“Walk on the road. Walk right side, safe. Walk left side, safe. Walk middle; sooner or later, get squished just like grape. Here, karate same thing. Either you karate do yes, or karate do no. You karate do guess-so, squish, just like grape. Understand?” Mr. Miyagi; circa 1984.
This is true everywhere in our lives, right? We get up from the couch to go to the kitchen to do whatever, but our mind is on a completely different subject and we slam our shin into the coffee table. Squish, like grape. When we’re not fully present, we burn ourselves while grilling, spill our drink, and forget to get off at our exit. Sometimes we end up in a room and forget why we went there. Relax, we’re not losing our memory; we were never fully engaged in the first place.
While we like to think we can multi-task, there are a number of recent studies showing that we actually suck at it. Our brains just don’t work that way and things go sideways. But, we continue to try at our own peril.
To get the most out of an experience, keep our shins intact, and actually complete a project that doesn’t need to be redone due to errors, we need to be there completely. Or, at least the greater majority of our brain does.
We should never do karate guess-so, which is why we need to center ourselves. At the beginning of Hapkido class, before physical warm-up, we practice Ki breathing. Ki, in Korean or Japanese, is like Qi or Chi in Chinese. Hapkido, Aikido, Qigong, Tai Chi. Ki is the universal energy that binds all things. It is our life force; our breath. In yoga, it is Prana. And pranayama is the controlling of the breath.
At the beginning of yoga class, we take a few minutes to center ourselves by focusing on our breath. It switches our brain from the strobe-light effect to just on, while getting our brain ready for the practice to come.
To balance on one foot or to hold a twisted pose takes concentration, effort, and attentiveness; complete presence in the here and now. These poses (asana), along with controlled breath, brings the mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical aspects of our being into a state of harmony.
When performing Ye Ma Fen Zong in Tai Chi, Osotogari in Hapkido, Vrikasana in yoga, or the infamous crane technique in Miyagido Karate, that physical task demands our full mental focus. This brings a stillness to the mind, allowing our consciousness to expand and access a higher state of awareness. Strength, flexibility, and other health benefits come as byproducts of the practice. Bonus!
Wait: A higher state of awareness? Expanding our consciousness? Am I getting smarter? Uh …
Does it always work? No. “What was that move John Wick did to that guy?” “What are we doing this weekend?” “Ooh, frozen yogurt sounds good.” And … it goes on. This happens in martial arts as well. It happens in basketball, driving down the highway, and playing poker. “Why did I go all in with a Jack-Seven off-suit?!” Well, at least now you’re out of the game, giving you freedom to think about that crap you were thinking about when poker was getting in the way, right? Jack-Seven off-suit gets you squished, like grape.
Guess-so is okay, when its okay. But when life matters, let’s not be so guess-so about it. Squished grapes aren’t bad either. I like a nice red blend.
Photo by Tianshu Liu on Unsplash