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Martial Arts : A Leadership Perspective

Updated: May 23, 2021

How Martial arts could turn around our Inner self

Martial art forms like karate ,kung fu, kalari, taekwondo and Judo have tremendous impact on our agility and strength training, Martial arts tone the body and calms the mind. ,Predominantly, most forms of martial arts are meant for defense. As an ardent student of karate ,I have highlighted below some deeper influences and benefits of martial arts training beyond the physical dimension. The article has a larger emphasis on Japanese art forms especially karate.

Personal Conduct , Demeanor and Respect

Martial arts imparts etiquettes: Etiquette is having good manners as accepted by a group. We get acceptance with conformance to the group’s etiquette, so are the etiquettes and manners in martial arts. This evolves a culture of discipline, mutual respect, and Esprit de corps. A teacher is addressed as Sensei, and as the expertise levels increase, they are addressed as as Renshi ,Kyoshi ,Hanshi, Shihan and so on. The student is addressed as Sempai and this is the common name each student uses to address each other irrespective of age or designation. This brings a deep sense of respect for art form by pure merit of knowledge of the Martial arts. Hence though the ranking system may look hierarchical , yet it disconnects the basic involvement of the self or ego, and puts priority on the levels of learning and experience as a lens to look at each other..

Sense of belonging

The Martial Arts Dojo: Its the Martial arts school or center. A room where martial arts ,or in Zen Buddhism meditation is practiced. .In Japanese it means the - "Place of the Way". Bowing to the Dojo is a practice to give respect to the temple of training and knowledge.

Motivation & Resilience

Greetings and Wishing: The term Osu is the Karate Dojo greeting. Osu means patience, determination and perseverance. When you are pushing yourself beyond your limits, you use Osu! An Important marker to remind us to train harder and exceed ones limits.


Salutations :Before the daily sessions begin one needs to show respects and bow down to the Dojo, the masters and the teacher at charge, Following are the salutations used in Karate:

Sensei ni rei : I salute the masters

Shomen ni rei : bow to the front (to all the masters who came before us)

Dojo ni rei : I salute the Dojo (the temple of knowledge and training.)

Every time we train, the above salutations and rituals are practiced. These practices have deep impact on our minds to get wired in gratitude ,humility and a sense of acceptance of the world around us .

Commitment , Loyalty & Dedication

Every session starts with a club Oath, and definite gratitude , commitment, and pledging of loyalty to the art form. This develops Esprit de corps.

Highlight on The 3Ks of Karate

Martial arts is an excellent physical activity for agility ,endurance, strength and power. A brief analysis of Karate and its practices would enable us to understand the larger impact it creates on mind and personality. The three essentials of Karate are Kata, Kihon and Kumite.

Kata : Kata is a Japanese word describing detailed patterns of movements practiced either solo or in pairs. kata are executed as a specified series of a variety of moves, with stepping and turning, while attempting to maintain perfect form. The kata is not intended as a literal depiction of a mock fight, but as a display of transition and flow from one posture and movement to another, teaching the student proper form and position, and encouraging them to visualize different scenarios for the use of each motion and technique.

Mindfulness :Meditation, clearing the mind and letting go of the ego are central to the philosophy of karate-do, and kata is considered to be moving meditation. While performing a kata one must become totally immersed in it, being present at each technique and not letting the mind wander on to what is coming up next or to what is happening around them.

Scenario planning: Karate katas teach us to be prepared of various scenarios, and they instill a great sense of foresight to situations and visualizations which are important trait of leadership especially decision making.

Kihon: Kihon is a Japanese term meaning "basics" or "fundamentals." The term is used to refer to the basic techniques that are taught and practiced as the foundation of most Japanese martial arts.

The practice and mastery of kihon is essential to all advanced training, and includes the practice of correct body form and breathing, while practicing basics such as stances, punches, kicks, blocks, and thrusts, but it also includes basic representative kata.

Practice & Perfection: Every act of punching and kicking has to be done with perfection and speed to get the required power. Bruce lee said “ I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” That's the value of repetition and practice

Kumite : Kumite or sparring literally "grappling hands , is one of the three main sections of karate training, along with kata and kihon. Kumite is the part of karate in which a person trains against an adversary, using the techniques learned from the kihon and kata. For Sparring -Strategy- is vital.

Strategy - Courage - Presence of Mind

Attack , defend, shock or cause fear in the opponent : all these seem like war strategies at a micro level. Martial arts enables strategic thinking with its forms and maneuvers. That the essence of kumite.

One of the most impressive quotes heard in martial arts is " Be like water" : quoted by the legendary Bruce lee who developed his own style of martial art Jeet Kune Do , According to him the Mind has to be formless, and shapeless ,emptied during Martial arts and the individual should be in the moment waiting for opportunities and the results just happen, At that moment there is no thought or emotions, it just remains a process which is learnt over hard training! This is vital in some forms of leadership decisions ,in finding opportunities and actioning it with disassociation and neutrality.

Power and Fighting spirit

The power of kiai :Kiai is a Japanese term used in martial arts for the short shout uttered when performing an attacking move. Students of Japanese martial arts such as aikido, karate, kobudo, kendo, or judo (or related arts such as taiko drumming) use Kiai to startle an opponent, intimidate, express confidence, or express victory.

Mindfulness , Mental mobility and Composure.

Mindfulness : Martial arts encourages the practice of being in the moment , Meditation and Katas are meant to make the process spiritual and realize our full potential as human beings. Every reaction to the opponent during a sparring session happens in the moment. By being in moment,

The Martial artist is able to use the learning without a Bias or emotion to perfection as per situation. This is a true mark of mental mobility and flexibility, so vital for leadership. realizing the value of what is existing and present. To be conscious of the moment is like pausing our thinking and emotions for a moment. This is a key tenet of habit building, habit controls and in being self aware. These qualities have direct impact on self development and leadership.

The world of Martial arts looks like a quest for seeking completeness as a Human.. Martial arts indeed is an awakening of mind and body! I am Loving my Journey in this world for now.

Kindly share your feelings and Comments.

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Thejas Nair
Thejas Nair

This blog is interesting. I really liked the famous quotes of the legends.

I once saw an interview with a shaolin monk who said that martial arts actually began from India.


Rajitha s
Rajitha s


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