One thing that often separates a traditional martial arts school from most sports or MMA schools is meditation. For instance, in my school, before a student even sets foot into the dojo they are expected to meditate. We have a narrow hallway in which I lay down some carpets for the students to sit cross-legged and meditate. Students are expected to close their eyes, clear their mind and focus on their breathing.
The purpose of the meditation is to prepare oneself for class. If a student steps into class without meditating they may have lots of thoughts running through their head that could negatively affect their karate training. For instance, perhaps they had a bad day, had a quarrel with someone or are stressed about a family issue. All these things take space in the mind and affect a person from performing at their best. In clearing out these thoughts one can relax and live in the moment without the baggage of these other thoughts weighing you down. Think of meditation as a tool to help you focus, relax and therefore perform at a higher level.
Meditation may conjure up images of a yogi sitting in the lotus position, chanting "Om" and hovering over an Indian rug. But, it doesn't have to be that complicated. A person can meditate in a chair just by closing their eyes and taking deep breaths. In fact, a person can even meditate standing up, walking or laying in bed! The important thing is that meditation is NOT sleeping. Some meditations even encourage you to keep your eyes open. In meditation a person is relaxed and is focused on one thing. The one thing can be your breathing, your heart beat, a single word, a candle flame, the sound of a bell, a sound in nature, a positive affirmation or a bible verse. These are just some ideas on what you can use to focus your meditation. You may find other things or thoughts that you wish to use in meditation. Whatever you choose, it should not be a distraction or annoyance. It should be something that helps you focus and brings you peace.
I believe that everyone can benefit from meditation. As a student, a meditation right before a big test can help you focus and perform better. As an adult, before an important presentation at work, a meditation can help relieve stress. As a job seeker, meditation can help ease the nervousness that often accompanies a job interview.
One particular meditation that I find especially helpful is a morning meditation. In my life I have spoken to many successful entrepreneurs and business people who attribute morning meditation as an important part of their life. For most people the morning is a rush to get ready, eat breakfast, complete last-minute tasks and quickly shuttle out the door to school or work. It's rush, rush, rush from the get go without stopping to focus on the positive. Would you like to change your life? Would you like to start each day with a smile? Try this morning meditation on for size:
Step 1. Get up 15 minutes earlier (it may mean going to bed earlier)
Step 2. Get a cooking timer that you can set for 5 minutes at a time.
Step 3. Find a quiet, private spot that you can meditate in a comfortable position. For instance, a cushion on the floor, a chair or a place out doors.
Step 4. You will do three 5-minute meditations.
In the Okinawan dialect, there is no word for "retirement." Instead, they use a word called ikigai. Ikigai (pronounced ee-ki-guy) translates roughly to "purpose" or "that which makes one's life worth living." Okinawan's live with a sense of purpose, whether it be raising a happy healthy family, nurturing their vegetable garden, playing a musical instrument or practicing karate. Ikigai is something that brings enjoyment or fulfillment. It gives you a sense of satisfaction in what you are doing. It makes you happy to do it.
Karate or the martial arts can be that for some people. I know it is for me! If karate is not your ikigai, it may give you the physical or mental tools to find the ikigai in your life and keep you physically ft enough to continue experiencing it.
Your ikigai is the passion in life that drives you and that motivates you. It may be a hobby that you enjoy. It may be your job. It may be a sport that you participate in. It may be something that you create or express. The important thing is that it's something you enjoy doing so much that you can't imagine not ever being able to do it again.
Knowing your ikigai is important. It one of the key traits that leads to longevity in life. And, the Okinawan's have a long history of living very long lives as they have one of the highest life expectancy rates in the world. In fact, Okinawa is considered a Blue Zone. Blue Zones are places in the world where people live to 100 and stay healthy. However, finding your ikigai can be hard work to figure out. You may need to do a lot of soul searching to find yours. Here are a few tips on how to find your own ikigai:
Vashon Borich-Leach, Sensei teaches traditional karate and tai chi in Branson, Missouri. She considers herself a life-time student of the arts. Her blog is an open journal of lessons learned in the martial arts. If you are a martial artist and would like to contribute to her blog please contact her.
©2012 Branson Karate & Kobudo™