Saturday, March 26, 2011


Make good ‘body system’ so when anything happen, your body and mind know what to do.

I heard this quotation a few days ago from a basketball coach, and loved it : “first you make habits than habits make you”, it applies to all of life and to karate in particular.

Many of us are being controlled by our habits and those habits will dictate how we live our lives, how we move, how we react to all kind of stimuli. Even if we learn something new we do it with our old habits. We have contradictions between our mind and our heart. It take some will and awareness, mindfulness to acquire good habits, may it be in the realm of emotions, movement or how we react to what life put in front of us.

In karate kata is symbol of principle, our job is to break the code of the kata, understand the underlying principles it symbolizes, and through kata training acquire good habits, which include how our nervous system is wired, developing good posture, efficient movement patterns, and also to keep our brain and heart in balance, how we react to threat, how we respond to stress, how we keep our composure in competition or fight.

Now, this is not a given, just doing repetition, just doing the technique as hard as one can, is not going to develop good habits, on the contrary, it will magnify bad habits, which will be harder to change later, and over time limit ones performance.

What we need is to understand the principles that are contracted into the kata, and than we need awareness, reflecting on how we do things, allow ourselves to feel wrong in the short run so we can be successful in long term since the habitual feels right.

When good habits are installed into our nervous system, a good ‘body system’ is created, and that is who we are, we don’t try to make good technique, it happens by itself.

The same concept applies when facing an opponent, when one have success doing certain techniques in certain way, he will stick to doing it, even if it is not according to correct principles.

I remember sensei Nishiyama telling me over and over during kumite : “don’t do technique the convenient way, do the right way”, and at first I did not get it, I’m getting my opponent, what does he want? And than I understood and that was one of the most enlightening moments in my karate, he wanted me not just to win, maybe even to lose for a while, so I can develop and engrain movement according to the principles he taught us, so there is success in the long term.

I remember in some competition, sensei told me on some competitor: “look, he is stiff, because he is a champion, he is holding on to what he is used to and made him successful”.

Don’t just try hard and force your way, monitor the situation, each opponent is different, with different tendencies, each moment is new, fresh, be aware of yourself while interacting with the opponent, your posture, breath, be aware of using the space, creating a chance, and at the right moment (Ho Shin) give everything, not having any mind in the technique, and yet because of this, there is still awareness, mindfulness, the mind is empty yet full.

Many times in class I will tell a student to relax during kumite, and they are not aware of being tense, of holding the breath, and how can one use the breath to tune to opponent to control their technique, when they don’t breath? Sensitivity and awareness of ourselves with understanding of what principles are passed through the generations will allow us to achieve more with less effort.

Once we develop a good ‘body system’, we can “think by mind (heart), act by ki” and the right action will take place effortlessly, all by themselves.

This is what our training is for, way beyond just a physical workout.

1 comment: