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Character 1, 2, 3

In recent weeks, I've received several compliments that by focusing on character, this blog brings out the "deeper" and "advanced" aspects of Karate. While I am very honored, it made me think: is the subject of character "deeper" and "advanced?"

None of my sensei ever taught character issues separately from the physical aspects of Karate training. Character was neither deeper nor shallow, advanced nor basic. Character was first, second and third, taught at all levels, all the time. It is like the saying about the ocean -- it is salty everywhere. See: On Effort, A Good Heart, Humility & Ego, Being Considerate, Like a Rice Plant, Proper Bowing, and False Courtesy.

In the same way, character development is an essential, all present, and inseparable aspect of Karate. Without it, Karate is nothing more than an athletic activity -- but one in which the participants learn a potentially dangerous skill. Only a student who is sincerely working on character development (for his or her entire lifetime) can be trusted and entrusted to use the destructive aspects of Karate as a last resort only. See: Last Resort.

Advancement in Karate is often measured by more advanced kata and more complicated and demanding techniques. Ranks and titles come along with advancement, as does increased responsibility in the dojo. But a truer measure of advancement is how one conducts himself in daily life -- every day, every minute of every day. Standing on a dais with Karate dignitaries is not the measure of advancement, nor is the color of ones belt, be it white, black or even red. See: Ratty Belts, and Ratty Belts 2.

A truer measure of your advancement is how you act the next time your child does something that could anger you -- will you blow up or remain calm? Will you be aware at that moment? Will you be aware that you are being aware?

How will you act during an emergency? In Hawaii we face the risk of hurricanes. How will you act when the next one hits? Will you be calm and focused on protecting life and property?

The next time you win an award -- any award -- will you bathe in the glory or rededicate yourself to the pursuit of excellence?

Somehow punch, kick, block and strike seem less important than these questions. But it is exactly because of the physical and mental discipline of punch, kick, block, strike, and the myriad techniques that comprise Karate that you will have the self-discipline and strength of character to face these and other challenges. Character development is not a mental exercise alone. Your character is cooked in the oven of Karate.

Character is not advanced. Character is not deep. It is first, last and in between -- gedan, chudan, and jodan -- omote and ura.


Charles C. Goodin