Mind, Body & Spirit! What Does That Actually Mean?

The inspiration for this post was actually a page on my website for my own martial art classes in Midsomer Norton.  I have a “Why Karate?” page.  Admittedly this page is a bit biased towards Karate, but then it is my school that I’m trying to promote, not anybody else’s.  However, much of what I wrote on that page applies to all traditional martial arts, so I thought I’d expand upon it and share my thoughts here with the wider martial arts community!

Apart from the obvious need for self protection throughout history, there are many good reasons why martial arts have been around for thousands of years and are now practised by millions of people all over the world today.  They’re a great tool for development of mind, body and spirit!  But what does that actually mean.  “Mind, body and spirit” is a phrase that we often hear associated with martial arts, but it is not often defined in any depth.  It’s often a throw away line on promotional material, then seldom talked about again after somebody actually joins up! Continue reading “Mind, Body & Spirit! What Does That Actually Mean?”

The Art Of Not Giving A S***! (Or . . . Accept As Is)

Many Oriental philosophies talk about mind, body and spirit; as they recognise that the 3 are all intrinsically connected.  For the sake of this post, I’ll be mainly focussing on the mind and body.

If one tenses, the other tenses.  You tighten your mind, your body will start to tense; you tighten your body, your mind will start to tense.  Conversely, you relax one, the other will relax.

So when you make a mistake, or don’t perform a technique/kata/pattern the way you want to, or you get corrected by your instructor; don’t get upset about it.  If you do get upset (even if its just with yourself), your mind will tense, then your body will tighten and the whole thing gets progressively more and more difficult.  I have one student in particular who gets exasperated with himself every time I correct him.  It’s not that he resents the correction in any way, he very desperately wants to get it right and his frustration is aimed at himself (rather than me)!  Then it becomes even more difficult.

You have to try to the best of your ability to do it right, but when you don’t, you have to learn how not to Continue reading “The Art Of Not Giving A S***! (Or . . . Accept As Is)”

Techniques Will Occur When A Void Is Found: Gichin Funakoshi

There are many quotes attributed to Gichin Funakoshi, but I come across this one the other day in his book, Karate Do Kyohan: The Master Text.  Near the back on page 248 (if you already have it), he says;

“Techniques will occur when a void is found”.

This is not often quoted, yet has very deep philosophical undertones.  A void is defined as, “completely empty” or “a completely empty space”.

Master Gichin Funakoshi

Master Funakoshi was an educated man and clever with his choice of words.  He was the one who initiated the change Continue reading “Techniques Will Occur When A Void Is Found: Gichin Funakoshi”

Moving Meditation: Kata/Forms/Patterns

It’s often been said that performing Kata/Forms/Patterns (Kata for convenience) is like moving meditation; but what exactly does that mean?

Well first let’s look at meditation then see how performing Kata can be similar. Meditation is a practice which (amongst other things) aims to silence the mind and help focus the intention. There are many variations, but (put very simply) one of the most common methods of meditation is simply to sit and focus all your minds attention on the breath so as to “distract” the mind from other thoughts. With time and practice, you get used to distracting the mind till it gets used to becoming quiet and absent of thought. Continue reading “Moving Meditation: Kata/Forms/Patterns”

Spirituality In Traditional Martial Arts

Many traditional martial arts talk about Mind, Body and Spirit; or that training develops you spiritually. But what does this spirituality actually mean, how do martial arts help develop it and (probably of most interest to many readers) what use is spirituality in a martial context?

First of all, it could take a whole book to cover this big topic, so I’m not going to be able to cover it all in a blog post. All I’m aiming to do here is to give a brief overview of how I see it.

To quote Deepak Chopra, who is widely revered as one of the World’s greatest spiritual leaders, “if we understand spirituality not as some kind of religious dogma or ideology but as the domain of awareness where we experience values like truth, goodness, beauty, love and compassion, and also intuition, creativity, insight and focused attention”. Continue reading “Spirituality In Traditional Martial Arts”

Being “Present” (In The Now) And Martial Arts Training

Many self development/spiritual teachers’ today talk about “being present” or “living in the now” (which is the same thing really).  It’s also part of Zen, which is often goes hand in hand with martial arts.  But what does this actually mean, how can martial arts training help you achieve it and what benefits are there for you from both a self protection and everyday life point of view?

Let’s start with what is meant by “being present” or “living in the now”?  This is a big subject which many books have been written about, so this is just a short overview.  Many people spend most of their time living in regret over things they’ve done wrong, things they should have done but didn’t, things that other people have done to them, missed opportunities; whatever!  They are spending a lot time focusing on their past and generally feeling bad and unhappy with it. Continue reading “Being “Present” (In The Now) And Martial Arts Training”

Striving For Perfection: Combat Effectiveness And Spiritual Development

How often have you heard the phrase “before you can overcome others, you must first overcome yourself”, or “your main opponent is yourself”.  If you’ve never heard these phrases, then take a long look at who’s teaching you!  You should have heard these phrases before as this really is one of the most central core philosophies of doing any traditional martial art.

Whether you are looking for effective self defence, sport or simply aesthetic mastery of the art you practice you must first develop co-ordination, agility, speed, power, poise, balance and grace.  From a combative point of view, the need for speed, power, co-ordination and balance are obvious; but grace?  Do we need to be graceful in a fight?  Many consider the very act of fighting to be very disgraceful. Continue reading “Striving For Perfection: Combat Effectiveness And Spiritual Development”

Martial Arts In Times Of Peace

Martial arts vary in times of war/chaos compared to times of relative peace.  Despite what you hear and read in the media, most of us today live in relatively peaceful times where we can call the police if anybody threatens or attacks us.  Obviously if you have a job such as policeman, prison officer or bouncer; you will see more violence then most others.  Also if you go to rough pubs or join gangs who clash with other gangs, then you also will see more violence.  But if you don’t have a job that requires you to sort out trouble; and if you don’t deliberately mix with violent people; then the chances are that you will not actually see much violence in your day to day life.

That means that we are free to put more into our martial arts and explore them in more depth.  If you are likely to face danger everyday then you would probably just focus on a few techniques that you’d repeat over and over again, endlessly, as your life could depend on them.  But in times of peace however we can increase our syllabus and include more self development aspects within our training and things like sport. Continue reading “Martial Arts In Times Of Peace”

Moksu: Does It Actually Have A Martial Application?

For those not familiar with the term, Moksu it is Japanese for the kneeling meditation at the beginning and end of a martial arts class.  It is often seen as just clearing the mind from the day’s ups and downs to prepare you for training.  It does of course do that, but it can actually represent a lot more in the long term.  Apart from just clearing the mind, when practiced regularly it can over time help to completely silence the mind.  Silencing the minds usual internal chatter has a feeling of peace and tranquillity (a bit like the sudden quietness of turning off a factory air conditioning system).

This can sometimes be achieved quite quickly, but sometimes it can take years.  How often have you knelt there thinking “my knees hurt”, “how long is this going on for”, “I hope we do sparring tonight” or “I hope we don’t do sparring tonight”, whatever! Continue reading “Moksu: Does It Actually Have A Martial Application?”

Mind Like The Moon & Mind Like Water

Mind Like The Moon (Tsuki No Kokoro)  and Mind Like Water (Mizu No Kokuro) are old Japanese/Chinese phrases which are integrated into Zen and martial arts and are inter-related to each other.  This posting looks at them primarily from a martial arts context.

Starting with Mind Like The Moon, whereas the light of the moon shines on everything below it evenly, so you should see everything when facing an opponent.  Clouds blocking the moonlight are likened to nervousness, fears, doubts and distractions blocking your mental clarity.  By seeing “everything”, I don’t only mean Continue reading “Mind Like The Moon & Mind Like Water”