Blog‎ > ‎

Elegantly Simple Complexity

posted Sep 3, 2011, 4:15 PM by Eric Banks

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.  

-Leonardo DaVinci


One of the many things that I like most about our art is that it is so outwardly simple, yet inwardly complex.  But at the same time, it is not impossible to understand and apply the inwardly complex things in order to get outwardly elegant results.  When the inward things that make the external work the way they are meant to work, it is beautiful to behold and freeing to the soul.  And once you catch the difference, you will understand that at the highest levels, our art truly is both art and science.


It is like a small, delicate, purple wildflower.  So simple outwardly, yet it is captivating to the eye and inspiring to the heart and soul.  Inwardly, on a microscopic or subatomic scale, this little flower is extremely complex and while such science is beyond the understanding of the layman, he needs not know the exquisite details; he only needs to know and feel that the flower is beautiful.


It is like a song, a harmony of instruments and voices that enrapt the soul and transports the mind to other-where.  Simple, though it may sound at first listen, but with a quieted heart, one can discern the resonant intricacies of the interwoven sounds and frequencies.   Complex, yet it is the complexity that makes the music a beautiful reality.


Consider the vast night sky and depth of the universe…highly complex at the internal level, matter and energy, quarks and neutrinos, gravity and light, yet on the macroscopic level, the grandeur of creation can bring the hardest soul to tears.   Or imagine the complexity required to develop the perfect piece of strawberry cheesecake; beautiful to behold, more wonderful to eat, but not so easy to produce. 


I could go on and on, but to bring it back to the art, I began to notice this difference, the difference between our art and others, when I was a green belt.  A few months after I made 6th kyu, I transferred to a new university to continue my engineering degree.  That summer, before I started the new school, I trained at several Shotokan schools that were affiliated with different organizations.  While the instructors and students were skillful, there was just something different, something missing as compared to what I had seen in my previous instructors.  I didn’t know that ‘it’ was, this difference, but I could definitely see it and feel its absence.  I later learned the difference was, or could be considered ‘science’, an attention to detail, to using the body, the whole body, correctly and for each and every technique.


By studying the science of the art, by understanding the ‘internals’, we learn how to create explosive and efficient technique from the inside, out.   If we focus only on the external (arms, legs, punching, kicking) and do not do the sometimes difficult work to understand how to connect the external with the internal, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to reach that ultra high level of development we all strive for.  Not only that, but focusing only on big external muscles without the stabilization of the spine and limbs, will more than likely results in long-term injury.


And while we study the ‘science’ (the first ‘why’), we must not forget to allow the ‘art’ of the art to flourish (the second or deeper ‘why’).  Go deep with your training and you will see that ours is an art of art and science, outwardly simple, inwardly complex; freeing to the soul, and beautiful to behold.