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Karate, Way of the Empty Hand 1:4

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Higaonna-sensei is a master of karate. He holds a 7th Dan black belt. At 42, he is young to be accepted as a master. This status he has earned by an almost mystical level of skill and power. He lives in Okinawa, an island in the Ryukyu group off Japan. Karate started here 500 years ago, when King Shō Hashi disarmed his warriors to prevent civil war. Without weapons, but with a powerful fighting tradition, the warriors secretly developed karate, the art of the empty hand. The technique remained secret to a small group of masters until, in the 1920s, it began to the taught in Tokyo. Now it is practised all over the world. The Ryukyu islands in the northeast of the Pacific, between Japan and the Chinese mainland. The largest of the islands is Okinawa. The king's decree brought peace to the islands for many years. Unfortunately, it also meant that they became defenceless against an invading Japanese army in 1622. Eventually, the islands fell under Japanese rule. The Okinawan way of life was nearly destroyed in the 2nd World War. The Japanese fought bitterly against the Americans. Caught between the two armies, at least 50,000 civilians died. The young Higaonna escaped because his father evacuated the family to Japan. Of their convoy of three ships, two were sunk. Higaonna went back to Okinawa after the war. The islands remained an American base and were administered by them for 20 years. There is still a garrison of 50,000 men there. Now, once again under Japanese administration, the economy is reviving, and the city is rebuilt. Higaonna left to go to Tokyo to become a university student and then to be a karate instructor. He became unhappy about what he felt were alien influences upon his art, forcing it to develop in ways that he felt were wrong. After 25 years, he returned to Okinawa to help strengthen karate in the place where it began. The rough paved streets of the old city are the same that he knew as a boy before the bombs fell. The houses were destroyed, but the stone walls that surrounded them are still there. And still the home of snakes. Master Higaonna lives in a family house in the city. His sister lives in the top flat. He and his wife share the next floor with his mother. And underneath, he has turned the garage into his dojo. He began to learn karate when he was 15. After 8 years, his master gave him his teaching license. And he began to instruct his own students in the art. It requires a rigorous pattern of daily exercise to maintain his status as an international master. After his morning run, before he even begins to practise karate, he exercises his whole body, section by section. He works through every group of muscles, from his toes to his head. From his spine to the tips of his fingers. Although millions of people practise karate throughout the world, such determination is very rare. The hours of practice have changed his body. It is now close to the karate ideal. And the mind too is trained to achieve complete concentration in every action. Perfection is the aim in every exercise. Karate is very difficult. Its purpose is to train both the mind and the body. I started karate because I was weak. If I had been strong I would probably be doing some other kind of work. That's why I was attracted to it. Karate is something that you can do your whole life and that's what I'm trying to do by practising every morning. Karate means literally Empty Hand. And its aim is to turn the bare hands into powerful defensive weapons. Some years ago, Master Higaonna met a Chinese man who had hands which were truly like stone. He applied a special oil, a secret combination of herbs to his hands everyday. It helped the skin grow hard and calloused, protecting the bones and muscles underneath. Master Higaonna asked for some of the oil, and ever since then, his Chinese supplier has sent it regularly. The post he is striking is made of solid oak, and is set in concrete at floor level. It is just flexible enough to stop the bones of his hands being damaged when he strikes it with full force. At the heart of Okinawan karate lies the kata. These are long sequences of fighting actions which employ all the most important techniques for attack and defence, one after another. They are linked together by steps forward, backwards and to the side. All by rapid turns to face a new imaginary opponent. Breath, posture, striking action, and balance must all the harmonised at every moment and every action. To achieve this, Master Higaonna works like a great dancer practising for a performance. The level of skill is comparable, but the karate master seldom shares his mastery with an audience. In kata, there is only space - you and space. There is no opponent, nothing to grasp. You imagine and aim for your opponent. When you practise, say you set a goal of 100 repetitions, when you reach the 60th or 70th time you tire and weaken mentally. Then, you force yourself to do one more, and then one more again. It is through this accumulated effort that you train yourself. In this section from a kata, the soft, gentle blocking movements are accompanied by exhalation. They are followed by a lighting turn during which the master must inhale, ducking down slightly, then he rises and holds his breath to gain the power for a double punch. The solitary discipline of his life has been eased by his recent marriage. Three years ago, Alanna joined his class in his Tokyo dojo. They have one child, Seigi. It is not an easy place to live for someone used to the relaxed American way of life. Okinawa is isolated. And very few of the Americans who live there mix in local life.

Video Details

Duration: 10 minutes
Country: Brazil
Language: English
Views: 126
Posted by: halfleaf on Apr 23, 2010

Karate, Way of the Empty Hand 1:4

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