Last month I had the pleasure of traveling around, training, and just simply hanging around with international martial arts competitor, instructor, author, and founder of Seishin International, Jesse Enkamp. It was an awesome experience and a LOT of karate, training, historical, and philosophical information was exchanged.  MANY ideas have stuck with me so I thought I’d share one of my favorites….


In one of the training sessions, Sensei Enkamp asked the participants how much strength you need to receive a technique from an opponent (UKE).  Answers ranged from silence and avoiding eye contact to full pseudo-kinetic theses. None were correct.

Karate by Jesse balance

“Enough.” Said Jesse.  “Enough to get the job done right.  Strength relative to the challenge.”


BOOM. Short answers are usually the best.


“So,” he continued, “How much strength do you employ when attacking?”


“Absolute strength.”  When it’s time to go.  You go with all of your resources combined and focused.  Strike effectively and make it COUNT. Don’t go so hard on the block that you take away from the strike.  Use the correct energy as required by the situation.


Makes sense doesn’t it?


So what does this mean on the life level (in case you didn’t know, martial arts are SO much more than what goes on in the dojo…read about that HERE).  It would appear that many of us have our strengths focused in the WRONG WAY!


Life’s TO DO list can be divided into two categories… HAVE TO’s and CHOOSE TO’s.


The “HAVE TO’s” are things that are thrown at us and must be dealt with efficiently and effectively (like attacks in karate); ignoring them may mean more complicated issues in time.  It’s not for me to say what is a “have to” but think about work stuff, interpersonal issues, or other activities of daily living. These things require relative strength from your daily allotment.


The “CHOOSE TO’s” are things that capture your heart, make life worth living, preserve your health and sanity…optional but awesome! These are things that you should focus your energy on whole heartedly.



When you crawl into bed at night are you exhausted because your have to’s have taken all your energy or your choose to’s? Did you block with all your might and have nothing left to strike with??  In other words, were you so spent from work, drama, and chasing down bills that you skipped your workout, ignored your family, and put off that creative project indefinitely?


If you constantly drain the tank on what life throws at you, you’ll never get to the “choose to’s” in order to get that all important energy back from succeeding in something meaningful.  Worse yet is when your few remaining chose to’s are sacrificed for the have to’s!  It’s vicious downward spiral that rarely works out.  Make time for what’s improtnat to you and go for it with everything you have.  More energy means more resources for both have to’s and choose to’s. It’s all about balance.


Give the relative strength and absolute strength philosophy some thought the next time you are faced with a task.  Maybe reallocating some energy made be the key to success you are looking for both in the dojo and in life.

Check out Sensei Jesse’s latest video on karate philosopy (filmed here in Cambridge!)

If you aren’t…you should also probably train karate. Just sayin…

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