Introduction to Meditation in Martial Arts

martial-art-meditation

Martial Arts is a discipline and hobby with a history that extends back thousands of years. Many individual martial arts focus not only on self-defense and fighting, but also on self-improvement and discipline. As a discipline that largely originated in the Far East, meditation has been an integral part of martial arts for thousands of years. The health benefits of martial arts are innumerous, and this article focuses on the process of meditation both in and of itself, as well as related to martial arts.  

What is Meditation?

Before we get more specific on how exactly you can incorporate meditation into your martial arts practice, it will be helpful to talk a little bit about what exactly meditation actually is.

To put it simply, meditation is the act of transforming the mind. There are many things in our life that our out of our control, but believe it or not, we have control over our own minds and our own thought processes. Martial arts as a discipline is about self-improvement by training both the body and the mind, and meditation can play an important part in that process.

There are many forms of meditation, and while the techniques can get quite advanced and challenging, this page will largely serve as a "beginner's guide" to meditation.

What Are Some Different Styles of Meditation?

Meditation is a very developed field with many different schools of thought. This list is far from exhaustive, but contains some of our favorite meditation practices that focus on impactful results. 

Transcendental Meditation

This is the form of meditation that is most popular in Hindu culture, and serves as almost a religious experience. The goal of this meditation is to "achieve enlightenment" which is basically an inner calmness and contentment.

This form of meditation can be rather challenging, but it's possible to master with the guidance of an experienced teacher or participation in a class.

Zazen

Zazen is a Zen Buddhist practice that is probably what most people think of when the word "meditation" comes to mind. It literally translates to "seated meditation" and has no formal rules or guidance behind it.

The practice focuses around relaxing and allowing your mind to wander without any sort of judgement. Doing so is difficult, but will allow you a much needed break from negative thoughts and influences.

Mindfulness

This is probably the most impactful form of meditation available to the average joe - specifically for stress reduction and mood improvement, and you can practice it anytime no matter where you are. To put it simply, mindfulness is the practice of being present "in the moment". What do you see? What do you feel? What do you hear? Taste?

So much of our lives are focused on worries of the past or the future, and there's something to be said for repeatedly centering your focus on the task at hand.

Which Type of Meditation Works for Martial Arts?

Now that we've listed a few of the different types of meditation available to you, you may be wondering "which one should I use to enhance my martial arts?"

There's no true answer to that question. Mastery of martial arts requires a focused and balanced mind, but you can achieve that in many different ways.

Many martial arts utilize the Zazen style, and that is the style we'll focus on in this beginner's guide, but the path you choose is up to you. Everyone's mind is unique, and whatever works for you on the path towards further enhancing the mind-body connection is a viable choice

Introduction to Zazen Meditation

Because Zazen is a meditation commonly practiced in Martial arts, we'll be devoting the rest of the guide to its discussion. Follow the steps below to get started with Zazen and launch your path towards enhancement of the mind and improvement in your sport.

Set Up a Good Environment

Having a nice space set up for your Zazen meditation is important. Aim for a quiet place where you won't be disturbed, with lighting that isn't too bright or too dim, and a comfortable room temperature.

Sit Comfortably

The proper way to sit during Zazen is called the "lotus" or "half lotus" position, a picture of which we've included below.

The lotus
Source: Yokoji-Zen Mountain Center

The half-lotus 
Source: Yokoji-Zen Mountain Center

However, any sitting position you find comfortable will work for Zazen meditation. After all, the process is largely about the mind rather than the body!

Breathing

Breathing during Zazen should be free and natural. Aim to breathe from your diaphragm, also known as "breathing with your belly". Allow each breath to inflate your abdomen, and each exhalation to release that air.

This is a human's natural breathing technique. When we're stressed, we can tend to focus our breathing on the chest which is a sub-optimal method that can increase stress and anxiety.

Proper breathing is a key part of meditation, so make sure you work on it!

The Mind

The other key part of this meditation is how you approach your mind and thoughts during the process.

Focus on your posture and on your breathing, and you'll naturally enter a state of deep concentration. Throughout the process, you'll experience thoughts and images that enter and leave your mind. 

It's next to impossible to completely "clear your mind" which a lot of people associate with meditation. Don't clear your mind; instead, focus on letting these thoughts come and go without any sort of judgement and without dwelling on them.

Continually bring your attention back to your breathing and posture, and you'll be well on your way toward becoming a Zazen master.

The Importance of Meditation to Martial Arts

As we mentioned above, martial arts is a sport both of the mind and body. Incorporating meditation as part of your regular martial arts practice will help you focus more on the sport and see better results during your training.

Most people associate Martial Arts with physical combat, but it's a mistake to focus all your attention on the physical side. Make sure not to neglect your mental well-being, and work towards improving your mind as you improve at your sport.

 

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