“Genuine flower” and “flower of the hour”
During the Muromachi era, five to six hundred years ago, Zeami left the splendid words “Makoto no Hana – a genuine flower” and “Jibun no Hana – a flower of the hour” in one of his treatises on drama known as Fūshikaden. (1)
To put it simply, the flowers of the season are sometimes described as “a charm of only a moment” while the genuine flowers are “a charm that never scatters.”
Now, I would like to mention that there is a deep philosophy that is shared in both Zeami’s art theory and karate.
At that very moment, the karate of Okinawa has become an official discipline of the Tōkyō Olympics, and it seems that the concerned people are very pleased. However with this opportunity, I sincerely hope that all karate leaders will firmly grasp the essence of karatedō, and while handing it to the future generations will convey this essence and the pride of the birthplace.
Among nowadays’ karate instructors in Okinawa, it appears that there are groups that promote traditional karate and sport karate.
Sport karate is literally about a youthful power and performance that charms those who watch it and thus can be compared to a “flower of the hour”. In such inclination, I believe that one will likely tend to be fixated with victory or defeat, and will easily link up with the honor of a gold medal and money.
On the other hand, even if after having bloomed a flower of an instant when young one makes lifelong assiduous efforts, the beauty that will emanate from this cultivation is the “genuine flower”. As this beautifully coincides with the Fūshikaden treatise, I am in admiration with the wisdom of Zeami’s words.
A genuine flower… “The secret resides in training the heart and mind” (2).
Traditional karate is not just a mere technique or a bout. Through the strict training and tempering that is karatedō, one aims at improving his/her character and harmonizing into one the mind, technique and body. (3)
I perceive that in this word “genuine flower” resides a deep philosophy and the heart of zen.
Also, in history, those like Yagyū Munenori and Yamaoka Tesshū all embodied this genuine flower. (4)
While money, honor and power prevail in the world of sports, I cannot disavow sport karate at all. However nowadays, as people lose their heart being swayed by material things, I would like people to again realize the essence of Okinawa’s traditional karate and thus contribute to the development of Okinawa’s culture and education.
Hopefully, karate leaders of Okinawa will touch even a part of Zeami’s philosophy, will pursue it in depth to become well acquainted with it.
Note of a Zen priest
- Zeami (1363 – 1443) is said to be the greatest playwright and theorist of the Japanese Noh theatre. With his father, he is considered as the creator of the Noh drama. He lived during the Muromachi era (approximately 1336 – 1573)
- In Japanese “Ōnmyō ha renshin ni ari”. It deeply resembles Gōjū-ryū Yagi Meitoku sensei’s favored quote “Ōkumyō zai renshin” that is displayed at the Meibukan hombu dōjō in Kume, Naha City.
- This is similar to Matsubayashi-ryū Nagamine Shōshin sensei’s teaching: “Ken zen ichi nyo (Karate and zen in oneness)”.
- Yagyū Munenori (1571 – 1646) was a swordsman who founded one of the most renowned schools of Japanese swordsmanship, Yagyū Shinkage-ryū. Yamaoka Tesshū (1836 – 1888) was a famous samurai who played an important role in the Meiji Restoration.