It was a hot evening in August, 1952.
David Tudor approached his piano on stage at the Maverick Concert Hall in New York.
In his hand, he held a stopwatch.
As Tudor sat before the grand piano, he closed the keyboard lid.
Then, for 4 minutes and 33 seconds, he sat in complete silence.
Without touching the piano.
This was the world-premier of a piece called 4’33” by composer John Cage, where the pianist is instructed to not produce any sounds for 4 minutes and 33 seconds.
The audience was outraged!
Needless to say, this “non-performance” made all the newspapers’ headlines.
Here’s what the composer said in a later interview:
“The audience missed the point. There’s no such thing as silence. What they thought was silence, was full of accidental sounds. You could hear the wind stirring outside, then raindrops began pattering the roof, and people themselves made all kinds of interesting sounds as they talked or walked out.”
Silence makes people uncomfortable.
Because, when the environment isn’t filled with sound, we have to listen to ourselves.
And many people are not comfortable with themselves.
In fact, some people’s internal dialogue is filled with poison.
So what better antidote than Karate?
Today I want to challenge you.
The challenge will laser-focus your Karate.
(Unless you cheat.)
Here’s the challenge:
For one whole Karate class,
you cannot say anything.
Not a single word.
I want your body, spirit and technique to do the talking.
Not your vocal chord.
In fact, the only thing that can come out of your piehole is “kiai!”
Now, I know what you’re thinking:
“Jesse-san, that sounds too easy. It even sounds silly! What good would it do to stay silent for a whole Karate class?”
Let me explain something for you.
I’ve found three major reasons why people talk during Karate class:
1. First of all, many people use talking as an ESCAPE from hard training. When they’re forced to do something difficult or uncomfortable, they use talking as an excuse to rest. They ask for “details” or “pointers” to give them some breathing room. Why? Because they’re afraid of dancing on the edge of their comfort zone.
2. Secondly, many people talk because they don’t TRUST their skills. They never try anything new without knowing exactly what / how / when / where and why it needs to be done. It’s paralysis by analysis. Instead of “learning by doing”, they’d rather talk, then try a little, then talk, then try a little bit again, then talk, and then, finally, hopefully, maybe, perhaps… do it.
3. Lastly, and sadly, many people lack HUMAN CONNECTION. Their days are filled with loneliness, so they come to the dojo to socialize. They crave the talking, like I crave carrot cake. That’s fine. But it should be done after, or before, training.
Although these reasons are natural, I want to challenge you today.
Can you stay silent for a whole Karate class?
That’s 60-120 minutes, depending on your dojo’ schedule.
Believe me – the shift you’ll notice in your focus is mind-blowing.
It’s like an overdose on determination!
When I’ve conducted this challenge with my own students, especially kids, I’ve had magical moments. People get happy.
Suddenly, “new” sounds start to emerge…
- The snapping of punches, blocks and kicks.
- The swoosh of stepping, shuffling and sliding.
- The unmistakable ambiance of concentration, ambition and effort.
When you think about it, it’s not silence!
It’s the music of Karate.
I encourage you to try this, and see how quickly it amplifies your focus.
In todays multitasking-crazy environment, the ability to focus with laser-like precision is more powerful, and needed, than ever.
Don’t you agree?
Take the challenge.
Shut up and train! 🙂