Thoughts on International Education
Musings on Japanese and Ryukyu Budo
Thoughts on International Education
With the rise and focus of "practical" karate has come, in my opinion, an over-emphasis on the left-brain. By solely focusing on the utility of karate to navigate violence we have, lost aspects of its holistic possibilities. Using as a back drop the brain-research of Iain McGilchrist below I suggest way in which the right brain can be returned to its purposeful place within Modern Japanese Budo
This blog explores the brain theory proposed by Iain McGilchrist and its potential implications for understanding modern Japanese budo. McGilchrist's theory posits that the brain is divided into two hemispheres, each with distinct modes of processing and perceiving the world. By extrapolating this theory to the realm of Japanese budo, encompassing martial arts and a holistic approach to personal development, valuable insights can be gained regarding the interplay between cognitive processes and the physicality of martial arts training. This paper aims to elucidate the potential connections between McGilchrist's brain theory and modern Japanese budo practices, shedding light on their intersecting domains.
The brain theory proposed by Iain McGilchrist suggests that the two hemispheres of the brain, namely the left and right hemispheres, exhibit fundamental differences in their cognitive functions and perceptions of the world. McGilchrist argues that the left hemisphere focuses on detailed analysis, categorisation, and abstraction, while the right hemisphere emphasises holistic processing, contextual understanding, and an embodied experience. These dichotomies shape our reality perception and influence our navigation of the world.
2. McGilchrist's Brain Theory:
McGilchrist's brain theory posits that the left hemisphere assumes dominance in contemporary Western society, prioritising abstraction, rationality, and reductionism. In contrast, the right hemisphere embodies a more holistic perspective, accentuating embodied cognition, context, and a sense of interconnectedness. According to McGilchrist, the left hemisphere's analytical orientation often overshadows the nuanced comprehension of the world provided by the right hemisphere, leading to an imbalanced view of reality.
3. Japanese Budo: A Holistic Approach:
Japanese budo encompasses diverse martial arts practices such as judo, karate, kendo, and aikido. Diverging from many Western martial arts, budo underscores personal growth, spiritual development, and the integration of physical, mental, and emotional aspects. Budo practitioners strive for a state of mind-body unification, directing their focus to the present moment and cultivating an awareness of their surroundings. This holistic approach aligns with McGilchrist's postulation of the right hemisphere's holistic processing and embodied cognition.
4. Embodied Cognition in Budo:
McGilchrist's brain theory aligns with the emphasis on embodied cognition in Japanese budo. Through physical training and repetitive movements, budo practitioners integrate cognitive processes with bodily sensations, enhancing proprioception, kinesthetic awareness, and sensory perception. This integration facilitates a profound understanding of martial arts techniques and nurtures a holistic experience of the mind and body operating synergistically. McGilchrist's theory sheds light on the significance of embodied cognition in budo training, impacting overall skill development and self-awareness.
5. Right Hemisphere Dominance in Budo:
Considering McGilchrist's theory, the right hemisphere's dominance bears particular relevance to the practice of Japanese budo. The right hemisphere's capacity for holistic perception, contextual understanding, and non-verbal communication fosters the development of intuitive responses, adaptability, and the ability to discern opponents' intentions. These skills assume critical importance in budo, where practitioners endeavour to anticipate and respond to dynamic situations. McGilchrist's brain theory provides a framework to comprehend how the right hemisphere's processing may contribute to the intuitive and adaptable nature of budo training.
6. Interconnectedness and Context:
McGilchrist's theory accentuates the right hemisphere's inclination to perceive interconnectedness and context. In budo, this translates into an appreciation of the interplay between oneself, the opponent, and the surrounding environment. Budo practitioners learn to adapt their movements, strategies, and techniques to
suit the ever-evolving circumstances, capitalising on the holistic processing of the right hemisphere.
7. Mindfulness and Present Moment Awareness:
Japanese budo also promotes mindfulness and present moment awareness, aligning with the right hemisphere's proclivity for direct experience. By cultivating acute focus on the present moment, practitioners heighten their sensory perception, enabling swift and instinctive responses. This facet of budo training corresponds to the right hemisphere's inclination towards embodied cognition and its capacity to process information holistically and immediately. McGilchrist's brain theory provides a framework to comprehend the neural mechanisms underlying the heightened state of awareness and mindfulness nurtured in budo.
8. Integration of Hemispheric Dominance:
Understanding Iain McGilchrist's brain theory provides insights into the integration of hemispheric dominance in the practice of Japanese budo. Rather than favouring one hemisphere over the other, budo encourages practitioners to cultivate a harmonious balance between the left and right hemispheres, harnessing their unique cognitive strengths as complementary forces. The integration of both analytical and holistic processing allows budo practitioners to access a broader range of cognitive resources, facilitating adaptation to diverse situations and enabling comprehensive decision-making.
By applying Iain McGilchrist's brain theory to the realm of Japanese budo, a deeper understanding of cognitive processes and embodied experiences involved in martial arts training can be achieved. McGilchrist's differentiation between the left and right hemispheres sheds light on the significance of embodied cognition, contextual understanding, and holistic perception in budo. This understanding can inform training methodologies, augment skill development, and provide a framework for personal growth within the sphere of modern Japanese budo.
McGilchrist, Iain. The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World. Yale University Press, 2009.
Okinawan and Japanese Budo
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James M. Hatch
International Educator who happens to be passionate about Chito Ryu Karate. Born in Ireland, educated in Canada, matured in Japan