What is Karate?

Karate is an art of unarmed combat as well as being an excellent system of achieving physical fitness and control. It provides an unequalled form of gaining supreme control of the body and sharp discipline of mind. Although it requires many hours of practice, karate will provide its practitioners with the means to health, suppleness, speed and agility of mind.

"The real mind is an inborn, pure mind, and the worldly mind is a mind soiled by evil thought and impressions through the experience of life."

In Martial Arts, the aim is this. If our mind, as we make an attack, is attached to the idea of the opponents counter attack, we cannot fight with complete freedom, because we are not concentrating on our own actions, but are wondering if our opponent will kick against our punch and so on. In the same way, while blocking we cannot counterattack properly, if we are preoccupied with the blocking itself, through fear of being hit by our opponents punch or kick.

A baby does not have this complex fear. A person who narrowly escapes being run over by a car will remain motionless, his limbs frozen by fear. But a baby will continue to move innocently on because he has no fear complex.

Karate is basically a training to bring a person back to the natural state of mind they were born with, dispelling delusions.

In "Fudechishinmyorkou", a masterpiece in which Zen teacher Takuan taught Yagyu Tajimanokami the essence of Kendo through Zen Buddhism, a work highly valued by practitioners of Budo, Takuan speaks of real mind and the false or material mind as follows:

Some once asked a famous Japanese fencing expert:

"What would you do if you were attacked suddenly?"

"When I am startled I will step forward" he replied

In a similar situation, an ordinary person would unconsciously step backward. This expert is able to act freely at any time and on any occasion, for he has an "empty" mind, free from the illusions of life.

The essence of Budo then, is to have a pure, empty mind, as at birth, free from doubts, fears and delusions, according to the Zen master, Takuan.

If our consciousness is too much attached to our punch while punching, or if obsessed only with the block when blocking, we cannot work freely.

Our ideas and thoughts ought not to be attached to anything. We ought not to allow our mind to become involved in anything. Seeing a flower, we admire its beauty, but if we wonder why this flower is beautiful or how long it has been in bloom, this means we begin to have mental attachment to the flower. Seeing a flower or any other thing, only as it is and for its own sake, nothing of it remains in the mind. This is what is meant by a real, pure mind. This is one of the precepts of Zen. It is said that the aim of karate is to overcome oneself. It can be achieved only if one has a pure mind, if we are not attached to anything, we accept everything. We must be free from attachments to the idea of hardship or pain, and this means we can overcome ourselves.