Setsu Do Motsu:
A Lecture on Karate-do
By Kaicho Tadashi Nakamura, 9th Dan
Head of the World Seido Karate Organization
Editor's Note: Kaicho Nakamura still speaks
with somewhat of a Japanese accent. His use of words
and sentence structure in this lecture have been retained
as much as possible to give a better sense of his
person and flavor of his speech.
I have a few things today that I would like to mention.
Sometimes way people starting karate, they are just
only concerned with their technique, how they kick
or punch, or their forms. But more than that, the
way you study is not just your kata, your fighting
form, or fighting spirit but how you study karate
applied to daily life. And we always say, the way
we study in not only karate, but karate-do. So lots
of moral, lots of discipline is required to call yourself
karate-ka. So each of you here I think -- continue
good moral, good discipline --moment to moment.
(Kaicho Nakamura then points to a sketch of a
bamboo stalk with the words "Setsu do Motsu"
written above it.)
This is one of my favorite expressions. I want you
to remember these words today -- especially discipline
and flexibility. Together they mean Setsu do Motsu.
In training, certain times come when you must tighten
yourself. (Here, Kaicho Nakamura holds his hands
in front of his body as if holding a sword. He twists
his hands inward as if tightening something.)
Discipline. This is Setsu do Motsu. You must always
(Then he points to the lowest segment of the bamboo
stalk.) Certain times come when you must tighten
yourself. Then another time comes when again you must
tighten yourself (pointing to the bamboo segment
above the first one). This is the way we grow.
Each segment is stiff, has strength, discipline.
Editor's note: Japanese characters are not
lifeless, but have distinct personalities whose
sub-elements are often rich in interpretation
and subtle meaning. More
(Kaicho Nakamura then picks up two practice sword.
First he shows a solid wood sword.) What
I have here is a bokken, kind of hard. (Then taking
the solid wooden sword, he smacks it hard on the floor.)
"WHACK." (He then picks up a practice
kendo sword made of strips of tied bamboo.) This
Shinai is made of bamboo and is hollow inside, but
when it hits the floor, "WHACK," it is flexible
and doesn't break. Still it is serious sword. When
we fight against solid wood practice swords, sometimes
they break, but with a shinai we can hit hard and
it doesn't break. So I want you to understand bamboo
-- it has flexibility.
When growing bamboo must have this (he points
to each distinct segment of bamboo along its trunk)
in order to grow. Without it (the segments) it would
fall down without strength.
In the winter time when I was a kid I used to go
with my family to part of Japan (northern island)
where there was lots of snow, an area that also had
lots of bamboo. There was lots and lots of snow, and
as the bamboo became covered with snow, down, down,
down it would bend almost to the ground. (Nakamura
here uses one of the wooden swords to illustrate it
bending over under the weight of the snow.) There
were also some sorts of trees and when lots of snow
came, even big branches would break. But bamboo in
winter time and snow bends, goes down almost to the
ground. Then winter changes, snow starts to melt.
A little bamboo comes up, comes up and comes up (here
still using a wooden sword, he holds it straight up
again) and 'aaahhh.' Then chance more to grow.
This always remind me of Setsu do Motsu.
Without discipline we can go down and stop (ending
up there). So remember as Karate-ka, always have flexibility,
but also strength in discipline. This is easy when
in the dojo, when in front of the teachers or senpais,
easy when you have your belt on and can say 'I'm Karate-ka,
I have good form, I am fighting, I work hard.' But
after you get changed, wherever you go -- sometimes
you forget. It's all attitude -- be careful. Wherever
you go you are karate-ka, you are your dojo. Carry
on as if your dojo exists wherever you go, especially
when you are alone and no one watching.
You have to dedicate yourself. That is a very important
thing. Easy when people are watching, when you can
say 'I'm a karate-ka, I'm a senior.' But be careful.
Wherever you go, when you are alone or in a different
place --STILL THE SAME WAY. Appreciate what you have.
Appreciate what you are. Then in Karate training watch
yourself. UNDERSTAND? (Those listening respond
with a loud OSU.)
So please continue to be proud with what you are
doing. Your karate is not just karate discipline,
skill, technique, your fighting or knowing many kata.
Most important IS TO BECOME A BETTER PERSON!
Even children should say, 'Since I started karate,
I enjoy more my study, listen more my parents and
more concentrate. Since I study karate, I more a chance
to understand myself, more listen to other people
and more appreciate -- yourself and what you have.
Then you become a good karate-ka.
Note: This lecture, was given in
March 2000, to students of Seido Karate at the Cornell
College Champion Festival/ Tournament in Ithaca, New
York. Nakamura regularly lectures on aspects of karate-do
during weekly mediation sessions held at Seido Karate's
New York City Headquarters. A number of these lectures
are published in his book, One Day, One Lifetime --
An Illustrated Guide to the Spirit, Practice and Philosophy
of Seido Karate Meditation.
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About The Lecturer:
Kaicho Tadashi Nakamura, 9th dan, is the founder
(1976) and Chairman of the World Seido Karate Organization
("Seido" meaning Sincere Way) and established the
Seido Juku headquarters in New York City. It has grown
into one of the largest and most respected dojos in
the city and the Seido system has spread accross the
US and to more than 20 countires worldwide. He is
the author of many books on karate including "Karate,
Technique and Spirit", "The Human Face of
Karate," and "One Day, One Lifetime, An Illustrated
Guide to the Spirit, Practice and Philosophy of Seido
Karate Meditation." Nakamura's karate is noted for
its focus on teaching of the mental and spiritual
aspects of karate and for his belief that karate should
benefit everyone, not just the young and the strong.
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