Saturday, June 20, 2009

Zen, Gyoji and Boredom

Gyoji is a term, like many Japanese words, with many meanings. On one level it means daily practice of your art. On a deeper level it means essential activity. So we have a word that tells us we need to practice 'essential activity' daily. What is essential activity? For now, let's say Kata practice is...or even better, Sanchin Kata. Sanchin is an essential activity for a martial artist to practice on a daily basis. Why? To state the obvious, it means you will get better and more skilled in Sanchin and Karate in general.

The struggle most of us have, and I include myself in this, is the struggle to keep our daily practice fresh and brand new. This can be especially difficult with a routine and simple Kata like Sanchin. At first you may be excited about practicing but after awhile it gets boring. The mind begins to think it knows Sanchin and begins to wander from its practice. The same goes for Zen meditation. At first it can seem very exciting, but after begin to ask why do you do this. There is nothing here.

To keep practice alive is the struggle with Gyoji. How do you do this? For myself, I tell myself this is the first time I have ever done Sanchin. In fact, every time I practice Sanchin, it is new. It is never the same. You can never ever really practice the same kata twice. The Sanchin you do on Monday is different from the one you do on Tuesday. They are not the same. You fool yourself if you think they are.

When you get bored it is the mind looking at its own rerun of the Kata...and not seeing the Kata now in it freshness of this moment. Your mind is looking at its memory impressions and judgements about the kata, not the kata now and here. This moment is here now and will never return. This Sanchin is here now and will never return. This is the Zen way of looking at practice and applying Gyoji. Maintaining the proverbial 'Beginner's Mind' is the key and central to our practice of Zen and Karate.

So, when you get bored with a kata or another essential activity, check yourself. You are not seeing the moment fresh as it is. You are seeing your mind's discriminations or what I like to call 'reruns' of the moment's essential activity, not the activity in its freshness and thusness. When this happens, be thankful for the is a messenger screaming at you to wake up and be here now with your essential activity. After awhile you begin to appreciate the live show in front of you.

Hands palm to palm,

1 comment:

  1. The mind does wander and karate is not immune from all the human emotions, among them boredom, or worse, the nostalgia of better days. I now practice alone, so you can imagine the shadow boxing I must do with my feelings. One trick I use is imagining that I'm teaching someone, somebody who know nothing.
    No problem here with the "beginners mind", life has a way of making me feel the eternal novice.