I met Joan and John over ten years ago through an activity that made irrevocable changes in all our lives: Uechi-Ryu Karate Do. I am happy to say that these are two of the most ethical and enlightened practitioners our club at UVa ever produced, and while none of us are actively practicing Uechi Ryu now, there are two concepts from that training which may be applied to today’s event: sparring, and first-degree black belt.
Because of general public misconceptions about these ideas, you may think I’m wacked for bringing up such topics now, in front of the Justice of the Peace, but let me point out that “martial” and “marital” are anagrams of each other.
First, I’d like to explore the concept of sparring, or “kumite”, which, contrary to popular belief does not mean “crush the other in order to win.” Examining the calligraphic characters, one finds the definition “group hand.” This reveals that the true nature of this training exercise is a collaboration in which the sharing of skills and energies hones the characters and abilities of the participants. Rather than a competition for power and control over the other, sparring is a commitment to helping develop each other’s fullest potential through honest communication about your weaknesses and strengths. It requires exposing your
own vulnerabilities and being open to learning and change.
The second term, “shodan,” means first-degree black belt. This is not synonymous with “karate expert”. Another, and I believe, more accurate, translation is “the leading edge of a bolt of silk cloth.” This illustrates that this accomplishment is not an end in and of itself, but the first step in unrolling a fabric of great strength and beauty, from which anything–from lingerie to yurts and tents–can be made, according to the skill and inclination of the tailors.
Joan, John, it’s been a long time since the three of us were first introduced to these ideas. I hope they serve you well as you create a new way and place together. May your interpersonal kumite always be a dynamic, co-creative evolutionary experience, and may the fabric of your lives together be strongly woven, richly textured, and brilliantly colored with
joy and love.
Copyright 1998 by Maria Olivas. All rights reserved.