Keep training. This is a command we’re all familiar with but at times like the present, when many dojos have closed their doors and habitual modes of training are not possible, it can be a challenge not to lose heart and fall out of practice. To continue effectively training, it helps to redirect energies to non-physical means and to focus on training your kokoro.
The Japanese concept of kokoro can be understood as the mind, heart and spirit all at once. A nuanced term, the precise interpretation of kokoro requires intuitive understanding of the circumstances in which it is used. Just as there are many different perceptions of kokoro, there are countless ways to train it and these will be as different as each individual person, affording benefits that are just as unique and versatile.
For some, training may manifest in practicing mindfulness, enhancing the ability to be present in the moment. It may entail introspectively exploring goals, motivations and desires, reflecting on one’s budo journey and appreciating the legacy of the path. For others, training may focus on cultivating the motivation and discipline to exercise the body without the accountability of instructors or peers. It may be dutifully revisiting skills that have faded or diligently refining skills that cause frustration. Or it may be to continue working toward a goal when the body is unwilling or when the events of the day have weighed heavily on the mind and enthusiasm has fled. For others still, training may mean facing the challenges and responsibilities of each day with a will to succeed despite previous doubts and uncertainty, obstacles and disappointments.
Your kokoro can be strengthened in every-day acts and interactions by learning to recognize the needs of each situation and to respond accordingly. It may surge from practicing care for yourself and for others, from sharing knowledge and stimulating discussion, or from building respect and rapport among family and friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Psychological acuity can be sharpened to better understand the allies and adversaries we constantly encounter. It may be an increase in empathy that helps us overcome a conflict, a flexible attitude that gains us access to new circles, or a discerning eye that tells us when we should maintain or relax our guard.
Mind, heart, spirit and body are intrinsically linked so when regular taijutsu training is disrupted, your kokoro may feel out of order. However, there is still an opportunity in this situation for enlightenment. Taijutsu trains the body to respond to changing circumstances with appropriate movement. Kokoro is constantly adapting to every whim of our surroundings. Honing awareness of this and recognizing the changes we make in response can come to bear on our physicality. As we train mentally, emotionally and spiritually, we start to carry ourselves differently, move differently, react differently – even if we can’t see it right away.
The world is in a constant state of flux and it is up to each person to adapt to the way their own world turns in response. When the foundation of the familiar is shaken, structure is lost and cohesion is weakened, mental, emotional and spiritual perseverance are critical to progress. To continuously rediscover yourself and your art is to persevere. Never stop expanding your study of ninpo. Never stop making connections between what you learn in your body and what you hold in your spirit. Never stop exploring your kokoro. Keep training.
by Koroku member