martial arts philosophy

Think about how words spoken or heard can influence the way we train in the dojo. Those same words can influence the way we move our bodies.

This may seem far-fetched. Most of us don't believe in magic spells, in the ability of mere words to affect the physical world. Nobody has died because someone pointed a finger at them and shouted "bang!" That said, there are ways that words can affect not just our perceptions but also the way we exist. The karate dojo is but one place where this can happen.

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Time for a pop quiz in philosophy!

Have you ever questioned why--in systems that teach us wounding, arresting, and potentially even killing techniques--we often place a focus on philosophical ideas such as understanding the self and exorcising our ego?

I mean, has navel gazing ever actually stopped an angry drunkard's fist from claiming your face as its new residence?


But believe it or not...introspection and deep thought does help martial artists in many other ways, some of which actually can influence the fight.

Let's delve into why so many black belts are married to philosophical study and find out what mental switch we can make to begin truly progressing in our training!

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If I had to pick one scientist from any point in history to become my sensei, I would have to choose Albert Einstein.

In fact, his understanding of martial arts far exceeds that of many present day black belts!

I know, I's a random thought. Before you fact-check this Black Belt article against wikipedia to see if the white-haired genius really did karate, let me stop you though. He didn't. That doesn't mean he didn't know the "secret" that many martial artists tend to forget however.

Wanna know the secret? Here's what Einstein knew, "It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience."

In other words, everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.

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Once upon a time, there was a Zen master who--er, stop me if you've heard this one before.

This grey-haired-yet-never-grouchy man offered wise words to those who came seeking him, regardless of who they were. One day, a scholar came to him for counsel, however it became painfully obvious that the visiting scholar wasn't truly ready to receive advice. He would interrupt the master with his own stories and failed to properly listen when he did give a chance to speak.

Not cool.

Rather than losing his temper, the master suggested they sit down and have tea.

The master gave his guest a teacup and began to pour. And pour. And pour even still. He kept pouring the hot tea until it completely filled the scholar's cup and, even then, continued to pour into the overflowing cup.

Aghast at the spilling hot tea, the scholar leapt up and cried "Stop! The cup is full!"

"Yes," The master said calmly with a knowing smile. "You are like this cup--so full of ideas that nothing more will fit in. Come back when your cup is empty."

Mic drop. There is a powerful lesson to be found in that story and it is about much more than customer service.

In Zen Buddhism, there is the belief--one that is often adopted by Japanese martial arts--that the beginner has one of the most powerful mentalities.

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