Showing Appreciation as a Martial Artist

As a Martial Artist, it is good to follow the ancient tradition of paying respect to your Chief Instructor. One way to do this is by introducing others to the Martial Arts. The more students and families that are participating, the stronger these students and families will become. The stronger they become, the stronger the community becomes. The stronger the community, the stronger the city, state, and country, all in sequence, become. Therefore it is good to do to your part. Perhaps the greatest honor and the highest respect you can show your Chief Instructor is to return the favor given to you, by thanking him or her. You can do this simply by complimenting the school and referring others to it. Enlightening others will not only show your appreciation for how you have benefited from the Martial Arts, but will enable you to play a part in developing a stronger community.

We have all been taught from an early age that it is important to thank others when we have benefited because of their concern and trouble. What is involved in saying "thank you"? First of all you are expressing to the other person your gratitude for the trouble taken in your behalf. By saying "thank you", you not only demonstrate your humility to the other person, you adapt this humility even more into your attitude and behavior.

Saying "thank you" is also a way of demonstrating your willingness to give something back in return, something that may mean as much to the other person as what you have received means to you; maybe even more. If you have ever seen a sad or pensive face brighten into a glowing smile, followed by a sincere and candid expression of thanks, you know the warmth that can be experienced in those two words. The exchange that goes on between two people, sealed by a simple "thank you," can be one of the most touching human experiences.

Because of this, saying "thank you" has the final significance of being able to draw people together. We do not always know why we have the impressions of people that we do, but often, little things like saying "thank you", even to strangers who do us the smallest of everyday favors, can change the way that they perceive us, and behave towards us. This in turn changes the way that we see and behave towards them. All of this can come from a simple "thank you".

So we know that it is important to thank others for the things they do for us, but it is also important to maintain the sincerity behind the words. Bruce Lee once said, "Behind ever motion, the music of the soul is made visible. Otherwise his motion is empty, and empty motion is like an empty word - no meaning." "Thank you" is one of those phrases that run the risk of becoming an automatic response. All of power it possess is lost when this happens, because an unfelt "thank you" is like a reluctant hug: it is nothing more than awkward.

Holiday Eating Made Healthy and Fun

With the holiday season approaching, you know that you will be consuming a large amount of different delicious holiday treats. Most of the time people relax the strictness of their dietary intake during this time of year but for the Martial Artist, health and fitness is a year-round concern. You wouldn’t want to impede months and months of training and working out by overdoing it during the holidays. Let yourself go a little bit, but not too much! Here are some healthy holiday suggestions:

Keep Working Out: Even when you are not having any classes at all, it is important to keep up with your exercises, continuing to practice your kata and your techniques. The good Martial Artists knows the importance of staying in shape even during the holiday season. The more you let your outside training go, the more likely you will be to forget your kata and other techniques, or be prone to performing less accurately. Don’t let all that turkey and stuffing weigh you down too much!

Remember to Eat Healthy: It is important that you try to eat as healthily as possible, especially during the holidays when you will have so much temptation from so many different treats. You should allow yourself a considerable amount of freedom when it comes to holiday treats; enjoy some of Mom’s cheesecake or Uncle’s special stuffing, but don’t overdo it. It is never good to be greedy. The good Martial Artist can maintain a balance between what he or she eats and how much he or she exercises. By maintaining this balance, you can keep yourself looking good and feeling good. The better you look in the dojo, the better you will feel about yourself. Not to mention the fact that maintaining good health is its own reward.

You may want to get some books with good healthy holiday recipes. There are always some available at your local library. You will be much happier with yourself after holidays if you keep your eating and exercising in a comfortable balance. You will feel good when you return in shape and prepared to continue your Martial Arts training in the dojo!

A Word from the Wise

The best athlete wants his opponent at his best.

The best general enters the mind of his enemy.

The best businessman serves the communal good.

The best leader follows the will of the people.

All of them embody the virtue of non-competition.

Not that they don’t love to compete,

but they do it in the spirit of play.

In this they are like children and in harmony with the Tao.

Lao Tzu

Visualization and Thinking

When we consider the question, "what is thinking?," many of us might assume it is like talking to ourselves inside our heads. Most thinking may follow this pattern, but there are other ways to think. Perhaps the most obvious alternative to inner talking is inner picturing or visualization. Thinking in pictures has some distinct advantages over thinking in words. At the same time, teachers and parents sometimes discourage this mode of thinking, giving it the label "day dreaming," and thus, stifling its development.

The major problem with verbal thinking is that it limits us to having one thought following another. Just as you would not be able to read this sentence if each letter was printed one on top of the other, so, to think in words, you must think one word after the other to make sense of the sentence. Thinking in pictures, on the other hand, allows us to consider several variables and their relationship to each other, simultaneously. This kind of thinking is essential in karate training.

Sometimes a student will try to talk their way through a move. I notice that the attention that they give to the detail of the movement usually reduces the other elements of the technique. The result can be a robotic caricature of what they should be doing. A student who is working, even at a reduced speed, from an accurately visualized perception of a move, can execute the technique smoothly with an all inclusive harmony of form and power.

During a sparring match, the inner talking student can fall into complete disarray as his mind jumps around wondering, "what punch should I do?, should I kick now?, what is he going to do?, what will my friends who are watching think?," etc.

The visualizing student concentrates upon picturing connections and patterns of movement relative to himself and his opponent. He is simultaneously aware of his stance related to his opponents, the play of distance between them, the timing and rhythm of his opponent’s movement relative to his own, and the messages his opponent is sending him through his body language. As a result, the visualizing student is in touch with himself, his opponent and other environmental variables simultaneously and in the moment. The verbal thinker, on the other hand, is stuck in conceptual abstractions that obstruct and interfere with his perception of what is going on. His responses may be slow and robotic, limited to the specific analytical moment he notices at the time. In short, he is out of touch and easy to defeat.

Visual thinking can be seen to be essential for success in karate training. It is important in many other areas of life as well. Think about it!

Sensei Robert H. Mason 1990