This precept conveys a message about the challenges and potential adversities that you may encounter when venturing out of your own home or out of your own comfort zone into unfamiliar or external territories.
First of all, this precept emphasizes the importance of humility and caution. It reminds us that even though we might feel comfortable or we might excel in our own comfort zone, we should be prepared and ready to face challenges once we venture beyond our own boundaries.
Gichin Funakoshi once told Jotaro Takagi (1927-2016), the late president of the Japan Karate-do Shotokai, that “when you come to a bend in the road, make a wide turn. You should do this because you never know what might be lurking around the corner.” Given the environment and the time when this precept was written, Funakoshi probably only referred to the physical dangers one might face when stepping beyond the security of home (e.g. returning home from a night out with friends in the dark, going to the car park at night, or visiting someone in a high crime area). However, this precept holds relevance in a broader sense as well.
When we venture beyond our immediate spaces – be it our home, town, village, or country – we can encounter many kinds of potential challenges and risks such as different cultures, social norms and expectations; absence of family support; language barriers; different living conditions; and unfamiliar local laws. In addition, these ‘million enemies‘ may also include internal factors like self-doubt, fear of failure, pessimistic thinking, or a fixed mindset that can become apparent when we are forced out of our comfort zone.
Nevertheless, in addition to potential challenges, stepping outside our comfort zone can also mean opportunities that lead to personal growth, increased resilience, and a broader perspective.
For example, unfamiliar environments can challenge us to learn, adapt, and develop new skills. Venturing beyond our comfort zone also exposes us to different cultures, viewpoints, and ways of life and this will broaden our perspective and foster a greater understanding of the world. In addition, new experiences can also stimulate our creativity by forcing us to think differently and find innovative solutions to problems we may not have encountered before.
If you are born in Europe, for example, and have primarily resided there except for brief overseas vacations, spending a few years in Japan will definitely be a profound culture shock but also bring about a lot of new experiences as well as potential transformative and positive changes in you.
In karate, just participating in competitions or taking part in training camps or seminars can expose you to new concepts, new perspectives, new opponents with different fighting styles, and different training methods. And, if you maintain a beginner’s mindset, this can be a great opportunity to improve your skills as well as foster a deeper understanding of the art.
If we want to grow, we must venture beyond our comfort zone even though it means facing unexpected risks and challenges because otherwise meaningful changes within us cannot happen. The key is to approach new experiences with an open mind, be aware of the potential challenges but be willing to learn and adapt and embrace the new opportunities to grow.
“A comfort zone is a beautiful place – but nothing ever grows there. Find your un-comfort zone.”Anonymous
In summary, the precept “when you step beyond your own gate, you face a million enemies” encourages a martial artist to approach new situations with humility, mindfulness, and readiness. It’s a reminder that challenges and obstacles can arise when you leave your comfort zone, but with the right mindset and preparation, you can navigate through them successfully.
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