It’s all in the Eyes – or is it?

Modern ‘Sports Karate Kata’ performances are often ‘dramatic’ and at times the ‘movements’, timings, and the ‘ferocious glare’ exaggerated! It is probably great for the spectator, and those unfamiliar with Japanese ‘Budo’, but is it real. Does it have relevance?

Doubtless there are those who will state that the ‘power in the eyes’ or “Me-Jikara (目力)” shows ‘Seme’ (攻め ) – ‘maintaining an unrelenting pressure’ on the opponent. This is where, too often, modern ‘athletes’ in ‘Kata’ performances add ‘theatre’. The question that I ask is “Is this traditional Karate“?

The ‘’ article ‘The Brush is the Sword of the Mind vol.2’ wrote “Takuan Sōhō was a contemporary of Miyamoto Musashi. There are many parallels in the philosophy expounded by Takuan Sōhō in The Unfettered Mind, and the ideas which Miyamoto Musashi wrote about in The Book of Five Rings. They both wrote of the Non-Abiding Mind, and the Action of Spark and Stone. Takuan used the analogy of seeing the entire tree, rather than focusing on a single red leaf. Musashi wrote about gazing softly at distant mountains, and the difference between looking and seeing”.

In ‘Kumite’, too fierce a stare, or even eye-to-eye connection may reveal your aggressive intention, and create a weakness. The main issue may therefore becomes that you reduce the’ peripheral vision’ by focusing your intention into the target so much that by looking at the leaf on a tree we fail to see the tree.

A well known expression  ‘Kiryoko-ni-yoru-seme’ (to attack with “fighting spirit”) applies in both ‘Kata’ and ‘Kumite’!. Within ‘Kumite’ this is of course critical. Within ‘Kata’ it too must be manifested from ‘within’, but cannot be so ‘exaggerated’ that the mind is not free to’ see’ and allow appropriate reaction. Funakoshi Sensei clearly admonished “”As a mirror’s polished surface reflects whatever stands before it and a quiet valley carries even small sounds, so must the student of Karate-Do render their mind empty of selfishness and wickedness in an effort to react appropriately toward anything they might encounter.

We should, therefore, keep our minds calm, and our eyes able to ‘see’ and not just’ look’. It is important that we retain ‘Tame’ i.e. ‘maintaining both mental and physical balance’. We must attack whilst applying ‘Seme’ (pressure) to our opponent, but also need to maintain ‘Tame’ or ‘waiting’ and ‘patience’ to break the mental or physical ‘Kamae’ of the opponent. We wait until we see the moment of ‘Kyo’ (the opponent’s state of mind is off guard) or ‘Suki’ (an opening in the opponent’s ‘Kamae’ – guard).

In reality it is more difficult facing an opponent who stays calm and relaxed; one that doesn’t show his or her intention; an opponent who gives nothing away, gives no opportunity, and is accomplished in the art of ‘Seme’ and ‘Tame’!

Exaggeration of the ‘eyes’ and ‘actions’, as in ‘Sports Karate Kata’ can not be described as ‘Dento’ or ‘Traditional’! I would go out on a limb stating that it has little bearing to ‘Karate-Do’.

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