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August 02, 2007

Three Levels of Training

Jigoro Kano, the founder of Kodokan Judo, wrote of three levels of training in his book, Mind over Muscle.

The first (and lowest) level involves the most obvious reason people give for their martial training—learning to defend against attack. The second or middle level is to cultivate the mind and body. The third or highest level involves putting your energy (ki) to use for the betterment of society. Kano’s point was that you may have the strongest body or most intelligent mind, but this has no value unless you have used your abilities to do good for others. Kano may have just meant other people, but I believe that “others” has to include all of the environment and everything in it.

Devoting years to mastery in a martial art simply to learn how to defend against an attack doesn’t make much practical sense. You may never be physically attacked. And mastery won’t come as long as this is your primary goal. You can just master the self-defense level, but all levels must be trained equally for true advancement in the art.

A massage therapist said that he spent years perfecting his walk. When asked why he would do such a thing he replied “because I want a perfect body.” The “perfect body” he spoke of isn’t a vanity thing. It’s about creating a body that is fully integrated—all parts working together, optimally functioning, aligned, and coordinated.

The massage therapist’s ultimate goal, however, is to make himself as healthy as possible so that he can devote himself to healing others through massage. If the goal stopped at having a perfect body, the goal would not be as worthy. It would stop at the middle level. The highest level is about ethics, about contribution to society.

The third level is trained on a personal level. Its about the decisions that we make day to day, about how and where and when we use our energy. With a healthier mind and body, we naturally have more energetic potential, more “ki power.” The point of having that ki , is to channel it through your unique powers, abilities and gifts to heal (not conquer) the world.

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