Friday, November 25, 2011

Learning and knowledge

Sensei Nishiyama used to tell me: “once you think you know, you are finished, you don’t learn anymore”.

This is the problem of knowledge, once we “know” something it feels old, even dead.

The fact that we can look at every day’s miracles around us, and not be constantly amazed is death.

“Not knowing” is different than ignorance, how do we go about increasing in learning while still maintaining the freshness and sense of wonder?

One idea is to treat each thing we learn as a piece in a larger puzzle that still has missing pieces.

Instead of each thing we learn become another thing we know let it be a reminder of how little we know.

Sensei Nishiyama used to constantly say that in karate “we seek the beauty of one finishing blow technique”, he never stressed doing more techniques and memorizing more combinations, but rather going deeper into each technique. Each technique has limitless levels. Aiko San used to say “treat each technique as a jewel”.

I remember going with Sensei to on of his international seminars, and he was teaching very basic techniques but very deeply, and some students looked very board, and I wanted to scream, please pay attention, you cannot get this information anywhere, don't miss out. Even now she I look at a picture of sensei doing simple reverse punch, I get the feel of how deep his technique was.

If we look at each technique and concept freshly, with amazement, we can keep finding out deeper levels.

With Sensei Nishiyama there was not one week that I did not learn something new or at least get a deeper understanding of things.

I heard this example of a mother and a baby traveling to far places, from the baby point of view they were always at same place, he was in his mother’s arms.

There were many times that Sensei Nishiyama said things that did not make sense to me, but with the years as he kept teaching us in all different ways, I understood where he was taking me.

There are times we need to accept our teacher experience and trust the direction he leads us, but we must be constantly questioning, curious and amazed.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Mokuso – make best mental/psychological condition for fighting. And for anything you want to be at your peak.

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.