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The Bottom Line Of Training

By Christopher Caile

I vividly remember a Darhma discourse (a talk) given a few years ago by Daido Loori, the Abbott (monastery head) of the Zen Mountain Monastery, (1) who talked about a former student who had also been a seasoned Kung-Fu practitioner.

One day the kung fu student came in badly bruised, his eyes blackened and with a broken jaw. When asked “what happened?,” he replied that he had been mugged. It wasn’t a gang or armed attackers – he had been attacked by two teenagers. Instead of reacting, he froze, paralyzed by fear. He was robbed and beaten while he stood motionless.

Daido commented, the student “missed something, very, very fundamental. His teacher had never gotten across to him how to deal with that body and mind freezing anxiety.”

Oscar Ratti, the famous illustrator and co-author of the books “The Secrets Of The Samurai” and “Aikido And The Dynamic Sphere,” once told me a similar story about a New York aikido black belt. Upon returning to his parked van one night after practice, he found someone rummaging around in the back part of the vehicle. The aikido-ka opened the rear door to challenge the person. What he got was a surprise – a knife wielding man who thrust the weapon toward him. Instead of simply turning to the side to avoid the attack, a basic aikido technique practiced countless times, he froze. Again, training failed how to address fear. But this time the consequences were more severe. The aikido-ka died, recounts Ratti.

Thus, the bottom line of our training, if it is to be more than calisthenics, should be to learn how to relax when confronted with an actual attack, or at least not to become paralyzed by fear and eruptions of emotion. Only then can your body react with the technique and methods ingrained into the fiber of your nuero-muscular system. A karate practitioner will react very differently from someone who knows judo, aikido or daito-ryu aikijujitsu. But that’s not the point. The mind must be freed so the body can react, and this control should be an inherent part of any martial arts training. Everything else you can or might do is built on this premise.

If, in the event of an actual confrontation or attack, you can’t quell your mind and emotions and relax, your training has failed you. Training should teach you to master and control your own automatic reactions and learn to use them to assist and not hinder your actions.

Thus, a basic question you must ask yourself is, have you trained your mind for high stress, fear-filled situations? If not, you should go back to your teacher, or if you are a teacher, seriously look at what and how you are teaching so your students don’t find themselves in this unfortunate situation.

Without this mental training, everything else you have learned becomes useless at the very moment you need to call upon it.


1- The talk was given a at the Zen Mountain Monistary ub Mt. Tremper, NY on July 21, 1990.

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About the Author:

Christopher Caile is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of He has been a student of the martial arts for over 40 years and holds a 6th degree black belt in Seido Karate and has experience in judo, aikido, diato-ryu, boxing, Itto-Ryu Kenjutsu and several Chinese fighting arts. He is also a long-term student of one branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Qigong. He is a personal disciple of the qi gong master and teacher of acupuncture Dr. Zaiwen Shen (M.D., Ph.D.) and is Vice-President of the DS International Chi Medicine Association.

To find more articles of interest, search on one of these keywords:

mental training, relaxation, training, stress, self-defense

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