Where do we go from here?

The following is an article submitted by a guest author, Manny Saavedra, Hanshi. He is the HeadMaster and Founder of the World Sansei GoJu organization, headquartered in Miami, Florida. He is one of the Senior Masters who’s roots began in USA GoJu as a student of GrandMaster Peter Urban. He founded the Sansei GoJu organization in 1979 at the same time I began my work on A.G.K.A.I. and has established one of the most credible GoJu-ryu international organizations in the world. I am blessed to call  him my friend and GoJu brother.

We are honored to have him as a guest author at MARTIAL ARTS INSIDER, and I am blessed to benefit from the wisdom of his counsel. Please enjoy the article and feel free to comment and/or pose questions at the end in the comment section after this article. Our BLOG is set up to be interactive and he will be able to respond directly to any inquiry as his busy schedule permits.


Hanshi Manny Saavedra - WORLD SANSEI

…the first appearance deceives many; the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden.

As a visual reference, a family tree is an excellent way to think about the connections between individuals, especially in large families. Historians often create a family tree, especially when they are looking at the history of royal dynasties, to follow the paths of allegiance and relation between various nations. A family tree can illustrate what exactly a second cousin is, for example, or show you the precise relationship between yourself and your step-great-aunt. In historical situations where families have tended to intermarry, a family tree can sometimes get confusing, and the linear nature is corrupted by lines which appear to sprout in all directions. So it is that we do the same in Karate.

For us in karate, a family tree showcases the connections and history of a family system. Most of us are proud of their relationships to famous these figures, and are delighted to have a family tree illustrating that point. The family tree can serve as a small history lesson of the family, showing the various origins of different members of the family, along with the children (students) they had and when they lived. It can also serve as a memory prompt, because seeing the family member’s name can bring out other pieces of the individual’s history, such as what he or she did that was distinctive or remarkable.

The Art above the Artist

For a tree to proliferate the branches must grow to gather nutrients for the trunk. There are no favorite branches and all are loved, all are part of the living tree. Some branches will survive the winter, some the rain, some will bend with the wind and some will break. Some of the branches will plant seeds. All are needed and are viewed as part of the one, part of the Toa, the natural order of life. It is within this natural order of life that all things must follow, and we as USA Goju lineage must learn to work together one way or another.

We will use the following analogy as a beginning point, as an understanding of our Karate, our discipline, or family united by thought and technique. In this scenario the family of USA Goju began in the mind of its founder in the United States, with the thought of giving us the opportunity to express ourselves in movement in the further development of the intrinsic and extrinsic way of the hard and soft. He was a pioneer in the thought of modern combat systems. Understanding that the roots and the trunk of this tree are the foundation in the developing of modern Goju Karate in America and the brotherhood to which they belong. All branches which have developed throughout the years and all its practitioners, thereafter, owe their birth to Sensei Peter Urban.

My approach to teaching Karate is inspired by both Eastern as well as Western philosophical principles

Satori is a word from the Japanese Zen tradition, which describes the natural harmony of body, mind, and emotions. Only when the mind is free of external distraction, its focus is entirely on the present moment. Only when the spirit is free of obstructing tension, can it manifest as pure motivational energy. Only when the body is fully relaxed and vitalized, can it be sensitive and open to life. The essence of Karate-Do requires responsibility.

The Essence of Karate-Do requires us not to propagate ourselves, but to propagate the art lastly; the essence of Karate-Do entails the development of character.

Gichin Funakoshi Sensei always said the most important aspect of Karate is the development of character. What is character in terms of the philosophy of Karate-Do? Character is simply exercising discipline, exhibiting honor, duty and self-control, and continually adhering to humility. Without character and a strong foundation, nothing of substance can be accomplished. Winning championships is fun, having excellent technique is desirable, understanding kata and bunkai are optimal, but as wonderful as these things are, they should never replace a strong, disciplined character. Masters who have perfected character do not criticize others, nor do they seek the approval and admiration of other men, but rather exist to learn, teach, and develop in the way of karate-do. To develop character is to understand life.

Some would recognize that many of the systems of Karate are the absolute true system or the predominant way of thought in a particular system, however, the strength within this art form known as Gojuryu is in its diversity, its modernization, and its adversity. It’s the principle of dualistic reality, in simple terms all systems must exist and coexist in order for any one system to exist.

Art stimulates different parts of our brains with a whole gamut of emotions. Art gives us a way to be creative and express ourselves. For some people, art is the entire reason they get out of bed in the morning. You could say “Art is something that makes us more thoughtful and well-rounded humans.” You might say “Art is in a constant state of change, so nobody can really pin down what it is.” Now, everything just stated has elements of truth, but is largely based on opinion.

Today our Goju Family has been split up into many factions, not all of whom see eye to eye. However, there are many greats and many unknowns. Our goals and objectives in Karatedo is the same in that of the Toa. You cannot deny some of the differences of life or in Karatedo there will always be those or that which do not understand and those who do. The key, the objective is to achieve harmony. Every system has a base, an originator, and many propagators. All Karatedo are fundamental, your approach, your philosophy, and how you practice and teach your art makes the different. USA Goju-Ryu and all its branches is what it is today because of its leadership worldwide, its strength, and diversity. Every major city has a

Hanshi Saavedra performing Kata

Gojuryu school. All share the same common goals, to heighten the awareness, to show responsibility to the community, belief in human potential, to instill in its practitioners the importance of the work ethic and self actualization of the individual. Here in America we have come full circle, we began as students, we have gone through the ranks, we have paid our dues, we have battles fought and lessons that we’ve learned from our teachers. We have also questioned them, we are not complacent, and we live in current reality and are critical thinkers. We are educated, we are modern traditionalist. We do not follow blindly, nor do we teach blindly, we seek to produce leaders, not followers, now we ask, “Is there a better way.

The misconception is that the art form we study is an art form that is owned by a country a race, this is far from the truth, Karatedo is and international possession a human possession.

After so many years teaching karate, I have now come full circle. I am back doing what one does when one is beginning as a white belt: training to improve my Karate understanding, not to win in competition. Ironically, the greatest pleasure in karate is felt when one knows absolutely nothing, as a white belt.

Manny Saavedra

Hanshi Saavedra can be reached at the WORLD SANSEI website. http://www.koryugojuryu.com/en/


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  • Moises H Colon says:

    Well said wisely written, all of us who have traveled in the Martial Arts, at on time, go thru the struggle , of How much should I practice, how many ways are there to apply a technique, is this the secret? Urban Sensei said "just keep on punching".