I received a very nice email from Sabine Dauner in Germany regarding my post about Advancement in Karate. I am quoting it here with her permission:
"I've just come across your blog and read a few of your posts - very interesting and worthwhile reading. I've been practising Shotokan-Karate for about 20 years now (in Germany) and I found your thoughts on "Karate Advancement" so true. There's a saying that you might already know that hits the point: "Don't walk in the footsteps of your masters. Search what they were searching for." That's it, isn't it?I like the highlighted saying very much. I had mentioned about following in the footsteps of our seniors in my post.
Looking forward to more of your posts!"
But it is true that we are better off searching for what our seniors and Sensei were searching for. From a literal point of view, if you follow in someone's footsteps, at some point you will come to an endpoint. The search in Karate is endless. There is no end to training. Great Karate people train and seek improvement every day of their lives.
I am sure that most Karate Sensei will advise their students to try to become their best rather than trying to reach the same level as the Sensei. Each Sensei hopes that his students will go farther than him.
There is an unspoken etiquette. A student will never claim to be as skilled as his Sensei, or to even seek to be such. A student will only seek to become like his Sensei, perhaps only 1/2 as skilled. But the Sensei will always hope that his student will surpass him in skill -- and he will work toward that goal.
There is another point. If you admire someone in Karate, you have to ask how he became so skillful. How he got there might work for him, but might not work for you. For example, a Karate expert might be an excellent grappler because he practiced Judo or Ju Jitsu for 30 years. Do you also plan to do the same? If you literally follow in his footsteps, then you should.
But he might have found that there is a better or more efficient way to integrate Karate and grappling. He might have found an approach that saves time. So his footsteps might be a good indicator of direction, but not necessarily the most desirable path for you.
Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, is an interesting example. He did not become the way he was by practicing Aikido. He studied a number of arts and arrived at an understanding that became known as Aikido. Should his followers practice Aikido, or should they practice the arts that he did in the hope at arriving at a similar understanding? I don't know the answer, but the question is certainly interesting.
Thank you very much to Sabine Dauner for the quote and for making me think more about this subject.
How excellent it is that a person in Germany can reply to a blog post written in Hawaii. And who knows where in the world you are reading this right now?
Charles C. Goodin