Intangibles: So Important In Martial Arts and Life

by Alan Kandel

Intangibles – non-physical properties that cannot be heard, held, seen, smelled, tasted or touched – are very much real. And they are every bit as important in life as their tangible counterparts.

One intangible is pride.

As an intangible, and unlike tangible matter, pride is something that cannot be taken from someone no matter how much another may try. Think about that for a moment: Something having no physical form whatsoever, cannot be affected by another in any way, shape or form. That is a profound and powerful notion.

So let’s talk about pride for a moment.

Pride comes from the heart, as in the pride a teacher has learning that a student or former student has done well in some aspect of life, for example. Another would be a completed, do-it-yourself project that one can take pride in.

In my first Baby Boomer Sensei blog post: “Putting Karate Practice Into Words,” posted May 14, 2012, I discussed what I encountered in becoming a professional writer. So, imagine the feeling that came over me when my first article was published. I felt tremendous pride. The unmistakable satisfaction, the result of the hard work put forth in order to get that first article published and the fact the article was published at all, was all too real.

It’s no different in martial arts.

Students studying the arts are awarded in the physical sense when they receive a promotion or advancement in level or rank. And that a tangible award such as this can evoke a non-tangible one such as pride is indeed a powerful construct. Having said that, I firmly believe it is completely acceptable to feel pride from having accomplished such a goal.

Another topic I wish to bring front-and-center is winning and losing, which are also intangibles. This is extremely relevant, particularly with the Summer Olympic Games being held in London, England right now.

Master Teruyuki Okazaki – Chief Instructor and Chairman of the International Shotokan Karate Federation – in his book: “Perfection of Character: Guiding Principles For The Martial Arts & Everyday Life” (a book given me by Najib Amin, a good friend and instructor I formerly practiced karate under), notes: “When you truly understand that you are training solely to better yourself, you will abandon your concerns about winning, losing, advancing in rank, and being attached to results, and you will become a better, more balanced karate-ka and human being.”

Master Okazaki goes on to write: “Think about it: What will happen if you meditate intently before a match saying to yourself, ‘I don’t have to lose. I am not attached to the result. If I do my best, I will be proud.’ You will have unburdened yourself of any expectation, and you’ll be allowing life to flow naturally.”

When all is said and done, intangibles really do matter and on some level, I wholeheartedly believe, are more substantive than their physical counterparts – the tangible properties.

Copyright © Alan Kandel. August 8, 2012.

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