Karate, Mental Aspect
People believe that there are limits to the strength of their bodies and minds, without really trying hard to overcome the limits. With proper training, the mental and physical barriers can be removed to reveal surprising power. Karate is a Japanese martial art (Bu-do), which was devised to overcome weaknesses and limitations by bringing out hidden or unnoticed potential.
What is the difference between karate and self-defense?
When acting in self-defense, you are acting in your own interest. You, yourself, are the subject to be protected. This, of course, is instinctive and easy to do. When practicing a Japanese martial art, somebody else or something greater than yourself is the subject to be protected. This means you must have an altruistic love of others as preached by Christianity, instead of just an egotistical love for yourself. This is the gedatsu of Buddhism, which means “getting out of yourself.”
Which is better?
In fighting (not merely physical competition, but also mental competition such as that in business, school, politics, or other endeavors), if you think first about your own personal safety or well-being you may worry and wonder what to do. Often you cannot make a decision properly or quickly and will miss an opportunity. But if you deny your existence in this world and act for love (your loved ones, country, people, etc.), you will be decisive and able to focus great power.
The word karate is derived from “nothingness” (mu) of Zen Buddhism. This “nothingness” is freedom from the psychological obstruction of fear. With this barrier removed, one’s ability to use the physical techniques of karate is greatly improved. Mu is the very essence of karate. Here is an example:
A Hen’s Story
When I was young, chickens were kept in the yard in Japan and were allowed to run around freely.
Although the chickens enjoyed their freedom, they also faced danger. Sometimes alley cats would come into the yard and try to eat them for dinner. So whenever I heard the hens cry, I had to run out to chase the cats away.
One day I was surprised to see a different situation. One of my hens was chasing after a big alley cat, and the cat was running away panicked with fear. Why did my cowardly hen become so tough? Because, the hen was a mother at that time and had little chicks to protect. The love of her babies made her overcome her fear and risk throwing her life away. From this self-sacrifice, she got the great power to strike back at the alley cat.
People are so afraid of losing their lives that they never find them. But when people are willing to die or throw their lives away, they gain life back. From antiquity, Japanese sword masters have taught ken 3 - zen 7 (ken means sword; zen is the zen of Buddhism). This means that techniques are 30% and state of mind 70% of the victory in a fight.
From Kitoh Karate, by S. Sugiyama Copyright 1994