I've been a keen karate student for 16 years, Shukokai and Shotokan, but there still seems to be no shortage of things to learn and explore. I'm hoping this blog will allow me to share my experiences and hear other martial artists thoughts.

Brutal beauty

Last month I wrote about ‘The quest for infinite precision’ which was inspired by something I’d read in ‘The Pyjama Game’ by Mark Law. I really enjoyed Mark’s book and there were a number of things which I found either inspiring or thought provoking which I plan to use as the basis for blog posts.

There is a chapter about the ‘The Incredible Dr Kano’, which seems a very apt title, all about Jigoro Kano the founder of Judo. Amongst other things the chapter looks at Kano’s love of the aesthetic, the beauty, that combative movements had. While Kano wanted Judo to be effective he wanted people to enjoy the beauty of the movement.

As a student of Karate I recognise and enjoy the combination of beautiful movements that have a brutal purpose. At our club we have a set of 20 combinations of moves we practise. Combination 18, we spent more time putting it together than naming it clearly :-), is the creation of one of our Senseis who studied Shotokan Karate before joining the club. It has a great combination of slow and fast movements and I really feel that controlled lethality when I’m running through it. At one point is has the textbook Shotokan back stance and sweeping Shuto Uke that just brings a feeling of completeness when I execute it and I can understand what Kano was thinking when he wanted people to rejoice in the movement.

That enjoyment of movement is an important part of Karate for me but the richness of Karate is that it has that aesthetic aspect alongside self-defence and sporting qualities. I recognise and agree with leading exponents of practical martial arts when they stress the need to understand the differing objectives of these qualities and not confuse them.

It’s that richness which makes training feel like opening a bit of a surprise package. You never know which of those qualities you’ll have enjoyed by the time you leave the dojo tired but exhilarated.

What moves make you feel the beauty of martial arts?


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