By Shojiro Koyama (with Jackie Martinez)
Welcome to The 47th Annual Western States Karate Tournament! For the past 46 years we have held our annual tournament, and for all these years we continue to follow the Japan Karate Association’s rules for competition. Among the most important of these rules is the rule that we do not actually hit each other during our sparring matches. It is important that we understand why this rule is central to our practice of karate. It is important that we understand how this rule is connected to the karate philosophy given to us by Master Funakoshi.
"The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils.
The motions of his spirit are dull as night,
And his affections dark as Erebus.
Let no such man be trusted."
The Merchant of Venice, Act 5, Scene 1
[Erebus was the son of Chaos, and was the personification of darkness in Greek mythology.]
Music is rhythmic sound, as is the circulation of blood and energy through our bodies. Exercise, when done correctly, can also create a rhythmic sound that is in tune with oneself and others. When done properly, karate training cultivates this kind of rhythm and sound that creates balance, harmony and happiness. Of course, this does not happen easily or quickly.
Unfortunately, today the world economy is slow and people feel frustrated and discouraged. This destroys rhythm and music, and leads to social problems like those we have seen with the recent riots in London. People riot in part because they have no hope or direction in their lives; their lives are static and lack rhythm. As Shakespeare reminds us, when we are not moved by sweet sound of music and its rhythms, trouble follows.
In some types of competition, contact is required. The aim is to win by delivering blows to the other person’s body. Participants in these matches often benefit from uncontrolled animal-like instinct. Training and preparation for these matches do not include a focus on character development and spiritual uplift.
When Master Nakayama oversaw the first karate tournaments, it was his rule that the competitors must stop their techniques prior to actually hitting their opponent. It is very difficult to create rhythm when one is required to stop a technique prior to making contact. Achieving rhythm with this restriction requires dedicated training that focuses on the development of character along side the development of physical skills. As we do this, we discover that our personality changes and little by little we become more peaceful and serene human beings. Over time we how to live in greater harmony with others and ourselves.
Through our tournament we hope to help spread the knowledge and wisdom of karate. Through our training we learn to find harmony with our body’s own heartbeat and breathing. This is the essence of our karate training: to seek perfection of character. Please continue in your karate training and remember the importance of music and rhythmic sounds that bring people together despite difficult times. We need this today more than ever. Please participate in our tournament and continue your karate training.