"Karate – Exercising Body & Mind"

A discussion of Karate's benefits to body and mind

It's that moment of exhilaration through the union of body and mind that drives me in my practice of karate.

This is particularly evident when sparring with an opponent, and your movements become one. It is a totally meditative state in motion.

At this point, you anticipate the movements of your opponent, and counterbalance these with your own. So there seems to be no "me" versus "them", no "attacker" versus "defender". It all becomes fluid and rhythmic co-operation - one depends on the other for balance. You are totally focussed on this moment - no other exists. This mutual sensation is amazing.

When I enter the dojo and sit in seiza I focus on this time, this place. The activities and thoughts of the day are left outside. I aim to be totally "in the moment".

This is, in many ways, essential, as it's necessary to concentrate attention on form and balance, and the movements of self and the opponent - the likely alternative is injury.

The emphasis on balance - left and right sides of the body - aligns the body with the mind. Movements are frequently repeated on one side then the other - it's amazing what a challenge for both body and mind this can be. Initially it highlights how out of balance we really are.

When you work physically with the natural side of the body, the brain tends to utilises one side. When you balance this activity by using the other side of the body to repeat the movements, you force the other side of the brain to engage. This exercises the larger capacity of our brains, which has the reward of expanding our perception. Bringing about this balanced and more extensive use of the brain in turn opens up a greater capacity for spiritual growth.

Awareness, reaction time, strength, reflexes, flexibility, fitness and the ability to physically relax while alert are all benefits of training. It contributes to a sense of wellbeing, of confidence in knowing one's strength and the feeling of having awakened a special sixth sense - a melding of body and mind. You see things with a sense of clarity as you do after a meditation.

Karate-do, as it is traditionally known, translates as "The Way of Karate". In the Japanese tradition of "Ways" - of the Samurai, or the Buddha or Confucius - this meant a dedicated philosophical way of living. It is indeed this ... once one has practiced karate, it becomes a way of life.





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