Thursday, May 8, 2014


When I enter a dojo, I bow.  This small gesture helps me remember that I’m not just walking into a normal room, I’m here and am agreeing to learn something.  Taiko, karate, whatever – it doesn’t really matter.

For SJT, after bowing into the dojo and at the beginning of practice, we bow in to each other in a circle, do whatever exercises are planned, then end with mokuso.  Mokuso is the act of meditation, often done sitting in seiza (the kneeling position that's very prevalent in martial arts).  In SJT, we use mokuso to calm and focus our thoughts for the practice ahead.

In karate, although we also do mokuso, there is emphasis on breathing.  We tighten the abdominal muscles during to practice the sensation we should have during kiai.  Tightening those muscles helps make taking an attack hurt a little less, so for us this is a very useful thing to practice.

I find that the act of actually tightening my abs puts me in a much more focused mindset than just focusing on breathing.  It’s a slight physical exertion that reminds me why I’m there and what I’m about to do.  With taiko, without a similar component, I find my mind wanders.  I’ll think about taiko, but it’s not as focused as I’d like.

What about you?  What sorts of rituals do you do in your group before you practice and how does it help (or not) get you into the right frame of mind?

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