The Heart Of Karate by Shigeru Egami

He who would follow the way of karate must be courteous, not only in training but in daily life. While humble and gentle, he should never be servile. His performance of the kata should reflect boldness and confidence. This seemingly paradoxical combination of boldness and gentleness leads ultimately to harmony. It is true, as Master Funakoshi used to say, that the spirit of karate would be lost without courtesy.

It is also true that there are few persons who can make a perfect ceremonial bow, but one who can do this has to a great extent c mastered the art. In order to do so, he must be a man of good, rounded character. In recent days, I have rarely met anyone who could make a perfect bow.

While in karate practice the man who makes a perfect bow seems to be full of openings, quite the opposite is true; he leaves no openings, and it would be difficult in the extreme for his opponent to deliver an effective blow or kick. When performing kata, begin with a bow and end with a bow. Be neither arrogant nor servile. From beginning to end, perform the kata in a natural way with humility.

Without sincerity, the bow is meaningless. Rather than be concerned about its outward appearance, put your heart and soul into the bow; then it will naturally take on a good shape.

For the beginner, it is natural to wish to become as strong as possible. And if he continues to practice with seriousness in order to attain this end, he will eventually reach a state wherein there is great harmony between body and spirit. But there will be no arrogance, only gentleness, and he will even forget that he is a man of great capability. There is a saying that "the strong hawk hides its talons." It is like that. I myself would like to attain this state, but it is only recently that I have become aware of it.

Master Funakoshi was often asked for examples of his fine calligraphy, and one of the expressions he used to write down and present to others was, "Don't go against nature." These words, which have a deep meaning, he thoroughly intended to be a maxim to be strictly observed.

It is difficult to define nature in so many words. Sun, moon and stars are part of nature, as are man, existence itself and the movement of all things. Flowers blooming in the spring and leaves falling in the autumn are natural phenomena, as are a man's birth, his growing up and becoming old, and his death. Earth, water, fire, wind, snow and rain are part of nature, from which we have much to learn. But no matter how much one opposes nature, he does not have the slightest chance of winning.

In our physical movements, there are those that are natural and others that are not. Through practice, we can learn to differentiate between the two and also learn to acquire natural movements. We should also learn the power that nature has endowed us with and how to use it, for a man has a great deal of hidden power of which he is not aware. The example of prodigious feats of strength and endurance exhibited during times of stress, such as fires and floods, comes to mind. These are

sometimes described as "superhuman," but is this really the case? Although the person who performed such a feat was not aware that he possessed such power, it is my conviction that such powers are the endowment of nature and can be developed by one who trains in earnest and with perseverance.

I would like to pose a very crucial question: If instead of opposing the movements of your opponent, you moved with him in a natural way, what would happen? You will find that you and he become as one, and that when he moves to strike, your body will move naturally to avert the blow. And when you become capable of this, you will discover a completely different world-one that you had not known existed. When you are as one with your opponent and move naturally with him without opposition, then there is no such thing as a first strike. The meaning of karate ni sente nashi ("There is no first strike in karate") cannot be understood until you achieve this state.

Through courtesy you will take a humble attitude toward your opponent in training and be grateful to him. Without this attitude, there can be no training in the true sense. But if your objective is to batter your opponent senseless, you cannot attain this state. In real training and practice, anger, hatred and fear are completely absent. It is important to know that one can harbor neither homicidal intention nor enmity, neither opposition nor resistance, against one's opponent. When you reach this state, you will become one with your opponent and you will be able to move naturally in line with his movements. This, then, is the objective, physically and spiritually, of training and practicing karate. But it is a state than can be achieved only through strenuous practice.

It has been said that when one passes the age of sixty, he will no longer be able to engage in real practice. When I first heard those words, about twenty years before reaching that age, I could not understand their meaning. Now that I have reached that age, 1 think I can understand to some extent. Deterioration in one's physical strength becomes conspicuous, and it is impossible to engage in the same type of practice as young people do. Movements themselves become sluggish.

Nevertheless, in thinking back on my forty years of practicing karate, I come to the conclusion that, as my teacher Gichin Funakoshi said, karate is a martial art in which anyone can participate, young or old, man or woman, everyone. As for karate and life, I would like to say that practicing karate is indeed life and life is indeed practicing karate. My wish is to remain young in spirit throughout my days. To build up my gradually waning physical strength, I would like to engage in preparatory exercises before actually performing karate practice. And this is the way that 1 suggest that those who would follow Karate-do proceed.

The Heart Of Karate by Shigeru Egami, Kodansha Int. Ltd 1976