The aspiration and goal of the United States Karate League (est. 1972) is to aid in the development of strong, discerning, responsible and well-rounded individuals. To do this we stress the development of all aspects or levels of martial arts training: physical discipline, self- defense, sport, artistic expression, meditation, philosophical/ethical development, and spiritual development.
This last level encompasses all the others. It represents the highest level to which any human enterprise proceeds. This does not imply any doctrine, religious or otherwise. Rather, it refers to that in humankind which is both actual and potential, what is and what can be realized, and the indomitable spirit or drive or tendency which makes the potential become actual. The martial art of karate is a means, not an end.
There comes a point where the technique is transcended and it is seen as a stepping stone or preparation for becoming more fully human and alive. If we stop with the perfection of technique, that wholeness is lost. Through the perfection of technique we are developing ourselves. At the spiritual level the martial artist has gone beyond the other levels, but without leaving them behind. In fact, it is a return to the technique with greater appreciation for what the technique makes possible in our development. Technique is the means for a path of discipline that moves us toward our own wholeness.
Wholeness is not the perfection of technique, nor is it the intellectual grasp of the significance of the process of development toward wholeness. The martial artist does not just contemplate the philosophical and ethical dimensions and implications of his or her actions, but puts these insights into living practice. This is the most significant level of any human activity and self- mastery. The highest form of self-mastery is beyond technique and beyond intellectual or philosophical understanding. It is in the way we live and experience our lives.
Yet each of us must follow some tao, develop ourselves through some means, some technique or art and with the aid of philosophical awareness, transcend this means in order to return to the spiritual source from which every human achievement, every self-transcendence is made possible. What we seek is the complete integration of all aspects of our humanity that leads to living a good human life. We practice martial arts insofar as martial arts promotes and contributes to this.
-Shihan Dean Pickard