Training the Body, Training the Mind

Whatever our motives and goals for our training may be, we train karate because we get a good feeling from it.

It is not that training is comfortable or pleasurable or easy. But from day one we have an ideal to strive for and we feel good about taking steps to reach our ideal.

It feels good to get stronger, faster, more skillful, every day. It is good to feel that we are becoming who we want to be. 

Feeling up to the challenge in a workout, a match or under stress, is a good feeling.

This is not a trivial point. That good feeling is the consistent reward we get from training. It accompanies all the other benefits that we get.

Mind training needs the same foundation. It should feel good to do it.

Like our karate training, mind training is not always pleasurable. It takes persistence, energy and skill. As in martial arts training, at first our achievements are small and our hopes are great. If we are impatient, hoping for instant results, we get frustrated. If our practice is slack or our schedule is sporadic, the training won’t have much effect. 

Like karate training, mind training starts with a clear goal, and a sense of purpose. In both we learn the skills we need to move forward. In both we proceed step by step, applying what we learn, without haste or hesitation.

In both cases the training works. Soon our hope for future transformation, which got us started, is replaced by real progress.

In some kinds of Zen there is an article of faith that “there is nowhere to go and nothing to achieve.” That we are already possessed of a perfect nature. That “it is about the journey, not the destination.” 

But it turns out, that if there is no destination, there is no journey: There is wandering around or waiting for something to happen.

Zen ran aground on the misunderstanding of that doctrine. 

As in any serious undertaking, mind training takes energy and skill. There is work to be done.

Like karate training, mind training gathers momentum as you practice. You go deeper. You get better at it. You feel great doing it – the flow state that you enter in mind training is deep and sustained and purposeful. 

Physical training and mind training are both necessary. They are necessary for high performance, cultivated life. They are complimentary. They form a continuum of practice. Experiences from one can be exported to the other, including purpose, concentration and insight. 

Mind training and physical training work in similar ways, but they are not the same.  

If mind training practice feels dull, there is something off – either in your motive, your goal or your method. Those can be fixed. No need to waste time on fruitless practice.

One of the signs that you are doing your mind training properly is that you enjoy doing it. If you are training properly, it is not a chore. It is a relief, a joyful experience, and an adventure. 

Similar to the way our body becomes energized and unified as we master our karate training, our mind settles down and becomes unified as we become skilled in mind training. 


For more on mind training see our 念 Advanced Training page.


Post Copyright © 2023 by Jeffrey Brooks, Mountain Karate, Yamabayashi Ryu, Saluda, NC USA 

Featured image by Svetlana Gumerova


For more on mind training read True Karate Dō – 

“One of the best books I’ve read in years, inviting and compelling. Jeff Brooks moves effortlessly from martial arts to Buddhism to consciousness studies, self-transformation, and related fields in this wide-ranging and Illuminating study that has much to offer both novice explorers and veteran practitioners. A splendid achievement.”

— Philip Zaleski, Editor, The Best Spiritual Writing series 

— Co-author, The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams.

 True Karate Dō is available on Amazon in paperback, hardcover and Kindle Edition

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