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INTRODUCTION TO KARATE-DO

By Del Saito Soke
from his book "Karate-Do - the way of Shito-Ryu"

Centuries have passed since the original art of Karate was formed. In recent years, especially since the late 1960's, the popularity of Karate has grown and prospered tremendously. In recent decades, many of the concepts and much of the philosophy of this art have been altered or changed. Many of these changes have been beneficial to the Karate practitioner. However, some changes have hindered the progress of the art. There's an old saying that captures the heart of Karate-Do: "Karate begins and ends with courtesy." Yet, many instructors and students today fail to recognise the importance of discipline and respect. They fail to understand that self restraint and striving to perfect one's character bring freedom. Instead, only the superficial aspects of Karate are taught and practised. Hence, the true significance of Karate is lost.

In Karate, as in all martial arts, there appears to be but one reliable path to proficiency - practice. By practising patiently, diligently, and with the proper state of mind, Karate practitioners learn to eliminate errors and which skills should be clarified, rearranged, and strengthened.

Self Defence
Karate is a martial art of self defence. The Japanese characters which form the word Karate mean "empty hands". Literally, this means that the Karate practitioner uses his unarmed body to aid him in a reliable system of self defence.

As a method of self-defence, Karate is probably as old as the human race. However, only in recent years has this method of empty-hand defence taken on a vast scientific approach in which body movement, timing, balance, and even psychology are studied and applied in formulating techniques that are effective against any would-be assailant.

Physical Discipline
Many people have fallen victim to an undisciplined, over indulgent, and stressful society. A look around clearly shows man's poor condition. Disregarding the need to balance our activities with proper exercise creates obesity, chronic back pain, weak and flabby muscles, poor posture, minimal flexibility, lack of endurance, tension, depression and emotional instability.

The superb co-ordination and stamina required in executing each Karate movement demands the utmost from your body. With training, you will learn to strengthen your body with proper exercises. In time, each part of your body will take a new dimension of conditioning and growth. Learning these skills will aid you in eliminating and preventing a variety of illnesses and other conditions that cause your body to deteriorate. Karate training brings about a great physical high which will overcome any temptation to indulge in drugs, alcohol, or junk food.

Mental Discipline
Self-defence does not in itself create a worthy art. Karate-Do involves mental training as well as physical training. It is hoped that the practitioner will open new doors of learning and understanding - that exercise will take greater meaning. After many hours of practice, the meaning of "Kara" or "empty" will change from the literal definition to a deeper, more aesthetic meaning - ridding the mind of negative thoughts and feelings thereby creating space for useful actions more worthy of cultivation.

Spiritual Discipline
As harmonious interaction of mind and body evolves, the practitioner will come to realise that we are mere links in the chain of life. Practising Karate only to prepare for an attack that may never come proves useless. Striving to strengthen one's mind and body only to achieve worldly happiness would also prove useless if death comes tomorrow. One must learn to expand his thoughts beyond the physical realm in to the spiritual sphere. Learn to forget yourself and to adapt to the pace of nature, and you will learn to accept the absolute truth. You must study this well.

It is important to act and to involve yourself with the proper attitudes and to find out more about the absolute truth. This is the true basis of Karate-Do.

Summary
Only by combining the four areas of Karate - self-defence, physical, mental and spiritual discipline - do we find ourselves true practitioners of Karate-Do. And only when applying our full concentration to each of the four disciplines do we find ourselves reaching our goals and becoming whole. Only then do we begin to understand.

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Courtesy Del Sato Soke

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