tradition.
In the realm of Japanese martial arts, the concept of giri is not limited to the student-teacher relationship alone; it extends to the entire dojo community. Mature students are expected to provide support and aid to one another, fostering a sense of camaraderie and solidarity. This collaborative ethos is rooted in the understanding that, in times of need, one can rely on the support of their fellow practitioners, and, reciprocally, they will extend their assistance when required.
When an adult martial artist attains a high rank within their discipline but neglects to transmit their teacher's teachings, it can be interpreted as a transgression of giri. This breach of giri emerges from the failure to meet the obligation of preserving and sharing the knowledge they have acquired. Such negligence disrupts the traditional lineage of the martial art, inhibits its progression, and fosters a self-centred disposition that runs contrary to the fundamental values of martial arts.
Indeed, when high-ranking students choose not to pass on their teacher's teachings, they can be seen as acting selfishly, lacking respect for the time and effort their teacher invested in their growth and development. They disregard the reciprocal nature of the student-teacher relationship, where the instructor imparts wisdom and guidance with the expectation that it will be preserved and shared with the next generation. This failure to reciprocate not only damages the legacy of the teacher but also hinders the growth and progression of the martial art itself.
To summarise, the concept of giri, deeply entrenched in Japanese culture, plays an integral role in delineating the rights and responsibilities of those who engage in the learning and instruction of Japanese martial arts. It embodies the principles of duty, obligation, and reciprocity, thereby shaping the relationships between adult students and instructors within the dojo. Students are duty-bound to exhibit respect and loyalty towards their sensei, while instructors bear the responsibility of disseminating knowledge and fostering the growth of their students. This shared sense of duty engenders a harmonious and mutually advantageous relationship that extends beyond the dojo's confines, contributing to the conservation and evolution of Japanese martial arts. The tenets of giri encapsulate the profound moral and ethical dimensions inherent in the practice of martial arts, elevating it beyond a mere physical discipline into a way of life.
The Japanese concept of kata within traditional budo, or martial arts, is profoundly influenced by Zen philosophy's notions of form and formlessness. Zen Buddhism, which originated in China and was later transmitted to Japan, has left a profound impact on various facets of Japanese culture, including martial arts. This influence is particularly evident in the way kata is comprehended and practised in traditional budo.
The Zen concept of formlessness, known as "mushin" (無心), is integral to kata practice in traditional budo. Mushin can be translated as "no-mind" or "empty mind," signifying a state of mental and emotional emptiness, free from distraction and preconceived notions. In the context of martial arts, mushin refers to a state of mind in which the practitioner acts spontaneously and without hesitation, responding to the situation at hand with a clear and focused mind. This mental state is crucial in kata practice as it enables the practitioner to execute techniques with precision and efficiency.
In kata, movements and techniques are choreographed and structured, providing a specific form for the practitioner to adhere to. This form, or "kata" (形), functions as a blueprint for acquiring and mastering a specific set of techniques. Nonetheless, the paradox of traditional budo lies in the concurrent pursuit of form and formlessness. The practitioner must embody the prescribed form of the kata while retaining a mushin mindset. This balance between form and formlessness is a central theme in Zen philosophy and martial arts.
The notion of "shuhari" (守破離) is often used to describe a martial artist's progression in their connection with kata and the integration of Zen principles. "Shu" (守) represents the stage in which the practitioner diligently adheres to the kata's form as instructed by the master. This stage underscores the importance of strict adherence to the prescribed movements and techniques. "Ha" (破) signifies the next stage, where the practitioner starts to question and experiment with the kata, adapting it to their unique comprehension and requirements. Ultimately, "ri" (離) represents the stage in which the practitioner transcends the form, having internalised it to the extent that they can express it spontaneously and effortlessly. This progression mirrors the Zen journey towards understanding form and formlessness.
The practice of kata in traditional budo also incorporates the Zen principle of "kensho" (見性), which translates to "seeing one's nature" or "awakening to one's true self." In the context of martial arts, kensho refers to a profound understanding and embodiment of the fundamental principles that underlie the kata. Through years of devoted practice and introspection, a martial artist may attain kensho, gaining a profound insight into the essence of the techniques and the underlying principles of the art. This insight allows the practitioner to transcend the rigid form of the kata and execute it with fluidity and spontaneity.
Furthermore, the Zen concept of "zanshin" (残心) plays a pivotal role in kata practice. Zanshin, often interpreted as "remaining mind," is the mental state of vigilance and awareness that persists even after a technique is executed. In kata, maintaining zanshin is imperative. It signifies that the practitioner must remain fully present and prepared for any possible follow-up actions or attacks from an opponent. Zanshin embodies the idea that, despite the structured form of the kata, the practitioner remains in a state of formlessness, ready to respond to the ever-changing circumstances of a real-life encounter.
The concept of "mizu no kokoro" (水の心), or "mind like water," is another Zen principle that informs the practice of kata. Just as water adapts to the shape of its container, a martial artist must adapt to the situation at hand. In kata, this means that the practitioner must be flexible and capable of adjusting their movements and techniques according to the opponent's actions. Mizu no kokoro exemplifies the notion that the form of the kata is not static but can flow and change as needed.
In traditional budo, kata is not a mere repetition of set movements; it is a profound method of training both the body and the mind. The influence of Zen philosophy is evident in the way kata is utilised as a vehicle for personal growth and self-discovery. The continuous refinement of kata, the pursuit of mushin, and the integration of Zen principles like shuhari, kensho, zanshin, and mizu no kokoro all contribute to the development of a martial artist's character and abilities.
In conclusion, the Zen concept of form and formlessness significantly informs the Japanese concept of kata within traditional budo. The delicate balance between adhering to the prescribed form of the kata and cultivating a formless mind is a central theme in martial arts, reflecting the broader Zen philosophy of living in the present moment and transcending the limitations of rigid structures. Through the practice of kata, martial artists not only master physical techniques but also strive for a deeper understanding of themselves and the martial art they pursue, ultimately achieving a state of harmony between form and formlessness. to edit.
St. Augustine (354-430) and St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) are luminaries of Catholic theology, and their enduring contributions to the intellectual tradition of the Catholic Church have significantly shaped the understanding of the nature of God and the sacrament of the Eucharist. This essay delves into their central tenets and the profound insights they offered on these pivotal aspects of Catholic theology.
Understanding the Nature of God.
Augustine's Theology of Divine Transcendence:
Augustine's conception of the nature of God is fundamentally characterized by the concept of divine transcendence. He posited that God is the ultimate source of all existence, a supremely perfect, immutable, and transcendent Being. In essence God is not a being but rather God simply "Is' or to echo the Scriptures "I am who I am". Augustine's theological framework underscores the Church's belief in a God who stands apart from the created world, infinitely transcending it. His understanding of divine transcendence is foundational to the Catholic theological tradition, emphasizing the majestic and awe-inspiring nature of the divine.
Central to Augustine's theological vision is the belief in God as the eternal and unchanging reality. In his "Confessions," he famously declared, "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you." This quote encapsulates Augustine's conviction that human beings find their ultimate rest and purpose in God, who is the unchanging source of fulfillment. His belief in the unchanging nature of God reinforced the theological understanding of divine perfection and constancy.
Moreover, Augustine grappled with the problem of evil, a question central to any discussion of the nature of God. He acknowledged the existence of evil in the world but argued that evil is the absence of good, rather than a positive force. Augustine's theodicy posited that God is supremely good and just, and the existence of evil stems from human free will and the fall of humanity. This theodicy has been influential in shaping the Catholic Church's stance on the problem of evil and the concept of divine goodness.
Aquinas' Scholastic Approach and Rational Understanding of God:
In contrast to Augustine's emphasis on divine transcendence, Aquinas, a proponent of Scholasticism, sought to reconcile faith and reason in the understanding of God's nature. He believed that reason could illuminate certain aspects of God's existence and character. His famous "Five Ways" for proving the existence of God exemplify this approach. The Cosmological Argument, for instance, posits God as the uncaused cause of all that exists, emphasizing God's role as the Prime Mover. Aquinas' rational and philosophical arguments provided a foundation for understanding God, demonstrating that faith and reason could be harmoniously integrated.
Aquinas' Scholastic method enriched the Catholic intellectual tradition by offering a rational framework for theological discussions. His approach encouraged theologians to engage with philosophy and reason to deepen their understanding of God. Aquinas believed that human reason could lead to an acknowledgment of God's existence and certain attributes, such as God's role as the First Cause and the ultimate source of all existence. Far from being at odd with each other religion and science could work in tandem to understand.
Furthermore, Aquinas tackled complex theological questions with systematic precision, as evident in his work, "Summa Theologica." This comprehensive work is a structured and logical framework for understanding intricate theological concepts. Aquinas addressed a wide range of theological and philosophical inquiries, providing a methodical guide for scholars and theologians. His Scholastic approach left an enduring legacy in the Catholic intellectual tradition by promoting the coexistence of faith and reason and the use of philosophy as a tool for theological exploration.
Sacrament of the Eucharist.
Augustine's Doctrine of Real Presence:
Augustine's contribution to the understanding of the Eucharist is profound. He believed in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and expounded upon it in his theological works. Augustine's doctrine of "real presence" holds that in the Eucharist, the bread and wine become the actual body and blood of Christ, not mere symbols. This interpretation has deeply influenced Catholic Eucharistic theology, emphasizing the mysterious and transformative nature of the sacrament. For Augustine as Goad was "is" rather than just being a being God Gos in and is not all things. He is greater than the sum of its parts so by essence of the creation power of God it is logical that the bread and wine ARE the body and blood of Christ.
Central to Augustine's understanding of the Eucharist is the belief in the salvific power of the sacrament. He argued that the Eucharist is not a symbolic act but a means through which believers can partake in the real presence of Christ and receive His grace. Augustine's doctrine of the real presence underscores the centrality of the Eucharist in Catholic worship and theology, emphasizing its role as a source of spiritual nourishment and communion with Christ.
Furthermore, Augustine's doctrine of the real presence aligns with his broader theology of grace. He believed that grace is essential for human salvation, and the Eucharist is a vehicle through which God imparts His grace to believers. This intricate connection between the Eucharist and divine grace has had a lasting impact on Catholic soteriology, emphasizing the role of the sacraments in the journey towards salvation.
Aquinas' Doctrine of Transubstantiation:
Aquinas, renowned for his rigorous scholastic approach, offered a rational framework for the Eucharist through the doctrine of transubstantiation. This doctrine is central to the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist. According to Aquinas, in the Eucharist, the "substance" of the bread and wine changes into the actual body and blood of Christ, while the "accidents" (external appearances, taste, and texture) remain the same. This doctrine not only affirmed the real presence but also provided a systematic and philosophical explanation for it, reconciling the mystery of faith with reason. A similar argument can be made that as God loves us and we love Him back he is unified with us in a matter which causes us to grown and become who we are. A central tenent of the Catholic faith, albeit one often missing in most religious education classes is God is a liberating power rather than a controlling one. Through relationship with Him (It/Her) we become who we are - in essence we become divinivised but not divine.
Aquinas' doctrine of transubstantiation rests on his belief in the philosophical framework of Aristotle, which he sought to harmonize with Christian theology. He employed Aristotle's terminology, such as "substance" and "accidents," to elucidate the Eucharistic transformation. This synthesis of philosophy and theology facilitated a rational understanding of the Eucharist, allowing theologians to navigate the mystery of the sacrament with greater clarity.
Furthermore, Aquinas emphasized the centrality of the Eucharist in the life of the Church. He considered the Eucharist not only as a symbol but as the true body and blood of Christ. This perspective has had a profound influence on Catholic Eucharistic theology, underlining the significance of the sacrament as the source of spiritual nourishment and communion with Christ.
Augustine's Theology of Divine Grace:
Augustine's theology places a profound emphasis on divine grace in the process of salvation. He believed that all human beings inherit the original sin of Adam and Eve, resulting in a fallen nature that taints the human will and intellect. According to Augustine, human beings are incapable of achieving salvation through their own efforts, and only the grace of God can enable individuals to turn away from sin and embrace faith.
The concept of original sin, central to Augustine's theology, has profound implications for his understanding of grace. Augustine asserted that divine grace is bestowed upon individuals to counteract the effects of original sin. Grace, in his view, is the unmerited and transformative favor of God, enabling believers to turn towards God, away from sin, and embrace faith. This doctrine has significantly influenced Catholic soteriology, underlining the essential role of divine grace in the journey towards salvation.
Aquinas' Concept of Created Grace:
Aquinas offered a nuanced perspective on divine grace. He posited that grace builds upon and perfects human nature rather than entirely replacing it. In his theological framework, grace and nature are not in opposition but in harmony. This concept is reflected in his notion of "created grace." Created grace is the infusion of God's divine favor into the human soul, enabling individuals to grow in holiness and fulfill their natural potential.
Aquinas's understanding of created grace has profound implications for the interaction between God and human beings. He believed that God's grace enhances and elevates human capacities, allowing individuals to participate in their own sanctification. In this view, grace does not negate human agency but cooperates with it. Aquinas's emphasis on the harmonious relationship between grace and human nature has offered a more systematic understanding of grace within Catholic theology, enriching the theological discourse on how divine grace interacts with and elevates human nature.
Beyond their individual contributions to theology, both Augustine and Aquinas were instrumental in the development of the Scholastic tradition, a profound influence on the intellectual tradition of the Catholic Church.
Augustine's Personal and Introspective Theology:
Augustine's impact on Scholasticism is evident in his autobiographical work, "Confessions." This classic piece of Christian literature provides a deeply introspective account of Augustine's own journey from a life of sin to conversion. In "Confessions," Augustine reflects on his personal experience of faith, the transformative power of divine grace, and the significance of self-examination. This introspective approach to faith became an essential element of Catholic spirituality, emphasizing the importance of self-reflection, confession, and personal engagement with the divine. Augustine's "Confessions" continues to influence the practice of confession and the understanding of the human experience of faith within the Catholic tradition.
Aquinas' Scholastic Method:
Aquinas's rigorous application of the Scholastic method has had a profound impact on Catholic intellectual tradition. He sought to synthesize the teachings of Aristotle with Christian theology, particularly in the areas of metaphysics and ethics. This synthesis aimed to provide a rational and philosophical foundation for understanding theological concepts.
The Scholastic approach enriched Catholic theology by promoting the harmonious integration of faith and reason. Aquinas's systematic framework encouraged theologians to engage with philosophy and use reason as a tool for theological exploration. His approach facilitated a deeper understanding of complex theological concepts and allowed for the rational examination of matters related to faith.
Aquinas's "Summa Theologica" is a prime example of this approach. It offers a structured and logical framework for comprehending intricate theological questions. The work addresses a wide range of theological and philosophical inquiries, providing a methodical guide for scholars and theologians. Aquinas's Scholastic method has become a cornerstone of Catholic scholarship, enabling the coexistence of faith and reason and the use of philosophy in theological discussions.
In conclusion, the theological contributions of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas have left an indelible mark on the intellectual tradition of the Catholic Church. Their profound insights into the nature of God, the sacrament of the Eucharist, and the concept of divine grace continue to shape Catholic theology and spirituality.
Augustine's emphasis on divine transcendence, the real presence in the Eucharist, and the role of divine grace has underscored the mystery and transformative power of faith within the Catholic tradition. His theodicy and introspective approach to faith have contributed to the understanding of divine goodness and the human experience of faith.
In contrast, Aquinas, through his Scholastic approach, offered a rational and systematic framework for the understanding of God and the sacrament of the Eucharist. His belief in the harmonious coexistence of faith and reason, as well as the doctrine of transubstantiation, enriched the intellectual foundations of Catholic thought. Aquinas's concept of created grace provided a nuanced understanding of how divine grace interacts with and elevates human nature.
Together, Augustine and Aquinas have deepened the theological foundations of the Catholic Church, offering profound insights into the nature of God, the sacrament of the Eucharist, and the interaction between faith and reason. Their enduring contributions continue to shape the Catholic intellectual tradition, providing valuable resources for contemporary theological reflection.
Some of the ideas herein were collected with the utilisation of ChatGPt.
In the realm of karate, one of the initial focal points we are instructed to strike is the solar plexus. However, a concealed fact often eludes the majority of individuals who attempt to elucidate its precise location. Contrary to the prevailing notion that it occupies the diminutive space where the ribcage converges with the abdominal region (a region more accurately referred to as the xiphoid process), the solar plexus is in fact positioned somewhat lower, situated just below the juncture of the pectoral muscles and approximately halfway between the pectorals and the navel.
Location of the Solar Plexus:
The solar plexus, also referred to as the celiac plexus, constitutes an intricate network of nerves sited in the upper abdomen, immediately below the sternum (or breastbone) and above the upper portion of the abdominal musculature. It resides centrally within the body and arises from the bifurcation of the celiac artery and the vagus nerve. Its pivotal role encompasses the regulation of an array of physiological functions, including digestion and the autonomic nervous system.
Angle for Striking the Solar Plexus:
To proficiently target the solar plexus, one must endeavour to strike at a marginally upward trajectory. Here is a systematic elucidation:
1. Identifying the Target: Initially, one must ascertain the location of the solar plexus, which is positioned just beneath the sternum. Its identification involves discerning the supple area between the lower periphery of the ribcage and the upper margin of the abdominal muscles.
2. Angle of Attack: When administering a blow to the solar plexus, envision aiming for the region just below the sternum, at the core of the body. The strike ought to follow a slightly ascending trajectory, ensuring that one's knuckles make contact with this specific locus.
3. Biomechanical Movement: The generation of power for the strike necessitates the involvement of the legs, hips, and core musculature to facilitate a rotational motion throughout the body. This rotation enables the transfer of kinetic energy from the torso into the punch.
4. Follow-Through: While delivering the punch, it is imperative to make contact with the solar plexus and sustain the force throughout the follow-through to maximize its impact.
5. Precision: Precision remains paramount. Deviating even slightly to the left or right of the solar plexus might not yield the desired effect. Rigorous practice is indispensable to refine one's aim and accuracy, ensuring that the punch lands precisely on target.
It is crucial to bear in mind that the responsible application of physical force is only warranted in self-defence situations. Striking the solar plexus can be challenging, and comparable results can be achieved with a strike to the liver, located in the upper right portion of the abdominal cavity, just posterior to the ribcage. There exists another anatomical target for attack employing the conventional straight punch, but that discussion is reserved for another occasion.
N.B. Proficiency in the proper techniques and training is essential to employ striking techniques, such as a punch to the solar plexus, effectively and safely. It is also imperative to be cognizant of the potential repercussions and legal implications associated with the use of force against another individual. While some may contend that 'there are no rules in a street fight,' the reality remains that legal regulations exist – it is commonly referred to as the law.
image above is from: https://www.judo-ch.jp/english/dictionary/terms/seiryokuzenyou/
This blog delves into the concept of "Seiryoku Zenryo" as developed by Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo. It investigates the origin and purpose of this concept in the context of martial arts training and its application in our daily lives. I attempt to elucidate the significance of "Seiryoku Zenryo" in achieving physical and moral excellence.
Jigoro Kano, a visionary martial artist, founded Judo in the late 19th century. Central to his martial philosophy was the concept of "Seiryoku Zenryo," which can be translated as "maximum efficiency, minimum effort." In this blog, we will explore the origins and purposes of "Seiryoku Zenryo" and its relevance in both martial arts training and daily life.
Origins of "Seiryoku Zenryo":
The term "Seiryoku Zenryo" consists of two key components: "Seiryoku" (精力) and "Zenryo" (善労). "Seiryoku" means "maximum power" or "maximum efficiency," while "Zenryo" means "minimum effort" or "best use of energy." This concept stems from Kano's deep study of traditional Japanese martial arts, such as Jujutsu, which emphasized brute force and physical strength. Kano recognized the limitations of this approach and sought to create a more effective and ethical martial art.
Purpose in Martial Arts Training:
1. Efficiency in Technique: In martial arts, "Seiryoku Zenryo" encourages practitioners to achieve the most effective results with the least effort. It promotes the use of leverage, balance, and proper technique over sheer strength. Judo techniques, for example, leverage an opponent's force and balance to throw them effortlessly.
2. Ethical and Moral Development: Kano's vision extended beyond physical prowess. He believed that through the practice of "Seiryoku Zenryo," individuals could cultivate moral and ethical qualities such as respect, humility, and self-control. The dojo (training hall) becomes a place for personal growth as well as physical training. If we train our moral compas well, in time it becomes part of who we are. Thus morals become effortless, but only after being tempered thought diligence to their adherence.
3. Harmony with Opponents: Judo's principle of "Seiryoku Zenryo" also extends to the idea of harmonizing with opponents rather than defeating them. Instead of clashing head-on, practitioners aim to blend with and redirect their opponent's energy. This concept fosters a sense of mutual respect and cooperation. So in many way's the opponent is who helps make us for without them the match becomes pointless.
Application in Daily Life:
1. Efficiency and Productivity: "Seiryoku Zenryo" is not limited to the martial arts dojo; it has relevance in our daily lives. Applying this principle in tasks and projects encourages us to find the most efficient ways to accomplish our goals, reducing wasted time and effort.
2. Time Management: Efficient time management is a key aspect of "Seiryoku Zenryo." It encourages us to prioritize tasks and focus on the most important ones first, ensuring that our efforts yield maximum results.
3. Resource Management: Just as in martial arts where excessive force can lead to exhaustion, in daily life, the wasteful use of resources, whether financial, emotional, or physical, can lead to burnout. "Seiryoku Zenryo" encourages us to allocate resources wisely and conserve energy for essential tasks.
4. Conflict Resolution: When conflicts arise in daily life, approaching them with the spirit of "Seiryoku Zenryo" means seeking harmonious solutions rather than aggressive confrontation. It encourages active listening, empathy, and compromise.
5. However, IMHO the central idea of this statement is our responsibility and respect to each other for without each other our purpose becomes dimmed and shallow. It is having a training partner, friend etc., that we are pushed to grow as people. Even enemies can be embraced in such a light. This game of life becomes more full and complete when we have people support, challenging and pushing us to development - regardless of the field.
Jigoro Kano's concept of "Seiryoku Zenryo" is a profound philosophy that extends beyond the realm of martial arts. Its origins lie in Kano's desire to create a more effective and ethical martial art, emphasizing maximum efficiency and minimum effort. In martial arts training, it guides practitioners to achieve technical excellence while fostering moral and ethical development.
In our daily lives, "Seiryoku Zenryo" offers valuable lessons in efficiency, time and resource management, and conflict resolution. By embracing this concept, we can lead more balanced, productive, and harmonious lives. In essence, "Seiryoku Zenryo" is not just a martial arts principle; it is a philosophy that can guide us towards physical and moral excellence in all aspects of life.
Kano's legacy continues to influence martial arts practitioners and individuals seeking to apply his teachings to become better versions of themselves, both on and off the dojo mat. As we strive for "Seiryoku Zenryo" in our daily lives, we honor his vision and commitment to the betterment of humanity through the martial arts.
Remember this the next time you bow in the dojo or take a loved ones hand - they are making you better. Are you paying them the same respect?
James M. Hatch
International Educator who happens to be passionate about Chito Ryu Karate. Born in Ireland, educated in Canada, matured in Japan