The Art of Self Expression the Martial Way

Kata and Karate Poem
If art is defined as creative expression , and a skill in a particular thing acquired through practise…..then Martial Arts should also have an element of creative expression – or of self. Indeed Sosai Mas Oyama has been quoted in saying that there is no Kyokushin Karate. There is only…..Kiley Karate, Bob Karate etc.
So one could ponder then……… because sometimes it would seem that the more I train the less I feel I know. But is that because I choose to try other martial arts and styles and allow myself to be back at the bottom of the food chain. To challenge everything I have learned….to test my knowledge base or lack thereof ?
And upon doing these other ‘thing’s’ that seem to creep into my base style…..isn’t that the way it should be ? I read an article recently from a respected Shotokan Master (I can’t find it now to quote) but it talked about how there should only be 1 Karate. That people shouldn’t come up with their own styles as this would be almost seemingly arrogant and that first we must master everything our predecessor knew and keep everything together and the same. In some part i agree. We should of course learn everything we can from our teacher / Sensei first……have a good knowledge base to start from.
Perhaps that’s why masters say that black belt is the beginning. That once you have obtained your black belt you are now ready to learn. Because then that’s really what we should do isn’t it ? To go test out our skills and see if they work. You can do this through competition, through teaching others (never will you have your knowledge tested so much as through teaching i believe) and by trying a new style to find the weakness in your own.
I don’t believe for a second we are supposed to sit back and watch our black belt shrink around our waist (if you get my drift) while we continue to practise and teach the same thing we were teaching as a Shodan……..into higher levels of our Dan grades. If we are still teaching the same things the same way we were originally shown in the start of our martial arts journey …then something is wrong. Of course there are basic principals that should be adhered to…but our level of understanding of them should grow and manifest in new ways of explaining… ways to test….and sometimes perhaps….abandonment of them altogether if need be and replaced with something else.
I really feel like at this point in my Martial Arts (which is really only a short stroll in the park compared to many others) that there always needs to be balance. I mean…even Mr Miyagi preached that ! But seriously……always life is about balance. In this case…..the balance should be about honoring traditions and lineage and the knowledge base you stem from, coupled with introspection and self expression through your chosen style.
If it is true that the one certainty in life is change – and survival is dependent on ones ability to adapt to change…..then Martial Arts too needs to adapt and evolve with time – all the while honoring that which allows us to ‘be’ in the first instance.
And so back to my reality……which is bookwork. Ahhh…..dont you wish martial arts was all just the fun stuff !