Thursday, October 25, 2012

20 Precepts, part 2 (Spirit first)

The founder of Shotokan karate, Gichin Funakoshi, created the “20 precepts of karate-do.”  This is a list of 20 different philosophies, some specific and others general.  For this series, I will be looking at the ones that can apply to taiko and taiko training.

Today’s precept: “Spirit first, technique second.” 

Without spirit, technique is empty.  The best strike and the best stance without spirit is meaningless.  It does no good to hit someone with a punch that’s technically perfect without any sort of intention behind it.  It does no good to play a song that’s spot on but with weak spirit throughout.  But there’s a couple of distinctions that I’d like to make.

First, "spirit" isn’t just one kind of energy.  Just like not all techniques in karate are full-on, full-out, neither do they have to be in taiko.  I think that intention is the heart of the word “spirit” here.  Proper intention of what you’re doing – what you’re trying to do – in the technique is more important than the technique itself.  If you disagree with me, keep reading.

Second, I take this precept to mean “in execution,” rather than “in learning.”  When you perform a technique, or kata, or song, etc., you should be focusing more on spirit than technique.  Why?  Because if you’ve been practicing in earnest, then you don’t need to focus so much on the technique when it’s time to perform it.

And that brings me to my third point, which is that the precept merely states a priority.  It doesn't say to do one OR the other.  So when you’re performing something, while you should be aware of the technique, give more focus to the intention behind it.

When you’re learning something, it might be okay if spirit is lacking.  That’s the time when technique and fundamentals matter the most.  Just be careful you don’t bring a lack of spirit from the time spent learning into time spent performing.

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