Kaizen! Continuous Improvement in Kyokushin Karate and Life!

Maybe it’s because it is the middle of summer, but for whatever reason, I was feeling sluggish and tired at last night’s class at Contact Kicks Martial Arts.

We’ve been averaging large classes, which is nice to see, as in the summer people tend to drop off for a while. I believe this speaks well to the great instruction under Sensei Steve Fogarasi.

Wednesday’s at CKMA generally consist of a lot of fight drills, pad work and conditioning. We all pushed hard, enduring the pressure put on by each and everyone of us, with kiai’s ringing out, and shouts of Osu!.

Sensei Fogarasi has a very philosophical teaching style. While his training methods are intelligent and very challenging, he always interlaces this with practical meaning to be applied in life outside of the dojo.

Last night Sensei was talking to us about working hard to become better all the time, to strive to be the very best you can be. This is the Kaizen way!

Kaizen (改善), “change for better“.  What is Kaizen? Kaizen is the Japanese practice of continuous improvement and refers to activities that continually strive to improve all functions and includes anyone from the head of a company to the general workers. Kaizen is the original concept that has been used by Toyota and has become company culture in Japan. Kaizen means the pursuit of perfection in all one does.

Japanese can be meticulous about their work. There is a story, which could be a corporate myth, about a Japanese company returning orders from western suppliers that were as high as 99% accurate, saying they didn’t understand orders that were less than 100% accurate. Myth or not, it points out the very high standard the Japanese aim for.

Sensei talked to us about the Japanese approach to business and arts. Take something as general labour. You can see the same attention to detail a Japanese car company puts into a product, within the work of the general labourer. It’s perfection. There is more at play here than just hard work; the people who do the work are not only very skilful – they care deeply about the quality of their work and what they produce. You can see this pride in craftsmanship of cars, or back hundreds of years to their swords.

To put into more perspective, take cutting fish. Do you even put much thought into preparing your food? They say it takes 10 years to master the knife skills essential to sushi!

Sensei Fogarasi explain that Kaizen should be an absolute given to your karate training. If not, what is the point? You should always be striving to be that little bit better than before. You might not even notice the results immediately. Especially as you go higher in rank. However, once you look back over time, you will then see how your strong effort paid off.

1 – 2% improvement may not sound like much. But if you keep that progress up, within a relatively short time you are 100 – 200% better. Then, imagine where you will be in 3 years, 5 years…. 10 years.

Sensei Fogarasi spoke about taking that attitude out of the dojo into life. Within your work and career. How much more satisfaction you will get, if you strive for greatness and perfection in your job.

How much more rewarding your work will become, not to mention the recognition you will receive through your peers, as well as bosses and managers. As you apply this in your work and daily life, they begin to overlap with the dojo, and before you know it… kaizen, or the pursuit of perfection becomes a way of life.

So, aim to be better in all that you do; relationships, work, careers,…. karate – and who knows, you might achieve perfection in all!



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