Articles

"To Infinity and Beyond"

"The Continuing Mind".

In a karate-do, if you ask a question of your sensei the answer you get often depends on how you phrased the question in the first place. Sometimes this question draws a simple answer. Sometimes it does not. Sometimes it may even draw the dreaded answer, "ask me again in three years". Which is in truth is probably the real answer that your sensei thinks will do you the most good in the long run. What it really means is, "go away, train hard, and after many years of proper practice you will probably find the answer for yourself". Some answers it seems never come easily.

Now the other day it so happens that I was asked a very interesting question. The question was, "when does a technique end?" Now it is not unusual for a karate student to believe that a technique ends once it has stopped its forward motion. So, I thought that this was a great question. Especially given that this student was a high ranking kyu belt. While I was tempted to be a bit cheeky and give the, "go away, train hard, and after many years ..." reply, instead I decided to answer their question.

I explained that while it is not uncommon for many karate students to think that physical motion and mental thought are two separate things, this is not true. One of the best examples of the concept can be found in the Japanese art of Kyudo, or archery. In Kyudo, "the way of the bow", students are taught that they must first "see" their arrow hitting the target in their mind before they ever release their arrow. It is because of this belief that their mind and the arrow must remain connected that students of Kyudo never take their eyes off of the arrow. Instead they remain mentally focused on the arrow all the way to the target, as if "willing" the arrow to its ultimate objective. In this way when the arrow does strike the target it still remains a part of the archer, even though they are now separated by a very great distance.

As hard as this concept may be for this high ranking kyu belt to accept, it is nevertheless a very important one for them to try and grasp. Because in traditional karate the idea that physical motion and mental thought are inseparable is not a new one. Nor is the belief that the unseen energy generated by a powerful punch will ultimately bridge the gap that between where the fist has stopped and the intended target. This is the concept of a "continuing mind".

Lastly, I said to the student, keep practicing, train hard, but above all else, always keep an open mind.

Remember: "Just because you can not see something, is not proof it doesn't exist".