Thursday, March 9, 2017

Testing Spirit

Modern physical exercise can sometimes be a detriment to karate. Mostly because you repetitively use your muscles in the most inefficient means possible. It's what provides the stress, which helps grow them. In karate we want to use our muscles and structure as efficiently as possible, which is designed to not stress your muscles so you can fight longer. This doesn't mean however that muscle building exercises are bad for karate. They just need to be kept in the correct context. One very good aspect of these exercises is testing the spirit.

In many muscle building exercises, the goal is to reach total muscle failure. This means you could not do another repetition in perfect form if your life depended on it. Your muscles are completely tapped and will need a rest. There was a Gunnery Sergeant in the Marine Corps who could work you so hard you couldn't even lift your arms to type for a few hours. This takes a large amount of discipline and courage to train yourself to do. Your muscles burn, they ache, they are screaming at you to stop, and you're trying to force them through immense mental will to do just a little bit more. You're just asking a little bit more. It is a fight. Our bodies and our brains are designed to move us away from pain, to stay still and conserve energy. This is what is easy. Pushing to your complete physical limits is a fight with yourself. It is a complete test of will to do absolutely what is necessary to get the exercise done, no matter how much your arms burn or shake and your brain is telling you to stop.

This makes it an excellent test of spirit. Fighting hurts, you will get hurt, you will get hit and you have to keep pushing through, because if you don't do something it's not going to stop. We should strive never to fight, because it is deadly, dangerous and costly, so we need safe, low risk alternatives to test our fortitude. Exercise is just one small way to test ourselves.