ALL START AT THE BOTTOM

7 Sep
Now that the Summer of 2010 is over and we are all back to our usual means of conducting our lives, it is time to welcome you all back to a new semester of blogging Jiriki Kata-Do; The Way Of Attaining Inner Salvation Through Kata. Once again, through the medium of Jiriki Kata-Do, I will help you explore the methods, protocols and ideology of Karate-Do and the martial arts within the context of daily life.
To launch this new semester of blogging, I want to begin with the most basic maxim of Dojo etiquette. This maxim was especially significant in the Goshin-Do Karate-Do Dojo of Shihan Thomas DeFelice. Not only is it an appropriate means of reading future articles on my blog, it should be integrated into and remembered in our daily lives. The concept is “All start at the bottom and nothing is free.” In order to understand how this concept may benefit our daily lives, it is necessary to understand it’s function within the Goshin-Do Karate Dojo.
The first part of the maxim is self-explanatory. Upon entering Sensei’s Dojo for the purposes of training in Goshin-Do Karate-Do, everyone was the “new guy”. As the newest student, you lined up at the end of the student line; down at the bottom. You wore a plain white Gi (uniform) and a white belt. (See Endnote # 1). A student was, at all times, judged by his or her accomplishments within the Dojo.
 

 

Sensei Nick D’Antuono, Myself, age 15 (a Junior Division Green belt) & Shihan Dan Nagle, Circa 1976

External accomplishments, those that existed and defined you outside of the Dojo, were of no import at all on the training floor. In fact, the purpose of having all students wear a plain white Gi was to emphasize this fact. Thus, someone who had an economic advantage outside of the Dojo, could not distinguish themselves within the Dojo with the purchase a fancy Gi. In today’s modern Dojo, this ideology is completely lost and in fact prostituted. Those students that have the economic ability to commit to long-term contract or purchase special training privileges, such as the “Black Belt Club”, “masters Club”, “Demonstration Team” and the like, are rewarded. Such affluent students can purchase the right to wear a “special” uniform, usually colorful or otherwise ostentatious. I submit that such a prostitution of core values within the Dojo is readily reflected in our western society today. For a price, anything can be purchased; except of course for integrity and honor. But, then again, for a price, digressions of from such values can be “overlooked”. Clearly, then we can all benefit from remembering that we all start(ed) at the bottom. Whether we be a Karate Master, a corporate C.E.O, an internet dot-com mogul, or just self-absorbed, we need to remember our lowly roots.

Every “accomplishment” within Sensei’s Dojo was earned with perseverance, determination, sweat and sometimes blood, NOTHING was free.

My transfer from the Junior Division to the Adult Division at age 15 was EARNED - and then some.

It is true that within the Dojo, accomplishments are recognized by a certificate of achievement and reflected outwardly by the color of one’s obi (Karate belt). Such colored obi merely recognize man’s general need for a symbol of accomplishment. The obi were nothing more than a convenient means of categorizing students by their respective levels of learning and in no way reflected transient mastery of Goshin-Do Karate. This includes the coveted black belt. It is said that upon attaining a black belt, a student merely has learned the means of studying true Goshin-Do. Not withstanding the color if one’s momentary obi, one could not flaunt accomplishment. The simple fact is there was always some-one better, more capable than you. In fact, accomplishment itself was illusory in s far as you were only as good as you last training session. To be sure, the ultimate shame was to be out performed on any given night by some one of lesser rank. Further, if Sensei DeFelice felt we were all too enamored with the status of our obi, he would have us remove our obi during training sessions.

The obi can teach us about your daily lives. It is a simple fact of the human condition that we need our symbols of self-worth. The point is we must bear the burden of our symbol. A symbol of wealth, such as jewelry is devoid of any sense of worth if while wearing the symbol one turns their back to another in need of a basic requirement such as food. By way of an absurd example, I once saw television show on the Food Network concerning ice cream extravagances. There is an ice cream parlor in New York (I will not name them, for truly they should be ashamed) that offers a $ 1,000 ice cream sundae. As part of the broadcast, a woman treated herself to this $ 1,000 ice cream extravagance for her birthday because she “so deserved it.“ She purchased the ultimate transitory extravagant symbol. Instead of treating herself to a feeling of true humanism by consuming a less expensive ice cream treat and then perhaps donating $900 to a homeless shelter, or feeding another hungry person or, the victims – to this date- of Hurricane Katrina, she purchased a very expensive, even absurd symbol of her “wealth”. I submit that in the final analysis she treated herself to a truly wasteful and spiritually debilitating BOWEL MOVEMENT. I hope this distasteful example gives you pause to consider the Dojo concept that “All start at the bottom and nothing is free.“ In this regard, rethink and re-examine your symbols, there is always some one better; and I do not mean in economic terms.

We all start(ed) at the bottom and moved “upward”. We also endow ourselves with symbols of our accomplishments along the way. Such success and symbols are relative and transitory.

I am very excited about the new on-line semester of blogging Jiriki Kata-Do. In doing so, I will start at the bottom and progress upwards to a greater understanding of myself, the human condition and the universal environment within which we reside. I invite you to join me.

Sensei John Szmitkowski, Soke, Jiriki Kata-Do

 

ENDNOTES:

1. There were limited exceptions to this policy. For example, if one was a visiting dignitary, particularly one of a recognized black belt rank, the concept would not apply for purpose of the visit. On a very limited basis, Yudansha (those of black belt rank) in another style of Karate that desired to learn Goshin-Do Karate-Do would be permitted to wear their Black Obi (belt) of that style. Such a determination was the sole province of Sensei DeFelice, and then myself at the Issho Dojo.

To purchase Jiriki Kata-Do Sanchin logo products, please visit the online store at http://www.cafepress.com/sanchin_logo.

Please feel free to visit my other blog – WWW.FlyFishingDojo.Wordpress.Com.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: