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Shotokan Karate as Royal Education

Royal Education has ancient origins. However, it has modern applications; it can generate exceptional leaders. Shotokan karate can be a royal education. We describe in this article how to turn one’s Shotokan practice into a royal education and what benefits it will generate. By Nicholas

What is Royal Education?

Prior to the spread of public education in the 19th century, only the leadership class received education. This type of education focused on much more than academics. Sports, arts, and culture – what we would call “extracurricular” – belonged to the core curriculum of the education of leaders. For instance, Japanese samurai indulged in arts, literature, culture, and sciences. They followed the way of the sword but also cherished intellect.

Sports teaches courage. The arts teach creativity, taste and passion. Culture, on the other hand, generates an understanding of perspective and humility. Therefore, royal education considers all aspects of cultivation of human beings

How to Approach Royal Education?

When somebody applies the approach of royal education, it makes sense to consider all three aspects. One should integrate an athletic endeavor, one creative pursuit, and one cultural aspect in a training session. For the highest effect all of these three learning goals should be transparent for the trainees.

Moreover, even in or after karate classes it makes sense to discuss this three aspects with the karatekas. The results can lead to a deeper understanding of karate and ones own personality.

Why is Shotokan Karate a Royal Education?

So why is Shotokan karate a royal education? This becomes obvious when we consider its physical, aesthetic, and ethical dimensions. Firstly, Shotokan karate challenges the whole body. Through kumite it also teaches students courage, persistence, and competitiveness. Exceptional leadership requires such qualities.

Secondly, kata offers tremendous opportunities to develop a sense of creativity, taste, and passion. Kata movements must be interpreted and turned into bunkai. Moreover, style, grace, and beauty build the foundation of every performance of kata. Therefore, kata also schools the aesthetic eye. Its reduced and efficient nature, thus, leads to a passion for clear and elegant structures.

Thirdly, the dojo kun as well as the 20 precepts of karate stimulate the development of perspective and humility. In general the Do offers a full education in character and ethics. Like no other martial art, Shotokan karate consists of a well refined philosophical foundation. However, students have the opportunity to think the commandments of the Do through and derive at an own perspective and convictions. The physical confrontation during kumite also leads to an understanding of power and responsibility. These are crucial aspects of exceptional leadership.

The picture shows the emblem of Kurian Consulting how hlp with your royal education.
Nicholas Kurian from The Mentor Scholar can help to develop your Royal Eduction.

Benefits of Shotokan Karate as Royal Education

Once Shotokan karate has been understood as a royal education it becomes obvious that it generates benefits beyond the art and enriches your life. We have identified at least three fields in which it beneficial.

1.    Learning

We divorce our concept of learning from our understanding of emotions.  In reality, you must master your emotions to master learning. And, the two most important emotions to master if you want to learn anything are fear and boredom. In Shotokan karate you learn to deal with both.

Executing kihon can become cumbersome and tedious. Repetitions after repetitions challenge endurance and motivation. Strong opponents and difficult kumite combinations also present challenges. To master them means to master ones own demons and inner resistance. Both become crucial to learn other things in life. Because they may be dreadful and boring. Therefore, you need resilience. As a result, Shotokan karate as royal education poses an excellent instrument to learn to learn. And leaders always must learn.

2.    Identity 

What makes these activities so different than academic subjects is that they transform your identity.  When you learn to surf, you become a surfer.  When you learn karate, you call yourself a karateka. Moreover, you development a identity of a worrier. Much of the research shows that having multiple identities offers a powerful source of both creativity, from combining ideas, and resilience, from having strong identities to fall back on. 

What are your identities?  What is particularly powerful about identities tied to the royal education is that it allows people of different backgrounds – different identities – a powerful way to connect. It also gives one the opportunity to perceive and judge a thing or situation from a different angle. Good leaderships is capable to change perspectives and viewpoints.

3.    Entrepreneurship

One of the most important leadership and entrepreneurship skills is the ability to throw a party. By throwing a party one will learn more about group dynamics and marketing by doing this than in any business class one could possibly take. The same goes for dojos, associations, karate classes, tournaments, seminars, workshops etc. Shotokan karate offers myriad opportunities to experience group dynamics and to organize events and structures. To do so one needs courage, discipline, taste, passion, creativity, empathy, and a stable moral and ethical code. The royal education of Shotokan karate, therefore, can create excellent leadership personalities.

Shotokan Karate as Royal Education?!

Shotokan karate have a tendency to underestimate the effect of their art on personal skills. But Shotokan poses an exceptional means to acquire leadership skills and to become a leader. As a result, we highly encourage every karate instructor to understand his classes as a royal education. Because Shotokan stimulates human beings in a comprehensive way. It offers them vital learning experience to become more courageous, creative, passionate, humble, and precise in their judgements. Therefore, the royal education of Shotokan can produce excellent leaders and mentors.


Do you want to know more about royal education? Follow Nicholas on his website The Mentor Scholar.

Opener picture source: Von Felice Beato – From the English Wikipedia. Origin source unknown, free, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53809

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Shoshin?! The State of Mind for Studying Anything

Shoshin belongs to the basic concepts of budo. But most students of Shotokan karate do do not know what it is and how to achieve it. By Thomas D. McKinnon

‘Shoshin’, (初心), translates to ‘Beginner’s mind’.  To quote the Zen master, Shunryu Suzuki:

‘In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.  A true beginner’s mind is open and willing to consider all pieces of information, like a child discovering something for the first time.’

Shoshin: The Quintessential Mindset for Learning

Shoshin, simply the best way to approach any learning experience: an attitude of openness, eagerness and lack of preconception. Even when studying at an advanced level just do it as a beginner would.  Listen without commenting, regardless of how much you think you know of the subject.  Observe as if you know nothing, learn as a child learns, and get excited about a new discovery.  Shoshin, like all of the concepts you discover on your journey of Karate-do, will help you to lead a more rewarding life.  Shoshin is the quintessential mindset for learning.  

One of the things that we (karateka) do, prior to and on completion of training, is the ritual mokusoMokuso means to “silent thinking”. However, in the dojo it has further connotations: to meditate or contemplate quietly, thus separating your karate training from the outside world.  I give this guiding instruction to beginners for mokuso:

‘Empty your mind… Concentrate on your breathing, think of nothing but slowly filling and emptying your lungs (using diaphragmatic breathing) whilst emptying your mind.’

The picture shows mokuso, which is a vital step towards Shoshin.
Mokuso is a vital step towards Shoshin

Shoshin: Make Room for Learning

By emptying your mind you are making room for learning, or absorbing, like a child or a complete beginner.  Shoshin is a concept far less literal than it is metaphorical, not to be confused with simply forgetting everything.  As we develop knowledge and expertise the tendency is to narrow our focus, filtering out the things we think we already know, concentrating on details we consider we don’t know.  The danger here is that we may block out information that disagrees with what, we consider, we already know. Unconsciously we sifting out any conflicting ideas in favor of information which confirms our previous experience or philosophical standpoint. 

Entering the dojo for the very first time students, from varying demographics – age, sex, socio-economic, body composition, up-bringing, life skills and experience – begin with shoshin… more or less. 

Female beginners learn quicker than their male counterparts

I know that, in these enlightened times, it is considered politically incorrect to mention the difference between the sexes in regard to anything.  However, for the purpose of clarifying the concept of shoshin, please excuse this political faux pas.  Firstly, I will clarify the statement: ‘Every student begins with shoshin… more or less.’  I will generalize here when I say, male beginner karateka and female beginner karateka start at slightly varying states of shoshin because of their differing life-experiences. 

In my experience, the male beginner generally already has some set, physical responses when hearing the words punch and kick. Fighting is a concept to which they are more likely to have had a modicum of experience.  I’m not saying that this is a good thing or a bad thing, just that it amounts to a difference in the natural state of shoshin of the male and female karateka as they begin training.

Having taught and observed the martial arts for the best part of half a century, I feel qualified in making that last sweeping statement. In addition to that, the following broad avowal: Female beginner karateka, generally, learn quicker to execute techniques more accurately than their male counterparts.  I believe this occurrence to be due to the degree of shoshin they begin with.  The male’s prior familiarity usually means that they have some incorrect habits to first unlearn.  

The picture shows shoshin, which can be trained. Meditation helps to get rid of prejudices and preconceptions.
Shoshin can be trained. Meditation helps to get rid of prejudices and preconceptions.

Shohin Is a Treasured State of Mind

However, swings and roundabouts…  Arguably, one of the single most important concepts to grasp in Shotokan Karate is kime!  The following paragraph is one of the descriptive explanations I use when introducing kime!

‘I believe that kime, like ki, is akin to tapping into the universal energy in little bite sized pieces.  If you have never accessed kime… I have found that, at the point where it is appropriate to punctuate your technique with kime, you should explosively inflict your intent.  And I describe that feeling as, almost, like getting angry for a nanosecond at that point of intended impact.’

In my experience, the male beginner karateka gets his head around that concept quicker. That, I believe, may have something to do with hormones.  However, all that being said, by the time that Shodan is achieved we largely have a level playing field. As adults we may have a tendency to allow our prior knowledge to block us from seeing things anew.  Shoshin, like all those esoteric concepts we utilize in Karate-do, is a state of being that is difficult to articulate to anyone who has not taken this path of Karate-do.  Once understood, however, shoshin is a treasured state of mind for studying anything.