Kaizen 改善 The Quest for Improvement

The Japanese term kaizen is made up of two kanji characters 改 (modify, change or search) and善 (goodness or excellence), often translated as to strive for continued improvement or betterment. If one individual embodies the concept of kaizen it is Japan’s renowned sword master Miyamoto Musashi kamisama, celebrated for his prowess with the blade, extraordinary talents as...

Ikigai and Mortality

Individuals who believe their lives are worth living, live longer. From Psychology Today magazine. “Only the good die young.” While this may have been true in the adolescent fantasies of Billy Joel, it does not square with the results of a recently-published study by Toshimasa Sone and colleagues at Tohoku University Graduate School of...

A lesson on loyalty – Hachiko the dog 

All traditional martial art systems are bound to concepts of Giri 義理(obligation, duty, justice) and On 恩 (a debt of gratitude for kindness given). True loyalty is born of these concepts. Maybe our canine friends understand it best. From Yomiuri Shimbun, English Edition. Noted professor of agriculture science at Tokyo University, Eizaburo Ueno for some time wanted...

YIN AND YANG IN KARATE-DO

The Yin-Yang symbol is ubiquitous – from coffee mugs and tattoos, to t-shirts and key rings.  Although its teardrop-shaped halves are generally interpreted as”good and evil”, “negative and positive”, “male and female”, or “dark and light”, among martial artists, its value runs deeper. While most commonly associated with Chinese systems, it also has a profound and abiding connection to Okinawan,...

The Empty Cup Runneth Over

Mushin 無心, an essential element of martial expression, is defined as an empty or unfettered mind, liberated from thought, preconception or emotion. In a state of mushin, the eyes focus, breathing and heart-rate slow, and we shift into a calm, perfect alertness that facilitates reflexive reaction, i.e. in response to an attack. Beyond this level...

The Senpai-Kohai Relationship

The budo dojo (place of learning martial arts) is a microcosm of Japanese historical and social traditions including the senpai-kohai system. Most westerners try to equate this in the terms of the master-protégé or master-apprentice relationship. This is incorrect. Although there is no precise English translation, senpai (先輩) means an upper-classmate, senior practitioner, or...