Thought For The Week

Thought for the Week (June 13th, 2004)

From Sensei Joe Knight
East Meets West Ueshiro Karate Club of Northern VA.


Gan Precept

One of the many references available to the SRKUSA practicitioner is the "Green Book": Building Warrior Spirit, authored by Hanshi Scaglione.

There are four warrior precepts discussed in great detail in the Green Book:
Gan (Eyes)
Soku (Foot/Foundation)
Tanden (Spirit/Lower Abdomen)
Rikki (Strength)

These precepts must be learned, practiced, and applied on the deck during our karate training. The benefit received by totally understanding and applying these precepts transcends the dojo to become useful tools in our daily lives-as we struggle and overcome the day-to-day challenges and the "forks in the road" we all experience along our chosen path.

The technique I would like to emphasize for this week is the precept of Gan/Eyes. As SRKUSA deshi, we are introduced to the Gan precept in multiple stages, with each stage building upon the previous.

As white belts, we are instructed on the deck for not looking down, not rolling the eyes during neck warm-ups, staying focused to our imaginary opponent during kata or our training partner during pre-arranged fighting, and looking in the direction of our next bock and strike.

With the basic Gan foundation established we are then introduced to situational awareness- performing kata with eyes closed, listening for the snap of the Gi during group kata to stay in sync. We are instructed to not telegraph emotion in our eyes during kata-instead to project to our attacker (or potential attacker) a determination of cold steel, or granite. We are instructed to see "all of our opponent" and not to make eye contact- the opponent then becomes an object that may (or may not) require a quick/automatic reaction to dispatch.

As advanced belts, thru research, we begin to hone the Gan precept to another level. Visualization of the perfectly executed kata (or a perfectly executed technique against a particular attack) is a powerful thought process that readies the deshi for bunkai application.

The basic situational awareness foundation is expanded to understand Mai- awareness of our and our opponent's space and distance from our opponent. We begin to understand our body type and what defense/counter techniques work best for us. Yakusoku Kumite and three-step sparring are the primary SRKUSA training tools we use to hone Mai.

Most importantly, we begin to understand how Gan is integrated into the kata- how changes in direction during kata is designed to cover our back, to dispatch an attack from one direction and to move forward to the next direction/attack (never back-pedaling-but always shifting). We begin to feel the situational awareness as we perform our kata, and thru research, and visualization, begin to discover the real life situation/attacks that the kata is teaching us to neutralize.

And finally, Hanshi has provide many stories in the Green Book, based on his 20 years in law enforcement, that illustrate how police officers who have developed a Gan instinct can avoid or overcome life threatening situations. Conversely, Hanshi has provided illustrations where death has occurred due to lack of Gan/awareness.

All serious SRKUSA deshi should read (and then read again!) this excellent book. Hanshi, thru the encouragement of Master Ueshiro has given our system an outstanding reference tool.

Domo Arigato-
Sensei Joe Knight
East Meets West Ueshiro Karate Club of Northern VA.