An Art, Not a Product
By Mihail Alexandrov, 4th kyu
The modern world seems to have become an endless flurry of events and stimuli. Whether it be a text on one’s phone, an upcoming deadline in work or school, or the latest controversy surrounding a politician, the world that we reside is in constant flux. Due to this unending barrage of information, people frequently fail to slow down and instead get caught up in the oftentimes meaningless intricacies of modern life. In this brave new world, one often forgets tradition and the past and instead focuses on adapting their lives and dojos to modern life. While doing so is a necessity if one wants to continue teaching in the present, time and time again, people fail to see that traditionalism is vital to the spirit of karate and the survival of the art form. Therefore, the best anyone can do is partially adapt the dojo to the modern world, but still, keep the core spirit and tenants of karate in the program.
There are many ways a dojo can be adapted to the present day and expectations. The first thing that must be changed from the traditional spirit is that one must cautious with things such as sparing and sure that the students understand what they are doing and how to react. Putting students into a fighting situation before they understand the basics of karate and will at best lead to students who do not understand the spirit of karate yet being pushed away and at worst lead to injuries and lawsuits. Therefore, one must still push his or hers in order to prepare them for the real thing, but still provide them with proper training beforehand. Another necessity is to make sure that students and, if the student is a child, the parents of the students, understand that karate classes can not revolve around a single individual and that certain ideas and rules will be upheld even if it is not always convenient to said individual. Ultimately, it is up to a singular person to decide how to change their dojo, and the above are just a couple of simple recommendations that I have observed are useful throughout my time practicing karate.
However, as important as it is to adapt to the modern world, the core of karate and its ideals must be upheld unconditionally. This is because karate is not just a fighting style, but also a way of thinking and a series of ideals. In karate, students should not be expected just to hold up physical standards, but mental ones. They must know etiquette, and how to treat others with respect. These ideals of etiquette, respect, morality, fierceness, and so on, are essential to what karate is, and losing them would mean karate. Also, such pillars form a strong foundation to prepare students for outside life and allows them to better respond and act to situations. As important as it is to help karate through changing times, there is also a degree to which it must be kept the same, for, if it is changed too much, it will cease to be karate. Something which many readers will find all too prominent is the shift many dojos have taken from being a school to a product. Where they stop trying to teach people something worthwhile and instead extract as much profit as possible. This goes directly against the core of karate, for it is something to be taught, not sold. If karate’s ideals, in their true, unaltered form, are to survive the modern world, it is imperative that they are unaltered, and taught to the new generation the same way they were taught to the old generation.
Ultimately, some degree of compromise will be required if dojos are to succeed in the modern world, however, this should only be superficial and on the outside, and the true spirit of the tiger should remain as it has always been. For karate has, is, and always will be an art to be passed on from generation to generation, not a product to be sold.