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Yamato Damashii – The Spirit of Japan and Kyokushin Karate

The Martial Way blog with another great article

Yamato Damashii

I am very proud of the dojo I belong to, being a student under my teacher, Sensei Steve Forgarsi, and being a part of Kyokushinkai Karate. Contact Kicks might not be a traditional Japanese dojo in the sense of hardwood floors, taiko drums, etc. But it embodies the true spirit of martial arts; honour and valour.

“Lineage is important in martial arts . Certificates and belts awarded by prestigious masters and schools have a proven value . Integrity and honor, loyalty and trust should be the foundation of any real martial arts organization or dojo.” ~ Sensei Steve Fogarasi

I had years of training in non-traditional martial arts, with the bulk of that training in American Kenpo. I am not writing this to bash that system, or others, but just to state the fact that it was built upon deceipt and falsehood. In lineage as well as is techniques. This is part of the reason I was drawn to Kyokushin Karate. As the founder, Mas Oyama said best:

“The heart of our karate is real fighting.
There can be no proof without real fighting.
Without proof there is no trust.
Without trust there is no respect.
This is a definition in the world of Martial Arts.”
~ Sosai Mas Oyama

Which leads me to the Japanese phrase, Yamato-damashii (大和魂). In English, typical translations of Yamato-damashii include the ‘Japanese spirit’, ‘Japanese soul’, ‘Yamato spirit’, and ‘The Soul of Old Japan’.

The term has become known in more modern times by Enson Inoue, who was a pioneer in mixed martial arts, with a reputation in Japan for exceptional bravery — so much so, that they gave him the nickname yamato damashii.

Yamato-damashii is also sometimes translated as, “Death before dishonor”, or “Fighting with a will to die”.

“People compare it to bravery, but it’s different from that. A brave man will feel no fear… a man with yamato damashii spirit feels fear, but accepts it and moves forward anyway. A strong man is one who doesn’t feel pain, but one with yamato damashii feels pain but persists in what he knows he must do.” ~ Enson Inoue

I believe the quote above by Enson Inoue sums it up best, and also illustrates the philosophy of Kyokushin.

We are also use to hearing about the exploits of Myamoto Musashi, who embodied yamato damashii completely, and built his life upon this code, Sosai Mas Oyama, the founder of Kyokushin Karate, and in the not so distant past with the great Andy Hug.

Now, perhaps you are not a professional fighter, and we are certainly not in feudal times. At least not in my part of the world. But, you can approach your training with this discipline. The way you approach your tournament fighting. The way that you approach your life. I believe it is important to walk through life with honor. And for people to know that your word and work ethic is good. That you are willing to lay down your life for what you believe in.

Which brings me full circle. Without even knowing it at the time, it is one of the reasons I was drawn to Contact Kicks Martial Arts, Kyokushin Karate, and my teacher, Sensei Steve Fogarasi.

I can feel proud that I belong to strong lineage through the IFK and my instructor. I can feel proud to be taught by somoene who embodies Yamato-damashii.

And though I might never be a champion, I feel proud that I am developing Yamato-damashii, and hopefully will be able to pass it along to others as well.


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