October 12, 2011

Spirit and mind are more important than technique

Gijitsu yori shinjitsu 

This is Master Funakoshi’s 5th entry in the Niju Kun, and this principle has many applications both inside and outside the dojo.  As with all principles of the Dojo Kun and Niju Kun, there are many possible interpretations of which this is only one.  The beauty of these precepts is that they can be applied to many aspects of both life and karate training.

Karate takes a lifetime to learn, and it takes a special person to commit to a lifetime of training.  There is always something else that we can learn, something else that we can improve upon in our techniques.  For some of us, the techniques come more naturally.  For others, we need to work harder to get our bodies to cooperate with what our mind knows to be correct technique.  But no matter our level or how easily the technique comes, our attitude and our spirit are profoundly more important to our progression in training. 

Just getting to the dojo is an important first step.  It is much easier to get caught up in everything else and skip training - there will always be something else that we could be doing.  To prioritize training and make sure that we are in class takes dedication and strength of will.    

Once in class, we must approach training with the attitude that there is always something to learn.  No matter our rank or what drill we are doing that day, there is always room for improvement.  Having the humility to admit that we don’t know everything will allow our minds to be open to new ways of thinking and will open up new possibilities for our development.  Karate is a constant cycle of learning and relearning the same techniques over and over, and making minor adjustments each step of the way to strive for perfection.  And it’s a constant struggle to make sure that each technique we perform is the best that we can do.  This kind of dedication to training does not come easily, which is why spirit and mind are so important.  The technique will not come perfectly at first, but with proper spirit and mind, the technique will come.        

As we learn, we may get information or hear things in a different way from our instructors or our seniors.  Our attitude in accepting this information is critical to our development.  We must always have respect for our seniors and appreciate the experience that they have, as they will have a different understanding of technique than we do.  Often we will hear things and understand what is meant, but it will take much time and effort to incorporate that into our technique, so we must be prepared to make that effort.  Sometimes, we will hear things that we don’t immediately understand, but we should not dismiss them.  Rather, we should keep this information in mind to try to achieve understanding. 

Training is not easy.  It is physically and mentally demanding.  So we need the spirit to push through when it gets hard.  We need to put ourselves into the mindset of defending ourselves and develop the strength, both physical and mental, to persevere.  We need to push ourselves and push our partners to always do our best so that no moment in the dojo is wasted.   

For progression in training, your technique is important, but your attitude and spirit will determine how far you can go.  Your Sensei will be able to see if you have the proper attitude, both inside and outside the dojo.  If all you have is good technique, you can go only so far.  But with the proper approach and mindset for training and the proper spirit, there is no limit to how much you can get from karate-do and how much you can give back.

Submitted by: Kimberly Baran, Nidan