Elite Karate Academy teaches traditional Wado Ryu Karate-Do (The Way of Harmony). We know correct training leads to character development and self improvement and is more than simply fighting.  Learning the correct mental attitude and fighting spirit of the Samurai improves concentration levels, mind control and stress relief leading to a more positive attitude towards life.  If you train correctly.

This is why we have developed our unique special programmes, for example “Word of the Week” and “Dojo Kun” (see website for more details).  We teach virtues such as Courtesy, Growth, Courage, Sincerity, Honesty, Obedience, Humility, Perseverance, Honour, Loyalty, Self-Control, Knowledge, Respect and Integrity not simple as words but ways to live your life.  In our Academy we build strong character not just strong technique.  Students who can face the challenges of the real world head on like warriors.

Training will sometimes be tough, uncomfortable and push you or your child outside their comfort zone.  Sometimes you/they won’t want to go.  You must.  Pain is a great teacher, but no ones wants to attend class.   Sometimes you will disagree with the training or the Instructors.  But our Academy’s goal is to create strong character that can succeed in life.  No matter what life throws at our students, bullying, loss, fear, uncertainty or stress.  We teach our students to succeed in life and not to be victims.  Perseverance, Discipline, a never give up attitude is vital in martial arts as in life.  Not to be victims of bullying (school or workplace), not victims of loss, insecurity or fear to chase their dreams.  We don’t want students (or their parents if applicable) who quit at the first sign things get uncomfortable.  Don’t teach your child to be a quitter.

Remember you are signing up to learn a fighting art.  Students will be kicked at, punched at, thrown, muscles can hurt, accidents can happen in training or in sparring but fighting in real life hurts more then tough training and been pushed outside your comfort zone.  Outside your comfort zone is where you grow, change and become the best version of ourselves.  We produce leaders not snowflakes.  Students who overcome difficulties or obstacles.  Students who learn through karate to face their problems straight on, that they can succeed through their own efforts.

Do you want yourself or your child to like themselves?

Do you want you or your child to have the ability to be winners and make their dreams come true?

Do you want you or your child to become the best version of themselves they can be, to be truly happy and content and to make the world around them a better place?

Elite Karate Academy Chief Instructor Sensei Gareth FitzGerald has changed thousands of lives with the power of karate many who have never fought a real fight but succeed to win the battles in their lives because of the lessons taught in class.

Elite Karate Academy foremost concern is the safety of their students.  While we teach a non contact form of karate sparring, and sparring itself is never compulsory, as with all sports accidents can happen.  Students wishing to spar will not be allowed to until deemed to have the required defensive skills and technical control.  Protective gloves and boots are mandatory. qqq

Karate as a counselling technique and for personal development.

 

Introduction

Most people have a basic knowledge of Karate, usually derived from their portrayal in the cinema.  Karate chops, flying kicks, funny noises and wise old men.  And it is general accepted or understood that Karate is good for

(1)Self defence – True Karate training practices each technique to make each one lethal.

(2)Physical fitness – All parts of the body and muscle groups are used.

(3)Sport – Competitions have developed with different rules ranging from “no-contact” to “full-contact”.

What is less recognised outside of the martial arts world the fact that Karate is a

(4) “Do” or a way of life.

True practitioners of the art of karate (and it is an art), recognise that, similarly to Yoga or Meditation, Karate is something that improves the quality of your life, and should be trained for the duration of your life.  It is this aspect of the art which I wish to talk about and explain how the proper teaching of karate can be an effective tool in counselling and/or personal development.

The aim of true karate practice

With the number of knives and guns in society today, defending oneself by hand is becoming less and less practical as a means of survival, and very few people actually want or need to engage in fighting on a daily basis. Violence is an ugly thing, and unless you have a psychotic personality, you will not walk out of a violent altercation without suffering some psychological or emotional damage.  Joining a running club is a far more effective ways of defending yourself these days.  Avoidance is the best policy.  So why then spend years training and learning to fight, especially if you plan to go years hopefully without every using it.  Stress management, mind control, self-confidence, self-discipline, mind-fullness and relaxation are all other reasons for practising as well as the above mentioned self defence, fitness and as a sport.

In his book Karate-do by Tatsuo Suzuki (1967), he states the true meaning of “Karate is basically a training to bring a person back to the natural state of mind he was born with, dispelling delusions”.  Delusions such as; doubt, fear, attachment, and anger,

“An example of this would be; a baby does not have a complex of fear.  A person who narrowly escapes being run over by a car will remain motionless, his limbs frozen by fear.  But a baby would continue to move innocently, because he has no fear complex.”

One way this is developed within a Karate class is students are encouraged to be open or honest in the training.  Open/honest as a beginner in trying new techniques, without fear of failing, or falling over, open to correction of instructors not dismissing their corrections out of some ego centred sense of righteousness, open to acknowledge the good and bad points of your personality.

One emphasis of karate therefore is to develop and maintain a healthy mind.  “That inborn, pure mind unsoiled by evil thought and impressions through the experiences of life.”  Life can wear you down, proper traditional Karate training teaches a student life skills and a code of conduct (more of which later) which benefits the life outside the dojo (Training Hall).

Training develops the character

In a traditional Karate class, which is what I teach, your every movement is controlled from start to finish.  You are told how to stand, sit and move.  This allows the training of many difference aspects of Karate.  Unlike sitting in front of a TV, this allows you to focus your concentration for the duration of the session.  One full session with a focused concentrated mind is ideally suited for relieving stress, in the same way that reading a book, it better at reducing stress then television.  After a training session your mind and body are relaxed and calm with a laser like focus in your mind.

Because everyone is doing the exact same thing simultaneously it allows students to be less self conscious about their bodies.  A student with low self confidence can act confidently for the duration of the class, while a student with a large ego can train humbly, meaning each student is training their mind for their own purposes.  In karate we have a basic stance called “Yoi Stance”.  In this stance your feet are shoulder width apart, in line with each other, toes turned slightly but natural outwards, shoulders relaxed, arms loose in front of your body, fist loosely clenched.  This physical position clearly reflects the similarities between the physical position and the mental state.  From this position all possible movements exist, one can move in any direction, use any technique, attack, defend, all possibilities exist, if one has the right mindset.  Relaxed, poised, focused, determined.

Another rather obvious benefit of Karate training is anger management.  The simple effort of kicking, punching and striking expends a lot of energy and pent up frustration, leaving the student more relaxed after training.  The long term benefits of regular, hard training, allows those student with anger issues to learn self control and manager their anger in a positive way.

 

Case Study 1

I had a student, an 11 year old boy, suffering very badly with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), who trained under me for a year, when his mother, a single parent, told me that prior to taking up Karate, she had been at her wits end, as she could not control her son, and was close to having a breakdown and was running out of resources to help her.  One year later she had removed completely two separate medications from her son’s life and had reduced his Ritalin dosage by half.  All because of the Karate training he’d received from me, needless to say I was very moved by her story.

Case Study 2

Another case study, based on personal experience that comes to mind, is a 10 year old male student who suffered with Asperger’s Syndrome, which may mean sufferers generally lack inborn social skills and have delayed motor development.  One day the student’s school principle saw his student in my class and he was visibly shocked to see the development of this particular child’s motor skills etc.  What made this story even more memorable was the principle claimed that the student was socially isolated and lacked friends and would often be seen alone in the school yard.  In my class the student was one of the most popular and if he ever missed a class, there were always another 5-6 students who asked where he was.

Through the techniques and training methods used in Karate along with the most important the correct mental attitude and fighting spirit, the training can lead to improvements in students self esteem and confidence.  A strange phenomenon occurs when people join a proper karate club, many students initial reasons for starting was to learn how to defeat others, but after a years of training, students come to learn that the true battle is with themselves.  Freeing ourselves from attachments to the idea of hardship or pain in practice we overcome ourselves.  Michelangelo once said of his famous statue “David”, that the statue was always there, and all he (Michelangelo) did was chip away the pieces of rock to reveal the beautiful masterpiece within the stone.  This is the effect the techniques and training practices within Karate have on ones soul.  In Karate we strive to strip away the attachments, the negative, the opinions, to reveal the beauty of the person inside,

With the self confidence that comes from being fitter, stronger and having the knowledge how to defend yourself, one of the first thing to go in relation to fighting is any ego or sense to prove oneself.  I have the knowledge that I can kill a person with a single blow or strike, so to quote Spiderman “with great power comes great responsibility”.  It would be a misuse of my power and my own pacifism for me to harm/kill another person.  This misuse is even greater still if the person I fought was loaded up with “Dutch courage” or drunk.  When you have overcome yourself or realise that the real battle is only with yourself, ego leaves you with no desire to beat others.

So it is this mind set of Karate that we aim to achieve in training.  A mindset that when achieved is exactly the same as the mindset in meditation, hence sometimes Karate is called moving meditation.

“Research has shown that Meditation can contribute to an individual’s psychological and physiological well-being. This is accomplished as Meditation brings the brainwave pattern into an alpha state, which is a level of consciousness that promotes the healing state”. (http://www.psychologytoday.com 12th October 2010)

Psychological Benefits (Taken from same webpage as above quote)

  • Increased brain wave coherence. Harmony of brain wave activity in different parts of the brain is associated with greater creativity, improved moral reasoning, and higher IQ.
  • Decreased anxiety.
  • Decreased depression.
  • Decreased irritability and moodiness.
  • Improved learning ability and memory.
  • Increased self-actualization.
  • Increased feelings of vitality and rejuvenation.
  • Increased happiness.
  • Increased emotional stability.

 

“Neuroscientists have found that those who meditate “shift their brain activity to different areas of the cortex – brain waves in the stress-prone right frontal cortex move to the calmer left frontal cortex. This mental shift decreases the negative effects of stress, mild depression and anxiety. There is also less activity in the amygdale, where the brain processes fear.”

Karate is a complex art form and while it shares many similarities with meditation but also shares a many aspects of modern day psychology.  In his book “Theory and practice of Counselling and Psychotherapy” (Corey 1996), Corey states that the two goals of Freudian psychotherapy

“Are to make the unconscious conscious and to strength the ego so that behaviour is based more on reality and less on instinctual cravings.  Successful analysis is believed to result in significant modifications of the individual’s personality and character structure.”

What psychoanalysis tries to achieve through conscious reconstruction, discussion, interpretation and analysis, karate achieves in a unconscious process using physical and mental training drills, in order to (Corey 1996) “develop the level of understanding that is assumed to be necessary for a change in character”.  Basically true Karate works as a kind of psychoanalysis without the talking.

But it is not only with Freudian psychotherapy that karate shares characteristics, Karate also reflects an Alderian Therapy approach in that it is “holistic, social, goal-oriented and humanistic”. (Corey 1996 page 135)

“Alder stress that striving for perfection and coping with inferiority by seeking mastery are innate”. (Adler, 1979, p. 29)  The perfection of technique is the physical aim of karate.  Karate also satisfies Adler’s most significant and distinctive concept, that of social interest.  Through the shared activity a student is given a sense of belonging and of contributing through mutual respect for all members of the karate club.

Within Karate also the roles between Sensei (instructor) and student reflect a Person-centred Therapy approach, this relationship or bond in Karate is vital.  For a student to progress well in Karate they must find good instructor.  The Sensei interacts with each student in an individual humanistic approach, if they “attitudes and personal characteristics of the Therapist (Sensei) and the quality of the client (student) relationship as the prime determinants of the outcome of the therapeutic process (Karate process)” (Corey 1996 p. 198) the goals of Karate being dispelling delusions and achieving greater physical/mental/spiritual strength.

This strength reflects Zen teachings of mindfulness, living in the present, and seeing the world as it really is and not true our own perceived prejudices, this goal of greater awareness and learning to appreciate and fully experience the present movement is very much a main principle of Zen, Karate and Gestalt Therapy.

 

Conclusion

Therefore because Karate is a way of life, similar to a religion, it teaches students a code of ethics and beliefs in which to live their lives.  It is often said that Karate begins and ends with courtesy.  Respect for your opponent, respect for oneself, respect for life as well as honour, humility, trust, perseverance, motivation, dedication, loyalty among others are all virtues of a black belt.  These morals and beliefs define a code of conduct and outlook of life that encompasses the student’s whole life, chief of which is the 1st rule of karate, “Karate Ni Sentenashi”, there is no 1st attack in Karate, whether physically or mentally.  The 2nd rule of Karate is often whimsical taught at “learn rule No. 1”.

So in conclusion I’d firstly like to say that I hoped you enjoyed this presentation and found it somewhat stimulating.  And secondly that I have opened your eyes to what real Karate is about and maybe convinced you that it is deeper then maybe you thought and that with the correct instructor who knows his art that Karate can lead to profound personal development and change.  And can be considered as an unconscious counselling technique.

 

When listening to music.  We don’t skip to the end of the piece of music because it is where all the ideas come together.

We don’t only read the last chapter of a book.

Yet in life we are obsessed with endings.  Do well in this exam, to go to that college, to get this job, to reach this position.  Then wonder at 50 or 60, what is it all about?

Live life like a piece of music, with ebbs and flows, drama and silences, movement and stillness.  Be mindful of the music of your life, enjoy every breath by being mindful of your current moment.  Be the conductor of your own symphony.  Be brave.  Follow your dreams and create the world you want to live in.

 

People love to use the phrase YOLO (You Only Live Once).  But they are quite mistaken, You Only Die Once.  Each day we are born again.  Each day we are given a choice to change our lives or make them better.  Not everyone has the ability to pack up and live a hedonistic lifestyle travelling the world, most have jobs, children and bills to pay.  Thankfully to live right, you don’t have to move. Simply change your attitude.  I say simple but it takes practice,  The real voyage of discovery consists not of seeking out new landscapes but in having new eyes.

Their is no reality only perception.  Your life is what you see it as.  Emotions are not problems to be solved.  They reflect states of mind & body.  They cannot be solved only felt.  Do you need to justify how you are feeling?

Perception can change in 3 ways;

  1.  See the world in a different light.  Imagine looking over a city landscape as the sun comes out after a summer shower.  Imagine the vivid colours, the sun glistening off raindrops and dew, the shadows evaporating.
  2. See the world in a different place.  Friday evening stressed, stuck in heavy traffic after a long mundane week of work and routine.  But Monday morning you wake you, after having breakfast, you lie all day on a tropical beach.
  3. See the world in a different time. You returning to your childhood family home, you haven’t seen since you where 7.  The rooms look and feel smaller.  Or imagine falling out with a family member, only to regret it at their funeral.

The ability to control your mind or change your perspective is a great skill to have in life or in a fight.  With training you become more aware of the internal voice constantly playing in your head.  Because it runs 24/7 inside your head you can become immune to listening to it.  Ask yourself how you feel, if you’re sad, you’re thinking sad thoughts, if you’re happy, you’re thinking happy thoughts.  Your emotions or moods are a reflection of the internal voice you are playing in your head.  With the correct training, YOU can change your internal landscape irrespective of what is happening around you.   Then it is possible to stop feeling lonely while at a busy party, make your opponent angry, stay calm in a crises, stop feeling sad etc.

Once you become more aware of your internal voice.  You can start the process of changing how it speaks to you.  All of your circumstances in life are a reflection of your subconscious beliefs.  You can change your subconscious beliefs with auto suggestions.  Think of someone wanting to become a  homeowner.  They think they’d like to own their own house, so the start saving.  They change their behavior, maybe not going out every weekend, not buying those unneeded trainers.  Pretty soon, they see their saving increase, and the make further changes, maybe forsaking a holiday.  Then they save enough, get a mortgage and become a homeowner.  The thought changed their beliefs. the beliefs changed their behavior, the behavior made them work towards their dream.

Your unconscious mind cannot process negatives.  You think “I don’t want to be poor”, you brain hears, “I want to be poor”.  Much better to think “I want to be wealthy”.  Your brain receives 2 billion bits of information per second from your senses.  Your conscious mind can deal with 5-9 per second, depending on your interest in the subject.  Your brain use filters.  Its why you can hear your name across a crowd room, because your brain is programmed to hear you name.  Brain filters are deletion, distortion, & generalisations.

Your values determine your filters, which can be changed.  Your values drive you towards pleasure or away from pain.  So learn to listen to your emotions, to control the thoughts in your head, to change your behavior, practice in the dojo, every time you step on the mats, is another opportunity to improve yourself or change the world around you.

Mushin (無心; Japanese mushin; English translation “no mind”) is a mental state into which trained martial artists are said to enter during combat. They also practice this mental state during everyday activities.

Mushin is achieved when a person’s mind is free from thoughts of anger, fear, or ego during combat or everyday life. There is an absence of discursive thought and judgment, so the person is totally free to act and react towards an opponent without hesitation and without disturbance from such thoughts. At this point, a person relies not on what they think should be the next move, but what is their trained natural reaction (or instinct) or what is felt intuitively.  Years of correct training to make each technique natural and instinctive is required, as well as training of the mind.  It is not a state of relaxed, near-sleepfulness, however. The mind could be said to be working at a very high speed, but with no intention, plan or direction.  Sensitivity and flow training combined with Zanshin practice in Kata helps train this mindset.

Some masters believe that mushin is the state where a person finally understands the uselessness of techniques and becomes truly free to move. In fact, those people will no longer even consider themselves as “fighters” but merely living beings moving through space.

The legendary Zen master Takuan Sōhō said:

The mind must always be in the state of ‘flowing,’ for when it stops anywhere that means the flow is interrupted and it is this interruption that is injurious to the well-being of the mind. In the case of the swordsman, it means death.
When the swordsman stands against his opponent, he is not to think of the opponent, nor of himself, nor of his enemy’s sword movements. He just stands there with his sword which, forgetful of all technique, is ready only to follow the dictates of the subconscious. The man has effaced himself as the wielder of the sword. When he strikes, it is not the man but the sword in the hand of the man’s subconscious that strikes.

However, mushin is not just a state of mind that can be achieved during combat. Many martial artists train to achieve this state of mind during kata so that a flawless execution of moves is accomplished — that they may be achieved during combat or at any other time. Once mushin is attained through the practice or study of martial arts (although it can be accomplished through other arts or practices that refine the mind and body), the objective is to then attain this same level of complete awareness in other aspects of the practitioner’s life.  Start by being Mindful, (Obi Wan Kenobi to Luke, be mindful of your emotions, Little one), Then Zanshin (awareness) grows.  Over time with repeated practice Mushin develops.   Trained correctly in class, practice becomes habit, habit becomes a way of life, if the practice is correct.

The concept of Mushin is identical to the Japanese metaphorical expression “Mizu no Kokoro” or the “mind like water.” This mental attitude refers to a mind that is in total harmony with the Cosmos that it resembles a still pond of water without any ripples where the surface reflects a clear and perfectly undistorted image of the surroundings, like a mirror.

Mushin cannot be grasped by the intellect; it must be experienced. A Mushin mind has no Ego and no substance; it is pure Enlightenment and is the perfect realization of the self.

This state of mind takes years and years of practice to achieve. Mushin is achieved when a person’s mind is free from anger, fear, judgment or the ego during combat or everyday life.

Mushin thus implies a state of mental clarity, awareness and enhanced perception (sensory and intuitive) known as pure mind, produced by the absence of conscious thought, ideas, judgments, emotion (fear and anxiety), pre-conception, or self-consciousness. It is a state of total awareness and reaction not impeded by higher mental function or emotion, a mind more open and reactive to subtle sensory input, intuition and spontaneous action. It is a mind that is totally calm — a mind not influenced or caught up in events or others emotion, thus a mind more able to freely perceive and respond.

This required the non-conscious mind and the instinctive trained body to be free. No longer inhibited, slowed, distracted, or clogged, the mind was free to fully perceive, respond and commit to action. The mind is not fixed on anything and is open to everything; a mind expanded through the whole body with total awareness of and focus on everything.

Mushin is not about automatic reactions or lack of thought.  Mindfulness and Mushin may appear to mutually contradictory.  However, they are 2 sides to the same coin.  Mindfulness in the context of karate refers to being present in the moment, aware of one’s actions and environment

If you where training kata on the mats and a door on the other side of the room was partially opened an inch, you would know instantly.  This is Zabshin.  Zanshin (awareness) exists with Mushin.

If when suddenly attacked or startled.  One steps forward to confront the attack, rather then recoiling in fright, this could be said to be a form of Mushin.

 

Every technique you learn has a particular application but also has an underlying theory or concept.  Lower grades learn individual techniques and over time build up an arsenal of weapons, defenses or tactics.  Higher grades however use individual techniques to train concepts.

Here is an example.  If you teach a student to block a punch to the face by using upper block, and then drill them in the use of that technique, it will become effective.  Everytime they are punched to the face they will use the technique they know.

However if the student only knows the technique and not the concept behind it.  When the attackers punch is directed to the stomach.  They will block upwards and be hit.

However if the student understands the concept behind the technique of upper block, ie not to get hit.  Then when punched to the face they will drop the arm to block.  Thus using the concept of blocking.

All techniques have underlying concepts or principles, which can be used with different ranges, strategies or tactics in a fight.  Lower (Kyu) grades when joining our Academy build up an arsenal of defensive or attacking techniques, over time.  Until they get to the senior grades of brown or black (Dan) grades. where a better understanding of the concepts is introduced.

Traditionally there wasn’t much talking in a class and students where given a simple explanation and expected to understand the concepts through repeated practice.  This could lead to students misunderstanding or quitting cause of lack of progress.  These days along with extensive repetitions, verbal teaching can greatly increase  a students understanding, as long as that student is training hard.  Knowing something intellectually will not transfer it into a physical skill.

Simple Concepts include

Kicking, Punching, Blocking, Simple Body Movements, Distance, Timing, Twisting, Jumping, Ducking, Penetrating, Focus, Speed, Relaxation, Power,

Advanced Concepts include

Entering, Evasion, Deflection, Parrying, Absorbing, Flowing, Locking, Throwing, Take Downs,Focus (Kime), Awareness (Zanshin), No Mind (Mushin),  Space/Timing (Ma-ai), Spirit (Kohoro), Eye Control (Metsuke), Shoshaku Joshaku, Three types of Attack (Sen), Mindfulness, Beginner’s Mind (Shoshin).

All of our circumstances in life are a reflection of your subconscious beliefs.  That voice that plays incessently in your head, guiding you to success or failure.  Giving you all you belief you deserve or think you are worth.  Thankfully once you become aware of this tape their are many techniques available to change it.  Check out NLP techniques or BCT techniques, which I will cover later in this series.

To change your subconscious beliefs we using auto suggestions.  Specially chosen tapes we can use to rewire the voice in your head, to achieve success.  This can work very simply, by changing how you view yourself, you can change your behaviour, which in turn changes how you see yourself.  Think of wanting to own your own home.  You start to imagine yourself owning your own home, liking the idea of becoming a homeowner.  So you start to change your behaviour, you spend less, you go out less, start to save more.  As you savings increase you start to make more sacrifice in order to get the money together.  Then when you have enough to start to view houses and seeing banks.  Eventually taking out a mortage and buying a home.  In time becoming the homeowner you wanted to be.

Subconscious beliefs start with changing how you think about yourself, which in turn changes your behaviour, which in turns gets you what you inititially wanted.  These auto suggestions can work on any thing you wish to change in your life, weight loss, friendships, romance, money, or any goal.  1st step involves working out your current subconscious belief

24/7 365…  Our thoughts loom large in our heads, never stopping, insistently rolling like waves on the beach.  The correct thoughts can make us feel happy, elated, glad to be a life, negative thoughts however can lead us down a darker road, to sadness, guilt, misery or depression.  Correct karate training with the correct mental attitude and instruction will lead to “control” over our thought process, allowing us to control our emotions and thoughts leading to calmer, less stressed lives.

Think of your thoughts (mind waves) like ripples in a pond.  You want to get ready of the ripples (lets say stress).  By throwing a pebble into the pond we get more ripples, so we throw a larger stone and get more ripples, which collide and bounce off each other creating chaos.  The way to get the ripples to stop, is to leave the pond alone.  Let the ripples fade of their own accord.  So too it is with the mind.  Aimlessly sitting in front of the TV, does nothing to reduce stress or benefit the mind.

Karate or meditation, and they are two sides to the same coin focuses your mind, giving it something to concentrate on, to allow our thoughts to settle and stress to melt away.  The purpose of training is to develop Zanshin (awareness) or mindfulness and later to develop Mushin (No Mind).  See other articles in this series for explanations of these terms.  Your practice the correct mind set in class.  Calm, focused, alert, positive, proactive.  At first your practice is limited to moments within a class, then filling an entire class, then becoming a sustaining habit your entire waking life and in the fullness of time sleep life.  Leading to calm, controlled stress life, where you learn to respond, not to react to the world around you.  As your studies progress you gain insight into your negative triggers and purposely condition more positive responses.

The secret to this mind set… is practice.  Correct physical and mental practice.  Goal setting is important  but do not be concerned with your destination. Just practice.  Initially on the dojo floor, and then later in your life outside the dojo.  Practice for practice sake.  One step at a time, one class at a time, one thought at a time.  We all have a unconscious tape playing over and over in our minds.  It is with our whole lives that many are unaware that they are listening to it.  But this tape may be holding your back not making you happy and your dreams come true.  How do you know what the tape is saying in your head.  Listen to your feelings.  Ask at any moment of the day how your feeling?  The answer is what your head is saying to you.  If your feeling sad your having sad thoughts.  If you are happy you are listening to happy thoughts etc.

Proper training will lead to greater mental abilities, like those shown by master in martial arts movies throughout the years.  once this great power has been achieved it becomes nothing, commonplace, like child birth.  Ask any expecting mother in the glow of pregnancy and they will tell you it is a wonderful thing.  But once the child is born it giving birth becomes more common place.  So it is a special thing and a ordinary thing at the same time.  So too are the mental stress relieve abilities of a high grade karateka, a special thing to taking years of practice, that becomes everyday ordinary once it is achieved.

When we stand in the dojo (training hall) we have some rules.  But the purpose of these rules is not to make everyone the same, but to allow each to express their own self more freely.

We must own our own physical bodies… We must exist right here, right now… When we have our body and mind in order, everything else will exist in the right place, in the right way.

But usually, without being aware of it, we try to change something other than ourselves, we try to order things outside us.  But it is impossible to organise things if you yourself are not in order.

Studying books on karate is a kind of food for your brain.  Of course it is necessary to take some food for your brain, but it is more important to be yourself by practicing the right way of life (karate).

Referring back to the story of the hole in the ground (majority of people will say the hole is too deep, never their arm is too short) you must practice coming back to ourselves.  Not blaming the external world without 1st looking at the internal.  Time spent training is time away from your everyday life, what happens before you train is forgotten, what will happen after you finish training is forgotten.  This time is your time, to focus on the now, to focus on you now.  A timeout from the worries of your world.  Train the correct mind set, to be focused, to be strong, to be determined, to be confident, to be self aware, to be present in the here and now.  Practice the correct form, practice the correct mindset.  Practice become habit and habit become a way of life, if the practice is right…

We train both sides

We train both sides in Karate, in order to have both sides strong.  You don’t know from which side an attack may come from and if you are going to be able to defend yourself, you need to be able to counter from any position, not just your favoured side.

We all know that the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body and vice verse.  And as every beginner knows, they may have a strong or weak side.  By training both sides we become ambidextrous, favouring neither left nor right.

If one side of the body gets stronger, what of the part of the brain that controls it?  Does it under go changes?  Does it get stronger?  Body and mind are two separate parts of you.  But they are also one.  They can simultaneous be two and one.  Both are dependent and independent of the other at the same time.  This is not a contradiction but a very Zen point.  We can talk about one and exclude the other, or we can talk about how both work together.  They are two sides of the same coin.

Body controls mind and the mind controls the body.  If you get tired physically your mind should urge you on.  If you are tired mentally, physical exercise will allows make you feel better.  A Sensei’s role is to push you beyond your physical limits, allowing you to discover new limits, or realise there are no limits if the mind is willing.

Tough physical training strengthens the mind.  Regular correct training builds spirit. Built up over time this spirit endures.  When the body gives up, the mind pushes on.  When the mind starts to fail, this habit, the spirit, lifts you up to continue.  Train physically to be strong in your technique, to strengthen the mind and forge an indomitable spirit.  Then on the mats and in life you will be unbeatable, unbreakable and a success in whatever you do.