Sunday, 22 March 2015

心技体 Shin, Gi, Tai is Needed to Form Good Habits

One of the things that every non-Japanese Sensei struggles with at one point or another is introducing Japanese language and culture in the training sessions. Even if your dojo is mainly sports centred this is still a topic of concern, I am sure. If you are teaching children, believe me, they will pick up and remember the things you say and what you introduce to them in class and some of those things, if not the majority of them, have the potential to change their lives.

(The author teaching a small Children's class at the Chito-Ryu So-Honbu Dojo, 2014)

I believe that it is the teacher's responsibility to set their students up for long-term success. I always try to consider this when deciding what to teach and how to teach it, as I am sure you do, too. The problem is never with the students or their potential to grow and learn and succeed, the problem is in the organization and delivery of the information. Furthermore, by rushing through the material or spending too little time on it the outcomes will suffer. Remember Karate-do training is all about developing good habits. Therefore, it only makes sense that we should follow the same approach with introducing this information as we would for instilling and developing good habits in our students. In order to do this, I would recommend looking at how habits are formed and strengthened.

Habits Good & Bad Are Formed the Same Way
In the English language we only have one word to describe a regular tendency or practice, whether it be good or bad the word used is 'habit'. A simple explanation of how habits are formed and strengthened would resemble the statement made by the American philosopher and author, Mortimer J. Adler, "Habits are formed by the repetition of particular acts. They are strengthened by an increase in the number of repeated acts. Habits are also weakened or broken, and contrary habits are formed by the repetition of contrary acts." While this statement appears to make perfect sense, it is far too simplified. The process of habit forming is actually far more complex. I believe that Stephen R. Covey's definition of a habit is very interesting. In his book the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People he defines a habit as "the intersection of knowledge, skill, and desire" (p.47).

In Japanese, however, good 'habits', 習慣 Shu-kan and bad 'habits' 癖 Kuse, have completely separate vocabulary. You may have noticed that the 習 Shu in Shu-kan is the same Shu as in Renshu (練習) this character is also used with 学ぶ Manabu to describe 学習 Gaku-shu the process of Study; creating a knowledge base or physical condition through the repeated practice of specific actions. On the other hand, 癖 is always associated with 悪 Aku, also pronounced O which is Evil, Wrong, or Bad placed together with Kuse, 悪癖 Aku-heki the characters descirbe (falling into) bad habits or relying on some kind of Vice. It is also implied that it is much more difficult to form good habits than bad ones especially when talking about self-cultivation. If you look at the Confuciun or Tao teachings upon which the philosophies of Japanese martial arts and Karate-do are based on you will see that there is a great deal of importance placed on 練習 Ren-shu, practice and 鍛練 Tan-ren, Tempering, or Forging, to develop a discipline; self-cultivation. The paradox is that the desired result is a state of Naturalness and flow in one's actions and intentions. Slingerland offers a very nice quote by Kupperman (1968) in his book 無為 Effortless Action (2003):
It may seem paradoxical to speak of naturalness in a sense in which "nature is art." The paradox disappears, however, once we stop thinking of education as merely placing a veneer over our original "nature." Once we realize that education can transform what a person is, we realize that it can in a sense transform prople's natures. What becomes naturally is very much a product of training and habit. (Kupperman (1968: 180; emphasis added) 

Taking a Closer Look at Covey's Three Components
知識 Chi-shiki Knowledge relates to the theory, we need to know and understand on an intellectual level what to do.
技術 (スキル) Gi-jutsu Skill, the technique or the ability to perform the task involving the mind and the body.
Both 願う Nega-u and 望む Nozo-mu are often used when translating the word Desire. However, in the context that Covey uses the word perhaps a more accurate translation would be やる気 Ya-ru-ki, to become interested in doing the task because without this interest one will never become invested in the task and the potential for repetition will drop drastically. The bottom line is, we have to want to do the task.

I believe that Karate-do practice forms good habits in people who practice regularly over a long period of time. the unique method of teaching through physical repetition of techniques reinforced with a the input of Asian philosophy creates a unique dynamic and the perfect atmosphere to strengthen the desire for improvement within the hearts and minds of the practitioner.

(Shin Gi Tai Calligraphy written by the author, 2015)

Shin, Gi, Tai
This intersection of Knowledge, skill, and desire could be likened to the concept of 心技体 Shin, Gi, Tai  which I discussed briefly in the post Health Benefits of Karate Do Training (Continued) 心 Mind, 体 Body, (人の) 精神 Spirit. 心 refers to both the Heart and the Mind and is often written as Heart/Mind when working with Chinese and Japanese philosophical texts. In this context it can be used to describe the desire portion of the intersection as well as the knowledge portion. 技 which you can see above is the first character in Gi-jutsu which literally translates to technical skill which is performed by the 体 Tai, body. It is through the actions of the body that we experience this life and connecting our body and mind through repetitious practice of 技 of which Waza is the colloquial (kun-yomi) pronunciation of the Gi character. Techniques designed to foster healthy living create good habits in the practitioners provided the purpose of the the technique and the method of practice are not misunderstood.

We must continue to strive for balance in these three areas of our training and in our lives outside of the Dojo. In order to do so we must never forget that our Karate-do training is more than just learning how to kick and punch; it is a process by which we cultivate and strengthen the 'self'. It is in our heart/mind that our bodies and techniques are first polished before they even become a reality. Therefore, our state of mind before, during, and after training is of the utmost importance for effective training

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