Thursday, 5 February 2015

Health Benefits of Karate Do Training (Continued) 心 Mind, 体 Body, (人の) 精神 Spirit

(Photo taken from )

Mind, Body, and Spirit
Shin, Mind, 体 Tai, Body and 精神 Seishin, Spirit these are the three things that I have felt grow as I have continued my Karate Do training from a young boy of 10 through adolescence and into adulthood. In this post I would like to continue to explain what I mean by Mind, Body, and Spirit. As you read these posts, please try to apply the techniques that we have learned to deepen our understanding of the Kanji presented and contemplate your own interpretation relating to your unique situation and experiences.
As I stated at the end of my last post:
I would like to talk more about the mind and body connection as well as address a statement I made when I started this series that Karate Do can offer us a "map" or an outline to healthy living in three main areas: Physical, Mental, and Spiritual. I realize that this is a very heavy statement to make and I am aware that I need to back it up with fact. I am working on how to verbalize the experiences I have had and the feelings they have caused within me. Both the experiences and the feelings shaped my growth, as I am sure they have shaped yours.
The above paragraph is how I ended my last post, as you may remember. Since then I have been really thinking specifically about how to provide you with an adequate definition of the term 'Spiritual' as this seems to be the most personal and the hardest to define. Attwood & Attwood (2014) discuss spiritualism in their book Your Hidden Riches and they also provide a definition for the term spiritual that, I feel, can be applied to how I intended to use it in the Karate Do context. They state that, "Every accomplishment requires steps that are physical, mental, and, yes, spiritual (defining spiritual as whatever you are most devoted to and truly revere)" (p. 82). Indeed our Karate Do journey is defined by our accomplishments; As practitioners of Karate Do, the inner journey that we are on is one that reveals more to us with each step we take and it is a very personal journey indeed. It requires great physical and mental effort to pursue our training goals, but we still thirst for more, so much so that we "devote" ourselves to our training in ways that make others sometimes shake their heads. But, we keep going to the Dojo and submit ourselves to the sweat and the pain and the fatigue because we all believe, deep down in our souls, that we are becoming better people on multiple planes through our training. We actually, as my Sensei, Michael Delaney pointed out on a number of occasions, "humble ourselves to our training" and when we reach this point, I believe, spiritual growth occurs. I further believe that we all have the potential to accomplish our life goals through our studies and training in Karate Do the physical and mental tools that we possess become evident to us and as we continue our training these tools become polished and sharpened.

(O Taki Gyou, 2015 a time of spiritual cleansing and growth)

Karate as a Hobby vs. Karate Do as a Lifestyle
This is why Karate Do is not just a hobby 趣味 Shumi, which can also be translated as a (refined) Taste, or Interest. Karate Do training is more than just kicking and punching, as I am sure you know. In time Karate Do teaches us far more than just how to block, punch, strike, and kick; it teaches us who we are and what we are capable of and that is why it is often referred to as our 人生 Jinsei, Life (Existence). Jinsei is often combined with the Kanji Kan or 行路 Kouro to describe One's View of Life (One's Philosophy), or One's Life Path (Life's Journey) it is in this way that I relate it to something spiritual within. Our Karate Do training guides us in many ways outside of the Dojo because the teachings are grounded in the qualities of 和 Wa, Peace and 忍 Nin, Perseverance. In a publication by O Sensei from 1979 he states some of the characteristics of Karate Do training and specifically 形 Kata practice. In it he states: "空手に先手無し" Karate ni Sen Te Nashi, This basically means that a true Karate Ka (Practitioners of Karate Do) would never make the first strike or never initiate violence.
In Our Pursuit We Find Our Path
It is in our pursuit of this knowledge of self-development,  facilitating a heightened state of awareness resulting in life changes that we find our purpose. Unfortunately, not everyone will realize this in their lifetime. The choices we make are personal, but they affect those around us. I believe that if our intentions are pure and our pursuit is honest the ripples that we send out through our thoughts and actions will begin a chain reaction connecting those of like mind, who each in turn, affects those around them positively both in and out of the Dojo. In this way, we all have the potential to positively affect those whom we train with and even those who do not practice Karate Do at all.
But, simply by being aware of things that others may not be aware of is not enough. We must also know our place and act accordingly. This, too is something deeply rooted in Japanese culture exemplified in the term 素直 Sunao (as discussed in previous posts). This responsibility that each of us has is like a guiding force directing our actions. We may become side tracked from time to time but in the end, I believe, we are all on this journey together and we would be far better off sharing our experiences, mistakes, and life changing lessons with each other with pure intentions for the simple purpose of learning from one another, while maintaining respect for one another than we would from cutting each other down or disrespecting the positions held or even the choices made. We must strive to become more aware of not just the individuals, but also the events and experiences in our lives that have so much to teach us.
I believe that the journey which leads us to this level of awareness, understanding, and respect for ourselves and others is not a physical one or even a mental one, but a spiritual one because, as I stated earlier, this is not a hobby; this is a way of life. The fact that we can learn from our own successes and failures is one thing, but the fact that we can learn from others' experiences and bypass the failures is extraordinary. It may also bring comfort in our times of turmoil to know that our actions and struggles are helping someone else to grow. Really, each and every one of us are teachers so we must try to set a good example for those who are watching.
One way that I believe we can do this is by knowing our place. I don't mean to suggest that we must assume a subservient role to others. I would rather like to look at it in the context of a team; We are all members of teams whether it be the team which is our family, the team we work for, or train with, or play with, consider the groups your are involved in as your team and think about how you can be a team player in each of these groups. This is what I have done in Japan. John Wooden, former Head Coach of UCLA's Basketball team (1948 - 1975)  said it best in the (1997) book A Lifetime of Observation and Reflections On and Off the Court, "Each of us must make effort to contribute to the best of our ability according to our individual talents. And then we put all the individual talents together for the highest good of the group... Understanding that the good of the group comes first is fundamental to being a highly productive member of a team" (p. 74). He is also quoted as having said "It's amazing what a team can accomplish when no one cares who receives the credit." I think this is what we all must keep in mind in our training and in how we choose to live our lives; To be the best team player we can be and making the best use of all of our talents for the greater good of the group. In this respect we can maintain the 和 Wa, peace in a very relaxed and natural way. When everything comes naturally, nothing needs to be forced. I believe this to be true in many areas of our lives.

The longer I train, the more I have grown to sense a stronger feeling of connectedness, to Nature, within myself, and with others. Perhaps this would have happened whether I found Karate Do or not, but I don't think it would have happened so quickly, that is to say, without the influence of Karate Do in my life, I don't think I would have realized a great deal of the things I have at such a young age.


  1. Again you assert there is a spiritual dimension, distinct from the physical and mental, without any clear definition of spiritual, except where you state "defining spiritual as whatever you are most devoted to and truly revere". To me, that is a very unsatisfactory definition, bordering on meaningless in any context you have used it in your writings.

    Further on you use the term 'soul' which is equally vague, and to me only a religious term, carrying all the baggage that entails. I suggest (again) that you avoid buzz words.

    You include many Japanese words/concepts to make your points. I am ignorant of the Japanese language and unable to comment on their appropriateness or accuracy, but how you use fuzzy English terms such as spirit, spiritual and souls does not instill my confidence.

    The final paragraph was very interesting. You wrote "stronger feeling of connectedness, to Nature, within myself, and with others". I suggest this is definition of maturity and not linked uniquely to your karate studies. Your involvement in your profession as an educator and your experiences with your family could be equally likely to have caused this development.

    Always interesting to read your blog posts.





    1. Shaw Sensei,
      Thank you for your comments. I respect your opinion and appreciate your advice. I am still trying to put my feelings and experiences into words and make them easy to understand to a wide range of people reading this blog.
      In this respect, I am still growing. I agree that the maturity is a result of a number of things including my family and job. However, I wouldn't have met either of them without my invlovement with Karate Do. There is definately something going on around us and whether we are aware of it or not, I believe it is very real. I will continue to search for the appropriate words to describe what I am feeling. Thank you again for all of your support in this project of mine.