“Fast as the wind, quiet as the forrest, aggressive as fire, and immovable as a mountain“- Samurai battle banner
The buzzer rang, the time read 2 minutes 59 seconds and counting. My instructors words gave me a false sense of comfort, “10%, okay?”, I nodded in agreement. We began to move in on each other, staying light on our feet trying to inflict 10% of damage with each blow. I clenched my fists tight and moved around the mat room, trying to figure out how I was going to land a blow. I formulated a plan, fake a jab than throw a cross. I executed my movement and made contact with the center of his face… success!! “good, work” he said. His eyes now focused a little harder, his chin tucked into his chest a little deeper and his weight dropped just an inch lower. A barrage of strikes ensued all making contact with my body and face. I did my best to block, bob and weave; however, it was all in vein. My only solution was to back up as fast as I could to avoid the strikes which were coming in at nearly 100%. “Liar”, I thought. My back hit a wall and a hook in my left lung knocked what ever oxygen I had left out of my body. I was now in a standing fetal position, against the imaginary ropes attempting to save whatever pride I had left. “Bzzzzzzzzzzz”, the buzzer rang again reading 0 minutes 0 seconds. I panted deeply trying to catch my breath. “You gave up”, he said as he detached the velcro straps from his gloves.
I did give up and at that very moment I realized it. I was a twenty four year old rookie cop and I thought of myself as “strong”. However, that 3 min round proved otherwise. My body may have felt strong, but my mind was not. I was not prepared to endure the barrage of strikes and maintain my resolve. I would like to say that was the last time I gave up during a drill, but that would be a lie.
Years have now passed and I realized what I lacked in those early years of training, Kokoro. Kokoro is the “indomitable spirit”, as the Korean martial artists describe. It means to refuse defeat, to drive on when all else fails. This isn’t only reserved for the ring, but it is of utmost importance in our lives. The ability to have a strong drive and commitment to everything we do in life is crucial to any progress you plan to make. Its an ancient term used heavily in the “martial way”, and its incredibly important today.
Building your Kokoro requires you to have a strong “why”. A strong reason to keep on your path to improvement. For us fathers, it is our families. If we don’t have a strong will, how do we continually improve our health and well being? And, if we find ourselves in bad health, or in a miserable state, who suffers? well, its going to be your family and you. Just about all of us can relate to this reason to drive on.
Without Kokoro we will find any excuse to skip the workout or give up half way. Whether its because we feel tired that day or our favorite show is on. Not having Kokoro is going to cut your progress short. Kokoro isn’t a temporary state, its a life you’ve forged over action. You build your will by continual progress in the face of challenges.
One way to build Kokoro is through making small victories. Accepting small challenges that eventually build your will. And, of course with Shaguyo (rigorous challenges) you test your will, your Kokoro. This begins by executing your plan and staying on the path. Embrace each challenge, don’t shy away from it.
As fathers, we have a slew of excuses to skip the workout or not show up to the Gym. Trust me, I can think of 5 excuses right now to stop writing. The moment you become a father it becomes nearly impossible to maintain your “pre-kids” workout program; however, with a strong sense to drive on and a never give up attitude, you will find that time. Tired and hungry you’ll execute your workout daily. Its easy to say “I used to” and fall into the status quo; however, your Kokoro will make it difficult to give up on your progress. You’ll instead adapt. Its what all driven human beings have done, they’ve adapted. Kokoro doesn’t allow your life to happen to you, but you will happen to your life. With small actions daily you will stay on track and continue to grow, adapt, and progress.
Life can throw blow after blow. Sometimes you may feel as if your up against the “ropes”. Your a husband and father. You are counted on and you need a strong will to drive through. With a strong will, you’ll always have the fire inside to keep on the path.
2 thoughts on “Kokoro”
Indeed one of the very best pieces you’ve written so far. It touches the very core of a topic near and dear to my heart.
They are all around us. Everywhere we look there are reasons to NOT follow thru. NOT to push it ..Not to train… Its hard or I don’t have time or whatever you can come up with. The EXCUSES will always be there. If you give into them they become a lifestyle. The “Could have beens””The should have Beens” “the world is full of them. The people who have EXCUSES why their life didn’t turn out they way they dreamed. The way they wanted. In the end they just weren’t willing to push to achieve the life they wanted. They weren’t willing to MAKE it happen thru effort. They weren’t willing to go the distance. In the end it all just comes down to WEAKNESS of Spirit.
For every reason you can come up with why you train, why your Budo drives you to fight and train and excel on your own terms there are 5,000 reason out there no to. The true spirit of Budo overcomes that weakness and strives to push you harder. Everyone has days when the hours ahead in the gym don’t look so thrilling or the smell of your Gi is coming thru your gym bag. Its been my experience in a life of training that those moments’ have been when the very best workout sessions have always seems to occur. The deepest training achieved.
For me The driving spirit inside refuses to let myself be weak or to disappoint my Sensei and my training mates. The compulsion to stand strong and be better thru my commitment outweighs my personal comfort. This week Bettys Budo Motivated me and two day’s later after a Monster punching session filled with what felt like endless 3 minute high speed rounds , knuckles bruised and pounded I saw the true spirit of the Martial Way reflected in her eyes.. If I would have called off or not shown up I would have Missed that. Missed that moment. For me there is nothing more important then those kinds of moments.
We will always have reason why not to push to be the best we can be. Budo guides us to overcome that weakness and just ….DRIVE ON…..Be better tomorrow than you were today. You wont get there from the couch…Push it
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haha, i remember when i started with my teacher in mau tai, i said to myself “ah, he’s just a little guy, how hard can he really punch” BIG MISTAKE! after dodging most of my ” i must break you-hulk smash” punches and strikes (although I did get in one chest shot that knocked him back a bit) he came at me more than the 10% WE had agreed apon. Mine to was a “oh crap” run away moment, alas we were only 30 seconds into hour 3 minute round. it took all I had just to grab him and lock him up with a bear hug just so I could breath, which of course he promptly broke and then POW, face shot, again NOT AT 10%, sneaky little bastard. I had forgotten all I had been taught in a microsecond. He took mercy on me and ended the session at one minute. ONE MINUTE, felt like an hour.
I, to GAVE UP. The shit you learn in training. You give up, you die.
Great article as always, Efrin
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