Shotokan Karate – An Organic Approach Towards Holistic Youth Development

Pratik Dalal, an instructor at JKA WF Chicago Karate Institute, Inc., shared with Healthy Lombard that are different styles of traditional Karate, ‘Shotokan’ is a very popular style developed from various martial arts by its founder and the father of modern-day Karate, Sensei2 Gichin Funakoshi. For Sensei Funakoshi, the word ‘Karate’ eventually took on a deeper meaning than just martial arts training. He was to modify the Okinawan art by taking inspiration from traditional Japanese budo (kendo, judo, etc) and integrated their philosophical aspects into his training and teaching methods.

This became a total discipline, which represented a synergy of Okinawan and Japanese schools and in 1936 he established the ‘SHOTOKAN’ style of Japanese Karate which was to be greatly influenced by his son Yoshitaka (Gigo) and Masatoshi Nakayama, the first headmaster of the Japan Karate Association. There are no weapons used in Shotokan Karate and literally speaking, it is indeed the way of the empty hand.

Said differently from purely a self-defense perspective, the Karateka3 undergoes rigorous physical and mental training to develop his/her own body and mind into a weapon, thereby increasing one’s chances to better defend against the unforeseen ‘threat’. However, Karate-do is not just about punching and kicking. The Budo4 aspect, i.e. the martial arts way of Karate aims towards perfection of one’s character, and this aspect of Shotokan Karate is what I intend to focus on in this paper.

Some important questions I have pondered over for years during my training of Shotokan Karate: ‘Can a traditional martial art like Shotokan Karate be a potential solution to address some of the grave issues experienced by our youth today? Can it treat such issues at the grass-root level organically? If so, how?’Current Social Scenario with Youth – The Problem Before I present my views to answer these questions, lets first highlight some of the prevalent problems today. According to one research, the top 10 issues teens struggle with today:

1. Depression

2. Bullying

3. Sexual activity

4. Drugs

5. Alcohol

6. Obesity

7. Academic problems

8. Peer pressure

9. Social Media

10. On-Screen Violence

Each one of these issues has been thoroughly researched by various experts but collectively, these problems thematically indicate some kind of ‘social void’ in our teenage community. Why is our youth most exposed today than ever before to drug-abuse, alcohol-abuse, gun-violence, suicides & bullying? While several preventative measures have already been there in place for years, clearly, much more remains to be done. Society, therefore, demands alternative and innovative approaches that can nurture the next-generation youth at a fundamental level. So why not focus on ‘organic’ solutions which can prevent these negative elements in our society naturally? I propose a way of Karate-do as one such organic approach. What does the organic approach mean?

The following quote is often used when explaining the organic (or holistic) approach to problem-solving:

“All the greatest and most important problems in life are fundamentally insoluble…They can never be solved, but only outgrown. This “outgrowing” proves on further investigation to require a new level of consciousness. Some higher or wider interest appeared on the horizon and through this broadening of outlook, the insoluble lost its urgency. It was not solved logically in its own terms but faded when confronted with a new and stronger life urge.” From Jung, Carl, Psychological Types (Pantheon Books, 1923)

To put this into perspective, the organic approach is an alternative strategy to rational problem-solving. Some people assert that the dynamics of people are not nearly so mechanistic as to be improved by solving one problem after another. Often, the quality of life comes from how one handles being “on the road” itself, rather than the “arriving at the destination.” The quality comes from the ongoing process of trying, rather than having fixed a lot of problems.

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