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Mokuso

At the beginning and end of each class, we sit in the seiza posture and practice mokuso. Essentially, we clear our minds and focus on our breathing. We are not praying or thinking (intentionally).

If we practice mokuso only at the beginning and ending of each class, it is of little value. But if we practice mokuso during and between each movement of a kata or drill, then that is something!

Some schools hold their hands in special configurations during mokuso. In one dojo I attended, we held our hands in the position used in a Rinzai Zen system during zazen (sitting mediation). See: Karate and Religion. It was interesting because that hand position was very similar to the hand positions found at the beginning and end of Okinawan Karate kata.

I began to associate this hand position (used in in mokuso or zazen) with the beginning of kata. When I began a kata, as soon as I formed the beginning hand position, I would immediately going into the mental state of mokuso. It is pretty clear to me that this was at least one of the intentions of the kata formulators -- not that they incorporated Zen but that they assumed that students had learned to quiet and focus their minds. The hand position was a triggering device.

I am a very mental person. I am almost always thinking about something or another. There are only a very times when I don't think: when fishing, working in the yard, and during kata.

Some people refer to kata as moving meditation. There is a saying that "when your body is still, your mind moves - when your body moves, your mind becomes still."

I would not call kata a form of meditation. I would say that during kata your mind is alert and focused without being fixed on a specific thing. In this state, you are able to respond to any circumstance without hesitation.

I used the word circumstance because you are not simply responding to potential attacks. You might have to save a life. Suppose a drugged or crazed attacker grabbed a baby and threw it at you. You wouldn't block the baby. You'd have to catch it as gently as possible. There would be no time to think, only to act without hesitation.

Mokuso training, at the beginning and end of class, and during and between each movement, enables you to do this -- to react without conscious thought or hesitation.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin