Samurai Sword (Katana 刀)
To my mind, the modern day equivalent is a karate-ka (karate student) and the training he* undergoes to achieve the various levels of Blackbelt rank. On average it may take up to three years to reach Shodan (1st Dan) black belt.
By the time the student has say reached 3rd Dan, he will have invested eight years or more in training, this is assuming he has trained at least several times a week. If he is an instructor himself he will have needed to have attended many other courses under the tuition of his Chief Instructor.
But knowing all there is to know about the academic side of karate is only half of the story, or journey as I would like to call it. During the many hundreds of hours of hard and often painful physical effort during his training, the student undergoes a change in his personality. A change for the good that is. If he follows the direction of his Sensei (karate teacher) properly, he will learn the skills that the samurai also learned during his training, those of hard effort, perseverance, trust, loyalty and humility etc.
All of this put together over time will naturally make and keep him fit, healthy and flexible and give him greater confidence in himself and in his dealings with other people. This confidence exudes a kind of aura around him, to the extent that others will perceive something special about or unique him. They won’t necessarily be able to recognise that he possesses a lethal skill, but they will quickly come to realise his fearlessness and won’t choose him as a target if they were say a mugger or thief.
This confidence benefits the seasoned karate-ka by making his life much more pleasant and easier. He* doesn’t have to brandish a long sword as a threat to gain respect from people he meets. Likewise, because of the knowledge of his new powers, he learns humility and kindness. He does not have to bully anyone anymore to influence others.
As with the Samurai it can still take the karate-ka many years or even a lifetime to accomplish this level of achievement. But as long as he continues to train and tries his best, he will continue to improve and over time he will strike a balance between his mental, physical & spiritual wellbeing.
Using the same analogy as above, the sword is not much use without the skilful & purposeful use of the samurai wielding it. The same goes for karate, new students will soon learn lots of kicks and punches, but these techniques alone are not what goes to make the person whole, or a true modern day warrior who is peaceful in their dealings and compassionate and considerate to others.
Learning karate has been likened by many as a journey of self discovery, to learn about and overcome our fears, strengths and weaknesses. We can gain some understanding about these ideals and concepts from books, but it is not until we experience the years of training involved in the process, that we finally understand what this truly means.
page last updated on Thursday 16 September 2010