Bicycle! Bicycle!

I usually commute to work on the bus and train, but when Covid-19 struck I began to feel a bit anxious every time I would climb on board. Inevitably there was always someone who, despite the mandatory mask rule, thought that it didn’t apply to him or her. Despite being vaccinated, I still felt a bit uneasy, so my solution was to purchase a bike, which I now use to to go to and fro to work.

This purchase was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time. Not only did my anxiety go down, but I was outdoors getting some fresh air and exercise, and on top of that practicing a bit of moving meditation. One day as I rode my bike, I remembered a story Kanzaki sensei told me which he wrote also retold in Kinjo Aikio’s book. It goes like this,

At that time, one of the new students lived in a town called Kamegawa, so I went to Kamegawa to practice because his garden was very large. There was a tram line running in Beppu at the time, so Kyoda sensei came to practice on the tram as well. This is what happened on the tram. I was staring at the outside when Kyoda sensei asked me, “Kanzaki-kun, what just passed by”? Then he asked me, “Kanzaki-kun, what was the colour of the flowers?” Naturally, I replied, “I don’t know”. Then Kyoda sensei said, “You can’t just aimlessly watch things. What’s in front of you right now? You shouldn’t look at things just with your eyes, but try to really see them”. 

I’m not very successful in my mindfulness practice as I ride, but on the rare occasion I get glimpses and can actually ‘see’ things; not simply ‘notice’ them. While riding my bike on my way home from work one summer day I ‘saw’ quite a few cyclists. When I say I cyclists, I mean people who were riding racing bikes complete with the ‘Tour de France’ look – riding cap, spandex pants, and the like. They ranged in age from old to young, men and women, a whole range of people were out and about by themselves or in groups riding their bikes.

Seeing them got me thinking about Karate and its current trajectory. One only has to look on Youtube, Facebook and the like to be confronted with terms like ‘practical Karate’, ‘functional Karate’, ‘practical bunkai’ and ‘Jissen Karate’ to see that Karate has veered off course. You see, no one with a shred of common sense would mistake a casual cyclist with a professional or Olympic cyclist. Could you imagine one of them trying to complete the Tour de France? No. Yet people wrongly equate Karate as ‘ineffective’ because they compare it with mixed martial arts – which is essentially the realm of professional fighters. Of course the average Karateka wouldn’t be able to compete! Just as a recreational cyclist couldn’t compete in the Olympics! And yet, the current Karate ‘fashion’ in Karate is to adopt an MMA approach to Karate training. Ethical and moral implications of such a bankrupt decision aside (remember it’s Karate-do, not Karate-jutsu), it won’t work. One only has to read the writings of Karate-do pioneers such as Itosu Anko or Miyagi Chojun to understand why.