The Miracle of Mokuso – Meditation in class

You may have noticed we have been doing ‘Mokuso’ more often at the beginning and end of our classes at Zen-Shin this year. A lot of you may be wondering why?

Mokuso is a Japanese term for meditation, the literal translation is moku=silent/still and so=thoughts, it is a big part of the traditional karate practice. Students sit in ‘seiza’ and clear the mind of all the business and worries of life outside of the dojo, so they can focus on their training. Typically children arrive at the club loud and excited and adults are usually stressed from a hard day of work. The transformation that a minute of silence makes is incredible. When I did this for the first time with our junior class in Mere Green a 9 year old student after a long sigh said something like “ahhh, that was like sitting in the country side with the sun on my face and a lovely breeze”. I was amazed at how effective a few moments of stillness was. It completely relaxed this busy, energetic, chatty 9 year old and took him to a state of bliss. This creates such a great start to a class, it gives us the opportunity to be present during our karate class. Similarly, finishing the class with Mokuso helps us leave the dojo calm and content, with a clear mind preparing us to go back into the world while maintaining the karate way of always beginning and ending with respect.

Meditation & mindfulness and its benefits is being talked about everywhere recently. I caught a bit of the BBC program “The doctor who gave up drugs” a few weeks ago which showed just how effective meditation can be for children that usually use drugs to help cope with their ADHD and other learning difficulties. Meditation and mindfulness is also promoted a lot in the work place these days to help employees cope with their day-to-day stressful lives.

So what is meditation? There are many interpretations but it can be defined as any experience involving introspection (personally I also see practising kata as one form of meditation for me… but more on that another time). It is a state of thoughtless awareness. This can be very difficult thanks to our senses which trigger thoughts and memories which once set off are hard to stop in their tracks. To do this requires detaching from our senses like we do when we are in a deep sleep. The world is going on around us but we don’t hear, smell or taste any sensation.

Control your emotions or they will control you. Chinese proverb.

In relation to karate, Meditation is the foundation of karate-do (and all martial arts). If you cannot control your mind while sitting down meditating, then you will definitely struggle to have a clear mind when put under pressure at work/school, in a crisis or while sparring. Your physical body may be fast, powerful and flexible but if you cannot control your mind or emotions then your vision will be clouded. As the Chinese Proverb says “control your emotions, or they will control you“.

Martial arts is not just a physical practice. Yes working hard in class will teach you self defence and improve your fitness. But being a true martial artist is more than that. It is a path towards greater awareness, concentration and patience in and outside of the dojo. This cultivation of mindfulness, introspection and self analysis are all important techniques to the martial artist. Change does not happen over night and it is only you that can choose to take your practice to the next level. Discipline yourself to practice meditating without moving, or scratching an itch, or thinking about what you have to get done tomorrow and surrender to this mild form of torture… But, it does get easier!

Written by Afiya Richards

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Women do karate too – Period

I love going to karate, focusing on my training and working hard in class.  However, there was a certain time Every . Single . Month that I dreaded putting on my fresh white gi and stepping into the dojo. Yep, you guessed it, i’m talking about my period. As it is a subject generally not discussed in our society I had no idea how to handle this situation from the age of 11. It was hard enough dealing with it at school let alone at karate.

Faced with the prospect of embarrassing myself every time I perform a mae geri (front kick) or sit into my kiba dachi (straddle leg stance), I could no longer focus on karate but was constantly stressing and trying to get a glance in the mirror every opportunity I could to check my dignity was still in-tact and my gi bottoms didn’t resemble the Japanese flag. Now looking back I realise that bleeding is nothing to be embarrassed nor ashamed about, to be honest its pretty amazing that we can be bleeding and still show up and kick ass.

After years of being self conscious and paranoid at karate, my Dad knew I struggled with my heavy periods and came up with a genius idea. He bought me a pair of tight training shorts …. and I haven’t looked back since! I use them as an extra layer of armour that keeps everything in place and acts as another barrier against leakage – yes, unfortunately its happened to me too. But now when that time comes I can save myself a lot of worry.

Probably one of the only perks about my Dad being my Sensei is that I could let him know the situation before class, especially as my periods were very painful and heavy. So he understood why I may have been holding back in class. With that being said, I’m sure I’m not the only female that practices karate that has this monthly struggle. If so, when you get chance I encourage you to let your instructor know before class why your energy may be lower than usual, or that you have got bad cramps or back ache. Its completely natural and understandable, we don’t have to pretend like it’s not happening. Karate is very much a masculine practice with yang energy, however as females we must embrace our ‘SHE power’ and our Yin – feminine energy, and respect our bodies particularly during this time. Periods shouldn’t stop us from doing what we love. But we must listen to our bodies and if we need to slow down a little, that’s fine. I know its hard to put your gi on while on your period, but I always feel better afterwards. Exercise can help PMS (premenstrual syndrome), physically and emotionally.

I hope this post helps somewhat, if not at least you know that you are not on your own with this one. And if you are a guy reading this…maybe your sister/mother/partner or even training partner will appreciate you reading this.

If this post resonates with you, I would love to hear your comments or feedback.

Afiya Richards x

Half Term Hangout

Zen-Shin held it’s first ‘Half Term Hangout’ this week at the Zen-Shin Studios. It was a program offered to students and the public for 2 days of fun and creativity. Take a look at the photos to see what we got up to. Click on the photos below to enlarge.

We have had some amazing feedback from the kids and their parents and have been asked to have another ‘half term hangout’ over the christmas half term!  So pencil Monday 19th and Tuesday 20th December into your diaries.

Here is some parental feedback: “I wish it was on the full week because my son absolutely loved it. Thanks again to Fi, Abian and Jumoke for giving him such a great time, money well spent. And thanks Kyoshi for allowing them to paint the wall it’s a testimony to how Zen-Shin is more than just a martial arts club, but has the emotional welfare of its children at heart”

 

Olympic News

5 new sports have been added by the International Olympic Committee for the Olympics in Tokyo 2020, including baseball, skateboarding, surfing, climbing and KARATE!

This is great news for karatekas and people who have never been exposed to the art of karate. What a great time for it to be introduced in the perfect location Tokyo, Japan, the country where karate was established.

It’s been a long time coming, and I’m so excited that we are going to be able to watch the best karatekas from around the world perform from our TV screens!

Judo was brought into the Olympics in 1964 when Japan hosted the Olympics last time and Judo seems very popular in Japan now, and has over shone karate. No doubt karate will start a new adventure throughout the world after it is televised in 2020. Let’s hope it inspires others to take up the art.

It would be great if our Zen-Shin students could be involved. It will take a lot of hard work and time.

The best preparation for tomorrow is to do your best today” H. Jackson Brown, Jr.