Updated: Jan 5, 2022
It’s never easy explaining the body and its movements through text especially its relationship with the brain. At least that's my feeling on the matter. So lets think on it.
Bodily Integrity is about how much control we have over our mind and body. It consists of but is not limited to,
Discipline: Maintaining consistent action (repeating what is good for you).
Awareness: Knowing your surroundings through your senses.
Mobility: Using your bodies full range of motion (Keeping your joints and ligaments healthy).
Biomechanics: Knowledge of the basic tools your body is made of (Levers, ball joints, springs, etc).
Mindfulness: What you intend to achieve through your actions and paying attention to your micro and macro actions.
Balance: Control over your center of gravity. Keeping yourself physically and mentally ready to respond on demand).
All of this must sound familiar. Sprinkle in etiquette, values, responsibility and you'd see this turn into Karate.
Our brains operate in a way where what is external (objective) influences the internal (subjective), our thoughts and feelings. When I say feelings I’m mostly referring to physical feelings of touch, sensations of pain, pressure and a sense of balance, and less on emotion and mood.
As humans in our daily lives we tend to respond more on feeling for the majority of our actions, most without even realizing it because they are micro actions.
You want to sit or stand, lay back, a muscle strain you want to stretch, a quick itch to scratch or fix your hair. You may even have done one of these while you read that. There other actions we take that we can later think on. Like if there's something uncomfortable we have to do, we think on it until we feel comfortable doing it. What I'm here trying to help you do is to be aware of these small actions and sensations. Be conscious of every feeling and thought that passes through your mind.
Karate is a way to be prepared by refining what and how you feel through experience.
In our modern daily life we don’t need to run, jump, breathe deeply, lift heavy things or really even do karate anymore. We can work, order food even see family from home now. But when it comes to preparedness for the potential “what if” there could be a fire a burglar some act that requires us to respond on demand. We might need to run, jump, lift your own body weight or that of another, even fight. It’s like practicing a life time of punches for the one punch you might need. Being prepared is the difference between being helpless and helpful. It’s what will get you ready to help yourself out of the burning building so the firefighters can focus on the flames.
To be prepared we need to recognize actions of our daily lives and create a balance.
This is where being mindful comes in.
If we look at it like an equation we have 24 hours a day 100% of our time.
Sleep, 8 hours that’s about 33% of our day gone, but for good reason. Our body is laying flat and the muscles don’t get much if any movement, but our horizontal position allows gravity to level out the fluids in our body to have a healthy flow of nutrients; and of course our mind goes into defragmentation mode of sorts.
Work plus driving to and from, let’s say that’s an average 8-9 hours which adds up to about 35% of our day. Depending on what you do adds different types of stress. Maybe you sit all day putting pressure on your gluts decreasing blood flow through the body, strain on your lower back if your posture is poor. Or if you stand all day and the pressure is on your feet, knees and hips. Also the lower back, again if your posture is poor.
Meals, let’s say 2 hours a day, that’s about 8% of your day again sitting and thinking on what you’re putting in your body.
So being generous, 75% of your day is gone. That doesn’t include taking care of the house, kids, or the bills. Let alone if you have a second job.
So we need to be mindful of our time and think on how to best use it, because we can’t just let our time in the dojo or gym be our only exercise of physical or mental readiness. As an example, at my job I sit for hours and at times I need to lift heavy things. During that time I’m mindful of how I sit so I check my posture to reduce back pain and so I can breathe adequately and feel less tired by days end. When I need to lift a heavy box I’m mindful of who’s around me that could help or if not, how to lower and raise myself to reduce strain on my back and knees so to prevent pain in the future. I’m being prepared through mindfulness of my future feelings so that I don’t someday experience pain as I age. I'm using technique.
Ivan Pavlov conducted the famous experiment that discovered trained responses to certain conditions. Dogs drool when they know they’re about to eat, that’s a natural response. He started ringing a bell every time the dogs were about to be fed. In time he learned he had conditioned the dogs to drool when they heard the bell. In psychology it’s called a conditioned response (An automatic response established by training to an ordinarily neutral stimulus. A shock collar is another example.
The thing with us humans is that we can condition ourselves. We can realize when we should check our posture, notice when we have a few minutes use them to stretch. We can avoid pain and fear by learning from our experiences and those of previous generations. Study how to avoid or control it and reap the benefits.
This is the equation to do things efficiently in order to improve ourselves and hopefully the lives of others through our actions.
Thought +Feeling = Informed actions that then become experience that becomes more refined thoughts and feeling. It’s the seeking of answers to questions we ask ourselves about what we experience is when we start improving our actions and it becomes the birth of technique.
In Karate we have the punch. Something humans didn’t know how to do on day one.
We figured out when something hit us at a great enough speed with enough force could cause injury. When we moved our arm we learned we could move the hands at a greater rate of speed from its fulcrum and thus the hand could be used to strike with. But we could hurt ourselves, so if we grabbed a stick or stone we could swing that. If we didn’t have anything to grab we could like a stone, ball up the hand into a fist.
But at times we could break our fingers. Until we learned, if we point our knuckles it would greatly decrease our chances of that. Then finally we learned methods of improving the bone and tissue strength through impact training like conditioning. Now we improve the tools we use to condition.
Thinking on what we experience refines actions; that is technique.
We do things like this still today. Ever watch a baby learn to crawl and walk. They don’t know how to control their actions yet and they really have to think to figure it out. Now we don’t need to think about walking unless we want to.
Take a deep breath
I’m willing to bet you didn’t think about breathing until I asked you to.
What I’ve been talking about this whole time is refining that which comes natural (instinct), through training and understanding of our experiences to increase effectiveness; developing technique in all our daily actions to improve our lives. Improve your walking, running, sweeping sitting.
Bruce Lee said “Don’t think, feel.” He knew feelings were faster than though. When we fight we don’t have time to think. A fist is coming towards us, we need to have already done the thinking during training to act accordingly, to feel our opponent so that, again in Bruce Lee fashion “I don’t punch, it punches all by itself.”
The training and practice is where you have the thoughts to refine your feelings to improve your readiness and reaction time, both in mind and body. While always being mindful of every action you make will mean you are always prepared.