I got my first licence when I was 17. Back then you had to take an oath and sign it in blood! Okay well maybe not in blood but it sort of felt that way and I was so proud to do this.(see picture attached). I felt like I was joining some elite society! It was the first time in my life I felt a sense of belonging. The newer licences we have these days don't have this part in the book, which I think is a shame really but the pride remains the same with me and I'm on to my third karate licence book now!
I was careful to fill my licence book out in my best handwriting and take care of it because like my passport, it feels like a key part of my identity and as I say, I take a lot of pride in it. I subscribe to the values it sets out inside and what it represents and I try to hold myself to these standards in all aspects of my life. Sometimes I fall short but I endeavour to keep holding myself accountable to the precepts it sets out. After all, being a karate-ka is not just what you are when you happen to be practicing in the dojo, it's what you are at all times no matter where you are or what you are doing.You should strive to carry these values in all aspects of life. If that seems a little serious, it is, at least to me it is. I think it makes us different and sets us apart from the non-karate-ka.
In addition to "uphold the spirit of karate do", we promise to follow the dojo kun:
1. Hitotsu! Jinja kumite kansai ni tsutomuru koto!
(Exert oneself in the perfection of character)
2. Hitotsu! Makoto no michi o mamoru koto! (Be faithful and sincere)
3. Hitotsu! Doryoko no seichin o yashinau koto! (Cultivate the spirit of perseverance)
4. Hitotsu! Reigi o omonzuru koto (Respect propriety)
5. Hitotsu! Kekki no yu o imashimuru koto (Refrain from impetuous and violent behavior)
Please consider these tenants of Shotokan karate and ask yourself which one might resonate with you most and why? There may be a future competition coming up soon about this! My sensei once asked me the same and mine was 5 originally but it has since changed to 1 as I've matured because it seems to encompass everything I strive for in my karate education.
Please take the time to look at your licence book carefully. It really is a beautiful little book. I remember marveling at the list of grades and deciding I wanted to fill them all in like a football sticker album. I knew I wanted to be a Sandan because the grades only went up as far as that in the early days, in the book at least. Later, spaces were added up to 5th Dan and now well, you can reach immortality in theory! I set my sights on 3rd Dan and reasoned you got your Sandan and then died! 🤣 Anyway, I'm still here ... just about!
I'm starting to get licences in again for an upcoming grading. The first one I received was from a young man who had a special quality about him, some thing that is hard to define. It's a combination of drive, determination and spirit. He is serious! I have seen this only a few times over the years in teaching. Sometimes its not always enough to get you to your goal, whatever that goal might be and I haven't asked this boy yet what his goal is. However I do see all the signs in him that I held within me when I was not much older. He was the first to give me his licence book and everything was filled out neatly and all the vital information completed. He even had his photo displayed very proudly in it, as mine (still is) below. Often I have to ask people to attach their photo for their black belt grading because the examiners might not know you and need to identify you in the line. However, this boy isn't grading for his black belt. He is a white belt grading for orange and I know him. I see in this boy a proud karate-ka from the get-go happy to be aligned to the same ethics and values I was proud to subscribe to all those years ago.
Congratulations Nawaf! You win the mystery "spot" prize, exhibiting the spirit of karate-do! You will have your prize next week. 🤩