Sakiyama Sogen’s Last Letter

Shortly after I last saw him, Sakiyama Sogen, Roshi of Kozenji Zendo, Shuri, Okinawa communicated his understanding of karate to me. This is an excerpt from his letter:

“Dear Mr. Brooks,

Today many karate students, particularly karate teachers, neither know the difference between karate and karate-do, nor do they try to discover the difference. This I regret very much. True karate-do can be learned only when we have realized the mysteries of our heart and mind, and realized the mysteries of our body with all our heart and mind and strength. Otherwise karate will be nothing more than a little game, a way to show off. Ultimately it will degenerate into contests or street fighting. It is a shame.

“The essentials of karate-do can only be attained through profound practice. This means that in order to realize what is essential we must experience deep samadhi. I am sure you fully understand what I am trying to say. It is most important for us, and for the younger generations, that we cultivate our heart and mind.

“The final hurdle for us is to be free from the limitations of our own ego. The disease of modern people is that they are slaves to money, power, fame, etc. They are enslaved by their own egos, and are unaware of it. You will become a true master when you become aware of it, and become free of it. There is no easy way, but it is the most important task, one worth devoting one’s life to accomplishing. This is the central task for anyone trying to master a true martial art.

“As I am writing to you I can vividly feel your sincerity and passion to pursue this and to master karate-do. ‘Do’ is an endless and severe way. Therefore we must endlessly exert ourselves to attain it. How wonderful the ‘Do’ is!”

(Although Sakiyama wrote this in a letter to me I am sharing it because I am certain he would want his message to reach every sincere practitioner. In a way he meant this for you.)

The text of this letter is included the forthcoming Third Edition of “Rhinoceros Zen”, by Jeffrey M. Brooks, author of “The Good Fight – The Virtues and Value of the Martial Arts”, available now in paperback and Kindle edition

Post Copyright © 2005 and 2019, Jeffrey M. Brooks and Mountain Karate, LLC


  1. George alexander says:

    Thank you sharing! I did an interview with him for nhk in 1997. He was a treasure ! Here’s.


  2. Jeff Moriber says:

    Just siting and reading this letter has my Chi coursing through my being. Arigato


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