September 15, 2009 marks the 30th anniversary of teaching Itosu Ryu Karate in Alberta. It is a milestone in more ways than one and definitely time for some introspection. When I started the club in Edmonton at the bequest of Tsumura Shihan all I wanted was a place to continue working out. After training in Toronto with Shihan, I wanted to continue our brand of Karate in Edmonton somehow. Anyone that has tried to train alone knows how hard it is and unless you’re a special person, almost impossible. It took me 9 months to research how the martial arts worked in Edmonton, which club (s) was legit, did I really want to start my own thing and the list goes on and on. Needless to say none of them represented to me what I had come to expect so the Edmonton club was started; simple as that with the Londonderry Community League.
One of the things that drew me to Karate and in particular our style of Karate was the man leading the club in Toronto. From the first time I met him and right up to today he has represented to me the epitome of all a martial artist should be; calm, cool, in control and most importantly humble. He was always expounding on martial art philosophy, he read voraciously and held forth on a variety of subjects. I learned a lot from him and still do to this day.
One area that he taught me way back when and recently re-introduced is “Dojo Kun”. If you’re asking, “what is that?” you obviously haven’t read the back of your Itosu Kai membership card. You need to do so now. I am referring to that little blurb on the back that is clearly marked “Dojo Precepts”. They are quite simple words to live by inside and out side the dojo.
One, to value respect and courtesy,
One, to be revered through possession of a moral heart,
One, to refrain from intemperate speech or action,
One, to mutually trust and complement,
One, to never relinquish the spirit of the ultimate path
They are all “numbered” as one because none is more important than the next or the preceding. The words hold forth whether you are in a dojo or out and if you truly read them you will find meaning and strength from the words. The precept that stands out for me is the third “One, to refrain form intemperate speech or action”. As our economy falters, jobs lost and families effected, we have the unique opportunity to be a haven in all of this chaos and offer a modicum of civility, courtesy and mutual respect that isn’t always present in our lives today. Let’s try and remember that everyone comes to Karate for different personal reasons and not all are there to practice till they drop, train so hard that human frailty is forgotten and injuries occur, and most importantly go home feeling worse than when they arrived. Injuries are a fact of life in any percussive activity and no one is immune to them, but injuries that are caused by a fellow Karate-Ka in anger or in frustration is not in keeping with our precepts.
Back in 1979 when we started there was no need to carry liability insurance. We were a non-profit club and while we practiced under the umbrella of a Community League, we did not need it. In recent years due to numerous incidents in other martial arts, pugilistic and organized sports we now have to carry a multi-million dollar insurance policy to carry on our activities. It is not a “license” to train harder or injure other students because they signed a waiver form. It’s very important we all recognize the risk and the responsibility we carry as students and instructors of a legitimate martial art. Read the Dojo Precepts. It’s simple, easy to read and it works. We read it at every class. I encourage you to do the same.
Yours in Karate-Do
Joe Barrau, Chief Instructor,
Alberta Shito Ryu Itosu Kai Karate