Karate is Cursive Fighting
Updated: Sep 3
"If you can't explain it to a six year old then you don't understand it yourself." -Albert Einstein-
How do we go about explaining karate? Granted when it comes to six year olds we can explain that karate is a way to make yourself stronger and smarter, also a means to protect yourself and people you care about.
However a more mature method I've typically seen is the image of a tree used. The kihon (basics) we learn are the roots, they join to form kata (forms) and then they branch out to be kumite (sparring).
Now this isn't a bad example, though it requires further explanation to blend it all together. I feel there is a more relatable way.
Think back to being 6 years old and in kindergarten? We start learning the alphabet and how to read and write.
When we first begin our karate training or more accurately when we begin to learn anything new in karate, we train to be as precise as possible. This is just like when we're writing our first letters.
We draw them out carefully, make sure they're accurate and everyone looks the same. Then we combine them to form our first basic words. In karate this would be as simple as combining a punch with a step forward into a front stance.
As we get better we form bigger words and on top of that we gain an understanding into the meaning of the words we learn and like writing and reading theres always more to learn. Look back to that punch and front stance. We learn the punch is a strike to the stomach and the stance is it's delivery system.
As we improve our writting, the teacher gets less concerned with making sure everyones letters look the same so long as they're legible. In a way we begin to express ourselves in our handwriting and move more freely as we do. Just as we begin to move more freely in kata. We learn to express our own individual essence in the moves.
The final example is actually a dieing art but it's worth mentioning, cursive writing. This takes a greater skill to write and to read. When an expert performs a high level kata it's difficult for the untrained eye to understand what's happening.
When writing in cursive like when practicing kumite there must be a flow. It's where the practitioner can really establish their signature (pun intended lol). Like in writing and in karate both are methods of self expression, an art to practice and improve upon.
This all came to mind when I was reading up on Japanese calligraphy. There are three styles of calligraphy that I know of.
Take a look at this image, here we have the term "Do" (The way) written three times. As you can see Kaisho is very precise. Like how we train our basics.
Gyosho is more free handed. You can see the artist adding a bit of expression into this one. Just as karate-ka should in kata practice. And finally Sosho, very expressive and free flowing. Something only an expert could read. This is like our sparring or study of bunkai.
So in conclusion. Learning new techniques is like learning a new letter. It must be practiced repeatedly and exact. Freehand writing is similar to kata. It has your expression added to the motion with more flow. And finally cursive writing like Sosho is like our sparring. Flowing and full of expression.
Sometimes Shihan Sensei Goral said to me can be said by a school teacher. "I teach you karate (how to write). You make it your own."