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Guest Post: E Homai (Asking for Wisdom)

This Guest Post is by my friend, Sensei Angel Lemus, of the Zentokukai Okinawa Shorinryu Toude Association. Angel was a writer and editor of Bugeisha, one of the finest Karate journals ever published. He lives and teaches here in Hawaii.  Angel and I are members of the Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai.

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E Homai (Asking for Wisdom)

Today I took part in a hike on the beautiful mountains on the windward side of Oahu.
The tour guide ended with a common Hawaiian chant called E Homai which asks for wisdom and understanding from above. It is a beautiful chant which I have heard many times before but this time it was different because of what our guide mentioned after the chant.

He was talking about the rainfall on the mountains which is the source of our drinking water and how in old Hawaiian folklore it was said that the sky father "Wakea" gave the water to mother earth "Papa" and thru this connection life is possible. Then he said that the old Hawaiians believed it was very important to have "knowledge and understanding" of things, but even more important is to have the "WISDOM" of what to do with this knowledge.

This made an instant connection for me with Karate and all the countless hours of practice that we spend year after year. Why do we continually practice karate? There are many reasons of course but I thought of myself when I was younger and of new students in general who want to learn the next kata, and the next, thus the accumulation of knowledge becomes an obsession and the goal. As if when you learned the last kata you are somehow transformed into something better (which you are not) and you are left with an empty feeling, because there is something very important that is missing. And what is missing is wisdom, something you certainly do not have when young or when first learning something.

The separation between knowledge and Wisdom is a vast chasm. This is why the old Okinawan Senseis would take their sweet time teaching their students, years just on one kata, they were in no rush, because it is truly pointless to accumulate knowledge that is unusable without the needed wisdom that can only be attained thru time and maturity.

We all need to seek Wisdom in order to make use of the knowledge we have. The Hawaiians express their humility every time they do this chant, the words are charged because they believe them with an open heart otherwise they are meaningless.

Next time we say "Sensei Onegaeshi Masu" lets make sure we really and humbly mean it (not just say the words out of habit), then and only then we may gain some wisdom because we are humble (and our cup is empty). And not just in the dojo but in our daily life where our Karate wisdom is put to use.