April 07, 2010


A white crane at the park outside the Okinawa Prefectural Budokan. Karate is said to be influenced in part from a southern Chinese White Crane style.

"So fair and foul a day I have not seen" is a line from Macbeth, if memory serves. This is a strange time for me. On the one hand, I am fulfilling the dream of a lifetime by coming to Okinawa to study karate in the land of its birth. I have finished three days of training and the trip has already met and exceeded all I had hoped.

On the other hand, I had barely finished the first day of training when I learned of the mining disaster in my state at a mine owned by a company that embodies all the things I have fought against for many years. To be away from West Virginia and West Virginians is hard at times like this, which, sad to say, aren't all that infrequent if you've lived a while.

I know that even if I was there, there would be little I could do right now other than mourn and vent with other members of my tribe. This is the time for rescue and recovery workers, for religious leaders and counselors to do their work, and for a community to grieve. Later, not much later, there will be other work to do, and plenty of it.

So now? Train. To someone who is not a martial artist (and to many martial artists for whom it is only a sport), the connection between karate and the fight for social justice may seem to be two different things. In reality, they should be one.

Looking back, it was through the study of karate that my sense of social justice and even politics derived. Karate ni sente nashi--in karate there is no first attack--is the motto of Okinawan karate. And these words of Gichin Funakoshi have burned themselves into my core:

True karate do is this: that in daily life one's mind are body be trained and developed in a spirit of humility, and that in critical times, one be devoted utterly to the cause of justice.

It's a spring morning in Naha. I plan on heading early to the Budokan today. My body feels like its cooking itself but I want to train hard today and I want it to hurt.

And so far this trip, I've gotten what I wanted.


Dave Sharlip (yep - Carol's brother!) said...

El Cabrero - in case you didn't see EJ Dionne's column in today's Wash Post:


As of note, along with Mr. Dylan's song quotes at your site, you may find his son Jakob's new release this week somewhat timely - one song track entitled: "They've Trapped Us, Boys" containing some suddenly disturbing lyrics & images of darkness and despair deep in the mines.

El Cabrero said...

Hi David,
I do remember you. Thanks for pointing out Dionne's column. I found a home for it today. I will check out Jakob's song!