What is Yoi
Often when you watch Karate tournament
you will notice in sparring segments that the competitors
with the superior techniques are not always the
ones who win the matches. A competitor who receive
a minor injury a match, for example, will suddenly
become hesitate to attack, and, in spite of possessing
superior skills, may lose even if the physical effects
of the injury were negligible. Similarly, an exceptionally
aggressive competitor can win more than his or her
fair share of matches just relying on this trait
This illustrates how matches can often be won or
lost even before the competitors enter the rings.
We are all aware of the importance of training hard
and practicing our techniques before competition,
but we sometimes forget a crucial aspect of our
preparation; motivation, or the will to win.
The importance of motivation in preparing for any
activity is illustrated by the Japanese word YOI,
which means "ready." The first ideogram,
YO, means "use"
or " utilize," while the second,
I, means "will" or "motivation."
To be prepared is to be motivated.
There is a very well-known aspect of Karate training
in which the proper preparation of your motivation
are crucial for success: breathing such items as
boards and bricks with your hands. This is not very
difficult, really; even a child can punch and split
a board in two with just a bit guidance. Success
does, however, require firm belief that your chosen
object is breakable. A shred of doubt will keep
you from success, and can even cause serious injury,
but if you firm grasp an unshakeable belief that
you can do it, you'll find the board or even brick
is surprisingly fragile. A crucial part of preparation,
then, is in your mind.
The ideogram I
for motivation is made up the radical kokoro
for "heart" or "mind," and on,
which in this case means "to force." This
means that motivation is something we force into
our mind. This is an images which can serve you
well in Karate. When you are facing competition
in karate, for example, you should visualize this
motivation swelling in your heart, and release it,
along with all your body energy, at the outset of
In Karate, you will hear the word YOI before sparring,
the performance of a Kata, and even simple calisthenics
during warm up. This is the way in which the instructor
or referee tells you to prepare yourself for next
task at hand. Each time you hear it, remember the
true meaning of readiness in Japanese: to be motivated
When you complete a KATA, it is customary to spend
a few seconds looking at the direction of your last
attack. Even as you return to a natural, standing
position, you should maintain your focus in that
same direction a few second longer. This makes sense
when you consider Kata to be a sequence of techniques
against imaginary opponents. You have to make sure
upon the completion of the Kata that your last opponent
has been completely dealt with, and will not be
attacking you again. This is called Zanshin.
The word is made up of two ideograms: Zan,
which means "to leave," and shin,
which means "mind" or "consciousness."
Therefore, Zanshin is the act of setting aside a
part of your conscious mind when you finish a Kata
in order to ensure that it is completed properly.
Of course not properly maintaining your guard in
a physical confirmation from start to finish can
have dire consequence. Even an opponent who appears
defeated may still be looking for opportunities
for further attack.
He may attack even exploit a moment of distraction
to pull out a weapon. Zanshin will get you in the
habit of maintaining your guard until you are absolutely
certain everything is safe.
As most Karate costumes, however, the lesson to
be gained from Zanshin can be applied to other aspect
of life. Many of us, in our eagerness to accomplish
our tasks, rush through them and are inattentive
to details and finishing touches. We may leave some
dirt in the corners of the room while cleaning house,
or rush through the annotations and make unnecessary
errors when writing a term paper. Neglect of details
can undermine all the efforts we have devoted to
In both Asia and the West, something worth doing
is worth doing well. Unfortunately, human nature
is such that when we are eager to complete a task,
we tend to become inattentive to detail. Karate
provide the very useful practice of Zanshin to help
you get in the habit of not being distracted by
the very goal you wish to attain.
Good luck in your training!