When you begin to feel like you are a tough guy, a warrior, a master of the martial arts or that you have lived a tough life, just take a moment and get some perspective with the following:
I've stopped knives that were coming to disembowel me
I've clawed for my gun while bullets ripped past me
I've dodged as someone tried to put an ax in my skull
I've fought screaming steel and left rubber on the road to avoid death
I've clawed broken glass out of my body after their opening attack failed
I've spit blood and body parts and broke strangle holds before gouging eyes
I've charged into fires, fought through blizzards and run from tornados
I've survived being hunted by gangs, killers and contract killers
The streets were my home, I hunted in the night and was hunted in turn
Please don't brag to me that you're a survivor because someone hit you. And don't tell me how 'tough' you are because of your training. As much as I've been through I know people who have survived much, much worse. - Marc MacYoung
WARNING, CAVEAT AND NOTE
The postings on this blog are my interpretation of readings, studies and experiences therefore errors and omissions are mine and mine alone. The content surrounding the extracts of books, see bibliography on this blog site, are also mine and mine alone therefore errors and omissions are also mine and mine alone and therefore why I highly recommended one read, study, research and fact find the material for clarity. My effort here is self-clarity toward a fuller understanding of the subject matter. See the bibliography for information on the books. Please make note that this article/post is my personal analysis of the subject and the information used was chosen or picked by me. It is not an analysis piece because it lacks complete and comprehensive research, it was not adequately and completely investigated and it is not balanced, i.e., it is my personal view without the views of others including subject experts, etc. Look at this as “Infotainment rather then expert research.” This is an opinion/editorial article/post meant to persuade the reader to think, decide and accept or reject my premise. It is an attempt to cause change or reinforce attitudes, beliefs and values as they apply to martial arts and/or self-defense. It is merely a commentary on the subject in the particular article presented.
Note: I will endevor to provide a bibliography and italicize any direct quotes from the materials I use for this blog. If there are mistakes, errors, and/or omissions, I take full responsibility for them as they are mine and mine alone. If you find any mistakes, errors, and/or omissions please comment and let me know along with the correct information and/or sources.
“What you are reading right now is a blog. It’s written and posted by me, because I want to. I get no financial remuneration for writing it. I don’t have to meet anyone’s criteria in order to post it. Not only I don’t have an employer or publisher, but I’m not even constrained by having to please an audience. If people won’t like it, they won’t read it, but I won’t lose anything by it. Provided I don’t break any laws (libel, incitement to violence, etc.), I can post whatever I want. This means that I can write openly and honestly, however controversial my opinions may be. It also means that I could write total bullshit; there is no quality control. I could be biased. I could be insane. I could be trolling. … not all sources are equivalent, and all sources have their pros and cons. These needs to be taken into account when evaluating information, and all information should be evaluated.” - God’s Bastard, Sourcing Sources
“You should prepare yourself to dedicate at least five or six years to your training and practice to understand the philosophy and physiokinetics of martial arts and karate so that you can understand the true spirit of everything and dedicate your mind, body and spirit to the discipline of the art.” - cejames
“All I say is by way of discourse, and nothing by way of advice. I should not speak so boldly if it were my due to be believed.” - Montaigne
Perfection - not so perfect .....
Some may assume it means the form in kata being perfect, i.e. the hand is held this way, the stance is assumed this way and the kiai shout is this loud, etc. Others assume that repetitive practice on perceived flaws in a form are the "seeking" of perfection. When we observe someone who is a master of their system we sometimes "assume in our mind" that they must have achieved perfection. This master may be viewed in practice and because of the priming of the mind, i.e. this guys is a master, we either see or don't see imperfections that denote a lack of perfection as we assumed the master must have achieved perfection.
What exactly is perfection in martial karate or martial arts for that matter? A complex question that requires that one look to the past, the traditions, the culture and beliefs of those who created, taught and practiced the system or art. If we continue to assume perfection is what our minds tell us it is we are actually defining the system and its practice on Western ideologies, cultures and beliefs.
We leaned that kata is not inclusive to only martial karate or martial arts but rather kata encompasses a greater span of the people and culture who happen to practice and therefore include kata within that system. Martial karate, Aikido, judo, etc. all were created through kata or the culture developed on the premise of shikata which in turn resulted from the samurai culture which in turn was created from the influences of Chinese etiquette, cultures and beliefs.
The idea of "perfection" is much larger and more influential than a martial art, just as kata is a governing trait that is martial karate or martial arts. The idea of perfection actually is a result of the Japanese feudal era where Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism and Zen practices influenced samurai culture that resulted in a ideological spiritual drive toward what they perceive as perfection. Don't assume it means what we think it means regarding perfection.
As I have and still am discovering the meaning of the parts of martial karate are much, much deeper and emotional and spiritual than I had originally thought. This includes "seeking perfection."
First one must realize that Japanese beliefs, i.e. their gods, are based on humanity as to their behavior which includes all the foibles, weaknesses, of mortal humans. Because of this their gods are a lot more forgiving regarding human transgressions. When a Japanese makes a mistake/error they are obligated to demonstrate "self-reflection." Japanese are not singled out when things go wrong or errors are made. They do self-reflection as a group to find the mistakes/errors, to make the changes in the system that will ensure that the mistake/error is not repeated in the future. This is called "hansei." If an individual is found to be responsible then they must engage in "hansei shimasu," or self-reflection to repent.
Ok, I will try to bring all that I have found into one terse answer. This will be difficult as it is a culmination of a lot of data on culture and belief that has brought me to this point.
Perfection is something mortals are unable to attain. Saying that martial karate's ultimate goal is to attain perfection is a misguided statement. We are not trying to attain perfection, not in the form we think. We are actually saying that our practice of martial karate, microcosmically speaking, is to perfect our ability to perform "self-reflection" where we "seek improvement" constantly, diligently and constantly. We are training our minds, bodies and spirit to have a discerning eye toward imperfections so we may seek improvement which comes from self-reflection.
One who walks a path of martial karate is doing so with an eye on perfection through an eye on imperfection. If a karate-ka were to actually say they achieved perfection there is only one way that can occur, they are doing "nothing." Some famous person once said something like, "show me a person who is perfect and your showing me a person who is doing nothing."
To do something as a human is to be imperfect so self-reflection provides a practice to create and build a discerning eye toward the minutest imperfections that one can, in martial karate exploit, or perceive and improve upon lessening the imperfections that are inherent in humans and human behaviors.
To "see" perfection is to "see"k imperfections, a continuing effort ..... this is the "why" to the stories of masters practicing a basic which many assume they have transcended but in reality it is this "hansei shimasu" whereby they are seeing imperfections in order to continuously self-reflect to achieve "hansei shimasu." To be perfect in hansei shimasu is attaining perfection in martial karate is attaining continuous improvement which is knowing that perfection is unattainable as long as we are doing something but seeing imperfection toward improvement to create an eye toward discernment of imperfection is perfection.
To practice "hansei" is to also have knowledge of the other cultural code words that clue Westerners in to the culture and beliefs that drive hansei, shikata and so much more. When you view cultural meaning within martial karate or martial arts your actually seeing a microcosmic rendition of an entire societies culture and beliefs. Hansei, shikata, etc. are all used in every single facet of Japanese life from kata for chopsticks to kata for aikido, judo and martial karate.
Hansei, etc. created a samurai culture where a adept practitioner of the sword could discern the level of proficiency and all the weaknesses in an opponent just at a glance. This is not some superhuman feat but merely a "life long" practice that actually encodes this ability in their very being. How? Through hansei, kata and a lot of practice.