As a practitioner you can practice wherever you are, whenever you want. It takes a while to learn how to do that. Because not every environment is as conducive to training as a dojo. But you can always do something. To condition the body, and condition the mind. If you understand this you are always on the path to perfection.
The picture above shows a ‘makiwara.’ It is a flexible wooded post used by practitioners of Okinawan karate to condition their hands for striking. It is a simple tool. Usually in Okinawa it was set up outside the home, planted deep into the ground. Breaking bricks was not a trick. People made their hands strong enough to really do it. Some still do. It was not done for show. It was done to confirm, for yourself and your fellow practitioners and instructors, that you were able to transmit a lot of power into a target. Lives depended on that ability.
But even without special equipment or a special environment you can always train something. Posture. Breathing. Attention. And conditioning.
You can do kata – movement sequences on your own or with others, anywhere where you will not attract too much attention. You do not need a hardwood floor. It is good to try all kinds of environments and see what you need to do to adapt under unfamiliar conditions. Like on the beach or on gravel, on asphalt or on grass or roots or in mud or on rocky, uneven ground. The Okinawans used to train in canoes on the water while they waited for the fish to bite.
You can train your mind anywhere. Focus and mindfulness is one kind of mind training. You can also train yourself to avoid negative states of mind – if you find you are sinking into anger, resentment or arrogance – you learn to notice it, recognize that those states of mind are harmful to you and others, that they are an impediment to your practice – and replace that state with a wholesome one.
Under duress it may be too late to practice this. In the moment of crisis it is too late to prepare. But under normal conditions in the course of daily life you can adapt your mind and train it to be stronger and more flexible.
Like striking the makiwara, this type of training does not, at first, produce a pleasurable sensation. But if you keep at it, it feels good and strong, and you’ve got what you need to prevail under pressure.
And you do not need anything more than what you have with you.
Post by J. Michael Brooks
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