Wrong! Mokuso is the practise of breathing meditation and we use it at the start and finish of every karate class here at JKS Chester in our Hoole dojo. We may not be sitting in a field in the early evening sunshine like this lucky lot above, but we can still derive many of the benefits of practise.
According to Wikipedia (the font of all knowledge in the modern world), Mokusō is 'performed before beginning a training session in order to "focus" & "clear one's mind"... [it] is more formally known to mean "warming up the mind for training hard".' However we also use it after training to cool down and relax.
The practise signals both the start and end of our martial arts training. Mokusō can be used as a sign to both body and mind to let go of the issues that you are struggling with in your daily life prior to training. It can also be used as a signal to relax after a hard training session and as preparation to once again re-enter the outside world and pick up your worries where you left them at the entrance to the dojo (training hall). That is if you choose to pick up your worries again! Sometimes the intermission of training can provide the space to realise that external stresses are just that - external and outside of your control, and therefore things that you don't need to worry about. Who knew? Martial arts as stress relief and a form of self actualisation!
To perform Mokusō, we sit on our knees with hands placed in our laps (right hand over left with thumbs touching), eyes gently closed or looking down at the ground in front of you. In this position you take a number of deep breaths - breathing into your belly and become aware of your breath. Breath in, then breath out and repeat! This is Mokusō at its most basic.
However Mokusō has a number of other uses both before and after training (as suggested above). Mokusō can be used to:
scan the body for any aches and pains prior to or after training
scan the mind for any stress or disturbance prior to or after training
make a resolution to train hard and to train well
make a resolution to leave worries alone for the duration of the training session
to relax and settle the body and mind after a hard training session
(address anything else that comes to your mind - there are no right or wrong answers with meditation!)
It can be all of these things or none of them, and on any given training night you may find that you use Mokusō for different things for example, had a hard day at work? Use Mokusō to signal a break from the rigours of the 9 to 5 so that for the duration of training you can focus on something else. At the end of a gruelling session, use Mokusō to let go of the physical stress of training and relax prior to going home and enjoying the rest of the day.
It may be only a small part of most training sessions but Mokusō plays a big role in what you get out of your martial arts training.
If you want to train with us at our dojo in Hoole Chester, drop us a line or drop in! Our classes are advertised on the website and new faces are always welcome!