Mental Discipline in BudoBy Suino, Nicklaus
This article first appeared in the "SMAA Journal" Volume 18, Issue 4
Are you looking to get better at budo?
Do you want to strengthen your mind?
There is no way to attain mastery of any martial art without using the mind. Mind and body are inseparable, and even if the conscious mind is doing nothing other than thinking, "I really hate doing all these front kicks," the unconscious mind is moving the body through the motions and adjusting fit the circumstances. Every action influences every thought, and every thought affects every action. Therefore, it is so important to take active control of the mind in the dojo.
Because budo training can be so repetitious, many students daydream their way through practice. Do not allow yourself to fall into this trap. Daydreaming saps the body of energy and ends up making practice even harder. Force yourself to concentrate on the techniques, constantly finding new aspects to work on. When you feel tired during practice, push yourself past the fatigue and train even harder. You will find that the more you commit to hard practice, the more energy you will have available for it.
Be very reluctant to criticize anyone or anything in the dojo, except yourself. This approach is good for practical reasons, since it allows things to run smoothly, but there is an even more important reason for it. It helps to turn your critical focus inward, forcing you to accommodate yourself to circumstances. In daily training, you will be thinking about how you can improve, so eventually you will get better. In a fighting situation, you will adapt to the attack, giving yourself a better chance of avoiding it and countering.
This last point is one reason why it is so dangerous to practice martial arts using weak, choreographed attacks. Removing too much vigor from the attacker's role trains us to be weak. We may begin to focus on the fact that our partners are not attacking us "right," so we cannot execute our techniques. This is dangerous thinking; after all, it is ridiculous to imagine a real attacker stopping to adjust his grab so that we can easily release our arm and throw him. When someone tries to hurt or kill us, we must use any means available to escape or defend ourselves, whether they fall into the cannon of "correct" technique or not.
None of this means that we ought to give up independent thinking because we are involved in martial arts. Budo training can be a tool to help us become more incisive thinkers, but there is a time and place for the exchange of ideas, whereas the dojo is meant to be a place for practice of ideas disseminated mainly by the teacher. Experience has shown that the best martial artists are those who understand this distinction and put it into practice.
Every Action Becomes a Habit
Whether you practice your kata correctly or just go through the motions, you will have spent the same amount of time in the dojo. In the first case, you will have moved one step closer to mastery of the kata, but in the second case, even though you have gotten a little exercise, you will have moved your training backwards. This is because, in the dojo, every action becomes a habit.
Building on a good habit is much easier than overcoming a bad one. It is said that if you practice a skill incorrectly one thousand times, you will need two thousand correct repetitions to learn it properly. This may be a slight exaggeration, but experience shows that most students who do not learn to monitor themselves and focus on practicing correct technique never get very good. If your training is worth doing, then it is worth doing right, and you will get much more satisfaction if you can see the progress of your hard work. The sooner you decide to make every training session better than the one before it, the sooner you will begin to make real progress.
Your National Karate Association
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