Mindfulness is a huge part of our karate practice at Mind Over Matter Karate. We emphasize the mindfulness aspect of our practice because it is the foundation of our physical practice. We train our karateka to be able to adapt, and always be ready to defend themselves in any situation – which takes mental preparation. However, mindfulness practices have many benefits outside of self-defense situations. We teamed up with Mindfulness Without Borders’ Executive Director & Lead Trainer, Leah Gardiner, to talk about how mindfulness can benefit children and how it fits hand-in-hand with karate.
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention on purpose and without judgement.
Two of the most important elements of mindfulness are the development of self awareness and observation skills, according to Leah. Being mindful of the moment and of your surroundings allows you to best prepare yourself for any situation. Paying attention to the situation you are in, and listening to how you feel, are great tools for deciding what deserves your focus at the moment. You’ll be better able to slow your mind, take account of the context, and make smart decisions.
When we are mindful of our breath, we notice the inhalation and the exhalation, the sensations in the body, the drifting of the mind, all the while coming back to our object of intentional attention – the breath.
Stress can get in the way and negatively impact our reactions to situations and the decisions we make. At Mindfulness Without Borders, young adults learn the importance of focusing on the breath, calming the mind, and observing the surroundings. At Mind Over Matter, controlling our breath is essential for executing forms, sequences and techniques correctly. We don’t only focus on breath in movement, but also in stillness. We begin and end our classes with a seated guided meditation to remind us to be mindful of our bodies, our breath, and our practice.
Mindfulness is a lifelong practice. It is not something you can acquire by reading a book or attending a class, and suddenly be able to apply what you’ve learnt.
“Mindfulness is a lifelong practice, so why not start young?” says Leah. Getting started with mindfulness practices at a young age will be beneficial as one grows up and becomes an adult being able to adapt to difficult situations with courage and grace, while also being able to rely on mindfulness practices to deal with stress. Mindfulness is a continual awareness of ourselves, others and the environments we find ourselves in. Practice makes perfect, but according to Leah, with mindfulness (and karate) – practice is perfect.
There is an enormous amount of importance placed on our brains and minds in an academic sense, and often we forget about the inherent wisdom our bodies have, too.
Whether it’s releasing stress with a gym session, or finding the mental determination to power through a difficult exercise, fitness and mindfulness go hand in hand. We often hear about how beneficial meditation is for the mind, and learn from a young age that we should be earning high grades in academics, but we forget about the mindfulness that comes from being physically active. Fitness is a productive outlet for coping with stress. We focus on our movements and breathing and find ourselves feeling better about what we were facing when our workouts are over. Mindfulness Without Borders also advocates for paying attention to our bodies and deepening our awareness of the signals they send us to strengthen the mind-body connection and our overall well-being.
Mindfulness plays an important role in our practice at Mind Over Matter Karate. Fitness plays an important role in our mindfulness, too. Training our minds at a young age gives us the tools to mentally adapt to difficult situations, be more resilient to stress, and to make more rational decisions in a pinch as we grow older. If you’re looking for a primer on the practice of mindfulness and meditation, check out Mindfulness Without Borders’ website for programs, courses, and resources to get you started. Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to get more tips and tricks.