See you in class tonight. Enjoy the latest from Sifu Starr:
LISTENING TO THE PAST
Most martial arts neophytes, and even a good number of advanced
practitioners, tend to see martial arts primarily as a sophisticated
means of kicking butt. And certainly, we do put in a lot of time and
energy training ourselves to become highly proficient in various types
of combat. But there's much more to martial arts than meets the eye
(or butt) and it's important to stop every once in a while and listen
to the voices of the past. If we listen closely and reflect upon what
they tell us, we can begin to understand what martial arts are really
"To achieve victory in a hundred battles is not the highest skill. To
subdue the enemy without fighting is the highest skill."
-Sun Tzu "The Art of War"
The most efficient and safest way of winning is to avoid
fighting. Pay attention to what is happening around you and if
violence seems imminent, leave. Avoid frequenting places where
violence is common.
Captain Kangaroo taught us a great lesson in how to avoid violence
and diffuse hostile situations; he taught us "Please" and "Thank You."
Really. You'd be surprised at the number of potentially violent
situations that can be mitigated with little more than a calm,
confident demeanor and these two phrases. Avoiding conflict is the
highest skill. Confronting an opponent and winning without resorting
to violence is the next highest level. Winning through physical
violence is the lowest level of skill.
"Mental bearing (calmness), not skill, is the sign of a matured
samurai. A samurai, therefore, should neither be pompous nor arrogant."
One of the easiest places to find people who have puffed
themselves up with self-importance and pomposity is a martial arts
school (or tournament). Those who possess genuine skill are usually
"The obstacle is the path."
We often talk about following the path of the martial arts and
realizing that the obstacle we encounter have actually been placed
there by us. But consider...the path itself is the obstacle.
"Don't hit at all if it is honorably possible to avoid hitting, but
never hit soft."
God bless Teddy Roosevelt!
"Karate begins and ends with courtesy."
-Gichin Funakoshi ("Father of Japanese
Of course, this doesn't apply only to karate. It applies to all
martial disciplines. I once had a young man approach me and ask what
he would learn first if he enrolled in my school. I replied,
"courtesy." He was somewhat taken aback at this response but I
explained that if he could not or would not learn courtesy, he could
never learn martial arts. One of the great secrets of martial arts
lies within the simple concept of courtesy.
"Maximum efficiency with minimum effort." (One of the fundamental
principles of judo)
-Dr. Jigaro Kano (founder of Judo)
Too many of us strive to achieve maximum efficiency through
maximum effort, using strength against strength and huffing and puffing
and pushing and pulling. Let the opponent give you the victory. You
will not get it by yourself.
"A good stance and posture reflect a proper state of mind."
-Morihei Uyeshiba (founder of Aikido)
The outside is reflective of the inside. Moreover, the outside
affects the inside. Sloppy posture or stance begets a sloppy, loose
mind...A sharp posture is indicative of a sharp but relaxed mind.
"From white to black belt, you shape the tool. After black belt, you
learn how to use it."
"Martial arts are about discipline and the first discipline is showing
up for class."
-Mr. Carter (A karate teacher)
Indeed. Truer words were never spoken. But there's more to this
statement than you might think. Consider it.
"Knife sharpens on stone. Man sharpens on man."
"Iron is full of impurities that weaken it. Through forging it becomes
steel and is transformed into a razor-sharp sword. Human beings
develop in the same way."
"Before and after practice or engaging in a match, participants bow to
each other. Bowing is an expression of gratitude and respect. In
effect, you are thanking your opponent for giving you the opportunity
to improve your technique."
Bow. Always. And mean it. There's nothing worse than an empty
"Karate ni sente nashi."
This is often translated as, "In karate, one does not make the
first attack." However, I believe a more correct rendering is, "In
karate, one does not make the first move." There's a considerable
difference between the two.
In the former, the emphasis would seem to be on morality,
emphasizing that one should use karate only as a means of defense
rather than aggression. However, I believe that this quote has more to
do with tactics. Whenever a person moves he creates a moment of "kyo"
(deficiency, vulnerability) which a skillful opponent may exploit and
use to his advantage. Therefore, it is best to let the opponent move
and thereby weaken his defensive posture.
"Kamae is for beginners. Shizentai is for advanced pupils."
"Kamae" is a formal posture or fighting stance. "Shizentai"
refers to natural standing postures. The master is saying that
beginners feel that they begin from a fighting posture but a truly
skilled practitioner can, after much training, present his techniques
from any (natural) position.
"Martial arts are intended to prolong life, not shorten it."
Always remember this. Think on it.
More Next Time-