A special podcast by Sensei Iain Abernethy in which he shares his motivation and approach to a lifetime of martial arts study. Much of what he describes echoes my own beliefs. Please listen and share your impressions. Be well, stay strong.
In October of 1908 Anko Itosu realized that it was time for karate to reach beyond the shores of Okinawa to the heart of Japan itself. At this point he wrote his famous letter of Ten Precepts (Tode Jukun) of Karate to draw the attention of both the Ministry of Education as well as the Ministry of War. A translation of that letter:
Ten Precepts of Karate
“Karate did not develop from Buddhism or Confucianism. In the past the Shorin school and the Shorei school were brought to Okinawa from China. Both of these schools have strong points, which I will now mention before there are too many changes:
Karate is not merely practiced for your own benefit: it can be used to protect one’s family or master. It is not intended to be used against a single assailant but instead as a way of avoiding a fight should one be confronted by a villain or ruffian.
The purpose of karate is to make the muscles and bones hard as rock and to use the hands and legs as spears. If children were to begin training in Tang Te (‘China Art’ or ‘China Hand’) while in elementary school, then they will be well suited for military service. Remember the words attributed to the Duke of Wellington after he defeated Napoleon: “The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton” or “our victory today was achieved in our school yards” or “tomorrows victory can come from today’s playgrounds”
Karate cannot be quickly learned. Like a slow moving bull, it eventually travels a thousand miles. If one trains diligently everyday, then in three or four years one will come to understand karate. Those who train in this fashion will discover karate.
In karate, training of the hands and feet are important, so one must be thoroughly trained on the makiwara (striking post). In order to do this, drop your shoulders, open your lungs, take hold of your strength, grip the floor with your feet and sink your energy into your lower abdomen. Practice using each arm one to two hundred times each day.
When one practices the stances of Tang Te, be sure to keep your back straight, lower your shoulders, put strength in your legs, stand firmly and drop your energy into your lower abdomen.
Practice each of the techniques of karate repeatedly, the use of which is passed by word of mouth. Learn the explanations well and decide when and in what manner to apply them when needed. Enter, counter, release is the rule of releasing hand (tori-te).
You must decide if karate is for your health or to aid your duty.
When you train, do so as if on the battlefield. Your eyes should glare, shoulders drop, and body harden. You should always train with intensity and spirit and in this way you will naturally be ready.
One must not over train; this will cause you to lose the energy in your lower abdomen and will be harmful to your body. Your face and eyes will turn red. Train wisely.
In the past masters of karate have enjoyed long lives. Karate aids in developing the bones and muscles. It helps the digestion as well as the circulation. If karate should be introduced beginning in the elementary schools, then we will produce many men each capable of defeating ten assailants. I further believe this can be done by having all students at the Okinawa Teachers College practice Karate. In this way after graduation they can teach at the elementary schools that which they have been taught. I believe this will be a great benefit to our nation and our military. It is my hope you will seriously consider my suggestion.”
This article, written by my student Robert Jinkins, details the history and legacy of this karate innovator. If not for Itosu Sensei efforts we may have never heard of karate in any form. Please read Bob’s work and leave any question or comment you may have regarding it. Thank you.
This article was written by my student Robert Gorman as part of his 1st Degree Black Belt (Shodan) test. Bob offers a look into this mental and emotional state that is sometimes referred to as “Being Masterful”, devoid of excessive thought or action, to accomplish specific tasks. Please take a moment to read and comment on this.