NAKAZATO ON SPORT KARATE

 by Shugoro Nakazato

Translated by Steve Neal
Edited by Chris Estes

In recent years, not only has Okinawan Karate-Do spread to Mainland Japan, it has now started to become an International phenomenon, spreading to the United States of America, Europe, South America and Africa. I, an Okinawan-born practitioner of Karate-Do, and a leader as such, take great pride in stressing the traditional aspects of Karate-Do, as well as the responsibility that goes with learning it.

Judo has already become dissipated into every corner of the world, and it has been some time now since it has become an Olympic sport. I would like to reflect for a moment upon the reasons why the Japanese or Oriental Military Arts have captured the fascination of so many people of the world.

One could say, after viewing the conditions of the world, that people of today are searching for a new philosophy to govern the world. The former civilization of Western Europe, which has dominated the seven seas, has the morals of a society that has already fallen. The United States, which everyone has come to recognize as the leader of democracy, has recently shown change, as may be demonstrated by the failure to come to a winning conclusion in the wars of Vietnam and Cambodia. In Africa, Mozambique has taken its independence from Portugal, etc. Because of these events, several people have come to feel that the culture of Western Europe, which has ruled the world for so long, is not the only answer.

Thus people, including Western Europeans themselves, are searching for a new, shall we say, "psychological pillar" to support their world. Evidence of this is the conspicuous manifestation amongst foreigners, particularly Americans, of Indian Yoga, Zen, Shinto, and other forms of Buddhism, which have come out of Japan and are now in American Society in place of the previous Hippie philosophy.

The Western European morals are changing to a new philosophy that is being derived more and more from an Eastern-based philosophy. The world is hungering for such a philosophy as this. As evidence of this phenomenon, we only have to look at such things as Judo, which has become a world-wide sport, and in recent years, Kendo, which, as you know, is the "Way of the Sword," Karate-Do, Kung Fu, Aikido, Shorinji Sho Ho and Okinawan Ancient Martial Arts which have become the object of the people's favor. It is rational to think that, beyond just the mere sport of the Military Arts of Japan, the people of the world are searching for something in the mental or spirit of things that go beyond these sports. Of course, this is against a background of such things as "I like to become strong", "I like to make my body beautiful", or to escape the stresses of this modern world. These three reasons are just a part of the reason for the things I have said about people searching for something that is stimulating. What are we to think from the facts, such as foreigners shaving their heads and putting on Buddhist priest robes and becoming Buddhist Zen Priests, how are we to interpret this reality? It is therefore apparent that the world is turning its eyes towards the Orient.

Changing the tope just a little, in recent years the fact of Karate-Do being made into a sport has become the object of debate. On mainland Japan, it is well known that free hand style is being practiced widely. The voice is heard, especially from mainland Japan, that Okinawan Karate which practices only Kata in repetitious training, is vastly different and almost against the rest of the World's Karate. If making Karate into a sport was just one of the steps that helps the spread of Karate around the world, then I would nod my head to that, but the Military Arts are not simply another sport, and I am not satisfied in saying that they are just another form of competition.

It should not be the purpose of Karate-Do to simply master some skills and aim in terms of competition. If you were to say the meaning of the words "Karate competition" meant that first you would have to master the Kata of Karate and then put on your body the real power and make the nucleus of one's objective the spirit of boundless karate practice, and then above this, one must study the Art, then, if all this were accomplished, I would agree this could be called a competition. It is my belief and is my statement that one must first correctly understand the true essence of Karate-Do, and I also believe that Karate-Do is the protector of all the graces of the refined human arts of training. And it is my solemn hope that, as we go forward, we should preserve all of the old traditions that are associated with it.

In the first place, it is necessary to think of what is the purpose of sports and what type of a phenomenon this is. All sports have rules and a sport that does not have rules can not exist. Each individual player agrees on some rules, and with the intention to keep this agreement, they go ahead and compete. Then, if you break the rules, there is an agreed-upon penalty. This is parallel to our own society, where if you break the rules, you must pay a fine or spend some time in a prison. If you view it this way, what you call sportsmanship is like, "a place for everything and everything in its place"; this allows people to interpret rules (what is right and wrong) and to thereby obey them.

Our society has progressed from a primordial of everybody against everybody else, which was truly a struggle to survive, to gradually become a society ruled by treaties (rules). In essence, we have overcome the situation of a society without rules, which is the order of the world where weak flesh becomes the food for the strong, to become a society with rules. We gradually recognize that there is no other way to go on living without establishing laws so that we may live with one another in prosperity and peace, recognizing that there are other people besides ourselves in existence.

Therefore society, having this necessarily pressed upon it, has, in order to enhance the spirit or feeling of obedience to laws, made rules in competitions. Especially in school education, for example, sports are encouraged, since it is not only a good way to promote health, but it also educates children so they are more prone to be better citizens of society. In nature there is a struggle without rules, this, of course, pertains to life and death. Whereas in societies that do possess rules, competitions there also possess rules. Essentially, when you fight, there are not any rules, which is the main problem of managing the power of the art in a fight. And of course our present day sports such as boxing and wrestling, if you were to look at these particular types of sports and the history behind them, you would see that they are very cruel sorts of competition. Te, which was born from primitive shells of fighting, has with mankind's growth and development of society become Karate-Do. And, accordingly, has, with the desire to live in peace and prosperity with one and another, become more sports oriented.

As I have already said, the Martial Arts have something that goes beyond being just a sport, and I would like to say a few words about Karate-Do becoming a sport. I think that it is reasonable to expect that Karate-Do will become a sport, since this is one aspect in the process of the spreading of Karate-Do among the peoples. I think the problem arises in the process of making it into a sport, specifically in the content of the rules to be imposed. Rules are something that must be decided upon by everybody, and in this process, the players must decide what they think will be sufficient power, sufficient performance in order to eliminate as much of the danger as possible, and at the same time demonstrate what is losing and what is winning, and then take all of this into account and create rules, and in this context they must also decide the use of safety apparatuses, what is good and bad and what is forbidden, and of course this will necessitate much debate. Also in the presently conducted free matches, one will have to decide what is considered to be points on a point system, and preparation so far is certainly inadequate. I definitely think it would be effective if people from all aspects of Karate-Do would study the different aspects of the many styles and then exchange the different opinions between the different sects, and thus thoroughly consider all available to them in order to turn Karate-Do into a true sport.

Next I would like to talk about free matches and kata and their relationship to one another. Nowadays if we were to say Karate-Do, it could not be avoided to call it a sport, due to its saturation. Plainly speaking, I sincerely feel the Karate being conducted on mainland Japan is far too much under the name of a sport, especially due to their free matches and so forth. And on mainland Japan, if you teach Karate mainly from kata, then the followers just don't do it very long and the dojo prosperity doesn't last. Some people come to practice Karate with the sole purpose of winning matches or to impress others on how good their kata looks, and this is all they have on their minds. Also on the teaching side, they don't understand kata at all or know how to teach it, and so the student is only allowed to do free style matches, and thus the teachers are looking for a reason to justify doing this.

If you were to say it plainly, within Karate-Do there is a lack of the understanding of the true meaning of Te or so-called kata. In the first place it is not only limited to Karate-Do, but it is also found in all of our experiences over the years in repetitious training. No matter what, this is thought to be a basic part of what is recognized as our natural system of things handed down over the years and this of course specifically refers to the Japanese system of naturalism on how they love nature and so forth. And accordingly, Te is something that was not there at the beginning and is something that you were not able to achieve.

In the course of repetitious experiencing of a certain thing, inevitably and coincidentally, Karate-Do teachers discovered something among the random and unorganized nature of natural phenomena and organized this into a system of things, and they called this Te. And accordingly Karate-Do teachers have, over the years, through their experiences of long years of repetitious experiences of free style matches, put together, the skills that have worked for them throughout their studies, and combined these effective skills together, and called this Te. And within these collections, you cannot say that one of the techniques are useless, since all of them have had a use by the masters who put them together. Everything that is called Te is useful and that which you call complete Te has in it: movements, ways of breathing, eye movements, ways of distributing the power through the body, the attitude you should have. There is not one useless thing in the whole bunch and all of it has a very rational basis.

However, by just practicing Te, you cannot learn skills that are needed to deal with the various conditions and changes that can be acquired by encounters with an opponent. These other skills are judgment and reflexes that have to be done promptly, and the position to take when an opponent first presents, so that you can deliver the actions that have just been spoken about. And also, if you just practice Te, it is questionable if in battle you would be able to do well or not, and, on the other hand, if you just do free style fighting, there are many points there that are bad. We should not forget the meaning of why our sensais that have gone before us, have over their long experience talked about and developed Te. In essence, we have to study both free style matches and Te in order to get the full meaning of things. In fact, if we begin to understand deeply the meaning of Te, we will better be able to sharply improve our skills in free style matches.

Karate free style matches are very good for improving our skills, but if a person concentrates on only winning or losing and neglects Te, he searches for those skills that belong to a poorer quality of match, and the danger exists that he will forget the finer points of Karate. And of course, this is a person who wants to get the most points and wants trophies, and this is all he seeks out. While it is important to aim to be a champion and put forth such effort, this can be likened to the sword that we will call "striking with the back of the sword" and doing only that. The true sharpness of the blade and its correct use and the form it should be carried in are then forgotten, and this is analogous to not studying Te, which is symbolic of the labors of the past leaders of Karate-Do. We forget about these things and the spirit (the essence of it all), which is very much a part of Te.

In all the world, we as a people (Japanese) can be most proud of the fact that we are not just satisfied with Karate-Do being just a skill, but refer to it as natural movements that have been synthesized a step beyond being just natural, to have one thing that surpasses all beauty, so that both skill and heart come together, and we discover for the first time in the heart, the skill. This combination of skill and putting your heart into it, to become inseparable, is a very important concept in Japan. And there are things you cannot separate from one another, they are in harmony which produces the concept in Japanese which is known as "selfless surroundings or egoless surroundings", which essentially means that you are a part of nature and nature is a part of you, and there is harmony between the two. This same concept, which is difficult to understand, is a part of the Japanese arts, civilization, humanities and so forth. This is used as the basis for one to gain the combination of heart and soul with skills of the Martial Arts. In this respect, it resembles the fine arts of Japan. The leaders of Karate-Do within Te have taken out ego from Karate-Do, so that you no longer should be a person with ego. Through

Te as the person is performing the movements, he should separate himself from the movements and nature will be very much within the movements and, moreover, they will be more beautiful. And so it makes one great circle, where Karate was originally a form of fighting, a matter of life and death, is now being replaced as a philosophy to once again be a matter of life and death. This philosophy is all that we have been saying up to now, which is our race's concept of nature, a way of living. Wherever nature is likened to a blooming flower, the Martial Arts will fit very well with this overlying concept. To the people with opposite type of outlooks on nature, a different race, namely the Europeans and Americans, and with different types of bases of civilization and so forth, the understanding of the Martial Arts will be a big problem since these are not only the Martial Arts but also Japanese civilization.

I reiterate here that it would be unsatisfactory to call the Martial Arts types of sports, but if the Martial Arts are simply a way of getting a trophy, this is another matter. In recent years, Karate-Do has become a sports event as free style matches, from my point of view, the above objective is the exact type of thinking that has shaped it to turn out this way.