Hypnosis – and Karate!

March 3rd, 2015

british wadokaiKarate and hypnosis – they have more in common than you might think.

One thing they have in common is that they are widely misunderstood. Hypnosis is all about swinging watches, heavy eyelids, mystery, magic, and the sorts of stage antics favoured by celebrity performers who may remain nameless. Karate is all about chopping through bricks with only your bare hand, spectacular flying kicks, and superhuman physical powers.

The reality, of course, is rather different. Hypnosis is a natural state which we pop in and out of all the time. There is no magic and no mystery in the state itself. The power lies in the results it can achieve. And karate is not about breaking things and beating people up. It is a slow and careful process of learning various techniques and gradually improving flexibility, speed and stamina.

Some people who take up karate experience some initial disappointment at the calm, regular, controlled and, sometimes, repetitive nature of karate training. They expect thrills and spills, danger and damage. But what they get instead is attention to stance and posture, and the practice of techniques which seem simple – until you actually try to do them.

My first karate instructor, Sensei Bill Bishop always used to say that, in karate, the most important part of the body is the brain. This might seem a rather strange thing to say. After all, karate is all about kicking, punching and blocking. It isn’t an intellectual pursuit like chess or playing the piano! Surely all you need for karate are strong muscles, fitness and stamina? But to excel in karate a strong, healthy body is not enough. Strength, stamina and suppleness are developed with regular training. But to progress successfully through the many grades of achievement, something else is required. That something else is a state of mind which is open and calm, receptive but controlled.

Sometimes a karate training session will begin with a short session of mokuso. This is actually a form of meditation which consists of freeing the mind from intrusive thoughts and sensations and simply focussing calmly upon the present moment. In my experience this is very similar to light hypnotic trance states but the difference is that hypnotic states tend to be induced for the purpose of imparting suggestions to the unconscious mind. In karate, the purpose of mokuso is simply to prepare the mind for training.

Although I’m no longer young I still train once or twice a week. Training sessions last two hours. When I’m training I enter a state of mind which is unlike that which I experience for the rest of the week. I’m not just preoccupied with mental or intellectual activity, as I am when I’m marking essays or writing. Nor am I focussed mainly on my body, as I am when I’m jogging, riding my bike, cooking or eating. Attention is divided between mind and body and, without any conscious effort, I can simply put all other thoughts to one side and focus upon, and enjoy, the experience of training. I am convinced that it makes me healthier in both mind and body.

Another attractive feature of karate as a sport is that it is incredibly cheap! Yes, you have to buy the suit, or “gi”, and you have to apply for a license, which costs around £30 per year. But the cost of training in both of the clubs I attend is a mere £5 for two hours. For this trifling fee you can get tuition from people who are experts in the field. The chief instructor of my Horsham club is sensei Gordon Hoare, 6th Dan. Without the encouragement and support of sensei Gordon I would probably have given up karate years ago. I certainly would never have proceeded so far through the grades. This is the link to the club website:

The most senior instructor in the country is sensei Gary Swift, 8th Dan. Here he is, teaching some pairwork to a class of karate students. Opposite him is sensei Robbie Baldock, 2nd Dan:

The above video clip is very typical of karate training: calm, controlled and orderly. If that sort of training atmosphere appeals to you, or if you’re looking for a sport that is good for both mind and body, then why not give Wado Ryu Karate a go?

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