5 Life Lessons From The Martial Arts 

by Shifu, Hayashi Tomio

Here are five simple insights that I gained from my forty-four years in the martial arts.

Emancipated life is a time of great freedom. You get the academic and political freedom to study and to speak out, to involve yourself and to grow (or not), and you get the social freedom to live your life any way you want. We all have to survive the many challenges and physical stresses that come at us as we push our envelope in the search for our identity and our success.

Martial arts is a 2,500 year old self-development discipline that raises the stakes about the boundaries of our human nature. We are not simply board breaking, ass-kicking, pajama clad white-necks. We strive to ‘’break through’ self-limiting ideas and behaviors. The word ‘kara’ in karate means ‘empty’. The mind that can empty can more clearly see Life’s true nature.

                  “Anything is possible for who emptiness is possible.”




Find a way to meditate, to simply be with yourself without agenda. This is an extremely vital and restorative action for both mind and body.  It will put you in touch with deeper currents of your person.  Take small blocks of time to be silent, to simply observe, and not always cram your day with action. The three pillars of the enlightened human are knowledge, discipline and meditation. The young generation is losing the value of stillness.



Define the kind of person you aspire to be. How do you define yourself?  Is your definition a static line in the sand of life-that is, once you cross it, you have arrived at manhood or womanhood and need never address the issue again? What makes a dynamic and mature individual; pubic hair, arousal, a fight, voting power, a drivers license, living on your own, raising a family, going off to war, begin true to your word, how much money you make, how many beers you can chug or sexual conquests you have? Ask these questions now because your path is cast by what you set your mind’s imaginations and desires upon.



Understand your personal physiological make up. What are you like when your buttons get pressed? Are you prone to Red (animal) or White (analytical) response? Many of us have been conditioned to respond to situations in sometimes limiting fashion. You can change your negative conditioning with conscious training. Observe your responses to conflict. Just as in martial arts we train to dominate our opponent, you can dominate the negative side of your person and replace it with affirming choices and positive energy.



Learn to fight intelligently in all of Life’s arenas. I am not referring only to fist against fist, but to any and all conflicts that come into your life. Develop the tools that give you the powers to be fair, honest, and firm—but never malicious. Practice compassion. It’s the spiritual warrior’s greatest gift. It will save more lives, more face, and rebuild more hearts than any amount of victories attempted through force.



Shape the world into a place you would like your children to grow up in.  You are the sculptors of the world’s future—not just in the visible world but in the vibratory world as well. Do you want a world in which people are out for themselves, where ‘might makes right,’ a world of fearful or angry people? Aspire to become the Bodhisattva – the one who fights for a better place for everyone to live in. This is spiritual warriorhood. The masters of this world travel light, travel in the light, and travel with an eye toward leaving the world more illuminated and balanced than they found it.

Hayashi Tomio, shifu, is the Director of the Wind School of Karate and a career professional martial arts teacher and author of The Soul Polisher Apprentice.

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