This precept is written in Japanese as “一、道場のみの空手と思ふな Hitotsu, dōjō nomi no karate to omou na“.
There are a number of different translations but with very similar meanings:
- “Do not think karate belongs only in the dojo”
- “Karate goes beyond the dojo”
- “Do not think that karate training occurs only in the dojo”
- “Karate training goes beyond the dojo”.
Whether you are aware of it or not, what you practice in the dojo over time will have a positive impact on you mentally and physically as a person and influence what you do outside the dojo.
However, if you consciously make an effort to train outside the dojo and try to apply the principles and philosophies that you learn in karate to all aspects of your life, the benefits can be manifold.
I will discuss below how this can potentially be achieved.
Training outside the dojo to improve your fighting art
In today’s environment, most of us are time-poor and the most we can do is turn up to train 2-3 times a week. In addition, sometimes, family or work commitments mean we can’t make it to training and have to reduce our training time at the dojo even further.
Therefore, if we can find small chunks of time in our daily life to practice our karate, it can make a huge difference to our capability as martial artists.
Where there’s a will there’s a way.
An instructor once told me that he would practice tora guchi while waiting for the kettle to boil, stand in shiko dachi to strengthen his legs while brushing his teeth, and stand on one foot while hanging out the washing to improve his balance.
A few minutes here and there, in the long run, can add up to a lot of time and substantial progress.
Even just 10 to 15 minutes of regular daily karate practice can make a huge difference because it helps create and enforce new neural pathways and build muscle memory.
With those small junks of time, you can choose either to practice something new that you’ve just learned, practice a favorite kata, work on a particular weakness or simply improve your basic techniques.
If you can dedicate a particular time of the day to karate practice (e.g. 15-30 minutes in the morning), you can create a more structured and tailored program for yourself.
Training daily is beneficial, however, it is important to rotate the exercises so you don’t overwork particular muscle groups and don’t give them enough time to recover while neglecting the others.
Also, it’s better to cover all areas (e.g. kihon, kata, kumite, cardio and strength training) instead of focusing too much on just one aspect of your karate training. They are all inter-connected and help make you a good fighter and a well-rounded karateka.
Applying karate philosophies to your daily life
There are many karate principles and philosophies that you can apply to all aspects of your daily life. Let’s have a look at a few below.
1. Keeping a beginner’s mindset (shoshin)
Keeping a beginner’s mindset means emptying your mind, forgetting everything you know, and considering yourself a new student in whatever subject you are trying to learn.
With this kind of attitude, you will be open-minded, free of preconceptions and judgments, and ready to absorb new knowledge.
I once went to a karate seminar where an instructor from overseas taught an unusual combination of techniques to illustrate a point on timing in kumite. While most of the yellow and orange belts got it right, the brown and black belts didn’t.
The instructor later commented that it was to be expected because the advanced students were likely busy comparing, analyzing, or judging whether what they were being taught would work or not.
The beginner students, meanwhile, had a beginner’s mindset, they were open to learning new things, they were not afraid to make mistakes, and they just absorbed what they were being taught without judgment.
Therefore, it is very important (but also very difficult) to maintain a beginner’s mindset as you progress through the rankings in karate.
Just try as best as you can to keep your cup empty, a full cup is a cup that can take no more.
This mindset is just as important in relationships, personal development, work, or business as in karate.
If we remain attentive and caring, really listen to what our partners have to say, appreciate what they do for us, and always treat them as the first day we meet, our relationships would strengthen and thrive instead of becoming dull and wither.
A beginner’s mindset is also considered an important trait in the business world given its ever-changing environment. With a beginner’s mindset, one is willing to ignore archetypes, traditions, boundaries and restrictions, welcome unorthodox ideas without judgment, and explore new ways and opportunities.
If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.Shunryu Suzuki
2. Developing zanshin (残心)
Zanshin is literally translated as “the remaining mind”.
In karate and martial arts in general, zanshin is an important concept.
Zanshin refers to the state of remaining totally alert and fully aware of your surroundings after executing a technique.
Broadly, this means being aware of your enemies and your surroundings, foreseeing potential dangers and avoiding them, dealing with your attackers, and simultaneously taking in everything else that is happening.
The mind must remain focused and alert until the danger is over and the job is done.
Outside of your karate practice, zanshin attitude is just as important and useful in daily life situations, for example, from being aware of the environment around you when walking on the streets late at night, answering an unexpected knock at the door, to driving in bad weather or dealing with business competitors.
3. Developing an immovable mind (fudōshin)
Fudoshin (不動心) means “immovable mind” or “immovable heart”.
Having a fudoshin mindset means having an unshakable spirit in the face of all the challenges one faces in every situation.
It means being resolute in achieving what one sets out to do with absolute determination and fearlessness.
If we can use this mindset in setting and achieving our goals in life, we will go far and achieve great success that we may never have imagined.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is a prime example of someone with a fudoshin mindset.
Growing up in rural Austria, Arnold was expected to follow in the footstep of his father and become a policeman while his mother wanted him to go to trade school.
But Arnold had the vision of becoming a bodybuilder and he was totally focused on achieving this goal.
As a teenager, Arnold would break into the gym when it was closed during the weekend so that he could continue with his workouts.
It would make me sick to miss a workout… I knew I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror the next morning if I didn’t do it.Arnold Schwarzenegger
And his hard work paid off. Schwarzenegger won the Mr. Universe title for the first time in 1967, becoming the youngest ever Mr. Universe at the age of 20.
Arnold worked on his subsequent goals of moving to the US despite speaking very little English, becoming an actor, building a business empire, and entering politics with the same total dedication as with his bodybuilding career.
Arnold won 4 Mr. Universe titles and 7 Mr. Olympia titles in total.
Successfully transitioning from bodybuilding competitions to acting, Arnold became an international action movie star and his movies grossed around $4 billion worldwide.
Entering politics, he served as the governor of California for two terms and the only reason he could not run for president was that he was not born in the USA.
He has a net worth of around $450 million.
The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100%.Arnold Schwarzenegger
4. Being respectful (rei)
Being respectful and treating others the way we want to be treated not only applies to our instructors and training partners but to the people we meet outside the dojo.
In karate training, it means showing respect to your training place, training equipment, karate masters, instructors, partners, and fellow competitors. Without them, it would be impossible for you to practice karate and learn the art.
In our daily life, it means showing respect to the people we meet through our thoughts, feelings, and actions and treating them the way we want to be treated.
I believe when we treat everyone this way (including the people who we don’t think deserve it or those who aren’t nice to us), it will free our minds of the burden of hate, judgment, and resentment and lighten our spirit. It is also the key to living a happy and fulfilling life.
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