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Many people consider karate to be a meditative art, a way to focus and reflect on themselves in the present moment. They want to see themselves as they are now, not as they were yesterday or even a moment ago, nor how they will be tomorrow or in the next second. They do so by getting away from their day-to-day activities – the office, household chores, school, and homework- to spend an hour or two concentrating on getting each karate technique perfect.

If you could make each moment in life work of perfection, you would be living very well indeed. You would never regret that you are not living life to its fullest potential. But this is very difficult if not impossible to accomplish.  We all become careless at one time or another, and there are many distractions to keep us from concentrating continually on the here and now. Students of karate try at least to make the time in which they practice perfect. To achieve this goal, they sit quietly, usually kneeling on the floor, for a few moments before and after each class. This is called mokuso.

The first ideogram, moku, means “silence,” and so means “to think.”  Mokuso, then, means “silent thoughts.”  Despite the belief in the West that meditation entails “emptying one’s mind” mokuso is becoming more aware of one’s own thoughts. In fact, the ideogram so is made up of components signifying “eye” and “mind.” Together, they mean “looking into the heart.” Mokuso, therefore, is not an absence of thought but a time of mental reflection on life.

During these moments of absolute quiet, karate students focus on their thoughts for life, at the present moment on the practice at hand. Whether you’ve just had an argument with a friend, or it’s your birthday, or you’ve just received a promotion at work, you must use mokuso to forget about such matters and simply turn your mind toward your training.

The mokuso after class is an opportunity to reorient yourself to life outside karate. You may be surprised how you can get a fresh perspective on your daily routine after you’ve stepped away from it even for a moment or two.  The meditative aspects of karate promote a better appreciation of each moment in life, inside and outside the Dojo.

You can also use the mokus after practice to reflect on the time you have just spent in class. Did you try your best? Did you concentrate the entire time on your practice? As you can well imagine, it is not easy to think only about karate for hours on end, and even your instructor may have thought about something else for a moment or two. The mokuso after class, therefore, can also be the time when you pledge to yourself to do better next time.


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