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As you may or may not be aware, Sensei Andy Gillies, one among us who has truly found karate-do, spends much time researching our chosen martial art and has given us all many insights into its meaning, its history and the people involved through the years. He recently came across this information recently regarding the use of the word Keiko and would like to share it with you.

KEIKO During a moment of research today, I found the deeper explanation of the word Keiko to be both an interesting mental illustration and thought provoking use of the word as an alternate to tanren (training).

On the surface, “training” seems to be an adequate enough word. After all, one trains for a marathon, or one might be a doctor by training. But, as these sentences imply, training always seems to have a goal. Martial arts are often defined as "do" or “way”, implying that there is no final goal. So, “training” doesn’t entirely fit either.

Enter the word Keiko. In Japan, when one exercises, one does taiso. When training in the martial arts, one does keiko. However, when one delves into the literal meaning of keiko, there is a depth to the word that is rarely understood.

When depicted in Japanese Kanji, keiko consists of two characters. The first character, kei, means to think about or to reflect. Ko is a compound character that combines the number "ten" with a mouth. Simply put, the literal meaning of keiko is “to reflect on the wisdom of ten generations".

Thus, keiko combines physical training with the correct state of mind. Keiko pertains as much to the physical activity during a martial arts class as to the spirit in which this activity is performed. Keiko implies that each time a martial artist steps on the mat or training floor, he or she is not just attending in a one or two hour session, but is taking part in a process that has been going on for generations.

Whether you are in class at your dojo, or performing kata in your own home, you are doing keiko. If you are running to help your endurance during sparring, this is also keiko.

Keiko is like stepping into a fast-flowing river and immersing yourself in something that originated well before you, is far bigger than you and will continue long after you. Training is keiko when you approach it in the proper spirit: with singular focus, no preconceptions, and mindfulness of all the generations that came before. From previous related research I found the following:

Keiko = practice

Gi = wear thing or costume

Do = the way (path)

keikogi = practice costume or wear thing

Dogi = costume or wear thing for your way (path e.g. aikidogi, judogi,)

Yours in karate-do,

Sensei Andy Gillies

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