Sunday, February 04, 2007

Discipline versus punishment

I've been thinking about the differences between discipline and punishment lately. Discipline seems to appear as something that is placed upon you, but I believe that the truth is that discipline comes from within you. It is from your understanding, mental strength, and inner conviction that you find the discipline to do what is being asked of you from the moment.

For example, let's look at a common moment in training when the class forgets to kiai with their technique or something similar to that. The Sensei commands 20 push ups for that mistake. I remember how I used to view this moment as I was a beginner in the arts. I used to feel sorrow that I had made a mistake, or anger at "GEEZ! How many times do we have to be told to kiai with our technique?? How could we have forgotten?", or I'd feel frustration that I was having to do push ups even though I wasn't the one who forgot to kiai. I saw the 20 push ups as "punishment" for doing something wrong.

Today I have developed a totally different view of the push ups. I see them as a benefit to me. It has been shown that push ups, and squats are two of the most beneficial exercises for the whole body when done properly. It helps with one's arms, legs, back, and stomach muscles. Now I have learned that I only need the discipline within me to perform these natural weight bearing exercises with the right attitude. It will help me become a healthier person. I will develop stronger proper posture which will help me as I age to maintain healthy organs, bones, and flexibility.

Lately I've been attempting to keep proper posture at all times during the day. I have learned that I have a nasty habit of hunching my shoulders forwards quite alot. I hunch when I wash dishes, when I iron clothes, when I'm cooking, when I'm on the computer, and when I'm watching t.v.. In fact the only times where I find myself in proper position for my body is when I'm doing karate, or when I'm walking to somewhere. Since I've been disciplining myself to attempt to keep proper posture I have found out that my muscles are quite weak. They are getting tired from holding the proper position. They aren't used to keeping my shoulders back, my back straight, and my hips tucked under for such an extended amount of time. I actually have to allow my shoulders to hunch forwards for short periods right now or else my muscles feel overstrained. Wow.. I sure have developed some bad habits in my lifetime.

Fascinating.. just normal everyday life has become an extended period of training for me now that I'm trying to "listen to my body" and support it.

Push ups are no longer punishment in my eyes.. they are an investment into achieving the goal that I am reaching for... In fact, I am grateful that I have opportunities during karate class to do push ups, and squats, and to increase my chances of living a healthier life outside of the dojo. No longer do I feel anger, frustration, or sorrow at the mistakes. When I think of it logically, I realize that "of course we are going to make mistakes.. that's part of being human! The push ups serve a dual purpose here.. they help us develop strength, and at the same time they help accent a certain expectation for the moment. As we are doing push ups we are thinking about how we should Kiai when we do a technique. The two things work together!! It makes sense." This, to me, is discipline.

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