Philosophical Aspects
       
Why is Matsubayashi-ryu training so physically demanding?

If we look at our training from a strictly tactical viewpoint, we work hard to maximize the probability of surviving a combative
encounter.  We never know how strong or adept an attacker or attackers may be.  The better our condition, the faster we are at
avoiding aggression (this may include outrunning attackers) and the more powerful the delivery of our techniques.

If we regard our training as a process of refining ourselves, we must understand that refinements result from moments of insight.
Insights are more likely to occur when the mind is quiet and still. When we work hard we must bring our mind to bear on the task
at hand.  We cannot think about the past or the future.  So our mind is brought to focus.  It attends to only one thing.  Since it does
not  wander to other things, it is still. This stillness of mind places us at the door of insight.

Through our strenuous efforts, we have arrived at the door of insight.  However, willpower will not open the door.  We’re in a
quandary.  If we slack up on our efforts, we will be leaving the doorstep, but effort alone won’t open the door.  People may remain
stuck with this problem for quite some time.  

Up to this point, we have been “bearing down” with both mind and body.  Next, the mind must “soften up” while the body
continues to “bear down”.  This usually happens when we realize that will power alone is not enough, but we don’t know what else
we can add. We experience a sense of humility, knowing we’re in over our heads, and knowing we can’t give up.  This sense of
humility produces the mental “softening” needed.  It is the knock on the door of insight.    

Still the door does not open and we are left to humbly persist in our exercises. At some further point we stop looking for a reward,
for an insight.  We do the work because we do the work.  We become lost in a timeless state of hard work and gently quiet mind.  
Then we discover different feelings within.  We’re energized but not manic. We’re happy and hopeful for no reason. Things look
more simple and easier to manage.  This improvement in feeling is the sign the door has opened.  After this we’ll tread through life
with a lighter step.
Phil Kromka, Rokudan, Renshi

Comments 1:
The article described what is needed to reach the point where insights may occur.  Would it be useful to talk about how insights
occur?   Do insights come after a technique is correctly executed and we are aware of how we executed it?  Or can insights be
made while practicing a technique, but before it can be correctly executed?  Or can insights even be made simply by "listening" to
your Sensei while in the proper frame of mind?  Maybe a definition of insight would be useful.  

Response to Comment 1:
What we call insights are really recognitions or realizations that we're seeing something new.  Often, these moments are
accompanied by a profound sense of wonder or inspiration.  Next can come a sense of uncertainty which occurs because we've just
gained a higher perspective on things and some or all of our previous held views/opinions/understanding become obsolete. Those
recognitions occur after something has already happened to us.

That thing that happened is not something that is made to happen via our will or intellect, etc.
It is a bit like having a dusty mirror where intellectual activity, will power, etc. cause the accumulation
of more dust.  But the nature of this dust is to fall off gradually if we stand there and face it
in the absence of all that "mental noise".  As the falling off proceeds, we say,
"Wait, I think I see something." then "Wow, I can see myself better!"
HARD TRAINING
MAZU KOKORO O TADASU

In many karate dojo you may find scrolls with the kanji which reads "Mazu Kokoro o Tadasu" which means "first make your
mind/heart/spirit/will correct". Whether or not you have heard of this statement, you may think "Well, what has that got to do with
martial arts?"  So, I'll try to set forth an explanation here.


Many people desire to learn karate because they have seen the impressive skills of some practitioner and wish to develop
similar skills. Many of these new students would also like to develop these skills as rapidly as possible. So, what is the most
efficient path of training that will produce the desired results?

I frequently have new students who see how fast the experts are and so immediately try to be fast as they begin their execution
of their technique is akin to throwing a rubber ball against the wall.  It bounces right off.  In a similar manner, executing fast
techniques without the strength to focus them and penetrate at the end will cause little damage.  You  see as a fast punch or
block strikes another's body, it will encounter resistance from that body.  Without the strength to push strongly against the
resistance, the technique will bounce off.  Furthermore, the rapid execution of multiple techniques requires that we can quickly
stop technique 1 in order to move on to technique 2.  Strength is required to quickly stop a fast moving technique.

All right, so we need to be strong in order to make our techniques effective.  As it turns out, gaining strength also helps us gain
speed.  So it is practical to work on getting strong, before worrying about becoming fast.  Becoming fast tends to be a by-product
of becoming strong.  So work on getting strong first.

So students, engage in various strengthening routines in order to become strong.  They next find out that without a good
understanding of body mechanics, the application of strength is not as effective as it could be.  Techniques become effective
when the body parts start in definite positions, execute in a definite sequence, and end in specific locations.  Learning to use the
body correctly requires detailed attention to the forms of the techniques. The correct application of form helps us become strong
and make our strength effective.

So we need to diligently study the forms of the various moves in order to become strong, make our strength effective which
makes our speed effective. The practice of our forms shows us that our techniques are less than ideal.  We need to look more
closely at what the instructor is doing and we need to look more closely at what we are doing. We will have a better time learning
if we can see clearly what both ourselves and the instructor are doing.  Seeing clearly means there is little else on our minds. A
clear mind is at peace and undisturbed.

So, we must give up as much "mental noise" as possible.  Give up the mental pressure to learn quickly, to hurry up and get good
at this, to try to be impressive, to stop making mistakes, or what ever else may be going on in there.  We must practice like all
there is in the world is this technique right here.

When we have clear minds, we can grasp how the techniques are performed, our bodies will become strong and our technique
speedy and effective.


                                                                "Mazu Kokoro o Tadasu"
TRAININGHARD

MAZU KOKORO