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By Nir Zimir
Eilat Karate Dojo, Eilat, Israel

"Softness & Hardness, Flexibility & Rigidity": There are no bad traits; only
bad ways of using them.

Soft: gentle, accomodating, moderate
Hard: Tough, flexed, stubborn
Flexible: movable, dynamic, compromising
Rigid: Unyielding, penetrating

Language and its connotations can be misleading. Often we view SOFT as the oposite of HARD. Is SOFT bad when we judge its concept in the context of KARATE, and if so, does that make HARD automatically GOOD?  We know we strive to encorage our bodies, through training, to be FLEXIBLE. Does that mean we can do without RIGIDITY in KARATE?

All four represent human traits, abilities and capabilities. Are some of them always appropriate and the others always not so? The answer is, of course negative; each human ability can be appropriate for a certain set of circumstances and completely harmful or useless in others.

In order to maintain freshness of thought and be alert to the signs around us
we need to be calm. Calmness comes from softness. In order to react in sync with this reality, we need to be flexible, which negates rigidity.

Having reacted in a timely fashion to an opponent's threat, we need to crystalize our energy in a concise and focused peak. This peak can only be effective if backed by clear rigidity crowned with a hard-hitting edge.

Even when judging our traits from the opponents' perspective, we find that duality: while flexibility of mind and softness of stance will enable us to better protect ourselves, it will interrupt with the opponent's scheme of hurting us and surprising us. So it is good for us, and bad for someone else.

Being hard and rigid by way of projecting 'determination', 'strength of character' and a steady 'moral grounds' can be attractive. Conveying the same value by being 'harsh', unnecessarily 'stubborn' and incommunicative can be repulsive and wrong.

Being soft and flexible by ways of being 'attentive' and 'supporting' can induce positive cooperation between people. Being so to the point of indecisiveness and 'lack of spine' is detrimental.

So KARATE, in a way, allows us to study our own strengths and weaknesses, mental & physical, evaluate what we need to work on, and practice when to apply each one to the right context. Like many other KARATE values and principals, it is entirely up to us to then deduce regarding the use of the same issues in other parts of our lives and relationships.

The first thing is to realize that there are no BAD nor GOOD traits in the strict sense, only timely or untimely application of the right value to the right scenario.

Arigato, Nir Zamir.

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