In traditional Japanese and Okinawan martial arts the terms Karate-Do and Karate-Jitsu are often used interchangeably and sometimes incorrectly. The emphasis of Karate-Do is on self-perfection and developing character, honor and integrity of the participant, the old “it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game that counts”.
Karate-Jitsu on the other hand, is all about the effectiveness of the technique or the ultimate purpose of a warrior’s art is to destroy his or her enemy. These techniques are designed to be used in defense of yourself, your family or your country, and are too serious to play with.
Over the last 50 plus years that I have been training and teaching I find that different aspects of the martial arts appeal to different people and at different times, different aspects appeal to the same person. For example, I find that kids love to play and seem to like competing in sport karate at tournaments while many older people could care less about competing for a medal or trophy. Individuals that are in law enforcement or serving in the military tend to really focus on what works, what is functional and less on sport type training.
I also think that each one of us has different needs depending on the circumstances. On a day-to-day basis, learning to be a better citizen and using the art to relieve stress, staying focused on the positive and keeping our bodies healthy may indeed be the highest priority in our training. However, if we find ourselves in the street and under sudden attack, then the use of our training takes an immediate turn towards effectiveness of technique. In traditional thinking, karate training is for defensive purposes under surprise attack on the street, not for escalation of conflict or mutually agreed upon combat.
As instructors, it is important that we always see our student’s training for what they want to get out of it, and not the training that we love for ourselves. Like the double-edged sword, the usefulness of the training can be used for good or evil. A sharp knife in the hands of a madman can kill, while in the hands of a skilled surgeon it can save lives. The skills and ability gained from martial arts training can save and enhance the practitioner in many ways. For some it’s the Self Discipline, for others it is the Self Defense, physical fitness or even the focus and concentration learned in the dojo. Teaching a classical system that also emphasizes Life Skills and the precepts of Bushido is desperately needed in today’s society.
As the leader there is another side of the double-edged sword concept and that is actually exploring the other side. We don’t always look at both sides, but need to explore the other side for true understanding. For example, you encounter a failure in your life and you quickly feel despair because you make a bad decision. Well, you need to explore the positive as well.
What did you learn from the experience, what changes will you implement next time this situation occurs, etc. Once you understand this concept, you begin to understand the old statement, “When you pick up one end of the stick, you also pick up the other end.” Knowing all the ripples that are caused by our thoughts and actions, and then making decisions based on those future consequences, is what separates the warrior from the average person.
To become a true warrior follow the functional way of the arts, enjoy the competitive or showy aspects if you like. Follow the Code of bushido and don’t simply go through life reacting to events. Take charge. Be proactive. This is the way of the Warrior.