It is no accident that Jedi robes look a little similar to a karate gi. Jedi were meant to look like a cross between a samurai warrior and a Buddhist monk- strong warriors but also wise and religiously devoted to their craft. Obviously, karate students don’t have lightsabers nor can we use the force to move objects and we can’t influence the minds of the weak minded, but there are some Jedi abilities and character traits we can, and do, work towards.
Jedi actually use their ability to predict the future to give them incredible reflexes that they can use to block laser blasts. Technically this is not their reflexes, they are actually predicting where they need to block before the shot is even fired.
When I was a beginner student I was amazed when I sparred my instructors how easily they could block me, it seemed like they knew what I was going to do before I did it. While training in karate is one of the best ways of sharpening reflexes, it was not their reflexes that allowed them to block me. Just like a Jedi they had learnt to predict my attacks, they had observed my habitual attacking patterns, they read my telegraphs of the way I moved before I struck and they set up openings to encourage me to strike to in gaps they knew they would easily be able to block in time. All of these things allowed them to predict my attacks just like a Jedi predicting incoming laser blasts.
This skill comes largely from experience, sometimes you have consciously study and observe opponents but largely it comes from doing lots of sparring.
Okay so just to let you know I am not claiming karate will teach you to push objects with your mind, but the study of karate does allow students to perform almost super human demonstrations of power.
There are two key factors at play here:
Using the whole body behind the technique. One of the best demonstrations of this principle in action was Bruce Lee’s famous one-inch punch demonstrations where he would break boards and knock men fly back with a punch that started very close to the target. At the time it was seen as an almost superhuman feat. The demonstration showed he didn’t need the acceleration created by covering distance to be powerful, he created a wave of energy through his body starting with his feet pushing off the floor, gathering power and acceleration as he twisted his hips and shifted his centre of gravity to throw his whole body into what seemed like a very small movement of his hand.
This concept is no stranger to the advanced karate student so much of the countless hour of stance work and drills are all developing a strong connection to the floor, awareness of the “Hara” the centre of gravity and energy, and timing the whole body to move together.
The second thing karate teaches is the power of “Kime” which loosely interprets as focus or intent in karate. It is actually derived from the word “kimeru” which means to decide. A student with kime is committing to the technique they are effectively willing their techniques to work. Whether that is to break a board or to penetrate an opponent’s defence, there is an undeniable power that comes from focus and committing to a technique. So while we can’t move things with our minds we can use our minds to seriously improve our physical effecitveness.
This is not exactly a force push but, being able to use your whole body behind a technique and to focus your minds on enabling a karate-ka to be far stronger, faster and powerful than their body size would indicate is a pretty Jedi-like skill.
In Star Wars Master Yoda dispenses the sage-like wisdom like an eastern philosopher, he even uses the syntax of the Japanese language – object-subject-verb when he speaks. While your instructors may occasionally dispense similar nuggets of wisdom there is much more to the development of character and in turn spirituality in karate than some wise quotes.
The long term study of karate passes on many values that would make Master Yoda proud, this includes self-discipline, focus and concentration, humility, patience, mindfulness to name but a few.
As regards to spirituality, there is a myth that spirituality is about sitting on a mountain while chanting “om”. The reality is we become more spiritual when we have a higher self-esteem, that allows us to let go the ego and make choices on a more moral basis and seek happiness from within rather than from external sources.
Of all the activities you can do Karate is on of the most self-esteem building. You will learn and improve and through achievement and also conquering difficulty including passing rigorous gradings you will build self-esteem. In the process, you will develop your character again building self-esteem. Learning self-defence builds your confidence enormously as you feel less intimidated by others even when it is not a self-defence situation. But more intrinsically than that learning how to protect yourself is a statement about yourself to yourself that you are worth defending. This lift in self-esteem combined with more practical lessons on becoming a better person makes karate a great vehicle for spiritual development.
Training to become a Jedi takes the utmost dedication (or so Master Yoda says). Karate is no different while the more superficial self-defence skills are our primary focus as a beginner or intermediate students, as we advance we gain a higher appreciation for spiritual and character development, self-mastery and some of the more subtle skills sets that can make a tremendous difference in effectiveness. For the most part, there are no shortcuts, nor can these high levels be achieved by dabbling.
We can not promise it will be easy we can only promise it will be worth it.
So is the karate the closest thing to becoming a real life Jedi? Short of becoming a Shaolin monk, it is probably as close as we will get, there are certainly many parallels that make the study of karate not only incredibly worthwhile but also in the end pretty Jedi.