Right effort – If your practice is good, you may become proud of it. What you do is good but something more is added to it. Pride is extra. Right effort is to get rid of something extra. If you do something in the spirit of non-achievement, there is good quality to it.
This kind of bad effort is called “Dharma-ridden” or “practice ridden”. You are involved in some idea of practice or attainment, and you cannot get out of it. When you are involved in some dualistic idea it means your practice is not pure. By purity we just mean things as they are. When something is added, that is impure. If you think you will get something from practice already you are involved in impure practice… When you practice, just practice.
Before we act we think, and this thinking leaves some trace. Why do we train techniques thousands of times? How does this act of thinking, betray you in a self-defence situation? What we call “attachment” is just these traces of our thoughts & activity. Like pride for something we have done.
There is a saying “To catch two birds with one stone”. That is what people usually try to do… They find it difficult to be concentrated on one activity. In order not to leave any traces, when you do something, you should do it with your whole body & mind. You should be concentrated in what you do. Think Musashi and his clean cut.
When you practice Karate you become one with karate. The rules of clubs may change but the spirit remains the same. Usually when it is so simple we say, “Oh I know that”, or “It is quite simple, everyone knows that”. But if we do not find its value, it means nothing.
Moment after moment we are creating something and this is the joy of our life. Our life can be seen as a crossing of a river. The goal of our life’s effort is to reach the other side, Nirvana. The true wisdom of life is that in each step of the way, the other shore is actually reached. Choose to be happy now.
Poor ways to practice
Usually when you practice karate, you become very idealistic, and you set up an ideal or goal which you can strive to attain and fulfil… When you are idealistic, you have some gaining idea, by the time you attain your ideal or goal, your gaining idea will create another ideal… Because your attainment is always ahead you will always be sacrificing yourself now for some ideal in the future.
When we practice, just practice and whether we find joy in our practice or not, we just do it. This is the path to black belt and beyond.
When you are tired of practice, you should recognise this as a warning signal. You become discouraged with your practice when your practice has been idealistic. Another mistake will be practice for the sake of the joy of it. This is not poor practice, but compared to the true practice it is not so good. You should enjoy training, but enjoyment should never be your only reason to train. Thousands of repetitions of the same thing over and over for years cannot always be enjoyable, and be wary of clubs that seek to entertain.
If you find some difficulty in your practice, that is the warning that you have some wrong idea, so you have to be careful. Our practice cannot be perfect, but without being discouraged by this we should continue it. THIS IS THE SECRET OF PRACTICE.
The purpose of studying karate is not to study karate but to study ourselves.
There are said to be 4 types of horses in life. Excellent ones, Good ones, Poor ones and Bad ones. The excellent horse runs fast in a race without any prompting from the whip, a good one runs faster when it hears the whip, the poor one when the whip hits it, and the bad one only after repeated strikes of the whip.
In the dojo students always want to be the excellent student, failing that they will settle for being the good one, the poor students aim to become good and no one wants to be the bad student.
However, if you train karate in the right way with the correct attitude, it does not matter whether you are the best one or the worst one. In your very imperfections, you will find the basis of your firm, way seeking mind. Those students who find the physical training easily, take more time to obtain the true way, the actual feeling, the marrow of karate. But those students who find great difficulties in practising will find more meaning in it.
As a Sensei, students who are athletic in the beginning stage can be a pleasure to teach, as the progress fast, learn techniques easily and have good form. However, the poorer students are more of a challenge, taking more time to learn sometimes even what could be seen as the simplest of movements. Roll on a year later and in many of the cases, the students who found karate easy, have long since quit and given up, where those students who found it a challenge, are still persisting, determined to improve, having developed a love of karate.
So strive to be the best you can be, but not in comparison to others. Cos in karate, as in life, maybe the bad horse is the excellent horse and the excellent horse has already quit.
Shoshaku Jushaku – mistake upon mistake, one continuous practice.
This is an important concept in the martial arts or life and is the road to achieving a black belt or beyond. Shoshaku Jushaku means one continuous practice, mistake upon mistake. On the mats, as in life, people make mistakes. How you deal with the mistakes of life determines how successful you on or off the mats.
Shoshaku Jushaku implies recognising when you make a mistake, learning from it, and continuing to make new mistakes. This is how winning is done and leads to a successful life. Most people either refuse to acknowledge their mistakes or are too critical of themselves when they make mistake. Shoshaku jushaku means to recognise your mistake, acknowledge it, learn from it and try not to repeat it, however this mind set allows compassion towards ourselves. We do not condemn ourselves but endeavour to be gentle on ourselves. Because we know improvement in life cannot be made without mistakes.
Do not be harsh on yourself. Do not condemn yourself. Guide the mind as if it was a small child. Have patience, be mindful, be present. It does not mean an acceptance to making mistakes. But a gentle approach to dealing with your mind.
In training karate, we repeat each technique thousands of times, seeking perfection which can never be achieved. Beginners start with large obvious mistake and strive to make the techniques better. Black belt’s techniques may not exhibit external mistake, obvious to lower grades, but may be more internal, felt by the student either physically or mentally. This continuous practice is the journey of karate to black belt and beyond and this is Shoshaku Jushaku.
To bow is to bend. This requires flexibility, otherwise things might crack or break. When one bows as an act of the heart, this is humility. You are not bowing down before someone but before your own buddha nature. Bowing to a buddha image, the image is a symbol not an idol. The image symbolises the realisation of the highest human potential, your highest potential. Bowing not only acknowledges the value of this potential. We are all capable of wisdom, kindness, patience etc to some degree and in one way bowing points back to one’s own buddha nature.
Bowing & Mindfulness
On entering the Dojo (training hall) this sets up a point of stopping, of recollection, “I am in this room, relating in this way, at this time.” You are taking a moment out of your life, a moment to space, a moment of mindfulness.
Bowing to others
This requires a sensitivity and presence of mind, “I am Junior/Senior, what is this situation now, what is the time.” Bowing is ideally a beautiful & graceful act and it is very un-beautiful to see someone rushing in at the last minute and “whipping off” 3 quick ones. One should never talk to someone while they are bowing.
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