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Thread: Ningen keisei人間形成

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    Default Ningen keisei人間形成

    I would like to ask you several questions about the fundamental concept of Ningen keisei人間形成.

    1) Is Ningen keisei the purpose of karate training?
    2) Is it the purpose of your training?
    3) What are the origins of this idea?
    4) How do you achieve 人間形成?

    Thanks!

    David

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    Hello,

    Today a large umbrella organisation for Japanese fighting arts/sports uses this phrase in order to define their arts, or the arts as they should be seen by its members respectively as its members want to see their arts:

    http://www.nipponbudokan.or.jp/shinkoujigyou/teigi

    Karate belongs to the arts represented by this organisation. However, of course not all karate groups are members of this organisation. Therefore it would be wrong to conclude that “all” karate shares this definition.

    In fact in the early writings on karate different purposes are mentioned in different times by the same or by different teachers in accordance with the intended or expected addressees.

    I think you already know that the origin of this idea lies in Confucian doctrine. And this doctrine was learnt in Ryūkyū by those men who also learnt the fighting arts. Some of them used Confucianism as an add-on in order to provide their students something more than mere physical technique. Therefore confusion about the origins of karate itself arose which let the now famous karate pioneer A. Itosu (1831–1915) state that karate did not come from Buddhism, Confucianism or Taoism.

    Regards,

    Henning Wittwer

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    Hi Henning

    Higa Minoru of Shorin ryu speaking of ningen keisei too. See here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JXtXs8Fjvc

    It is by the way a beautiful series, I love each and every episode. Surprisingly, it has relatively few views.

    You are of correct that ningen keisei is in essence Confucian. Yet, Chinese Confucians never speak about moral-self cultivation in that way. Maybe I needed to be more specific and ask for the Japanese origins of that concept, and karate sources which mention it.

    Confucianism, from its very beginning, was not a philosophy per-se. It did include specific “philosophical” ideas but put huge emphasis on practice (and practices). In fact, it has been argued quite convincingly that that which distinguished Confucians from other early “philosophers” such as Daoists, was their practices (not thought). Ancestor worship, for example, was one such practice, and it had to perform in a prescribed and precise manner. It was part of the Confucian Way, the Confucian program for self-cultivation.

    Practice-based moral self-cultivation then was fundamental to all East Asian culture. In fact, it is one of its defining characteristics. Thus, and here I politely disagree with you, karate teachers did not need to add it to karate. On the contrary, karate (fundamentally, a sort of practice) was added to the Confucian repertoire of self-cultivation practices.

    Ito’s explanation should be read in context, I think. He was active at a time when the old practices and traditions were being seen as a hindrance to modernization, as vague and abstract superstitions, and as inferior to science. Kano Jigoro of Judo was making similar arguments, his Judo being a “scientification” of the old Jujutsu schools (which Kano considred as hindered by mystical thought and practices).

    So what is the goal of karate practice?

    Best

    David

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    Hello David,

    It’s as I wrote: there was never a single goal. In the middle of the 19th Century, for example, the government encouraged officers of the kingdom to study “karate” in order to prepare for duties in the hinterlands (as preparation for “unexpected things”).

    Regards,

    Henning Wittwer

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    Hi Henning

    You are right, of course, there was never one goal. And your example is very stimulating and makes me rephrase my question.

    When (at the end of WW2) Japan was expecting an American invasion, the “Japanese government” (i.e. some clueless officials) suggested that people should be trained in traditional naginata schools so as to acquire the skills to defend their nation.
    But “defending the nation against American invasion” was never a goal of naginata training. Nor was self-defense per se, or even a preparation for a last ditch effort, the impetus for naginata schools’ creation. Among the many who entered those schools over their long history, some were probably looking for self-defense. But self-defense in itself is not a motivation strong enough to keep one going for decades. It simply does not sustain one on the Way: as soon as the invasion is over the naginata (or karate) would be cast aside.
    Those clueless Japanese officials who recommended naginata study were simply looking for a ready-made tool, and that which popped up, for one reason or another, was naginata. I see the Ryukyu government’s suggestion to practice karate in the same light.
    Ideals are the only fuel powerful enough to sustain such a long-term effort as the creation of an art. And this is true for serious practitioners too—only the pursuit of an ideal can sustain their life-long practice. Ideals, in contrast to needs, are not time-limited but timeless. Thus, even if he does not admit it, or not aware of it, that which keeps one going are certain ideals. A promise. A deeply felt need to embark on a journey (=self-discovery).
    We find then that the creators and karate had to be pursuing an ideal (Whether they called that ideal ningen keisei or not matters less). So, to rephrase my question: what ideals motivated karate creators (at least those we know of)? What were the goals of notable karate practitioners? How important ningen keisei was for them?

    How important is ningen keisei for you?

    Thanks!

    David

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