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Bruce Lee in Brutal Karate Tournament!

VIDEO: Bruce Lee dominating at a Karate tournament!

The term “void” (kara in Japanese) has very real implications for strategy, Zen mind set and accessing weak points in an opponents technique and body. Since 1929 this term has in fact been the first of the three Kanji (Japanese characters) that represents the word “Karate-Do”. The Keio University Karate club substituted this character to replace the original first character for Karate-Do (prior to this the first character translated the term karate as “Chinese hand”). The use of “void” as the first character in Karate-Do was later consolidated in 1935 by Funakoshi sensei (founder of Shotokan) publishing the book “Karate-Do Kyohan”. The link between “voids”, or “emptiness”, has obvious similarities to mushin, however, its mental implications for strategy go further than that. The mind is just one component of a “void” approach used in fighting. Other cumulative uses of the “void” concept include:

–    technique combinations which open an opponent enabling the scoring of a “point” (pre-determined opponent response strategy which occurs following a particular combination)

–    furthering the first two points by striking a cavity, or anatomical void, to most damage/upset the opponent.

Any one who has ever spoken to anyone else who has ever competed in a martial arts tournament in today’s circuit has heard the rumors. They have been fed the war stories and they have been made to reconsider whether or not they themselves should get involved with it.

Asian strategy (e.g. the classic “Art of  War” by Sun Tzu)  and Zen are not religions but provide systems for understanding yourself, optimizing technique and performing at your best. It is unfortunate in modern karate sports fighting (which is also a mind game) that athletes are not taught the Zen concepts which are the basis of the art they are performing. Some sports karate teams do go as far as to have sports psychologists, and while that is beneficial, it is shame the athletes are not exposed to the Zen lessons of the samurai which are profound in achieving victory because the goal was not a gold medal, but a life or death match (where, like in the sports world, a simple “tag” with a katana (sword) would mean death). Some of the principles taught by sport’s psychologists mirror that of Zen in the martial arts and other things taken from Zen are more specifically directed towards combat. The modern term of putting oneself in “the zone” is directly analogous to the Zen mind state of mushin – one Zen principle which can be related to kumite is discussed in more detail below.

Each redeeming factor should be explained in greater detail than just to list them as reasons. Because of that I have broken them down into three generalized points. Hopefully these points will help you to understand the original design and reasoning for competition, as well as give you a better guideline into deciding your own level of participating in future events.


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