I recently asked my mother-in-law to share her delicious recipe for hash brown fries with me (which she gladly did). As I was transcribing the recipe, I noticed that one of the steps instructed the cook to “add salt to taste”. Since our family rarely, if ever, adds salt to our meals I left that line out of the transcription. It then occurred to me that when my children eventually ask me for the “Nana’s Fries” recipe they will receive a watered-down, abridged version influenced by my bias towards salt. In short, the recipe has been modified as it passed from one generation to the other leaving the original (assuming my mother-in-law didn’t make any changes of her own) lost in time.
I then started thinking about karate techniques. How many techniques have been lost due to bias, misinterpretation, or lack of understanding as they were passed on from one generation to another? Perhaps one Sensei struggles with a certain kick so his/her students do not get a complete experience with that kick. Those student, in turn, risk not have a full understanding of the technique when they become teachers in their own right and pass incomplete knowledge on to their students – their kick will be missing salt.
loss is minimized thanks to strong leadership, camaraderie, and mutual support
Fortunately, there are measures in place to help mitigate this effect. If one subscribes to the idea that the entire curriculum of a ryu is contained in kata, then passing an unaltered kata from one generation to the next helps ensure proper transmission of knowledge. In addition, a vast and robust network of masters who share their knowledge and understanding with each other and with their students.
As I have written before (see here), the Charles Fink Karate Dojo does not operate in a vacuum. We are part of a vast, worldwide network of dojos and masters who train together regularly, share ideas and interpretations, and maintain polish thanks to a direct, personal relationship with our grand master, Fujiwara Sensei (Hanshi) of Japan. Of course we can expect some small details and other tidbits to slip away over time, this is life. But loss is minimized thanks to strong leadership, camaraderie, and mutual support.
It’s not all doom and gloom. As society advances and our understanding of anatomy, physiology, sport-psychology, exercise science, communications, history, etc. grows, more and more new knowledge is being generated. We now have access to resources that the masters of old could only dream of. We also have the ability to record, analyze, and store data in a way that allows us and future researchers to archive knowledge. How nice would it be to reference detailed, high resolution videos of Miyagi Sensei, Funakoshi Sensei, or Miyamoto Musashi for that matter. I bet those guys would have had their own YouTube channel – properly encrypted of course so that the “secret” techniques could not be discovered by rival clans.
As more and more sharing of ideas and concepts takes place, bits and pieces from other styles of karate and other martial arts find their way into training. I am fortunate to train in karate with some jujitsu experts who are able to draw parallels between the two arts. Another karate buddy of mine is a master of the sword – again making connections between karate and sword techniques. This cross-training helps bring martial arts training full circle back to the old days of feudal Japan and helps preserve some traditions.
So, if it is your desire to learn some of the classical, traditional, and historical techniques of old Japan along with some ideas based in modern-day sport science, please visit the Charles Fink Karate Dojo. I will be happy to share what I have with you. If you want to learn my mother-in-law’s hash brown fries recipe I will be happy to share that with you as well – you are free to add salt to taste.