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Guest Post: How I Practice Karate Part 2

This Guest Post is by my friend, Angel Lemus, of the Zentokukai Okinawa Shorinryu Toude Association. Angel was a writer and editor of Bugeisha, one of the finest Karate journals ever published. He teaches at the Ninchokan Dojo, in Los Angeles, California. See Part 1 of this article.

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PART 2: Higher level mental processes.

I will refer to this thought process in terms of how computers works, much like our brains are very powerful computers.

The checklist below is a set of higher level mental processes that the mind should go through to process all the data collected above in steps 1 through 20.

1. Actively scan all parts of the body continuously. Partition pieces of your brain to multi task and have for example a chunk of your awareness looking at your stance all the time to make sure it not too high, another chunk looking at your chambered fist to make sure it is not sticking out. Partition as many pieces as needed to monitor all parts of your body and so they can send "corrective" commands to those body parts independently of each other. Beginners usually can only handle a couple of these at a time, but as you expand your consciousness through experience in the Dojo you should be able to monitor dozens of body parts simultaneously.

2. Relay this info back to the central data processor.

3. Determine if the data gathered reveals anything new, different, or in some way to raise a flag about a movement or fraction thereof.

4. If nothing is detected, continue, continue, continue.

5. If something is detected and you did something that felt better, faster, smoother, grab on to it, and try to repeat it.

6. Find out what you did to make that movement feel good/better to you than in the past. Pinpoint specifically what part(s) of your body, and internal processes contributed to this discovery.

7. Isolate the body parts and internal processes, and dig in to it immediately to understand mentally how those worked better this time. When I say internal I mean things like your energy, effort, breath exhaling etc) don't put it off, for these discoveries I have found have a short lifespan and they will disappear (like being able to recall a dream when you first wake up, and minutes later you don't remember it very well or not at all).

8. After you discover what made the movement better, paint a mental picture of it that you can easily "at a glance" retrieve from long term storage, and can easily command yourself to repeat. If you can repeat it continuously, then you are on the way to internalizing it.

9. Once something is internalized, you should be able to do that movement in the new improved fashion consistently.

10. REPEAT THE WHOLE PROCESS again, until you improve the same movement, and you re-internalize the new version. Each "new and improved" version immediately overrides, and replaces the older "lesser" version, and every new time that you practice the movement it will be executed based on the new version. This is so important for if you cannot do step #10, you will be in a constant limbo and it is a hit and miss scenario. You cannot go through your practice NOT knowing why you do something poorly, it is difficult to improve it if you cannot find the cause of the problem. Some people do not analyze their movements during active practice and never think about Karate outside the dojo. A beginner may not apply the mental processes I am describing above, for they are usually using all their faculties just to figure out their left side from their right side, and that is natural for a short while. But a beginner will forever remain a beginner if he/she does not exercise the brain and apply some kind of analytical process to bring the body and mind together, so that the mind eventually becomes the MASTER of the body. I have seen Black Belts that do not practice any mental training, they just don't think about stuff (in or out of the dojo, they just mindlessly repeat movements), in my eyes they will remain beginners.

The entire above process, both parts 1 and 2 really only happen in fractions of a second. Our brains are more powerful and capable than the most advanced computers today, but like any other muscle it must be exercised. If you do not invest time with some kind of process like the one described above, your progress will be very, very slow, you must take charge of your progress in Karate and become an active participant and make yourself improve, you cannot idly standby in this path and take the passenger seat, you must sit on the drivers side and take the wheel.

I have to make a disclaimer here, for there is an opposite side to all of this - There are some people who are OVERLY brainy, they think too much about everything, over analyze and over think until their eyeballs are coming out the backs of their heads, and are incessant "beard scratchers". Everything I mentioned above only applies while you are considered to be an active Karate-ka. I'm not saying get off the dojo floor and practice karate with your brain.

Angel Lemus