Prepare to Win


You will fight like you train.


If we train well, we respond well. We cannot expect that we will rise to the demands of the moment just because we want to, or because our cause is just, or because we are courageous.


It’s good when we can all get along.


Over the years civilized people learned that collaboration is a key survival skill, and it contributes to happiness. Sharing difficulties and rewards, seeing things from another’s point of view, being concerned with their interests as well as your own, takes some maturity and is necessary for a successful life.


But not every encounter can be resolved without conflict. Some people are unreasonable, unfair, aggressive, selfish and violent. If we let them have their way, appease them or compromise with them, we jeopardize our own lives, reward their predatory behavior, and subject the people around us who need our help, to oppression.


Under violent threat we will fight like we trained. So to defend our lives and the lives of others, we need to train sincerely, now, while we have the chance.


Complacency is a deadly mistake.


Masters of training and practice have spoken to this issue for millennia.


An 8th century professor at Nalanda University in India, instructed his students on the urgency of practice,


Suppose a captor handed you

A bowl full of oil,

Then stood before you with a raised sword,

And promised you if you could walk across the courtyard

Without spilling a drop

You would be free

But if you spilled a single drop

You would be killed on the spot

How deep would your focus be?

Real practitioners

Practice like this.


A millennium earlier:

“…Just as one whose clothes or head had caught fire would put forth extraordinary desire, effort, zeal, enthusiasm, skill, and focus to extinguish the fire, so you  should put forth extraordinary desire, effort, zeal, enthusiasm, skill and focus…” in practice…


Gichin Funakoshi, a leader of Japanese karate in the 20th century, taught:

In a fight your hands and feet should move just as if they were blades to cut your enemy. Your techniques should be sharp and powerful.”
Funakoshi’s style of karate changed from the practical fighting art he learned as a young man on Okinawa – karate that used strikes, kicks, grappling, joint locks and throws for self-defense – becoming, under the influence of Japanese martial culture – a combative sport that resembled sword fighting with bare hands.


But technical emphasis aside, the intention in his statement, its seriousness and urgency, is clear.


Okinawan Karate practitioner Shoshin Nagamine expressed this in a way suited to our karate:


“Regard the opponent’s hands and feet as blades.”


This is useful. A skilled opponent does not need a sharp or powerful thrust to be effective. Sometimes just a touch – like the quick, light contact of a knife or a sword – will be decisive.


When you regard any contact of your opponent as “like that of a blade” you will move with urgency at the outer limit of your ability – you are more effective and your training is urgent, far deeper than if you are moderate or just going through the motions.


Head Coach Bear Bryant of the University of Alabama was the most successful football coach ever.

He told his players:

The will to win is nothing. Everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.


That is why we train sincerely and train hard.

Not just to meet a contingency, and not just to prevail in a confrontation.

We train sincerely to defeat a violent opponent, but also to fulfill our potential today, to deepen our commitment to our lives, our family, our neighbors, and to this moment – to completely unite our body and mind and purpose.

To be calm and clear, skillful and strong when the time comes.

Prepare to win.



Post by Jeff Brooks

3 thoughts on “Prepare to Win

Add yours

  1. A disarming smile.

    Thank you Sensei Brooks for this scholarly and motivational posting.

    Another positive result of training is, for me, is a heightened sense of awareness. One example I can site was when, deep into my training, I visited my daughter in Philadelphia who was attending The University of the Arts. We had lunch and were happily strolling back to campus when I became aware of an approaching man who at first had a normal walking gate. As he came nearer his actions became erratic; muttering and arms flailing. There wasn’t enough time to cross the street to avoid him instead I placed myself in front of my daughter to protect her and greeted his approach with a broad smile and a pleasant “Hello”. He looked quizzically at me, paused, stood still and then moved on. I was prepared to do whatever I could at that moment but my counter attack of smiling did the trick.


    Jeff Moriber


  2. another really good read and today’s Zen Mirror post “train sincerely and train hard, with our whole body and mind united in form and spirit”. Thank you Jeff, danny.


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