One mind, One heart: Going Beyond Toughness
Most learn martial arts to become tougher or be the “last one standing”. Yet the value derived from several years of training, rarely has little to do with fighting. I recall meeting a 21-year old student who trained over 15 years in martial arts.
She had a strong posture and firm handshake standing at 5’10”. As I engaged in a conversation with her about martial arts, she postured as a “drill sergeant” and exalted about her “advanced level”. Great to be self confident, but I was pondering whether she missed the goal of learning martial arts.
Later, when reflecting on our interaction, I became aware that perhaps there are many more students similar to her. How many students miss the benefits from martial arts training? Her training focused on being an ultimate fighter and not the ultimate human being. However, I cannot blame her, after all she followed her teacher’s example.
If an individual plans to be of value as a martial arts teacher, it is best to remember there are three elements to teaching. First there is the body, where lessons strengthen the muscles, increase flexibility, and align the bones to maximize power. Secondly there is the mind, where the lessons develop mental acuity, determination, and awareness. Thirdly, the lessons focus on training the spirit. This is perhaps the most challenging to understand because “spirit” is often used in a religious connotation. Some martial arts students interpret spirit as “toughness” or “hardness”, but the literal meaning for spirit is heart or “kokoro” in Japanese.
In Japanese, the same kanji lettering can have different pronunciations. The above kanji “kokoro” can also be pronounced as “shin“. In addition, to heart, “shin” can also mean “feeling” or “mind“. So passing on the “feeling of the training” can be the most challenging of the three components. When one does not understand “heart training“, it becomes easy to train at hardening one’s emotions. While there is value in developing mental toughness or determination, there is little value in hardening the heart as this creates only a sense of loneliness or psychological detachment.
When I teach, I refer to the value of the exercise or “the core” of the exercise (中心 pronounced “chuu-shin”). As the teacher, if you can convey the goal of the exercise and the value a student can obtain from the exercise, there is the possibility the teacher and student will become one mind, one heart (中心 pronounced shin-chuu). Then, and only then, can the student obtain the three elements from martial arts training.
With utmost sincerity, may many students benefit from this.
SKH Quest Center Dojo NYC
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