Karate and Everyday Life

Students have often heard that Karate training should affect them in a positive manner in regard to their day-to-day activities. They are prompted to ask, "How will training in MuDoKai help me to do my job, to understand my parents, to drive my car, etc.?" Since there are several levels of discussion involved in answering such a question, I will try my best to offer some examples.

Let us first consider attitude. Are you awake? In a tournament, a lazy or casual attitude can cause you to lose. In a self-defense situation, losing could mean being hurt or even worse. In class, we work hard to develop an "awake" attitude, a state of awareness which allows us to see, hear, and understand more. When the consequences of a "sleepy" attitude are being scored upon in a sparring match, the motivation to sharpen up our attention is built in to the process. After all, none of us like to be scored on. To maintain this attitude in everyday activities, students should concentrate on the job at hand as if they were sparring. Whether washing dishes, balancing our checkbook or cutting a lawn, the attitude must be the same. Each activity must be "breathed through", just as every movement in a Karate class is "breathed through." Our attention must be focussed on exactly what we are doing. Any time that we catch ourselves daydreaming we can bring ourselves back to the moment and re-establish our concentration. The truth is that our attention is limited. This is both a point of strength and of weakness. Our strength lies in our ability to accomplish our goals by bringing our attention to bear upon the steps essential to achievement, and then following through with all of the necessary action for their accomplishment. Our weakness lies in the fantasy that we can scatter our attention over many areas at once, and have a satisfactory experience of focussed success.

For those who drive today, the temptation to scatter our attention is very strong. Many people eat, drink, listen to the radio and talk on the phone while driving. While a passive process like listening to music, will not necessarily interfere with our driving performance, eating, drinking and talking on the phone, especially when having to hold a receiver in our hand, will certainly effect our ability to deal with a crisis, should one arise. The consequences can of course be very severe and sometimes fatal.

Pre-arranged partner practice and Karate sparring are very real activities; that is, if you make a mistake, the punishment is immediate and obvious. When you get tagged because you were not sufficiently skilled and awake to deal with the move made against you, you know that you messed up somewhere. In this sense, practice is a very true process. When a partner scores on you cleanly, there is no doubt that you made an error of technique or strategy. Similarly, when you score on a partner, you enjoy the experience of everything going right. By identifying the feelings involved in this process, you can recognize touchstones for other situations. When you know what it feels like to do something completely correctly, you can judge other situations and experiences by that standard. Here we have the foundation of the Martial Arts philosophy of Right Action and Right Conduct. Other important principles of the Martial Arts like perseverance, honor, loyalty etc., follow from the sense of "rightness" experienced within the practice and discipline of your Karate training.

A developed feeling of competence and courage can eventually be carried by the students from the Dojo into all of their everyday activities, as can attitude of confident alertness. This attitude is a success formula for any endeavor. It is an energized state for harmonious action from inspired perception, a moment by moment experience of Right Living. As human beings, we are like musical instruments, which must be kept in tune regardless of what melody or harmony we play. Karate training is a way of learning how to tune these instruments we were born into. Staying in tune is surely something we will always want to do. It’s the only way to gain the complete satisfaction that can come from knowing how to play for ourselves, and in tune with others! Learning how to play and how to win is a useful exercise in both Martial Arts and life.

(c) 1990 Sensei Robert H Mason


What does it take to be "FIT" in the Martial Arts? There are three main elements involved including Frequency; the number of times you practice your techniques, Intensity; the excitement, effort and inspiration you put into each technique as you practice it, and Time; the number of months and years you devote to mastering your techniques and strategies. My own feeling is that if a student can attend a class 2-4 times a week (Frequency), give themselves 100% physically, emotionally and mentally to intense training at every class (Intensity), and commit themselves to persevere to attain their Black Belt, with a view to moving on towards Mastery, they will achieve the "fitness" of a champion.

When asked how he got to be so good at Karate fighting, a famous champion replied that it was "because he trained harder than anyone else," and that he was "prepared to keep his training really basic." He went on to say, "if you practice every sparring technique 4,000 times, it can be perceived as boring training, but it gets results when you come to use it." He recommended that practice be split, 2,000 times on one day, and 2,000 times on the next to really get to know a particular move. So there you have it, from the one of the greatest Champions of them all, if you really want to get good, really practice hard at your basics, without regard as to whether or not you feel bored. In Karate class, if you sometimes feel bored, take the opportunity to practice all the techniques with extreme intensity, and the bored feeling will pass.

I encourage all students this month to consider how they train and ask themselves "am I FIT to be a Black Belt?" that is "do I commit myself to the program in terms of Frequency, Intensity and Time in such a way as to properly aspire to such a high goal".

(c) Sensei Robert Heale Mason... January 1993