A few months ago, Sensei asked us to come up with a list of the things we enjoy most or want to do more during class. I thought about this for a while and, of course, the first things to come to mind were weapons forms, kumite, bunkai, and all of the other fun things we do from time to time. However, as I thought more about this, I realized that my favorite part of any class is at the end when we take a brief moment to quiet our bodies and minds to focus. That brief moment of clarity is something I try to keep with me long after I walk down the stairs and drive home. I feel free from the burdens of life and the plague of stress that can weigh a person down. Mokuso is when we silence our thoughts, or as Bruce Lee would put it, “emptying one’s cup”.
We all know someone who could use a little more meditation in their life, and each of us are probably in that boat; but, have you ever met someone who has meditated too much? Crazy question, but that’s what jumped into my head one day as I was driving to the dojo. The more I thought about this, the more I realized how I’m always so focused on practicing my katas that I often left out my favorite part of the class. Even when I’m at home and step into a back stance, usually while my three-year-old and one-year-old sons trying to grab onto my legs, I’m more focused on getting the movements and timing right that I forget to relax and focus.
The longer I thought about all of this, and the more people I talked to about it, the more I realized that there is something special in mokuso that separates us, as karateka, from the rest of the world. People can go to the gym for a good physical workout, and they’ll probably leave tired and in a better mood. People can take a mixed martial arts class and learn the best grappling or street fighting moves around and be a great fighter. All of those are great things for people to do, but when you are about to step into a job interview, or lead a corporate meeting, or deal with an emotional teenager, or face any of the constant battles in life’s uphill adventure, there is an opportunity to pause, breathe, and focus. When people come to our dojo they not only push their body and learn how to defend themselves, but they also exercise something powerful within themselves that is difficult to achieve anywhere else. This is what separates us from everything else. This is why I enjoy my weapons techniques and katas so much; those katas are a means of helping each of us become the best version of ourselves that we can be. While the corporate office is no place for a roundhouse kick, despite how frustrating the day might be, the same confidence and composure you gain in the dojo can help you succeed outside the dojo. Remember to take time to breathe, even if it is just for a few moments. It might change your day and slowly could change your life.
As a closing thought, I would like to invite you to look up a Japanese word: kokoro. A single word having such meaning is something truly beautiful.