Summit Assault

At first we memorize the embusen, the steps, postures and technique sequence of kata. Then we refine the main movements with increasingly subtle modifications. We point out how to use the waist, or use the arms and legs, or maintain a central axis in motion, under stress. We point out how to incorporate the training of the will, moment to moment in purposeful technique, and over time, with continuing commitment to the training schedule, a continuity in mental attitude which leaves nothing out and nothing to chance. We learn technical applications, targeting, power projection, body mechanics, with increasing subtletyspeed, efficiency and power. These all can be considered deepening skill by the incorporation of additional subroutines into the main patterns of movement. 

These can be structured into the program of training and tailored for the distinct needs of each individual practitioner. They can be performance-tested in kata demos, shime, kumite, breaking and other means. But this is not the limit of possibility in training. When it is taken to be it will limit the development of the practitioners. It may limit them at a high level, but it will limit them. If you look at the advanced mind-training exercises I outlined you will get a look at some of the unrecognized depth of performance that we can access.

We rely upon these dimensions of experience, unconsciously, from the beginning. By developing conscious awareness of these components of our action what was vague before appears vividly now, and we can refine our embodiment of these skills and insights beyond the boundaries set by our prior assumptions of the limits of our experience or of our capacity.  Then, as we speed up our movement – in natural practice or spontaneous response or a combative setting – our performance ascends. 

Some say that the transformation of skill at this level is still a matter of acting on the basis of the learned subroutines, merely without conscious attention on them. That “merely” dismisses the question without accounting for the phase transformation that occurs at high performance levels. If high performance was limited to the unconscious mastery of many subtle subroutines we would have a linear model of training like the travels of a space ship through the universe, going further, finding awesome, new things; or a cumulative model, creating a bigger and bigger heap of things you know how to do. But that is not what happens. 

What happens is the universe appears beneath your feet then and there. It is coherent and in motion. You are not separate from it. The way that you move, and what you are, is not limited to the conventions of our ordinary, untrained experience: of our body as a separate, bounded entity in space and time. If it really were just that, we would be unable to spontaneously respond efficiently to rapidly changing conditions, moment to moment and over a long time. As trained people we experience our body and mind in dynamic relation to our experience and environment. It is not that we disappear, but we enter into a union with the way things are, and so are free to act. 

This is not something esoteric, mystical or weird. It is a natural experience, like the release and peace you feel when arriving at the summit of a mountain after a long, hard climb. This peak of performance takes practice to reach. It is helpful to know what you are attempting to achieve as you practice. 

To go to the dojo a few times a week to train with your friends, to sweat, to get in shape, to have fun, to feel challenged and to feel good, are great things to do. No one needs to do more than that to benefit from karate or to enjoy it. To learn to defend yourself against intimidation or attack, to be proud of yourself and to be able to take care of the people who depend on us, are our goals. 

But we need not take this as the limit of our aspiration.


Post by Jeffrey Brooks Copyright© 2022 Mountain Karate DojoYamabayashi Ryu Honbu, in Saluda, NC

Photo by Tarleton Brooks Copyright© 2022 

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