Re-Post from 2012: ‘Sincere Way’
Beautiful evening 🙂 Below is an edited excerpt of a blog post I published here in 2012. Remembering this wisdom that was generously shared with me, for 2017 and beyond…
Late last year, I had the good fortune of sitting down and chatting with John Foster, mental health nurse, counselling support worker, and karate teacher/practitioner. I had seen in a local magazine for people with disabilities a small advert for a “Wheelchair Karate” class John was running out of the Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre, of which I am a former inpatient. So, I picked up the phone and made contact.
A few weeks later, I interviewed him. I was curious as to how John came to this particular type of karate, his background. John is third dan black belt and teaches as well – karate is a way of life for him, it is very much integrated into his lifestyle. We talked about the physical side of karate, of course – how he adapted certain moves and sequences for wheelchair users, how he teaches the class from a wheelchair, and how he plans to grow the program. John also explained to me how he had been attracted to the idea that Seidō was ‘karate for all’.
The ‘Magnanimous Heart’.
Seidō was founded by Master (Kaicho) Tadashi Nakamura in New York City, 1976. What sets this style of karate apart from others is that it incorporates a physical, traditional style and Zen meditation. John said that Kaicho says how the karate should come from ‘magnanimous heart’.
Magnanimous essentially means generous in forgiving; eschewing resentment or revenge; being unselfish. Nobility in mind and heart. In the context of karate, John said this means that it should be ‘karate for all.’ Not merely for those who are coordinated and physically powerful, but available to anybody who wants to try it.
It is with this magnanimous heart, coupled with a long history of association with spinal cord injury services and his role in the Spinal Community Integration Service [SCIS] at Royal Talbot, that John decided to try to adapt this style of karate for anyone who wants to participate in it. Thankfully, he persevered, and last year pioneered the first courses, which he planned to continue this year.
The ‘Sincere Way’.
Karate is of course very much about doing, but there is a well-developed philosophy behind this style of the martial art form.
Much of this is encapsulated right there in its name.
In Japanese, Seidō translates as SEI: “sincere” and DO: “way.”
The word SEI carries the connotation of “calm” or “silence”.
The word DO carries the connotation of “energy” or “activity”.
In Seidō one strives to reach his/her own individual balance of these two principles.
Inner calmness, outer activity.
Humility and the “beginners mind”
There is something else about Seido karate I think is pretty awesome, and it is of course connected to practicing magnanimous heart: the concept of humility in practice, something called Sho-shin, or “beginner’s mind” – essentially, if you think you’re an expert, you’re probably not open to learning anymore. John explained that before a person is promoted to a higher level of karate, they go back to a white belt, for 6-8 weeks, to get in touch with that beginners mind. They stand at the end of the line, and do the basics. It is a good grounding exercise, to go from a senior line back into a junior line, in order to appreciate yourself and the people around you. Whilst it takes a lot of individual commitment and effort to achieve your own development, the support of others around you makes it possible. Interdependence is important.
Practitioners of this martial art are invited to hold “beginner’s mind” at all times.