The International Karate Kobudo Union Emblem
Our emblem contains two circles. The outer edge of the emblem itself and the line between the white field and the blue border. The outer circle represents “no beginning no end” and it also “gathers the family”. The inner circle symbolizes the family itself, the IKKU.
In the old days, red represented the “cherry blossom”. Looking at the cherry blossom on the outer edge of our center field you have eight outer points and eight inner points, with the four primary directions, North, South, East, and West being represented. These are the fundamental directions of kata. They also symbolize the weapons of Karate-Do. It is through kata that we forge such weapons. Soke has taught us that “Kata is the essence of Karate” and hence the essence of self-defense. It is this that the points convey.
The Four Noble Truths
The number four is central to Zen. Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.
The four noble truths are:
- Suffering is universal
- All suffering comes from selfishness
- The means to conquer suffering is thus to conquer oneself
- The way to conquer oneself is to follow the Eightfold Path
The Cherry Blossom and Eightfold Path
The points of the “Cherry Blossom” symbolize the Eightfold Path…our pathway to enlightenment. The points radiate outward, but they also point inward. They symbolize in that way how karate protects us from what is outside of us and how it also allows our self to flow to new discoveries.
- Right Intention
- Right Speech
- Right Knowledge
- Right Conduct
- Right Livelihood
- Right Effort
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Concentration
In addition to the shape and pattern of the emblem, we must also consider its colors. These are our nation’s colors. Our union is American born. But these colors also have a symbolic meaning agreed on by our Continental Congress in 1782.
- The Red symbolizes Courage
- The White symbolizes Purity and Innocence
- The Blue symbolizes honor and perseverance
- The Black represents infinity, like our circles. There is no beginning and no end.
Soke has explained to us to come full circle takes a lifetime. We begin as a white belt, we continue up the mountain throughout the different colors, and if we remain dedicated and live long enough we reach white once again. This is known as “White Silk”, the top of the mountain. According to Soke Ruiz, he has only known 3 people that have earned this rank and all of them were from the Orient. As we each travel our journey to the mountaintop, one day the understanding of how everything resorts back to Kempo will be clear. Soke’s generous heart in sharing his knowledge with us through Katsu-Ryu Kempo makes each of our paths to enlightenment all the more certain.
The kanji written across our emblem states the Karate style studied by our union. There is a Top portion of Kanji and a Bottom Portion of Kanji. On the bottom portion moving from left to right, the first character is “Shi”. This was derived from our founder, Itosu. Dropping the last two letters from Itosu (Su) in Japanese “Ito” is the same as “Shi”. Our second kanji character “To”. This kanji has a dual meaning. It is first represented by Higaonna our Master of the Naha Line. Again, in Japanese translation “Higa” and “To” are the same. The second meaning for “To” is The Far East, therefore, a direct relation back to our point of origin. The third kanji character. “Ryu”, means style or way.
The Japanese Flag
In the Center of our emblem, you will note the Japanese Flag. The meaning here is two-fold. Not only does the flag represent our roots….the origin of our art, Soke also is also reminding us of our “Hara” (the center of our being). Ki is at both our hara and the center of the universe. The points of the “cherry blossom” are also representative of the route ki travels as it flows from us, into us, and through us.
The Kama signifies the ancient weaponry of our union, representing Kobudo. Kobudo is the study of ancient weapons. The Kama is the final weapon we learn in Koga-Ryu Kobudo for it is the most difficult and dangerous. The path Soke takes us in learning each weapon has been carefully designed to benefit us and protect us, therefore it is not up to us to change his path but to appreciate it.
Karate-Do is not merely a martial art. It is a way of life. it demands going beyond punching a makiwara or practicing Taikyoku Shodan a thousand times. All of the discipline, sweat, pain, and frustration of karate can lead us to better self-defense, but at its best, it alters our character and gives us a new view of the cosmos. It is this higher ideal that our emblem symbolizes. The circularity of our emblem should constantly be reminding us of three very important factors.
- Our union is a unity, a family
- Our goal is perfection in both technique and character
- The way we tread is infinite, a road of endless labors
The pattern of our emblem reminds us that we are at the center of a great task, that the labor of kata and the truths of Zen can lead us to look outward with confidence and to inwardly discover our Ki. It will animate us and bind us to the universe. In that, we find our most profound “self-defense”. The colors of our emblem should constantly remind us there is infinite knowledge to gain, the courage to seek it, the purity in spirit to keep it untainted, and the honor and perseverance to continue on.
As Gichin Funakoshi states, “The ultimate aim of the art of Karate lies not in victory or defeats, but in the perfection of the character of its participants.”