November 22, 2011

Foster the Spirit of Effort

Doryoku no seishin o yashinau koto

This 3rd precept of the Dojo Kun can be translated as “Endeavor”, “Foster the Spirit of Effort”, or “Cultivate the Spirit of Perseverance” and has many great lessons for the attitude that we should bring to training.  There are two important components to fostering the spirit of effort: challenging ourselves and challenging others. 

No matter what drill we are doing in class, there are always ways to challenge ourselves to make it harder.  We can strive to attain technical perfection with each movement, eliminate any extra movements, move as quickly as we can, or move slowly and with complete control over our technique.  Our stances could always be just a little bit deeper.  We can develop reactions by waiting for the count or waiting until the last moment to move against a partner.  No matter what you’re working on, there is always a way that you can make it more challenging for yourself.  There is always something that you can focus on to improve your technique, and the way that we improve is by continuously pushing ourselves to be better than we were before.     

When training with others, we should challenge each other, promote a competitive spirit in training, and strive to set an example for our juniors.  We push ourselves to move faster than the person training next to us.  With partner training, we push our partners to be better than they currently are.  We take inspiration and support from our fellow karateka to give us the drive to work harder, to be stronger, to have more endurance, to be more resilient.  When everyone gives their best and pushes others to also give their best, we all end up better than we thought possible.

While we are each responsible for giving our own best effort, we also collectively contribute to the atmosphere in the dojo.  We should all work to cultivate the dojo into an environment where hard work, determination, and willpower are encouraged.  It is through fostering the spirit of effort in both ourselves and others that we will all continue to develop into the best karateka we can be.
Submitted by: Kimberly Baran, Sandan

November 2, 2011

Karate is just like hot water; if you do not give it continuous heat, it will become cold

Karate wa yu no gotoshi taezu netsu o ataezareba moto no mizu ni kaeru

This is Master Funakoshi’s 11th entry in the Niju Kun, and this precept is easily applied to physical training.  It goes without saying that we should get to the dojo as often as we can.  There is no substitute for the guidance of an experienced instructor.  However, when we cannot make it to the dojo, or on days when there is no formal practice, we should try to do something to improve our karate.  It may only be 5 or 10 minutes, but setting aside that time for karate each day has a great impact on our training.  

There are many benefits to self-training outside the dojo.  By thinking about karate or performing techniques just a little bit every day, our minds and bodies stay sharp through regular practice.  Everyday training also improves flexibility, increases strength, and prevents injury.  It prepares us for class, so time in the dojo can be spent on details rather than repetition and memorization.  Self-training excites us about karate and motivates us to get back to the dojo.  Independent practice personalizes our training, because we can spend time working on our own specific weaknesses.       

There are two ways to approach self-training outside the dojo, formally and informally.  For formal practice, it is best to start with just a 5-10 minute commitment.  Use this time to personalize your training and work on areas where you need the most improvement.  If you have trouble with flexibility, use this time for stretching.  If you have trouble with strength, endurance, or connection, use this time for strength training, cardio workouts, or impact training (hitting pads).  Self-training is a good opportunity to commit kata to memory, to refine basic techniques or stances, or to run through drills learned in class.  You can make adjustments to these drills by substituting stances or techniques to fit your particular needs.  Working on techniques independently opens up opportunities to explore and think of questions to ask your instructor for your specific personal development.  

Informal training can be physical or mental, and can be squeezed into daily life anytime we have a few minutes – while waiting for the bus, doing laundry, talking a walk, watching TV, brushing our teeth, etc.  Use this time to mentally walk through a kata, or review concepts and lessons learned in class.  This is a good time to work on things such as light stretching, stances, hip movements, or hand positions.  Spend some time on non-physical learning by watching videos, reading karate blogs or articles, or having discussions with fellow karateka about techniques or philosophy.   Thinking about techniques generates a greater desire to get back into the dojo to try out ideas or applications.  Revelations from independent study give more depth to drills in class, and produce more meaningful questions when the opportunity arises.  

There is no limit to what we can do outside the dojo, but even a small investment each day brings immense benefits to our training.  A few extra minutes improves both our physical performance of technique and mental understanding of karate-do.

Submitted by: Kimberly Baran, Nidan and Matthew Baran, Nidan