Followers of my blog may not quite follow this post, but please read on as the essence applies to all of us – enjoy!

At the risk of insulting those I respect with the following words, perhaps I should first point out that I cannot find fault with anything I have been taught during my three years under the tutelage of Shihan Dan Lewis, and the occasional tutelage of Shihan Gavin Mulholland.
I have been on a journey of physical, mental and spiritual self-discovery and self-growth through Martial Arts for the last 14 years, but none so great, or so rewarding as the last three.

To prove your beliefs valid, great effort should be put forth into disproving them.

At last Monday night’s training, after performing the Bunkai to 1st Kata, Sempei Darren was picking up on some of my old technical habits that are non-Goju in their manner. He went on to say that one should be trying to become more ‘Goju’ as they progress through their development in DKK, but struggled to find the words to express what he actually meant.

I actually have a problem with this, explaining my belief that a person should be using Goju Ryu (or any other passion) to learn a way of self-expression, as an artist does through painting, or sculpture, or a musician through music; and NOT that they should be trying to fit a pre-defined mould. Trying to make yourself fit a mould will only lead to a lack of self-satisfaction as you would always be trying to be something that you are not.

Matt S. pointed out that by the time a person reaches 3rd Kyu (as I have), then really they should be trying to express their desire to become a Goju moulded practitioner anyway.

I had to think about this and thankfully the answer came quickly for once, and was succinct and profound enough that I thought it worth sharing!

1)      What Sempei Darren was trying to say (I believe) was that a Goju Ryu Karate Ka should aim to train our bodies to move in a stereotypical manner that is characteristic of our fighting system. In doing so, one should aim to learn the movements in the manner taught, rather than the manner felt until the biomechanical habits are such that the overall visual image to others is that of a Goju Ryu practitioner. To the Karate Ka, the habitual movements will have reached a level where they are instinctive – and they feel right.

2)      Whilst I cannot change what I believe to be the right way to apply oneself to any passion, I can consolidate this lesson thus: in following the essence of point 1), I feel that whilst we shouldn’t be trying to become something that we are not (by resisting the pull of self-expression), we should be training ourselves to move in the manner taught, as this is the interpretation of our Sensei’s of Chojun Miyagi’s system whom we have entrusted this part of our personal growth to. What they teach actually leads us, not pushes us, inevitably to the Goju Ryu pre-defined mould, but what has actually happened is not that we have adjusted ourselves to fit something that is not us, but that we’ve discovered, or will discover, that the mould itself is not of a rigid shape, and it allows for the differences between us; for our individual peculiarities (our style).

What I see as being the Goju Ryu ‘mould’ is the close-quarters fighting skills, the methods of power-generation, and of course the choice of Kata which provides the ‘written notes’ that we can use to seek further understanding.

I think in summary, it matters not whether a person is led, sheep-like and is ‘told’ to re-mould themselves to fit the Goju Ryu ideal, or whether they resist the feeling of being led, and prefer to take the view that they are choosing to study something of their choice and making what they learn their own.
But, to my mind, this latter method would enable the Karate Ka to become a better practitioner and obtain greater knowledge and understanding than if they only allowed themselves to be led, as the latter method forces them to constantly re-evaluate what is learned, and to constantly question what is taught, whether vocally, or internally, and to constantly find the answers on their own.
It means that they would not have to ‘believe in’, or have ‘faith in’ the answers given as they will have walked the path and learned what is right and what is wrong, what works and what doesn’t. This method (to my mind) negates the need to believe, or to have faith, as the experience will talk for itself.

This is the path to enlightenment!

Belief negates understanding. Understanding negates belief.