|The late Nagamine Shoshin sensei|
“In karate we have a principle called Shin Gi Tai. Shin means your spirit, Gi means your technique, and Tai means your body. To do karate well and to understand it properly you have to harmonise these three things within you. Today in karate training there is an over-emphasis on Gi and Tai, the techniques and the body. The Shin, spirit, of a person is often left behind. Technique and power seem to be the reason why some people are doing karate these days, but this was not the case sixty-years ago. Today there is a tendency to forget the building of a student’s spirit and character, but this kind of maturity is very important and I want to emphasise this point.
The development of karate as a sport or business is the reason for this decline. To adopt the principle of Shin throughout your karate training is very hard, and to be successful takes a long time. It is much easier to train your body without the discipline of Shin. Your ability to do karate techniques comes from your body and your knowledge and practise of them, but wisdom comes from your mind, and your heart. Your ability to make the techniques work comes from you feeling for karate, not only your knowledge of it. I would like to see more attention put on education, we must educate students on the importance of achieving a good feeling for karate through the development of Shin.”
|No longer in existence, Nagamine sensei's Kodokan dojo|
When this conversation took place over twenty years ago, many of the leading sensei I met in Okinawa's were worried about the impact sport and business was having on karate. Nagamine sensei was from the last generation of Okinawan karateka to have experienced the learning of karate with the emphasis on Shin first. He was not alone in his view that too much attention was being paid to the physicality of karate. Over two decades on and it's clear Nagamine sensei's concerns were well founded. But it's interesting to note that he was not talking about foreign karateka, he was actually voicing his concerns to me about the state of karate in Okinawa.
Recent visitors to the island have nothing to compare how karate was conducted twenty or even thirty years ago: but I have. And let me tell you, the seminar related karate on offer in Okinawa today bears no resemblance at all to the dojo training of times past. The "building of a students spirit and character" has long since fallen by the wayside in the mind of many karate instructors; replaced by the notion of 'collecting' students in ever larger numbers, and as a result, Nagamine sensei's observation that..."The shin, spirit, of a person is often left behind." is now more obvious then ever.
The emergence of karate associations, and their business plan encouraging dependency rather than independence, has been the catalyst for karate's moral and spiritual decline. The dojo, once the hub of karate learning has been relegated to 'club' status, and karateka have become mere members. Instructors seek celebrity, and new students arrive with a list of expectations. So, who do you think is responsible for all this.....?