Tag Archives: courtesy

The Difference Between Men And Animals

“Do not forget that karate begins and ends with rei.”

This is the first of twenty principles passed down from the father of modern day karate, Gichin Funakoshi. Funakoshi brought his Okinawan martial art of self-defense to mainland Japan, which contributed to its introduction to the rest of the world.

If you’re wondering what karate has to do with the difference between men and animals, stick with me. You’ll soon understand, Grasshopper.

Rei means respect. Respect for others and respect for ourselves.

We demonstrate this respect in karate class every time we bow…onto the dojo floor, to our sensei (teacher), or to our workout partner. The bow is a sign of esteem, respect and courtesy. The bow signifies our willingness to learn and our appreciation for being taught. It assures our partner of our desire to work together to advance both our training; we are not facing off in combat.

Though anyone can go through the motions and bow when they are supposed to and at all the correct times, if they do not have a sincere heart, they do not possess true rei. As it states in The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate by Gichin Funakoshi, “True rei is the outward appearance of a respectful heart.”

In this book, Funakoshi guides us in the spiritual aspects of martial arts. Yes, contrary to what most American’s think, karate is much more than striking, punching, and kicking. Karate-do is a way of life. A philosophy. And these philosophies are not only meaningful in martial arts, but in our everyday lives. These principles encourage us to take a deeper look at ourselves, at how we live and how we treat those around us.

By now I’m sure you’ve made the connection between the title and the blog post.  Only man can show respect and courtesy. Funakoshi’s book states, “The difference between men and animals lies in Rei. Combat methods that lack rei are not martial arts but merely contemptible violence. Physical power without rei is no more than brute strength, and for human beings it is without value.

All martial arts begin and end with rei. Unless they are practiced with a feeling of reverence and respect, they are simply forms of violence. For this reason martial arts must maintain rei from beginning to end.”

I believe everything must maintain rei from beginning to end, whether its school, career, religion, relationships or time for fun. If we treated everyone and everything with reverence, respect, and courtesy, the world would be a much nicer and safer place to interact.

Are you living your life with true rei? Do you treat yourself and others with courtesy, esteem and respect? Do your characters? What changes can you make right now to demonstrate the rei in your heart? Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

FOR FUN: What Spider-man quote relates this statement from The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate by Gichin Funakoshi? “The difference between men and animals lies in Rei.”

~K.M. Fawcett

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Courtesy, Kings & Castles, Oh My! – Okinawa Part 2

Because of the courtesy shown to us by the Okinawan people, our trip was dubbed the 2011 Ryukyu Propriety Cultural and Martial Arts Tour. Ryukyu was the old name for Okinawa before the Japanese renamed it (Remember Okinawa is a prefecture of Japan, like New Jersey is a state of the USA).

Tenchi Dojo Instructors at the Gate of Courtesy

Okinawa is known for the gate of courtesy, Shureimon (or Shurei no mon). This gate is at the entrance of Shuri-jo, a castle originally built in the fifteenth century that was the political, economic and cultural center of the Ryukyu kingdom for hundreds of years. Written on the gate’s plaque are four Chinese characters shu, rei, no, and kuni,which means “land of propriety” or “country of good manners and hospitality”.  Unfortunately, Shuri Castle was

Shuri-jo Castle

destroyed in the Battle of Okinawa during World War II. When rebuilding began in 1958 using pre-war photographs and original plans, guess which structure was reconstructed first. Yup, Shureimon – The Gate of Courtesy. That’s how important courtesy/propriety is to the Okinawan people.

While at the castle, we were entertained by some very talented ladies dancing traditional Okinawan dances. These dancers were impressive with their accuracy and fluidity of movement. This trip has given me an appreciation for these women’s skills. Although their movements might appear slow and uncomplicated to an untrained eye, they are in fact difficult in their precision and grace. Trust me, I had the opportunity to learn a piece of the fan dance, Kagiyadefu and…well… let’s just say it wasn’t pretty, graceful, or accurate. We’ll leave it at that. I also like watching the dances to see the hidden karate techniques in them.

While I’ve seen the traditional Okinawan dances before, what struck me on this trip was that Okinawan women have been performing these dances for hundreds of years.  The exact same precise dances!  And it made me sad to realize there are no traditional American dances in the US.

Heather, me, and Lorena in front of the King's throne

Our tour of Shuri-jo continued inside the castle where we saw many artifacts and special rooms, including the throne room and the tearoom.  I was excited to sit on the tatami mat, sip tea and eat delicious cookies that had been prepared for royalty hundred of years ago. Er…the cookies I ate hadn’t been prepared then, you know what I mean.

Ryukyu tea and cookies

I bought some boxes of cookies to take home with me.  Unfortunately, I just opened my last box. I guess that means I need to take another trip to Okinawa to get some more. 🙂

Click here for Okinawa Part 3 – Experiencing Martial Arts

~ K.M. Fawcett

The Isle Of Courtesy – Okinawa Part 1

Gate of Courtesy at Shuri Castle

Last month Scott (my husband) and I along with a few other karate friends had the opportunity to travel to Okinawa, Japan – the birthplace of karate – with Scott’s sensei (teacher) and his wife for a Cultural Martial Arts Tour.

Did you notice the word Cultural before Martial Arts? There’s a reason for that. Though we did indeed have an opportunity to train in a dojo there, the number one reason for the trip was to learn more about Okinawan culture, customs, history and traditions. And by doing so, I have discovered more about myself, as well as my country’s culture and history.

Many people (especially Americans) believe karate is only about fighting or self defense. That is simply not true. Karate-do (the way of the empty hand) is a way of life. A philosophy. And you cannot truly understand The Way, if you fail to understand the culture of the people who developed it. The founder of Isshinryu karate, Tatsuo Shimabuku, stated in a 1960 interview in the Okinawan Times, “Even if we cannot promote friendship between Okinawa and America through karate, my true hope is that if karate becomes popular in the United States and Hawaii, then Okinawa would also become more well understood.” Since 1994, his student, AJ Advincula, has been carrying out the vision and wishes of his teacher by conducting these cultural martial arts tours.

Okinawan man stopped gardening to tell us stories of the old dojo

Okinawa is known as the Isle of courtesy. The people are friendly, polite and go out of their way to help. For instance, we were taking a walking tour of the area where Tatsuo Shimabuku’s first dojo was. The dojo is no longer there, but we wanted to find the property. An elderly couple out for a stroll pointed us in the right direction, but soon we came to a crossroad and took a wrong turn. They followed us and corrected us before we went too far the wrong way. I ask you, would you follow a group of foreigners to be sure they arrived at their destination? Then there was the man who lived across from the property we had searched for. He stopped working in his garden to talk with us and tell us stories about watching the foreigners (American servicemen) training at the dojo.

Another day, our car’s battery had died. Fortunately, we spotted a tow truck stopping at a red light at a nearby intersection and my husband ran to the guy and asked for help. The driver asked if we were members of whatever organization he worked for (Okinawa’s version of AAA?). Scott said no. The light changed and the tow truck made his left turn away from the parking lot and our car. A few minutes later, after going around the busy city block, he pulled in our lot. The man jump started our vehicle, and refused to charge us. We happened to have a nice bottle of awamari (Okinawan liquor) in the car and gave him the presento as a token of our gratitude.

Higa Bridge - We met a woman nearby who took time from her busy day to talk history.

I don’t speak the language, and only know a few phrases, however, the people we had come in contact with were patient, friendly and helpful. There was no anger toward us foreigners. No one yelled, “You’re in Okinawa, learn the language!” And it made me realize that Americans can stand to be a little more polite and offer a little more assistance to those in need. We can’t allow rudeness and disrespect to be the norm. It is my hope that one day America can be known as the Land of Courtesy.

Click here for Okinawa Part 2 – Courtesy, Kings & Castles, Oh My!

~K.M. Fawcett