You may have noticed we have been doing ‘Mokuso’ more often at the beginning and end of our classes at Zen-Shin this year. A lot of you may be wondering why?
Mokuso is a Japanese term for meditation, the literal translation is moku=silent/still and so=thoughts, it is a big part of the traditional karate practice. Students sit in ‘seiza’ and clear the mind of all the business and worries of life outside of the dojo, so they can focus on their training. Typically children arrive at the club loud and excited and adults are usually stressed from a hard day of work. The transformation that a minute of silence makes is incredible. When I did this for the first time with our junior class in Mere Green a 9 year old student after a long sigh said something like “ahhh, that was like sitting in the country side with the sun on my face and a lovely breeze”. I was amazed at how effective a few moments of stillness was. It completely relaxed this busy, energetic, chatty 9 year old and took him to a state of bliss. This creates such a great start to a class, it gives us the opportunity to be present during our karate class. Similarly, finishing the class with Mokuso helps us leave the dojo calm and content, with a clear mind preparing us to go back into the world while maintaining the karate way of always beginning and ending with respect.
Meditation & mindfulness and its benefits is being talked about everywhere recently. I caught a bit of the BBC program “The doctor who gave up drugs” a few weeks ago which showed just how effective meditation can be for children that usually use drugs to help cope with their ADHD and other learning difficulties. Meditation and mindfulness is also promoted a lot in the work place these days to help employees cope with their day-to-day stressful lives.
So what is meditation? There are many interpretations but it can be defined as any experience involving introspection (personally I also see practising kata as one form of meditation for me… but more on that another time). It is a state of thoughtless awareness. This can be very difficult thanks to our senses which trigger thoughts and memories which once set off are hard to stop in their tracks. To do this requires detaching from our senses like we do when we are in a deep sleep. The world is going on around us but we don’t hear, smell or taste any sensation.
In relation to karate, Meditation is the foundation of karate-do (and all martial arts). If you cannot control your mind while sitting down meditating, then you will definitely struggle to have a clear mind when put under pressure at work/school, in a crisis or while sparring. Your physical body may be fast, powerful and flexible but if you cannot control your mind or emotions then your vision will be clouded. As the Chinese Proverb says “control your emotions, or they will control you“.
Martial arts is not just a physical practice. Yes working hard in class will teach you self defence and improve your fitness. But being a true martial artist is more than that. It is a path towards greater awareness, concentration and patience in and outside of the dojo. This cultivation of mindfulness, introspection and self analysis are all important techniques to the martial artist. Change does not happen over night and it is only you that can choose to take your practice to the next level. Discipline yourself to practice meditating without moving, or scratching an itch, or thinking about what you have to get done tomorrow and surrender to this mild form of torture… But, it does get easier!
Written by Afiya Richards