Thursday, November 20, 2008

DOJO KUN: The Perfection of Character

"Seek Perfection of Character -Hitotsu! Jinkaku kansei ni tsutomuru koto."
The Perfection of Character
As well as being a physical activity that improves both health and fitness, Karate is also a mental and spiritual discipline. The physical benefits are noticed fairly early on in your training, in terms of more stamina, flexibility and strength, but the mental and spiritual aspects are very hard to quantify and take many years of hard practice to really appreciate. However, it is important to have some mental goals to strive for and the ‘perfection of character’ is one such goal, which is closely associated with Karate and martial arts training in general. ‘Perfection of character’ has almost become a cliché in martial arts circles, used constantly in written text as some ultimate goal of martial arts, strived for by the masses, yet attained only by the few. Let’s throw this thinking out of the window straight away before we start and instead, let’s begin with some basic logic and then focus on why ‘perfection of character’ really does play an important role in Karate and martial arts.

Basic logic states that perfection of anything is ultimately impossible and is in essence something God-like. The reason why is simply because if you can put a value on something then that value can always be bigger, better, more, higher, longer, etc., and ultimately infinite in nature. If the world and the universe is infinite, then perfection can not possibly exist. Many people have differing opinions on this of course.

So if perfection is impossible, then why are we striving for ‘perfection of character’ anyway? Isn’t that a waste of time? Some people would say yes but I disagree. The point being that by striving for perfection we constantly improve and polish ourselves. Our techniques become stronger, faster and more focused. Our etiquette and spirit improve and we become calmer and more in control of our lives and our emotions. Essentially all we are doing is getting closer to perfection than we were before, despite knowing that the ultimate goal may be unattainable.
Indeed it is perhaps the fact that our ultimate goal is unattainable that the challenge of Karate will never diminish and actually gets harder as we gain more experience. After passing my 3rd degree black belt I wrote in my notes that “the more I learn the less I know” and this just underlines further the point I am trying to make. Our path in Karate and any martial art is that of the exponential graph that starts off slowly, picks up speed but as it gets closer to the goal it takes longer to get there. Just like the graph we will never quite reach perfection but at least by trying we too get closer and closer to our goal.

This is the true meaning behind striving for “perfection of character”.

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