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Mastery in 500 Words or Less


Mastery in 500 Words or Less


Picture the Yin Yang symbol. You begin your training, innocent, ignorant, wild, at the point where the white (belt) is widest and the black tail begins to grow, and progress to where the black (belt) is the widest and the white tail begins. At that point in your experience and development, you “become” karate – your character and behavior are framed and colored by the principles and tenets of the art. That is, you (ideally, in any case) are the very epitome of technical and factual  expertise.


This is Shodan - First Degree Black Belt. This is “ready to learn”. But ready to learn what is the pivotal question.



To many it means that you are now ready to learn the really cool stuff - shiny things. Nonsense. Learning additional technique or knowledge should serve your goal, not distract, confuse or seduce you from it.


So what is the proper path? To turn your training inward on itself. To complete the circle and return to white; to the begining - again free from technique, but not of technique. To turn it all around to where the karate becomes you: Your every movement, every thought, every emotion defines the Art and Way.


You no longer weld the weapon, you are the weapon. You no longer profess the wisdom, but are a wellspring of it.


Mastery is a journey that leaves you changed forever. It takes years to become a proper Shodan, and then, quite likely, a lifetime to figure out what to do about it.


You start off wild, like a horse running loose across the plain. You then submit to the confinement and frustration of discipline, only to end back where you began – and yet not: You are transformed. No longer a vulnerable feral creature but a powereful, liberated one.


Once, my teacher, Mr. Jenkins, and I were listening to a Harry Chapin tape, and he said, “Hear that? Never think we’re the only ones with the answers. It’s just that others sing their song and we sing ours.” There are many kinds of personal journey and rites of passage available in life. My sensei’s was the song I understood best.


Not everyone agrees with my thinking on this subject. In fact, not everyone who once followed me still agree. Sorry about that. If people didn’t laugh at me, I'd know I was wrong.


Where some see eight kata, eight codes as a one way ticket to boredom. I see an endless journey; a vast, fascinating adventure and a chance at what I came to karate to become – truly alive.


Of course, if that’s not your bag, there’s always tons of shiny stuff to keep you busy.




2007 © Salvatore T. Musco. All Rights Reserved.