Building a Personal PracticeJanuary 11, 2008
Overcoming the obstacles to a successful Personal Practice
I had been practicing karate for a couple of years when I made the decision to initiate a daily personal practice. Up until that point I just practiced periodically. I was under the impression that I would cultivate this personal practice for the sole purpose of improving my karate technique. I had no idea what kind of road I was getting on. I started out at about 20 minutes of kicking, punching and blocking upon arising each day. This was no easy thing to accomplish. I found myself missing practice sessions due to oversleeping and lack of perseverance. Soon I started to slack off on my practice. I had not even gotten on the road and here I was almost ready to quit.
In order not to fail at my personal practice attempt, I changed the practice from every day to every other day and varied the content of my practice. I started to practice kata. Kata is a systematic set of fighting techniques performed the same way each time. The practitioner must actually visualize his or her opponent while performing the kata. This visualization brings the kata to life. Kata must be performed with perfect technique. You must actually instill the moves of the kata into your subconscious mind. You must make the kata yours, living each move. Most karate practitioners fail to understand the essence of kata practice, reasoning that practice fighting with an actual opponent is all that is needed. They don’t stick with the practice long enough for them to discover the true essence of kata. Kata practice works on the mind and the body. You start to live in the moment. This is called mindfulness in the internal arts. A true technique must be done in a certain exact way or it is useless in actual combat. You must have cultivated the presence of mind thru kata practice to be able to perform a perfect technique in an actual situation. A roundhouse punch may stop your opponent if you are lucky, but that is not the essence of karate. Punches must be done perfectly or you have failed.
I practiced many years in this way not realizing that I was not only perfecting my karate techniques but also developing the discipline necessary to succeed in life. Karate was just a tool for me to use in order to develop this discipline. At this point my life experiences started to change. The perseverance and discipline I had developed paid off in my business career. I was able to stick to my business problems, without giving up until a solution was reached. I was able to stay on the road. The tools you can use are endless. It could be yoga; calligraphy or Tai chi. the road is long and hard. All you need is the perseverance and will to succeed.
Developing mindfulness, living with awareness and putting your heart and soul into your practice are all that is needed. Just dive in, the water is fine.