We start and end every class with a period of mokuso (meditation, concentration), yet most of us think of it as routine and just wait for it to be over so we can start training.
Truth is even we have the best technique, we will not be successful in competition or self defense, or any sport if we don’t have stable emotions and a quiet mind.
Mokuso is meant to create this condition, or a mind that is fresh, quiet and therefore aware of itself and everything around, that is a mind that is present and is responsive. A mind that have total focus without losing the awareness of the whole.
When we face an opponent and have such short time to make decision and react, if we analyze and our mind is not quiet, is over informed, we start having doubt, hesitate, lose stable emotions, then we cannot perceive the opponent, especially not the subtleties, the information that is there but is not obvious.
When we analyze we either confirm and wait or lose patience and rush, we are also easy to be manipulated and controlled by the opponent.
When our mind is quiet we perceive more information, so we are not only better fighters but also better students. Not just karate students, in the same way that we perceive the opponent as is, without judgment, so we can listen without our previous knowledge and with a mind that is beyond thought, thought is limited to what we know and is interfering and preventing us from true listening and learning.
Aiko San told me to take meditation very seriously. There are many ways for Mokuso, sensei Nishiyama used to tell us to half close the eyes and look softly down to a point 2,3 feet in front of us and with the exhalation push down any negative thoughts and emotions through the body center and to that spot.
Also, our karate is meditative, if we do the kata with full intention, and the intention, breath, muscles and technique match, than without effort our mind becomes very quiet.
I used to have a zen monk at my dojo whose famous master told him to go to karatein order to practice do-zen-moving meditation.
Of course you can meditate all day long and have a calm mind and strong spirit, yet you will die in a fight if you don’t have the technique.
Sensei Nishiyama constantly said, “Hard training makes confidence, confidence allows for stable emotions”. If you know you have strong finish technique and good timing, which will surely help stay calm and confidant.
So train hard and once in a while let’s remember that Mokuso is not just some ritual, but it allows us to have the right mind, and our body will move and respond only as well as the mind that controls it.