OMOIYARI – Philosophy

“Strong and caring people are the pillars of society and Karate helps cultivate them.” Les Bubka

Omoiyari is one of the Japanese expressions that is very difficult to explain to a non-Japanese person. Some say it is thoughtfulness or as Sugiyama Lebra defines Omoiyari “the ability and willingness to feel what others are feeling, to vicariously experience the pleasure or pain that they are undergoing and to help them satisfy their wishes… without being told verbally” [1]. For me personally it means simply caring for others and myself.

This type of caring is sincere and not motivated by reward, we care for others without seeking compliments or gratitude. If we help others expecting an acknowledgment with a ‘thank you’ we are not having omoiyari and we do this for pure purpose of building our ego.

That is why I encourage my students to be helpful to anyone in the dojo as we are like a family where all support each other, but this care is not limited to dojo: we need to care about and help people everywhere.

I often see, especially in big dojos, students training in isolation not willing to interact or share their knowledge and experience with anyone.  We all need to train hard but some Karate adepts coming to a dojo with the attitude of “I’m here to train, to be better myself and I’m focusing on myself”.

This is not the right attitude, this type of training is creating strong egocentric people who in life are so busy focusing on themselves that they ignore all others who might be in need. What we need in society is more empathetic people who can help others.  Through Karate training with omoiyari in mind we can achieve this.

[1] More about the Omoiyari concept

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Les Bubka

About the author: Les Bubka is an experienced martial artist, personal trainer and therapist who specialises in posture, mobility and Karate.  Les works with a wide variety of clients including martial artists and athletes as well as those suffering with postural dysfunction or those who wish to improve their fitness and wellbeing

Seiza

Seiza “proper sitting”

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Throughout the early history of Japan various ways of sitting were regarded as ‘proper’, such as sitting cross-legged, sitting with one knee raised, or sitting to the side. People’s social circumstances, clothing styles, and the places where they sat naturally brought about their manners of sitting. The development in the Muromachi period of Japanese architecture in which the floors were completely covered with tatami (thick straw mats), combined with the strict formalities of the ruling warrior class for which this style of architecture was principally designed, heralded the adoption of the sitting posture known today as seiza as the respectful way to sit. However, it probably was not until circa the turn of the 18th century (the Genroku to Kyōhō eras in Japanese history) that the Japanese generally adopted this manner of sitting in their everyday lives. By the end of the 20th century the traditional tatami-floored rooms and the circumstances where one should sit ‘properly’ on a tatami had become uncommon in Japan. Consequently many modern day Japanese are unaccustomed to sitting seiza.[1]

[1]Japanese online Encyclopedia of Japanese Culture

Performing seiza is an integral and required part of several traditional Japanese arts, such as certain martial arts and the tea ceremony (a table-style version of the tea ceremony known as ryūrei was invented in the 19th century). Seiza is also the traditional way of sitting while doing arts such as shodo (calligraphy) and ikebana (flower arranging), though with the increasing use of western-style furniture it is not always necessary nowadays.

Many theatres for traditional performing arts such as kabuki and sumo still have audience seating sections where the spectators sit in seiza.

Use in the Karate Dojo

Seiza sitting is a posture used in the dojo for zazen (seated meditation). The body weight is distributed over the knees and buttocks whilst the spine is in a neutral position. In Shin ai do Karate we keep our hands open on the thighs. Open hands symbolise non aggressiveness. Elbows are placed close to the body. The right instep is crossed over the left instep. The shoulders are held slightly back and relaxed. The chin is tucked in with the body elongated.

Spine in Seiza

The major points to note in sitting in this position are weight distribution and alignment of the body. The most stable position is created by three points of support in seiza. These points are our knees and buttocks resting on our feet. Once we have found a stable position we need to find the optimal alignment for the spine.

Many Sensei teach that students should sit with the back straight, but this action causes tension and quick tiredness. It is nearly impossible to hold yourself like this for long periods of time.

To maximise the benefits of performing seiza our spine should strive to be relaxed and elongated, avoiding compression. The spine will be naturally curved and the pelvis should be tilted slightly forward. These two actions help the vertebra align in a proper position (assuming the practitioner has no health issues). The stomach will not become compressed and we can breathe freely. The chin should be tucked in and pushed back imaging that we have a balloon attached to the head stretching us up. (Want to know more about healthy sitting? Read here.)

Problems with Seiza

Some beginners might have problems with this position as it demands good flexibility in the knees and hips. Some might experience tiredness in the back as they are not used to sitting straight (as a result of long periods of slouching). Many people hold tension in the neck and shoulders, they might find it difficult to relax in seiza. Others with weak back muscles might experience slumping in the hips and an arching back. Students with hip mobility restrictions may prefer one hip to the other, which can cause instability. Many students have mobility problems in the knees and ankles. (Want to know more? Please read here.)

Overcoming Problems

With all the techniques in Karate you need patience. It is the same with seiza. Give yourself time to master it. Be aware of the problems every time you sit and try to use the correct form. We are looking for a balanced posture. Our European bad habits of sitting may make the task of perfecting seiza take a bit longer, but with practice comes mastery.

Fu Gen Jikkou

 

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In every aspect of life we meet people who say “Don’t worry you can count on me. I’ll be there.”  However, when it comes to take action they do not due to a change in their circumstances.

The same situation occurs in the dojo as many students make big statements such as “Sensei, I’m going to be the best student ever. I will train hard and will not miss any classes, just watch me.” Then invariably something gets in the way. Work, family or health issues arise and so the student is unable to keep his promise. I used to believe in all of these promises and it would raise my hopes. Nowadays I am bit more reserved and just wait. I know that people mean well, but I cannot understand why there is this urge to announce that we will take action?

Ones actions are the truest expression of one’s character. In our dojo we encourage people to act rather than just verbally promise. Making a statement is easy, but it can hurt the feelings of others and discourage trust as the promises are broken. Unfortunately in modern society this seems to have become a norm.  For example, a lot of customer service organisations will promise to call you back and sort things out, but it never happens. We have all been there! Karate encourages students to be reliable and trustworthy via the practice of Fu Gen Jikko.

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Les Bubka

About the author: Les Bubka is an experienced martial artist, personal trainer and therapist who specialises in posture, mobility and Karate.  Les works with a wide variety of clients including martial artists and athletes as well as those suffering with postural dysfunction or those who wish to improve their fitness and wellbeing

Kumite Dachi

Kumite Dachi- Fighting Stance, eight basic steps for our style of Karate

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About the author: Les Bubka is an experienced martial artist, personal trainer and therapist who specialises in posture, mobility and Karate.  Les works with a wide variety of clients including martial artists and athletes as well as those suffering with postural dysfunction or those who wish to improve their fitness and wellbeing.