Kaizen

Kaizen

I feel compelled to write this, I have to get it out of my head. I’ve been on a journey learning more and more about myself the past few months… Looking at myself in the mirror and exploring who I really am — even when no one is watching with a desperate aim to truly get better as a human being.

The story;

I was at a Martial Arts Seminar, i’ll keep the style and date un-named, because it doesn’t matter. I felt, what i’m pretty sure was, for the first time a level of snobbery in the Martial Arts that I have not yet come across. It was subtle and masked with the ego-less approach that most Martial Artists will bring to a conversation.

…but it was there

I was speaking to a gentleman, who is a high ranked teacher in the arts. He has a pretty full, impressive and diverse history as well.

Japanese Kanji for Kai-Zen

The style of Martial Arts I study; Karate, specifically; Zen Shotokai is made up of a mix of traditional forms. We practice Shotokan, Ishin Ryu and Shorin Ryu as well as Kobudo (Weapons.) We work & practice the traditional components that make up Karate; Kata, Kumite and Kihon we also, as students utilize Bunkai and Oyo as we teach and learn and also during general self-defense practice.

By all accounts and purpose we are a traditional Karate Dojo.

This gentleman and I were having a really great and insightful conversation about what we were watching at the seminar so far that day, I was enthralled by not only what he was saying to me but how he was talking to me. Then he asked me what I studied. So I told him and he immediately said to me that he did not like what I studied, that he didn’t understand why anyone would mix things on any level and that it was bad practice not to keep your style “pure”.

He then told me an anecdote. He said to imagine that you are given a tall glass of fresh, pure spring water and you begin to drink, which represents learning the pure martial art form, then what if he would drip into the water a single drop of oil, which represents something that is not directly a part of that martial art.

As he then proceeded to ask me questions about my study, every time he disagreed with what we did he would say “drop”, after a few questions he then said “tell me when you no longer want to drink from the glass of water.”

It’s a fine story in and of itself…

However, I immediately got angry.

Pretty sure I got a bit red in the face.

I felt insulted, I’m a Blackbelt after all, which represents something earned, something I worked very hard to achieve for several years.

I believe in it fully… and who is this guy to question the what, why and how I practice my art…?

Seriously…

Later as we were all back at the seminar and watching the attendees practice I tried to think about why I got angry, what was it that he said that got under my skin.

Was it that he was questioning the validity of what I do? The legacy of my Dojo? Or was it the manner of his delivery?

As I thought on it more, I came to realize it was more that my ego got bruised.

The reality is I don’t really know this person, we don’t train together, we certainly aren’t friends, i’ll probably never see him again and really what do I care about his opinion of me and the way I do things in my life.

I don’t need to compete with public opinion or his opinion.

I only need to compete with myself to get better each day I wake up.

If i’m being honest with myself, I allowed him to insult me, I allowed my need to impress another person be the cause for being insulted.

I don’t think he really meant to teach me the lesson I learned, but he did in fact teach me a good one that day.

He was right, I need to stay pure. I need to stay inwardly focused and look at myself with fresh eyes every day.

Get better even if it’s only just 1% each day.

Kaizen.

Un-Mindfulness

Un-Mindfulness

In Karate there is a simple test to see if someone knows a Kata or not. You ask them a simple question like; “How many front stances did you just do?” If you get an answer promptly and confidently you know. If not, you also know.

Musashi

This is because when the student is practicing with mindfulness, they will not only just go through the motions of the Kata, but they will internalize it. They will then learn how to learn even when they are not “physically” practicing.

Still with me…?

Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world.
 — Miyamoto Musashi — A Book of Five Rings

Going through the motions…

I do find myself just going through the motions almost every day. I hate it. Quite often I’ll sit back and be unable to reconcile how the week or month has already passed me by so dang fast. I mean, it’s almost the end of the year already. How did that happen?

I got to thinking about this…

I need to spend more time in contemplation. Resting physically but thinking through things mentally. Truly contemplating the meaning of things that happen or are about to happen. Not only for my business but my personal life and interactions with the world as well.

I need to understand why I react the way I do to things and get ahead of those reactions so I can understand how I am, by knowing what I am. This can be done by thinking outwardly about the world but at the same time keeping my focus inward.

In the well known Samurai tomb Hagakure by Yamamoto Tsunetomo the author postulates that it would be rare if you asked a Samurai about the true meaning of the way of the Samurai and got a quick and concise answer back:

Although it stands to reason that a Samurai should be mindful of the Way of the Samurai, it would seem that we are all negligent. Consequently, if someone were to ask, “What is the true meaning of the Way of the Samurai?” the person who would be able to answer promptly is rare. This is because it has not been established in one’s mind beforehand. From this, one’s unmindfulness of the Way can be known.

The Hagakure

Negligence of my own mindfulness is a real thing and something I do not spend enough time on. Even the most famous of the Samurai are guilty… we all have work to do apparently.

In the very least if I have experienced something whether positive or negative in my daily routine I should take a minute and just think on it. Find my perspective on how what happened or how I reacted fits with my core principles. Then move on.

Not dwell on it, but catalog it, contrast it and set my mind for the very next time something similar occurs. Find and stay in a “data collection” state instead of a “reactionary” state. Then use that data to learn and improve.