The Grace of Karate and Writing
“Perhaps all romance is like that; not a contract between equal parties but an explosion of dreams and desires that can find no outlet in everyday life. Only a drama will do and while the fireworks last the sky is a different colour.” (Jeanette Winterson)
I was reading the history of my style of karate, Seibukan—slowly and laboriously, because my Japanese remains pathetic. It struck me that the description of one of Seibukan's master sensei, Kyan Chōfu, used the phrase, bunbu ryōdō 文武両道, which can be translated as "the united ways of the pen and the sword." The term derives from how the samurai trained in both combatives and Chinese classics. It was held that the truly professional warrior had to know both.
In a recent seminar, the head of Seibukan, Shimabukuro Zenpō Sensei invoked the concept of grace with respect to elite karate. For me, “bunbu ryōdō” articulates the way of our little dojo with respect to grace.
In the practice of karate, grace is in the movement of bodies across the floor (bu 武); in great literature, grace is in the movement of words through the world (bun 文).
One of my favorite writers is Jeanette Winterson, whose grace on the page astonishes me, just like Shimabukuro Sensei executing technique with grace and intimidating power. I love writing and I love karate, but I know that those great artists work at level far above my very best. Yet for exactly that reason, both remain inspirations.
I'm just an old man gratefully battling every day for a little more grace.