Kaizen (改善), “change for better“. What is Kaizen? It 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. The term however is not just used in work-life, it is applicable across all areas of life and “represents a guiding ethic for conducting a life”. It is extremely fitting for Karate.
Last night was the first general class back at Contact Kicks Dojo since the Seminar with Shihan David Pickthall ended on Sunday. I believe many of us were still a little sore, but the seminar had invigorated us and we were excited to be training again.
It was a fairly large class, the weather is improving and spirits were high. Sensei Steve took us through warm-ups and drills, some of which were influenced by the training we had done with Shihan David. Moving from kihon to kumite drills, it was a tough class, and in no time we were all huffing trying to keep the rhythm of the class. The pace being set by Sensei and the higher ranks, the lower ranks strive to keep up.
We divided in pairs to work on pad kicking drills. The focus on speed and accuracy, less than physical power. Unleashing the kicks like a coil to retract into a solid fighting stance immediately after. Sensei coaching us on all the finer points and demonstrating technique that is awe inspiring. His kicks are phenomenal!
Sensei spoke about the past seminar and talks to us about improvement. That we should always be seeking perfection. Always seeking to be better than before. Even if that improvement is 0.1%, it is still improvement, and all of that improvement builds up over time. It creates a solid foundation, and polishes our technique and spirit.
This all reminded me of Kaizen. I had first heard about Kaizen in my previous career in advertising, not martial arts. But immediately I was struck by the comparison. Kaizen is the perfect philosophy for Karate and life. As it is built on the foundation of continuously seeking improvement and perfection.
This past couple of years I have been through many changes, mostly personal. But I do seek to always improve and be a better person than I was before and to learn from my experiences. Though I might be 44, I have a lot to learn and I want to continue learning and improving for the rest of my life. In all aspects.
As Sensei said, you may not become the best. You may not become a champion. But, you are guaranteed to become a better person, a better karate-ka, and better than you were last time.