I recently read “The Karate Code,” an e-book collection of short essays from Japanese Karate masters. In it, each master picked one word to describe karate, and then offered some thoughts to help sum up karate in a word.
Not an easy task.
If I had to pick one, right now, I’d pick “integration.” I like the sense of fullness and evolution that it embodies. (It probably also reflects my age. It’ll be interesting to see what I think in five, ten, twenty years).
The more I think about it, the more I think integration is (or should be) at the heart of what we do both inside the dojo and out.
Integration is a process. The process of “integrating,” has to do with smaller parts creating a more complete thing.
When I look at someone doing martial arts, I can see whether or not they’ve integrated all the parts of their body. Is the stance supporting the hand technique? Do they utilize the center? Does the hip position allow for best kicking integrity? Does the body move as an athletic-looking whole?
Or is something being left out?
In a basic physical sense, integration in martial arts means bringing the parts of the body together in a sensible way.
Very important, especially if you don’t want to injure your shoulders, knees, wrists, fingers, etc etc.
In a bigger sense, integration can refer to different martial skills. Integrating your techniques into a bigger strategy means learning to utilize throws, kicks, holds, grappling, and striking into your fighting style.
It also means integrating your skills in forms and your skills in fighting. Becoming a whole martial artist, not just one who excels at one area more than another.
But for me, integration is also a deeper concept. It is a process of making martial arts life and non-martial-arts life seamless.
Does it mean dedicating time and space for practice?
Does it mean using martial arts principles like honor, self-control, and respect to help you navigate life?
Does it mean making a lifetime commitment to becoming better?
All of the above.
And probably more.
What does integration mean to you?