Essential Teachings of Shidokan Karatedo
The following are some essential teachings of our Shidokan heritage from Choshin Chibana, Shinpan Gusukuma, Katsuya Miyahira, and Seikichi Iha.
Don’t show (off) your abilities or intention. Be modest in behavior (kenkyo) and natural in
Meaning: True karateka do not announce themselves, but remain in a modest state of continual and natural readiness that is neither exhausting through tension nor apparent to others. Through proper body control (sabaki: balance, breathing, muscle tension, facial expression), their karate is only seen or felt at the critical moment. This has the double meaning of neither showing off in a proud manner nor making unnecessary movements in actual applications.
Sensei said the idea of “not showing what you know” is like a person holding 2-gallon jars — one empty, one full and heavy, with the difference between their weights not revealed by how they are held. Similarly, karate should ideally be unobservable until the moment it is necessary to use. “The capable hawk hides its talons.”
No ‘over-motion’ (wabadi), only natural (shizen) motion.
Meaning: Excessive movement (wabadi, “over motion”) will not work in application. It will be too late and is easily overcome. Natural movement is always “just enough,” like catching or
throwing a ball. Realize, too, that shizentai (natural body position, as at the start of kata) is a
stance of patience. It is the perfect outward expression of an inward disposition for a martial
artist, for a human being. Injuries, misunderstandings, personal obligations and long periods of stagnation are critical to our development. Each struggle refines our character into that of a
martial artist to produce martial virtue (butoku). Accept difficulties as normal stepping-stones in your training. Be patient in your practice. “Having patience where patience is intolerable, this is true patience.”
Natural movement has no straining tension. “Flowing water competes with nothing.”
(Ryusui saki wo kisuwazu.)
Meaning: Movement is relaxed and focused only at the end. This lets power flow out of the body like water from a hose or water in a stream. It doesn’t fight against itself or others. Excessive tension in the muscles and tendons traps power in the body. Moreover, just as water doesn’t fight against the rocks in the river, so too the receiving of an attack is done with flowing and enveloping energy, not clashing. This is at the heart of nagashi waza, flowing techniques.
Proper partner work leads to natural movement which, while small and unseen, yields
great opportunities for your martial purposes. This creates the quality of elegance in
Meaning: All effective techniques seem hidden because they are so natural as to appear
nonchalant or accidental. There is no thought attached to them (mushin). But this refined
elegance only comes from proper partner work which is based upon cooperation and care for
each other, and not through a competitive spirit where there can only be one winner and one
loser. A competitive mind undermines growth because it is based upon ego satisfaction, which
clouds self-perception. Growth only comes from seeing one’s self in an honest way, which our
partners can show to us if we listen with our minds and bodies (which Sensei here calls “body
conversation”). Mushin (an unattached mind) is the proper mental state of executing movement at the critical moment and humility is the proper mental state for learning movement. Sensei Iha often reminds us to “make friends with karate”. Our heart techniques (kokoro waza) most fully develop from martial friendship (buyu).
“Essential Teachings” provided by Seikichi Iha
with assistance from Akiyoshi Shiroma.
Japanese calligraphy by Nobuo Shimabukuro.
English translation of Japanese text by Seikichi Iha with assistance from Yujiro Uza.
Meaning of the concepts compiled from interviews with Seikichi Iha by Matthew Hubinger, Mark McCloud and Marian Reiter. May 2016.