Quality counts
It is true what they say - "there is no substitute for quality".
Things of quality tend to last. Things of quality tend to create not only a good first impression, but also a lasting one, as anyone who has ever seen Michelangelo's sculpture of David, or Leonardo Di Vinci's painting of Mona Lisa, will tell you. But in truth quality often demands a high price. In fact it is not uncommon for people the world over to gauge the quality of a "thing" by the price that was paid for it. Quality costs, it is as simple as that.
Shotokan karate is no exception.
Regardless of your rank in karate, to have quality in your techniques, your stance, your balance, your posture, or your kata, you must first pay the price. Now don't get me wrong I am not referring to the dollars and cents that you must spend to join a dojo in the first place, or the monthly dues you may be asked to pay. What I am referring to is the time and effort that you must pay in the form of the hours, months, and years spent correctly practicing over, and over, and over again, all of the required movements and techniques found within the Shotokan syllabus. You pay in the form of time away from family and friends, in putting off traveling to places you wanted to go, and doing other things you may have wanted to do. You pay with the tremendous amount of effort that you are often called upon to lay out both physically and mentally each time you enter the dojo, or get up enough courage to step on to the grading floor and attempt to advance yourself within your dojo society.
But time and effort alone do not breed quality.
In karate as it is with many things, you must also remember to be sure that you are always practicing under the right conditions and in the correct manner as prescribed by your style and your sensei. Training is one thing, proper training is something else entirely. Someone once coined the phrase "practice makes perfect" but they were only partly correct. It would probably have been more fitting instead to have said "perfect practice, makes perfect". After all most of us at one time or another have known of students who have a seemingly endless numbers of "stamps" on their membership card indicating for all to see that they are truly devoted to the art of karate, and yet for some reason when it comes time for demonstrating their basic techniques, or kata in class, or on a grading, there appears to be little or no improvement. Obviously it is safe to say that "just any kind of practice, does not make perfect".
How you practice is more important than what you practice.
But where does perfection start, and more importantly, should everything you try and do always have perfection as the ultimate goal. After all we are only human, and there lots of things in life that should be done just for the shear fun it, and any other reason including perfection, be damned. Lets face it, in truth a perfect world would probably be a very boring place indeed. But I digress, and so back to the point I want to make about where perfection, or anything else for that matter, really starts.
In the beginning everything starts first and foremost in your mind.
Human thought is visible everywhere. In fact we live in a world made up almost entirely of ideas and thoughts that have already been fulfilled in one way or another. Everything that we see and touch is a by-product of our thoughts, or the thoughts of someone else, and make no mistake about it, these thoughts existed in someone's mind long before they ever existed on paper. Take any building in your home town for example, I assure you it existed in the mind of the owner, the builder, the architect, or whom ever, long before it became a rough sketch, a set of construction plans, or for that matter a finished product. It is precisely because the human mind is the first source of everything that exists in the real world, that we must first look within ourselves to both our sub-conscious, as well as conscious thoughts, if we are ever to going to make true progress in the art of karate.
Karate is 90% mental 10% physical - the body can do nothing without first getting the mind to participate.
The quality of your karate is a physical manifestation of your subconscious and conscious thoughts, no more no less. Learn to control your thoughts, learn to focus entirely on the task at hand, and the quality of what ever you are attempting to do will rise dramatically. You may have heard the old expression "lost in thought" this can occur when somewhere along the nuropathways from your mind to your body the originally intended thought, while being transferred into an action, becomes interrupted by another thought that suddenly takes precedence, thus altering your focus, and thereby effecting the outcome of what ever it was you were originally trying to do. The end result will then be a noticeable lack of quality in the finished product, and of course this all happens in the blink of an eye.
The quality of any technique is only equal to the quality of the thought that went into it from start to finish.
If you make every effort to learn to control and focus your thoughts, and try where ever possible to avoid being distracted, then in the end your balance, posture, stance, basic techniques, kata, bunkai, kumite, or anything else for that matter, will take on a whole new quality and a whole new perspective. You will notice immediate results, and so will everyone else in the dojo. But remember, any interruption anywhere along that thought process from start to finish, can and will, have a dramatic effect on quality of the end result.
The end of everything you do in the dojo has importance.
While the conscious mind is where you make events happen, your subconscious mind is the place where every event begins, and ends. The subconscious mind is where the conscious mind dreams, for the subconscious mind never sleeps. The subconscious is where dreams are born, and desires are created, and then ultimately passed on to the conscious mind for it's consideration and acceptance, or out right rejection. Your sub-conscious mind is always active even when you sleep while the conscious mind takes the opportunity to rest along with the body. Whether you know it or not each karate movement first starts in your subconscious mind, it is then transferred to your conscious mind, which in turn then transmits the requirements through the body as needed in order to perform the necessary action. How you begin each action, how you follow through, and how you end each action, must always be given equal importance, and focus, because they are so interconnected that the end of each technique is in fact the start of the next one. Even when you have completed your last physical movement in any kata, the "thought" or "intent" of the that last movement must continue outward in your mind as if there is no ending.
Your reality is the result of the conscious decisions originally created in your sub-conscious mind.
The underlying message here, or for that matter any article devoted to karate, usually amounts to one thing, keep on training. So go to class as often as you can, listen to your sensei, and train with commitment. Given time you may find that your body and your sub-conscious mind will begin to work together in harmony. At which point you will no longer have to "think" about each technique or movement before you perform it, but instead you will learn to just "react" to what is required, when it is required. At this point in your training your concious mind will begin to take a back seat to your sub-concious mind which will ultimately lead you to being able to perform your karate as "thoughtless action", which must never be confused with the unintended result of "a thoughtless action" . Knowing the difference between the two is what separates the teacher from the student.
Good luck in your training.
A bad day of training Shotokan Karate
beats a good day doing anything else.
Part the clouds - see the way.
"The objective of karate-do is to contribute to the evolution
of the human spirit through physical and mental training."
Sensei Peter Lindsay