By Michael Clarke
By Garry Lever
By Barrett & Lever
on ALL Writings &
this Web Site.
By Mark Bishop
The Shinken Dojo 真 剣 道 場
|Ryusyokai Okinawa Goju Ryu Karate 琉 翔 会 沖 縄 空 手
Ilfracombe - North Devon - England 英 国
Web Sites of Interest
Budo Code of Respect
|"7 times Down 8 times Up "
One of my favourite Japanese proverbs is “Seven times down, Eight times up” or “Fall (Get Knocked Down) Seven times,
stand up (Get back Up) Eight”. Personally, I feel that this saying epitomises the teachings of Karate and Budo just perfectly,
as at times of struggle and hardship, no matter how difficult, it is this more positive way of thinking that is crucially important for
the rebalancing out of our every day lives. So, this being the case, whilst in Okinawa last autumn it was this saying that I
requested when asked by Hokama Sensei what I wished for him to brush scroll for me. These were words were not chosen
cheaply or randomly, but for very good reason and with deep meaning so that one day they can hang on my Dojo wall for all
who enter to be constantly reminded of their value. The saying also acts as a reminder of one’s that my father would often say
to me when I was struggling with something, he used to say “Where there is a will, there is a way” & “Anyone can do the
easy things in life son”.
Many within Karate may simply just interpret “Seven times down, Eight times up” in a way that if someone knocks you down in
a fight, or in life, you get back up and you keep coming back, you just don’t give in. I can go along with that as in many ways this
is fine and valid, but it also takes things to the most basic and primitive too. I believe that in extremely serious situations and in
many cases, ones natural animal instincts and survival mode tends to naturally kick in, one would hope so anyway. Not giving in
and keep going is a winner that is for sure. But, not backing down, seeing reason through compromise, or not letting things go
just to save face can also be a loser too, which is a vast subject in itself so I will leave things there… Personally as I say, I feel
that the true meaning of this proverb is much deeper than the more obvious, and one that many Karate Ka can at times often
fail to see, possibly leading to their eventual demise.
As far as its origin goes I have heard various old explanations from babies learning to walk their first steps, where by 1 is when
they begin to try and walk and then fall, 2 is when they get back up again, they try again to walk at 3, they get up again which is
4… 7 times down and 8 is up. Thus they don’t give in and keep trying until they succeed. Another account I have heard is that
the horizontal stroke in the character of the Japanese number seven 七 is cut through by the vertical bar representing defeat.
Regardless of how it derived English equivalents can be likened too “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again” and
maybe “Give up or fight like hell”.
The one thing that I do believe is this, what defines us as individuals in life, and Karate Ka, is how we rise after falling, together
with how we cope with and push to overcome very difficult, challenging, and testing situations. That is why in most cases the
better mentors or those that we should look up to for advice and guidance is healthier coming from those who have been there
before, as in those who have the past experiences and determination and human spirit to overcome such obstacles. Not just
those who think that they have, all talk as if they have! Yes! Just as the true meaning of the word Sensei derived too.
Anyone and everyone can practise Karate when everything is going well and fitting nicely in to place alongside our busy life
styles. The Dojo and Sensei of quality and our choosing is very close by, the training is motivational to suit ones needs, the
evenings or days of training are our most suited, we are feeling refreshed, the weather is nice, our job is good and paying
nicely too, all of our loved ones and family are in good spirits and health.
“Seven times down, Eight times up” I believe that the true meaning and understanding of this proverb comes to life and is
fully understood by the Karate Ka / Budo Ka, when any of the last paragraph are reversed or not in place and we are truly put
to test:: Training is becoming difficult even a little tedious, or one is struggling to juggle practise around life style and work
commitments, maybe even having no where of value to train, or no one to train with, or a real Sensei that is hours away by
travel or only seen by the student irregularly, or maybe one sadly no longer has a Sensei at all, or one that just does not teach
us as we want, or see fit. Perhaps, the Dojo day of training is inconvenient, we are feeling low and tired, the weather is cold,
dark or wet, our job is making us feel stressed, we are carrying an injury, we are witness to family problems or ill health…..
The genuine Karate Ka and their true character will be discovered at such times as those presented above; all Karate Ka may
and will waver at times, as is to be expected. But, there can be no real excuses except admitting defeat. The eight times up is
about digging in deep with determination and dignity when all is not easy and challenges are put in front of us, thus forcing us
to both persevere and push through with the true spirit of Budo.
|Tetsuhiro Hokama Sensei of the Kenshinkai
brushing the Japanese proverb
"7 times down 8 times up"
|"Shitsurei Shimasu" Excuse Me
I have been reading several works of late that have been written by Karate Ka who are relating memories of their experiences with
their Sensei, be it on Okinawa or not, most make wonderful reading. My interest always lies in trying to get a feeling of understanding
through the experiences of other Karate Ka. In relation to this very subject, when is a Karate Sensei deemed to be the real teacher of
a Karate student? Is something that I wish to add a few thoughts of my own here, not out of need though I may add.
Most Karate Ka these days certainly seem to be very biased or blinkered in favour of their own back grounds, supposed
achievements, training methods, group, style or Dojo’s etc. Why this is I am unsure, in some respects I suppose that there is nothing
wrong with this either. But, open mindedness is I would say the way to defining answers to such questions in Budo, as everything and
all is not always as clear cut as some would like to make us believe. A big problem will always arise when people instantly try and
come to a definitive conclusion on a Sensei being the teacher of a Karate Ka on the basis of one simple equation, exposure to the
Sensei plus over what time scale. Of course this is a fine indicator, I accept this. However, this is not always 100% accurate or true by
any means, where by in some instances thus can actually be a total false pointer as so many other factors may not have been
seriously considered. Budo is not based on calculations, awards or historical indulgence, just as such will rarely help you out in life,
and next to never at times of need during the testing of Martial ability in the fight.
To change the wording and thoughts from ones Sensei to ones Father is a nice way of looking at things, “Is one not your father, or
less so, just because you may only get to see them once a year”? “Is one no longer your father because they have now
passed on”? Or “Are they more of a father because you see them more often or on a daily basis”? Simple questions of which I
could add many more variations… However, life will teach us that everyone will have varying experiences and stories to tell
surrounding this relationship, to the point that no ones can ever be the same, even with siblings I may add. Like it or not these
experiences are individualistic to us, and us alone, (just as each Sensei to Student relationship is individualistic too) just as one son
may be very close to their father and is heavily influenced by them, but only see them occasionally or now not at all, another son may
see their father daily but disregard their guidance or teachings altogether. Have we not all heard these sayings, “He’s the spit of his
father” or “he’s nothing like his father”? In many cases it is the actions of the child (student) that may bring about these sayings…
The understanding of the Sensei and Student relationship is paramount to the study of authentic Karate, being a subject that has
always intrigued me. Even as a young student my observations easily concluded that at times there was a distinct gap between most
Karate Students and their teacher. A wide gap at times that many students themselves often failed to see, even though they
personally believed, or preached otherwise. Individualism is only natural and fine, the same in that some Sensei are just phenomenal
and hard examples to follow. For years I tried to conclude why some Karate Ka with 20 or 30 years of close and regular exposure to a
Sensei, bore an uncanny resemblance, whilst others bore little or no resemblance at all to their teachers, technically, physically, in
attitude, martial ability, approach to training or their character in general. On the other hand, you could have a Dojo student with just
a few years of exposure and training behind them, or even a very dedicated student that only gets to see their Sensei irregularly, and
they can mirror their Sensei to the point of being a much closer reflection of the Sensei, especially so in terms of training ways and
Budo beliefs, and a fine understanding of their Sensei’s Dojo teaching basis.
I have always believed that for the student of Budo, regardless of Art or style, one of the most important, if not the most important
factor to achieving a deeper understanding of the Art, is too seek out quality in-depth instruction of the highest level. A basic key
element being in seeking out Sensei whom I believed were some of the finest examples as students of their very own Sensei or maybe
even their Sensei’s Sensei before them.
Is it not the close relationship that the Sensei has, or has had, with a Karate student that is most important; together with what
influence the Sensei’s teachings and guidance have then had on the student, and surely what a student then says in words or does
through their personal actions that gives the truer answer to this question. In reality one should see many ingrained characteristics
and comparisons in Karate training technically and overall nature in the student in close relationship to that of their Sensei.
This old Budo saying has always fitted well “To see the Understanding of the True Teacher, One should look towards the
Student” However, if one cleverly reverses things the answer to the original question will generally tend to reveal itself “To see the
Understanding of the True Student, One should look towards the Teacher”.
(Wednesday 9th April 2014)
|"A True Understanding
between Sensei & Student"
|"So When is a Karate
Teacher Really Your Sensei" ?
|How Times Change - How Time Flies By
(Myself to the left, driving in a Maegeri
during Tournament Kumite Fighting
Some 30 Years Ago Under the
Watchful Eyes of Butch White Sensei)
As English Summer time is now upon us I feel that the time is now right for me to take a break from the usual ramblings and blog
postings that I put up on here, at least for the short term or until winter and the dark evenings approach again. There are a few
reasons for this decision the main one being that I am a firm believer in time being very precious to us all, so at times (no pun
intended) we should all wisely sit back and prioritise what we do within our lives, as it is so easy for us all to waste so much time or
sit back years later wondering where the time has actually gone or flew by, maybe even living with a few regrets too. All seems quite
strange really as I have never once become stuck for what to write about on here, it is just time that restrict me from doing so more
On the Karate front I am now in a position to start building a new home Dojo again, so of course over the coming months I will be
personally undertaking this task, which of course won’t be easy, but in the long hopefully it will be very rewarding. I have also
acquired three new Karate students locally so of course they will require my attention now too, not forgetting one or two long
standing students who I have a long term obligation to, not forgetting my own personal Karate training which enjoyably requires
much work and time as always. Most importantly, there is quality time that I wish to spend and enjoy with my family and friends over
the summer months, not forgetting the old job commitments that I have which like most bring food on to the table.
So… during the next few weeks or so I will return this web site back to its former self. I may actually add an article page on here
and drop the odd post on if time allows for anyone interested, but we will see. In many respects and regardless of my open and
public blog posts, I am a very private and close person by nature, and one day probably wish for the blog to disappear as quietly
and suddenly as it appeared a few years ago now, but as I say, when time allows things may just suddenly reappear again without
warning or notice. In the mean time though I would like to point people towards the blogs and web sites that I have links to on the
right, as all are well worth dropping in on regularly.
What I have learned or discovered more than anything else over the past few years is the vast diversity in character and nature of
those who practise Karate these days. I don’t say these words lightly, but it is quite surprising really what responses one can
receive just from a few blog writings. There is the warmth and encouragement that I have received from some, on to resentment,
distancing, or ill feeling being received from others. No one is always going to agree with every word one writes, of course not and I
fully except this. But, hopefully some of my ramblings have made enjoyable reading at least, and at best helped in a small way
towards the promotion of authentic Karate training, an art that in reality is becoming more difficult to experience as each decade
passes us by during this period of time that I speak of. There is actually so much rubbish out there that is labeled as Karate I am
not quite sure if it is laughable or just plain sad.
Anyway, I am still a firm believer that the Karate of Okinawa is a simple ingredient really, and it goes like this. Put the effort in to
seek out quality guidance from a Sensei of deep understanding, have a good honest character, train hard and regularly in a quiet
manner without ego or need to boast, lastly but most importantly one must always retain the beginners mind. There are other
factors of course but basically this is all that one needs. Also, equal concentration should really be spent on these three areas, I
am not a big fan of thinking along the lines of Kihon, Kata and Kumite as so many do, but I think more along these lines; 1,
Training Alone, as in various drills, Tenshin, fundamentals and Kata etc, a time to challenge ourselves and define our skills. 2,
Training with Training Partners, utilising a variety of differing partners in Kumite that allow us to work on practises that acquire a
natural feeling for an opponent, something that we could not possibly be able to do so if we solely training alone. 3, Training with
Hojo Undo, working with training equipment and apparatus that can aid us further, from the punch bag or Machiwara, to the
Kongoken iron ring. The researching of historical information, the collecting of Kata or varying Bunkai applications, are in many
ways all a new addition that I believe should be treated a little secondary to the practises above and more along the lines of gaining
a deeper understanding or for personal interest.
For now at least I wish to thank you all for your time and say Shitsurei Shimasu or please Excuse Me….