Karate Means "Empty Hands"; Toshindo Means to Unify the Mind, Body and Spirit;
Karate is more popular now than ever before in its history. Because of the movies, television and magazines, karate is widely is widely perceived as a purely physical art, with spinning kicks and lightning punches. Karate practice certainly develops strength, stamina and physical well-being; however, this is not the heart of karate. Karate is a way of life, a way of being. The true essence of karate is the training of body, mind and spirit together in order to realize the fullness of human potential. Translated, Toshindo, which is the style of karate taught and studied by Shihan Donald LaMattina, means to unify the mind, body and spirit.
Foundations of Karate In the year 520 A.D., a Buddhist monk named Bodhidarma left India for China en-route to the Shaolin Monastery. In order to reach spiritual enlightenment, Bodhidarma sat in silent meditation for nine years. In order to maintain his physical health and fend off wild animals, he developed a series of physical movements and exercises that he taught to his fellow monks. This art became known as Wushu. Over the years, as various monks left the monastery, Wushu, which also became know as Kempo (Chinese Hands), went with them. Kempo spread from China to Korea, then to Okinawa and to Japan. In 1916, Master Gichin Funakoshi gave the first public demonstration of Chinese Hands in Kyoto, Japan. In order to reflect Master Funakoshi's deeper personal feeling for the meaning of its practice, the character for Chinese was replaced with one which means "empty." Hence, the birth of "Empty Hands" or, as we know it, "karate."
Bowing The purpose of bowing in karate schools (Dojos) is to show respect and courtesy. When we bow, that moment of humility helps us to understand the importance of other people and institutions in our lives. We forget ourselves and our own egos and focus on spiritual growth.
Dojo The word "Dojo" comes from the word Bohimandala, a Sanskrit word which means "place of enlightenment." Therefore, the Dojo is a special place, where everyone comes to study and perfect the self. The Dojo is a place to foster a sense of community and belonging and caring for each other. All students observe the formalized etiquette of the Dojo that includes how to greet people, how to enter and leave the Dojo, how to fix your uniform while on the mat, and how to tie your belt. Everyone observes these formalities. A true Karate-ka seeks balance and harmony in his or her life. The Karate-ka develops a strong body and spirit so as to better serve others.
The principles and values of karate, such as patience, concentration, respect and courtesy are completely transferable and universally applicable to our daily activities in or away from home. The true Karate-ka strives to be the best student, worker, husband, wife, parent or child possible.
Karate-do (the way of karate), like life which it mirrors, is a struggle: a struggle with our weaknesses, frustrations, narrow-mindedness and prejudices. Growth in the way of karate comes through unceasing, repetitive daily practice of the basics. This is called Ren Ma or (constant polishing). Modern society often frowns upon repetition as stifling or boring. The discipline of single-minded repetition is at the heart of Karate-do.
Through the study of karate, we realize that there are no shortcuts to anything of lasting value.