“The ultimate aim of karate lies not in victory nor defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants.” – Gichin Funikoshi
Have you ever wondered how well you’d be able to survive a natural disaster… or human-assisted disasters such as war, unemployment or social strife? I read truly amazing biographical books this month about two wise men who survived and even thrived in extremely harsh situations, and who taught others to do the same. These biographies moved me deeply, as I contemplated the phenomenal skills we can learn that can assist us in successfully handling almost any environment or challenge.
Tom Brown’s book, “Grandfather,” describes life experiences of the author’s indigenous mentor, Stalking Wolf, who taught him tracking and survival skills for most every environment, climate, and weather conditions. At a time when most indigenous peoples in the United States of America were losing access to their native lands, traditions, language, and ways of life, some highly intuitive individuals, such as Tom Brown’s “grandfather” lived independently in nature. Tom Brown describes how Stalking Wolf lived in accordance with native traditional ways that respect all plants, animals, Earth, water and air, and he sought those interested in learning how to live in harmony with natural surroundings as caretakers for the Earth. Stalking Wolf’s lengthy meditations in nature imbued him with deep intrinsic knowledge of how to flourish in the driest deserts, the coldest mountain tops, and the wettest forests. I love the way Tom Brown describes how Stalking Wolf first appeared in his life, shocking young Tom by quickly finding the very best fossil specimen without even seeming to search… and his explanation that when one learns to listen to the rocks, such things are easy. “Grandfather” is a riveting book for anyone intrigued by intuition, survival skills, and spirituality that delves into the keys to staying alive in life-or-death situations being based primarily on one’s ability to tune in to the realm of energy and knowledge ever-present, yet seldom seen. My favorite thing about “Grandfather” is the subtle yet profound changes I feel inside me after having read this book, as each story rests gently inside me, teaching me profound lessons in patience, listening, humility, generosity, discipline, respect, compassion, and empathy. I felt at several points that I was hearing Stalking Wolf’s story directly, and then entering it to feel the biting winter cold of a mountain blizzard, or the unforgivingly scalding desert heat. I was transfixed by each life-or-death challenge as it arose, and delighted each time Stalking Wolf listened closely to find exactly what he needed at each point. I feel tremendously grateful to Stalking Wolf and Tom Brown for sharing these stories, and find myself wishing that all children could hear them, and feel amazed, inspired, and uplifted by those who knew and know how to live in the world of nature and feel a sense of truly being home.
Gichin Funikoshi’s, “Karate-Do: My Way of Life“ provides insights from “the father of karate,” who was weak and sickly from birth, yet thrived by taking karate lessons at a time when karate was illegal and banned by the government in Japan. Funakoshi studied, practiced, and taught karate into his 90’s, inspiring students around the world through his personal example of retaining mental, physical and emotional health despite living through tremendously challenging times and circumstances. Funakoshi lived through times of poverty, and was separated from his wife for many years during the second World War. What makes Funakoshi’s memoir so exceptional is the way Funakoshi’s gentlemanly demeanor comes through between the written words. Each of Funakoshi’s short stories weaves together with the rest in harmonious fashion, sharing insights from a wide variety of different aspects of his life that are unified by his underlying fundamental character, focus, and intent. Each short story serves a purpose of both moving forward with the story of Funakoshi’s life, and illustrating key principles he lived by and taught to the students he trained. It’s clear that by practicing karate with this frame of mind, one gains mindfulness in all aspects of life, and Funakoshi clearly recognizes the value of teaching through examples and real life experience. I recommend “Karate-Do” highly to students of all forms of martial and combative empty hands arts, as well as readers fascinated by Japanese history, and people interested in improving the overall quality of their lives.
What I love so much about both “Grandfather” and “Karate-Do: My Way of Life” is how two such outwardly dissimilar men survived amazing hardships, with both men crediting their success in large part to inner character qualities of living ethically, and remaining humble. This is marvelous news for each and every one of us facing seemingly insurmountable challenges — we truly can prevail, and do so by taking a path that inspires, uplifts, motivates, and helps others.
I share some thoughts and feelings about karate, survival, and intuition in this video:
There is much we can learn from our elders when they are willing to share their wisdom through stories about some of the more extraordinary things they have experienced. When we listen closely, we can gain a sense of how important they feel qualities of inner character to be. Some attributes of inner character that make a big difference in our ability to survive and thrive through all sorts of challenges include such things as: focus, dedication, compassion, mindfulness, ethical action, and humility… and these are things that each and every one of us can choose to develop.
Wishing you success in finding out just how good your life can get, with lots of love,
Cynthia Sue Larson
email Cynthia at firstname.lastname@example.org