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Karate - in my opinion

My thoughts, opinions and experiences in Karate

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For such a tiny and delicate creature, the butterfly has been a powerful symbol in many cultures since ancient times. It is often seen to represent our souls, and in some cultures it also represents resurrection.

Significantly, and perhaps obviously, the butterfly is also seen to represent life, change, endurance, gentleness, hope and transformation.

In all of the animal symbolism in the martial arts, I am surprised that the butterfly does not feature more. Granted, butterflies may not be the most ferocious fighters, although in the TV series “Into the Badlands” one group of formidable warrior women are called Butterflies.

When I was getting the timber floor laid for my dojo, I happened to notice an unusual butterfly-shaped knot in the wood on one plank. I asked the fitters to place that plank in the area where brown and black belts would line up for class. I got some strange looks, but they did it anyway. I have rarely pointed out this hidden symbol in the dojo, but I have often looked at it in class and smiled to myself.


We hope that all students will grow and develop in character through their training, but I feel that it is the period from brown belt to black belt, and for a few years after black belt, that we should see a dramatic transformation in the students. The idea of them changing from crawling around with their heads down, to becoming free to soar in flight is very powerful.

This is what I try to help my students do. At times they will grow so gradually that it is difficult to see the progress. But at other times there should be a dramatic transformation into something unrecognisable from their old selves.

I want more butterflies in my dojo, and not just hidden in the timber floor.

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Seamus O’Dowd (6th Dan SKIF) has been a student of Martial Arts for thirty years, and has trained with many of the top instructors of Shotokan Karate in the world. He is an occasional contributor to a number of Martial Arts magazines, and produced a number of DVDs, including one entitled “Kanazawa No Bo” with the legendary Kanazawa Hirokazu Sensei. He also regularly travels to many countries to teach karate, tai chi and bo-jutsu.


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Guest Wednesday, 16 January 2019
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