Sunday, January 08, 2006

"Too many mind ... "

Yesterday's karate class was spectacular, the continuation of an insight.
We spent nearly the entire 90 minutes in ju kumite, or free sparring, combined with groundwork (grappling, submission holds).
What made it such a breakthrough experience for me was that I spent far less time thinking about what my opponent was going to do and much more time simply reacting to him or her. This builds upon a realization I wrote about several weeks ago on the newly discovered benefits of hitting the pause button during my thought process.

I found myself going on the offensive far more frequently, and instead of planning which techniques I would try to execute, I acted upon openings as they occurred, and created openings by sometimes snatching the initiative from my opponents.
I wear a chest protector during sparring to protect my sternum, which was sawed in half during my last surgery, in August. Maybe this subconsciously gives me the confidence to surge forward, knowing that this piece of equipment, and not my chest, will absorb most of the consequences of my offense. But it won't soften a shot to the face or kick to the groin. Yesterday, I chose not to think about consequences.

In the movie "The Last Samurai" (an utter fairy tale but a fine movie nonetheless, in my opinion), there's a scene in which Tom Cruise's character is engaged in a kendo match with a master swordsman. In several bouts, he is soundly thrashed.
Then, he gets this piece of advice from an onlooker: He is told that he has "too many mind," and that he must have no mind if he hopes to win. He mustn't think. He must react.
In a miracle of Hollywood, he learns this lesson in less than two minutes, and his next bout is a draw.

I've been battling my mind since I first became involved in karate nearly a dozen years ago. And in nearly every such bout, my mind has won. Now, I think I'm beginning to understand how to even the score.


MikeDoe said...

You're definitely getting there.

When you have no fear of the consequences you are free to act in no-mind. It is fear that forces the "I" to remain. When there is no "I" it is easier to fight.

What you are really talking about is Buddha-Nature whilst fighting or Punching-Kicking Zazen.

Whatever. You know it once you experience it.

Michael said...


You've said in four sentences what I was trying to express through many more words.
I think I'm beginning to see exactly what you're talking about.
Thanks for your insight!

Chris said...

"Zen and the Art of Archery" is an excellent book and really defines the intertwining of Japanese arts with Zen practice. If you haven't already, you should check this out.

Your insights into your martial arts practice is very interesting. The battle with our minds continues even outside the zendo or the dojo (sp?). I expect to battle indefinately.


Michael said...

Hello chris h,

Yes, it is a constant battle, and for me, too, it is a lifetime struggle.
I tried reading Herrigel's (or is it Herigel?) book but never got far with it. Perhaps I should try to pick it up again.

Knight Of The Storms said...

it takes time

Michael said...

Yes, Knight, indeed it does. Welcome to my blog!

g said...

Are you recommending the Tom Cruise movie?

Michael said...

Hi g,

Yes, I think "The Last Samurai" is well worth watching.
It's very loosely based on historical fact. The period during which the movie is set is called the Bakumatsu, or end of the Shogunate (and with it the feudal system). This is the period of Japanese history that most interests me.

The Bakumatsu began in the 1850s and was speeded along by the arrival in 1853 of U.S. Navy Commodore Matthew Perry and his "black ships" to Japanese waters. The next year, a treaty was signed (at U.S. insistance, with threats of military action for non-compliance) that among other things opened Japanese markets to U.S. goods and provided two Japanese coastal cities as ports our whaling ships could use for refitting and provisions.

Two centuries of Japanese near-isolation from the rest of the world thus were ended with the stroke of a pen, and it was all downhill from there. Bloody civil wars followed, and in 1867 the emperor was restored to the throne, and still more conflict followed. That's the setting for the film.

I think Tom Cruise generally has the acting ability of an artichoke, but he does a fairly good job in this film.
The real stars are Ken Watanabe and the beautiful actress Koyuki.

It's a long film, but it moves quickly and is worth the investment in time.

Hope this helps!

Beth said...

michael: awesome! twelve years. i'm impressed.

Michael said...

Hi Kim,

You know, I reread what I wrote and it's misleading. I did indeed begin my study of karate in 1994, but my training hasn't been constant all of that time. I've been training for six years total.
Sorry! (And thanks for your comments just the same!)

Green said...


You really know about the history of my country very well. Your explanation in English is very helpful for me to explain it to American friends.
Thank you. I saw "Last Samurai", too.
"Too many mind" ... I've often heard this word from my mother when I learned Japanese calligraphy from her.
Now I use it for my painting.

Michael said...

Thank you, Greensleeves!
I love Japanese history. I think it's fascinating.
As for the real Last Samurai, I think Saigo Takamori is much more interesting than Tom Cruise! :)

anu said...

Wow i love reading your karate experiences. I dont know what to say. Normally my mind always comes up with something.

But when i really like something, sometimes it shuts down.

I have no words now i am into my feelings of what it would be like to experience what you have just experienced.

Michael said...

My dear Anu,

I'm learning that these experiences aren't really profound. The only thing profound about them is their simplicity. By not seeking these things, I'm learning that they come unbidden, or at least have a better chance of doing so.
They seem quite ordinary. They're extraordinary only when I compare them with the mistakes I've made in the past.
I'm wondering if I said this right...

Kitty said...

Maybe the simpler and more ordinary, the more profound. (Maybe that's the secret we don't see until we get the mind out of the way. The mind thinks it's got to be big and flashy to be significant. :))

What you wrote about karate relates to some sort of shift I've had recently, with regard to how I use thinking and intuition in taking action. Instead of consciously using my intuition in conjunction with my thought process to plan what I was going to do, I got to a point (maybe out of simple exhaustion?) where that didn't work. I was having to just react and do, without (consciously, at least) going through the intermediate steps.

I got kind of scared, thinking "what's wrong with me?" What you wrote reminded me, "maybe nothing's wrong." Thanks.

anu said...

It makes so much sense what you said Michael :)

Michael said...

Kitty, Anu,

Thanks for your comments. Speaking for myself, sometimes I'm taken aback by how simple many of these concepts are. As you say, Kitty, I'm expecting realizations of gargantuan proportions. It's an anticlimax when they turn out to be just regular stuff.