Monday, August 23, 2010

Budo and its Ideals

I saw Karate Kid about a month or so ago. I thought it would be a good movie to bring my kid along too. It was all based on assumption I suppose. Karate Kid is a nostalgic movie for me, having watched the original several times over. Jacky Chan after all is a funny guy and so I thought, how wrong could the new movie be? Well, it was so wrong that my kid wanted to leave half way through the show. He had his eyes covered each time little Jaden got whacked up, and there was never a time that the show really appealed to him.

Honestly speaking, I didn't think the show was that bad. It wasn't great though. The fight scenes were brutal. You gotta hand it to his rival, he sure knew how to act as the bad guy. Unfortunately, with the intense violence nothing much came out of it to really create a balance. Jaden goes to China, Jaden gets beat up because he fancies a Chinese girl, then he gets beat up some more, he learns kung fu, he then beats up the bullies and everybody became friends. Hey, the plot ain't much but it isn't that far different from the original right? Sure we didn't have the wax in, wax out but hanging your coat ain't that bad of a training.

The thing is, what seems to be lacking in the new Karate Kid is character. The story was like a hodge podge of rewrites of the original. The original didn't have over the top fight scenes, but it made do with what it have in the character and morals behind it. A lot of people ended up taking karate after the show aired. Every parent out there thought Karate was the way to make something out of their teenager, whether it was to make a man out of him, to get him out of bullying or to teach him respect. That was how good an impression the movie had on the populace. I don't think the new one would garner much enthusiasm though.

But here it is that's so funny. The fact that the parents of yesteryear thought so well of karate because of Miyagi-san and Daniel. Didn't they realise that the bad boys in the movie were also taking karate? Everyone saw the good side, but they kinda missed the whole bad part of it. There it is, the point I'm trying to make. Karate in itself doesn't necessarily build a good and morally right person. Karate and other budo would mould you into someone with discipline, strength of spirit and into a physically stronger person. The moral character though, is all you and all your sensei. If your sensei is like Miyagi-san, who ambles along in his life modestly, with a good heart, avoiding the ego trap and sincere in his undertakings, then you are most likely to gain some of those good values. On the other hand, if your teacher falls into the villain category, you'd probably be as ruthless as they come. Don't forget, the samurai's of the olden days... most became ronin and bandits preying on the people they have sworn to protect.

So what's this gotta to do with Aikido you ask? Well, sensei is fond of regaling stories about his students. They come in all shapes and sizes and we often laugh at some of the more bizarre incidences surrounding them. Whilst the tales eventually lead to some measure of reconciliation or improvement on those students whether it is gaining the ability to walk and exercise again, or gaining focus and improving their social skills, one must not attribute all those 'miracles' to Aikido alone. After all, if training in Aiki makes one intelligent, the MENSA board really should be chaired by Doshu don't you think? Really, what I mean is... learning Aiki and budo would help us gain tremendously in terms of physical and mental enhancement. But building moral values and character comes from having a good guide or teacher. Much of the lessons won't be in the dojo, but through his actions and speech. Mostly though it is through the ishin-denshin method of learning.

If we understand this then we will then have a basis to which we can learn in each class. This is true for a lot of different reasons. Often I see students attend class and train, but they don't seem to go beyond the 'training by rote'. Sometimes I wonder, what is it that they seek each time they go to the dojo. Do they seek self defence training? Yet they do not have the intensity of motion, nor the commitment of effort and of taking risks. Do they then seek enlightenment? If they are looking for zen, then shouldn't they be better off at a Zen temple? After all, zen has absolutely nothing to do with Aikido after all. However if the students understood, the purpose of Aikido, the stages of learning Aikido, the principles that guide the learning of Aikido, the characters of Budo and finally the ideals of the teacher for that dojo... then they would have a distinct advantage each time they step onto the mat.

For a fun take on Karate Kid though... click here


  1. can obtain zen in dojo meh? that is too 'harsh' hahaha...reminds me of kungfu panda..anyway, the last sentence is well said though :)

  2. You'd be surprised how many people assume that there is a relationship between Budo and Zen. Many refer to Aikido as Zen in motion la, blah blah... probably to the consternation of both the zen master And the Aikido master. Maybe its because how Koans started becoming popular amongst the followers. Whilst Osensei was fond of poetry, I don't see them as Koans. (a branch of Zen uses Koans as a means to distract them from ordinary thought and become zen).