Mindfulness is a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you're sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment. Practicing mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress (Mayo Clinic).
Imagine standing outside on a summer’s day in a light, warm breeze. There’s a blue sky, birds are singing, and earth-grass scents are lifting. Mindfulness is to be aware of all this, without calling it anything or focusing on any one part of it; your thoughts are paused and you perceive things rather than handle then with your mind.
My 85-year-old father summed it up perfectly: just take it all in.
Mindfulness is when the ‘boarders’ between your mind and body, and what is going on around you, blur.
As for the mindset of the “foolishness of mindfulness” or “I got no time for that” one might want to look at the latest statistics of anxiety in youth and the onset of mind diseases in the elderly. Accept it or not, the brain is what runs your life and if you don’t give it a break, it may just break.
Does this have anything to do with karate?
Well, maybe it should.
A couple of concepts come to mind: Karate because of mindfulness, and mindfulness because of karate.
Last night Sensei Power reiterated: “Think and you’re too late.” You can think of pondering over movements, or thinking about strikes or defenses while in Kumite as having weights tied to your hands and feet: thinking is limiting. If you get caught up in your own mind, there is no way to perceive what the opponent is doing (or not doing). Getting ‘in the zone’ during kata or Kumite’ means by-passing he brain (Avi Rokah). Thoughts are also the fat on a technique.
We’ve done the movements enough to perform them without having to draw up a plan in our heads beforehand; hence the reason we do kata in perpetuity: we set them in our minds as well as in our muscle memory, allow them to flow, and not have to force them.
The old karate adage is having a ‘mind like a mill pond’ - smooth, reflective, but never disturbed.
As for mindfulness because of karate, we need to see karate as more than physical.
Sensei who have been doing karate for fifty years aren’t still at it to simply maintain optimal physique. Your body is the vehicle, but your brain (mind included) is the engine.
Personally, I love to do katas as an escape. Doing a kata like Kanku-Dai (Big Sky), exaggerated, gracefully and slowly, going through movements without thinking about them (or anything else) – is therapeutic. You can reach a place doing kata where your mind is on pause and you are appreciating what this old body of ours can do, as well as how fortunate we are to physically be able to do it (thankfulness kata).
If this sounds lofty, go outside in an open space one day and maneuver though your five Heian katas, deliberately inhaling and exhaling the fresh air, without smothering them with your thoughts and self-criticisms. A few moments of this is like a spa day for the cerebral cortex.
Doing kata with no more than breathing in and breathing out not only helps your timing and tempo in kata, it also services the wiring in your brain.
Karate: just take it all in.