道場                          
Dōjō
The place of the way

Civilize the mind; make savage the body

Our dōjō is the Nantanreikan, which means “the Hall of Difficult Grace.”

We are chartered by the International Okinawan Shōrin-ryū Seibukan Karate-dō Association. The chief instructor, Doug Aoki, is the direct student of Dan Smith, 9 dan Hanshi and the senior student of Shimabukuro Zenpō 島袋善保, 10 dan Hanshi, the head of Seibukan and the President of the Okinawa Prefectural Karate-dō and Kobudō Rengōkai. Our instructors are certified in Japan.

While there are many ways to become a better person—the Chinese proverb is shūtútóngguī 殊途同归: “there are many paths to the far mountain”—we believe there are some transformations which can only be achieved through intense and sustained physical practice. Such transformations are our aim. We are not interested in karate as a sport or competition, or as a means to lose weight or to get toned. We turn away from platitudes of martial arts. We do not build confidence; instead, we train for commitment. We do not build self-esteem; instead, we train to lose the self, like losing oneself in a great story. We do not teach personal growth; instead, we train to become smaller and thereby part of something much greater than ourselves.

Instructor training in Okinawa

We put more emphasis on conditioning than most dōjō; we work for what Nagamine Shōshin 長嶺将真 called the “ecstasy of sweat.” We return to kihon 基本 (basics) over and over again. We strive to practice kata (forms) every class. We use kumite 組み手 (sparring) as a drill; we do not mistake it for real fighting. We train less to fight others than to battle ourselves—our weaknesses, our fears, our shortcomings, our vanities, our pride, our ignorance—but we believe that taking combatives seriously makes karatedō different from other kinds of work on the spirit.

One of my teachers has taught me that you enter the [道 way] through the vehicle of the jutsu [術 art or technique]. In other words, one uses the perfecting of killing techniques to progress along the way of perfecting one’s life. There’s danger, in my opinion, in striving too directly for spiritual enlightenment, without the tempering of striking to kill and being struck at to be killed (even when the blows are stopped just short of the target). It is often far too easy in these situations for the movements to lose their inherent “truth” as valid fighting techniques and to degenerate into little more than a choreographed dance sequence. Learning to give and receive the combative intention is vital. Yet, there’s equal danger in concentrating merely on learning to disable and kill without transforming the techniques into a confrontation with the soul.

Diane Skoss

 

Nantanreikan instructors Lucy De Fabrizio and Doug Aoki
with Shimabukuro Zenpō and Dan Smith in Okinawa

At the Nantanreikan, we constantly work on our understanding of karate as inevitably mid-Pacific. On the one hand, karate cannot be separated from its Japanese and Okinawan cultural contexts. It is a serious but unfortunately common distortion to configure karate through Western values, such as how Canadians conceive of honour. On the other hand, this is not Okinawa and we are not Okinawan, and we should not pretend otherwise. We see our ongoing project as learning and teaching how our Canadian lives and thinking can be opened up by the lessons of Okinawan karatedō and Japanese budō.

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