In the episode we continue going deeper into ichi gan, ni soku, san tan, shi riki as we take a deeper look into the first element the eyes.
The eyes are the most important of all the basics and the way we use them will effect everything else that follows.
—- Transcript —-
Martin: Hey everyone, this is Martin & Sandra Phillips and welcome back to the Karate 4 Life Podcast.
Sandra: Today we want to dig a bit deeper into the basics of karate and life, taker a closer look at the first element of ichi gan, ni soku, san tan, shi riki –the eyes.
Martin: We’ve noticed that everyone faces challenges in life, some big some small. But not everyone has a way to navigate these problems.
Sandra: It’s not always easy, but we’ve found that we always keep coming back to what we’ve learned from our years in the dojo.
Martin: And that’s what this podcast is all about…
Sandra: Helping us all find the solutions to life’s problems. Or even better yet, to remove the problems before they arise.
Martin: This is Martin & Sandra Phillips and welcome to the Karate 4 Life Podcast.
Sandra: Martin, are you ready to do this today?
Martin: I think so. I think so. We’ve been spending a little bit of time collecting our thoughts and doing a bit of a brain dump. Every time we look at this we seem to find new angles and new ways to approach things and go a little bit deeper, so we’ll see how we go pulling it together.
Sandra: Yes, and I guess for those who have been doing martial arts for a long time, and especially those who are way above our time in the Dojo. For myself personally, I know for you too, every time we discuss Ichi Gan with students of various ages, levels, it always seems to have a similar message, yet also very different. Different angles of how we actually attack those-
Martin: Depending on the audience.
Sandra: -conversations. Yes. Again, this could really blow out, really….
Martin: Yes, it could go so many different directions, maybe a list to help focus, we’ll get back to that. The text from Soke’s teaching manual, I might let you read there if that’s okay.
Sandra: Sure thing. Okay, so… “Ichi Gan, it is said that the spirit of a person is shown most through the eyes. In Budō, Gan represents the power of insight into the movement of the opponent’s body, spirit, etc.
Martin: Oh, wow. This is really looking at it from a technical point of view, and I guess to hear the saying, “The eyes are the window to the soul,” as looking, not just at their physical body, but their emotional state and their mental state, and looking at how we do that. Perhaps, we’ll get onto that in a little bit. Maybe we’ll get back and look at it.
Sandra: Yes, let’s go really simple.
Martin: We’ll go really simple.
Sandra: Really simple, and just think, okay, if we just go back to ourselves as individuals, so we look at as far as how we use the eyes for ourselves.
Martin: As an individual, when I think eye focus, I think, “Where are my eyes fixed? Am I looking down? Am I looking up? Am I focused on something? Am I just in a bit of a daze?” Just by aligning the eyes, looking forwards, that in turn, helps to align the posture and creates a position of personal power. When the head comes down, when the eyes come down, the head comes down, the posture collapses. When you hold that for any extended period of time, you start to feel a little bit depressed.
Sandra: Yes, low energy, not much flowing through you.
Martin: Then, just by opening that up, opening it up, fixing the eyes off into the distance, looking forwards rather than backwards, it allows you to create that feeling of strength within yourself.
Sandra: Yes. Would you also say that with that feeling, it tends to also help correct the posture?
Martin: Oh, absolutely.
Sandra: And create greater stability and balance…?
Martin: Yes, one feeds into the other. The eyes feed into the posture, the posture feeds into the eyes and that feeling of strength or power come from that.
Sandra: Yes, and I guess you could also look at it in terms of the way you look at people. You could look at people with love and kindness or you could look at people with hate and jealousy and just in the way you’d look at people, it’s amazing how that can have an instant effect on your overall psychology as well.
Martin: Absolutely. When we see this, I’ll take this back to the dojo for a second, when you look at a partner, some people just look really scary.
Sandra: Yes, you’re one of those people.
Martin: I’m one of those people. [chuckles]
Martin: It’s not because they’re doing anything, they can just be standing there and they just look scary. Some people look intimidating. Some people look like they’re ready to be eaten alive. I remember, there’s a few teachers I’ve trained with in Japan, I’m pretty tall, compared to most Japanese people, I remember training with a few people, and physically, they’re not that big, but you look at them, and they just look like they’re 10 feet tall because they’ve just got this presence about them, through the way that they use their eyes and the way they hold themselves, that just makes them look larger than life.
Sandra: Wow, that commanding presence,
Martin: That commanding presence, getting back to the referee rulebook.
Sandra: Yes, I always come back to the commanding presence, it’s stuck with me, not just as a referee, but I’ve taken that a whole lot– a lot of thought had gone into that in my own training as well, and as a parent, believe it or not, always thinking of those sorts of things. All right, let’s move on now, let’s extend outside of ourselves, and let’s move into our surrounding environment.
Martin: Using your eyes in this way, I guess, is looking at what’s going on around you. If we look at it from a self-defense scenario being aware of what’s around you is the first rule of self-defense, is, be aware of what’s there and don’t be where the trouble is. Just that awareness of looking at, where are the potential threats? Let’s say, you’re walking into a nightclub and you see there’s some people over on the side, there’s a bit of an argument erupting, do you walk towards it, or do you walk around the other way and stay away from it? Just being aware of the space around you is the first step.
Also being aware of opportunities in that same scenario. You’ve walked into this space and there’s a disturbance erupting over there on the side, and you’re looking for where are the possible escape routes, so you’re not walking into the trouble. If the trouble erupts further and it becomes bigger than it needs to be, then you’ve got a way to get out, not be there.
Sandra:: No, it’s fantastic. It just brought back a memory for me when I was a young mum. I remember being in a park all alone with our two kids and you were at work and I was there on my own. I remember this man coming towards me and it just did not feel right. He was probably about at least maybe 100 meters away but I just instantly felt, oh, this is not good feeling.
Martin: You just felt uneasy about him?
Sandra: It felt really uneasy about this man coming and he was walking straight at me. I had two young kids. I think Sam would have probably been around, oh, gee, I don’t know, three or so and so they were still really young and happy and doing their thing, obviously. Minding their own business but this man’s looking at me. He started walking quite slow and he got faster and faster. Then a car pulled up. A young family coming into the park as well, and he straightaway just veered off and he ran the other way.
It was a most bizarre experience. I thought, wow, what’s going to happen here? It was only because my environment changed that that person’s actions were changing as well, so what may have happened? I don’t know but I was certainly very aware of him coming into that space from such a distance. It was a very unusual feeling about this person. You can sense it. If you have yourself positioned and you know yourself. If you have yourself positioned with your eyes and your posture, and you find that you generally get a sense of your environment changing, and the energy will change in people around you, and you can sense that.
Martin: I guess that’s the other thing. As we move towards dealing with an opponent, which is probably the next step, going from the surroundings to dealing with an opponent, or someone that’s connected, then you start to look towards their eyes. That’s like the old saying, the eyes are the window to the soul. It gives you the insight of someone’s intent.
Sandra: Definitely. Okay, so we’ve got, know yourself. We want to know our environments and let’s go now into knowing your opponent.
Martin: As I said that, when you connect or engage with an opponent, that first starts with how you connect with your eyes when we practice in the dojo and practice partner applications of Bunkai or Kumite, always, the first thing to do is start with the eyes. Start with how are you’re connecting because that becomes a judge of one, their intent, are they a threat or are you in control?
Sandra: You are always observing, you’re getting a sense of what’s going on and I guess you’re detecting what’s going on?
Martin: Yes, so you’re looking at what is the next step going to be? Do you need to adjust your distance? Do you need to engage and take control, and take command of that situation, or do you just need to let it flow by? We’re looking at the eyes, judge that intent first, and then it moves on to those, looking for those little things like your distance. Is the opponent at a distance where they can do any damage to you, or are they still moving towards that distance?
As they come in closer and closer and closer into that zone of engagement, then you become even more and more heightened and aware of what’s going on. I guess this is something I think you do exceptionally well in Kumite. Last time you competed at the Soke Cup, your entire strategy was distance. Perhaps, you could talk about what you experienced with that briefly.
Sandra: Oh, gee, yes. Throw me on the spot just like that. I wasn’t expecting that. It’s actually interesting. Distance was an important part, distance and timing. I did go back to those because I knew that a lot of young ladies coming through, and I tell you the speed on those girls, it’s incredible. I didn’t feel, at that time, that I could be an attacker as I would love to do and I was younger. I didn’t feel I had that speed in my body to do it in the way where I could disguise any telegraphs in my movement to enter. I did feel as though there was a good chance on my entry they were going to take me. Because of that, I thought, “Let’s be really simple. Let’s let them walk into the problem and I’ll be more patient.” I was never a patient fighter when I was growing up. I wanted to just go and take control and just get in there and attack. It wasn’t such a wise decision.
Martin: You were a bit of a feisty one, weren’t you?
Sandra: Very feisty, I believe. I don’t think I was, really but–
Martin: [chuckles] Being on the receiving end in training a few times. Yes, you were.
Sandra: Yes. I think in time you change, and you grow, and you mature. You see other people’s perspectives. You see other people’s teachings. I think you have to grow, but I guess distance and timing were my key elements. The underlying of that though, my personal goal was, I wanted to bring in my absolute best. I wanted to know that within myself I could control everything about me, my mind, my body, my emotional state. I did not want to let any of those parts of me, be weak.
Martin: This all comes back to the eyes, doesn’t it?
Sandra: It all came back to the eyes, the way I use my eyes at that point in time, yes. It’s amazing how the intent can be so deep. It goes so deep that it turns into this state of– the feeling is like you’re feeling invincible, but you feel so much love at the same time. You never want to hurt anybody. There’s such great care and love, but there’s this invincible feeling that takes over your body in that state. I can’t explain it much more than that.
Martin: Again, that way you use your eyes, obviously that’s the perception of what’s going on. The perception of space, perception of your opponent looking at their threat. Then, there’s also that what you’re projecting out from yourself, how you’re using your eyes in that way. That reminds me of a great story about Soke. I remember our former teacher, Brian Hayes Sensei he once asked Soke, “If you ever had to defend yourself, what would you do? How would you do that?” I think he had the perfect answer. He said, “I would hope that my Kamae would be enough. The hope that my presence and the way that I presented myself would be enough so the fight would not happen. Of course, if the fight happened, then I’d do this, this, this, and this, but the first line of defense is how I use my eyes.”
Martin: That’s incredibly powerful, isn’t it?
Sandra: Extraordinary. That’s a great way, I guess, to wrap up that part, I think maybe just really briefly, let’s go and to look at if we were to take these ideas and then how to apply it into our everyday life now, I guess, because we’ve looked at ourself, the surroundings with other people in this situation, opponents, if we go and put this into everyday life, what would that look like in your mind?
Martin: Well, again, it’s an extension of those same three elements. You’re looking at how you’re holding yourself, how you’re presenting yourself, how you’re taking in the world around you. That’s moving into the awareness, looking at possible opportunities that might be coming up, and also possible struggles or threats or challenges that come up as well. That’s being aware of that. How you use your eyes is what directs everything that you do.
Sandra: I could say this for myself personally, but I’m not sure about yourself. I find the more I practice because I think you’ve got to practice these things, not just think about, you need actually action and deliberately practice.
Martin: It’s a conscious effort.
Sandra: Yes. I’ll actually practice using my eyes in everyday life, when I’m driving or when I’m speaking with people, whatever it might be in all different situations.
Martin: It can be just those little things like if you’re feeling just a little bit low energy just to lift your eyes, raise your posture, and straighten up.
Sandra: Yes, very much so. I guess what I was probably trying to get to is that I find that when I align my spine, I guess, by using my eyes, I generally feel as though I can live from a more, I guess, peaceful state, a more calm state, and a lot less overwhelm. Although challenges may arise still and the same kind of ones that I’ve had 20 years ago, I don’t respond the same way anymore to those challenges, there’s this maturity and there’s this presence which says I can do this in a more peaceful way now. I don’t need to go through the struggle or get all emotional about things. I can just go, “You know what? Cut to the chase, let’s just move forward in this peaceful calm way.” Would you have that same kind of thing?
Martin: Absolutely. I think that’s definitely an approach, it creates a mental space where you can just stay level-headed. That’s the thing that we strive towards heijoshin that calm heart. Where you’re operating in that band where you’re not excited by things, not too excited, or you’re not depressed by things, but operating in that calm state in the middle where things just are.
Sandra: Yes. Me being my curious self, I love getting excited, but I love putting myself back into that state. If I need to be more clear and to have clarity in my projects, I’ll always bring myself to that even place-
Martin: That even keel.
Sandra: -so I can truly take it all in and deliver a much better experience for those who I’m trying to work with.
Martin: We’ve done well. We normally try to keep these a little bit shorter than this, but I knew it was going to blow out. I think we probably should start to think about the next episode hey? Next episode, moving into… stance.
Martin: Thanks for listening to today’s episode of the Karate 4 Life Podcast.
Sandra: If you found this episode useful, please comment on our website karate4life.com
Martin: Share it with your friends via social media and don’t forget to tag us #karate4lifepodcast.
And if you’ve got a topic that you’d like us to cover in future episodes or questions about karate or life…
Sandra: Please send us a message, we’d be more than happy to share our thoughts.
Martin: Thanks again for joining us and stay tuned for the next episode about ichi gan, ni soku, san tan, shi riki as we continue to go more deeply into the second element the stance.