Mind training begins as soon as physical training begins. If you make an error, you notice it, fix it and move on. We cannot get stuck on the error, regret it, announce it, or have an emotion about it. We learn to instantly fix it and forget it.
In a combative situation we may miss our intended target, or we may get hit. We cannot afford even a split second to stop and regret it. We need to instantly recover and move on. We practice this kind of detachment in every class. Detachment does not mean we don’t care about the error. We care. But we don’t get stuck or distracted, we move on.
Mind training includes awareness of our own conduct – not just in dojo training but all the time.
Respect is essential to make a dojo work. Respect sometimes means deference to rank, or proper dojo etiquette, but those are only a small part of it. Respect means treating people well regardless of rank. It means taking everyone seriously, looking out for everyone, not just yourself.
Respect means we seek to protect people, not hurt them. It means we are generous. We don’t take from people. We respect their property, credit their ideas, share access to training, etc. We don’t disparage people, split them, gossip or deceive them. We acknowledge other people’s strengths as well as our own, and appreciate other people’s successes. We acknowledge our own shortcomings, and take responsibility for assisting others to overcome theirs.
Respecting the body and mind means avoiding intoxicants, which poison training. Respect means being aware that sexual misconduct damages people, relationships, groups and training.
We learn respect. We get better at it as we train. The result is confidence and harmony between people. With that as the foundation we can more easily train in concentration.
Concentration means being focused on what we are doing when we are doing it. If your mind is disturbed by emotions of discord or disrespect, concentration is hindered. Advanced practice becomes impossible.
The dojo facilitates concentration. We minimize distraction outwardly by keeping the environment simple and purposeful. Inwardly, by presence of mind, we overcome the habit of treating our actions as a means to an end, and instead regard what we are doing, right then, right there, as what really counts. That is “sincere” training.
Full commitment to the moment – to the single technique we are doing, to the kata we are doing right now, to tonight’s class, to the rank we hold not the one we are aspiring to – allows us to make the most of training. That mental habit is powerful. The ability to concentrate, to focus on exactly what we are doing, is a trained skill we can apply to everything we do.
Bodies become soft and useless when disabled by a lifetime of sitting and watching. So do minds. By building strong minds in the dojo, we can apply our skill in concentration in relationships, family life, at work, in school, in sports, when driving or walking… As we get better at it, we are able to transform whatever we are doing into something that matters.
If we are threatened the slightest deflection of attention can be lethal. By training unshakable attention in the dojo, we elevate our self-defense skills. We also learn to bring life to every moment of life.
We train mindfulness during kata as we put all our attention on what we are doing. We monitor our own performance continually. If we detect a lapse in spirit, we raise it. If we notice we are hyper-aroused, we settle down. If we get distracted by something or someone in our environment, if we daydream or remember something we forgot to do, if our attention fluctuates and drifts from the kata (or the opponent, or the posture, or whatever the emphasis at that particular moment of the class) we bring our attention back to what we are doing.
Living the kata, sincerely, again and again, will intensify our martial skill. Rote repetition of kata will not.
Using the physical skill that results from our mental stabilization we can go much deeper: At first, we treat the body as a bunch of parts, and kata as a series of postures. As we train, we learn to use a fist or a foot. Then we link the parts and develop body mechanics, integrating the foundation, waist and body weapons, making use of the whole body in every move we make.
As we continue, we link the postures of the katas, first creating effective waza sequences and applications. Beginners get their finished postures corrected, moving a hand here or an elbow there. But after a while the body dynamics, energy flow, seamless transformations of balance in maneuver and communication of power uninterrupted by anything, make it apparent that our body is, as Bikkhu Bodhi describes it “…a configuration of living matter subject to the directing influence of volition.” Soon we can feel that, to be most effective, there are no distinct “postures” or techniques, stances or turns, but instead there is a constant flow of the body into various useful shapes.
Applying deep awareness, we instantly manifest our will even before we cognize the changing conditions which demand an instant, spontaneous response. This way we have the chance to prevail – whether we are engaged with training partners, opponents, or enemies.
This ability is the result of mind training, which we can apply in every move we make, and even when we are completely still.
Post Copyright © 2021 Jeff Brooks, author of The Good Fight – The Virtues and Values of the Martial Arts – available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback editions.