The “four virtues” is formed by harmonizing the mind and the body. By taking the mind into the tanden (abdomen), we are able to shine as the Sun.
Q: You have mentioned that sympathetic nervous system which is usually not controllable, can be controlled by breathing methods. I would like to hear about this in more detail.
Nishida: Before speaking about how to control the sympathetic nervous system, we need to talk about the human brain. The brain consists of new cortex (cerebrum), brain limbic system (old brain), and the brain stem (primitive brain). This new cortex of the brain manages the adaptation of the behavior etc. What we call characteristic behavior of humans, and the limbic system manages the instinctive behavior. The brain stem operates the blood circulation, breathing etc. which are necessary for existence. It took a very long time for the new cortex to evolve. During this process the hind brain was the first that evolved from the spinal cord, it came the brain stem and the limbic system. This way, the human being got to the top of the living world with his brain development. In karate, we train the little brain (cerebellum).
Q: If we can acquire the technique with which we can control the autonomic nervous system, can the stressed symptoms become curable?
Nishida: Well, the respiratory, the digestive, and the circulatory systems appertain to autonomic nervous system though they function for actions of existence, but only breathing can be controlled at will. Therefore, the key to control the autonomic nervous system is the tanden breathing method. We produce an effect on the new cortex of big brain by controlling breathing which we stimulate the nerve bundles. In this way, we can keep a balanced mind and body.
Q: What is the sun nerve bundle?
Nishida: This is the part of the body in which locates behind the diaphragm. It looks like the rays of the Sun spreading in all directions. Abdominal breathing is like tandem breathing; by breathing moving up and down the diaphragm stimulates this sun nerve bundle. A scientist has already claimed that the sun nerve bundle isn’t the little brain. However, I believe that the nerve knot, including the sun nerve bundle, makes up the little brain.
The “Sanchin” Kata, which we call breathing method of karate, is very important. We can say that it is a treasured secret part. For example when our emotions such as the feeling of joy and anger are tied up, the stressors take over in the autonomic nervous system. When we are sad we lose appetite, when we are angry even though we are not physically active, the body responds the way. We do not control these phenomena with big brain. In that case, using the breathing methods of stimulating the sun nerve bundle, we normalize the functions of autonomic nervous system and the emotion is stabilized. That feedback is created by the little brain. In the East, the knowledge along with the practice has been known from two thousand years ago and it became the concept of abdomen training. The culture of the hara (stomach) comes into the concept of mind and idea. There are a lot of Japanese expressions that use the concept of hara. For example, “the one’s hara is settle” which means that the one have a courage, judicious, thoughtful.
Q: After all, karate is profound. It is a lifelong learning process, isn’t it?
Nishida: Yes, you are right. Originally, the essence of Budo is “self-protection.” That requires a high level control of the mind and body. The breathing technique is a part of the method with taking a long time practice of which we can realize this presence. Currently, Kyokushin karate consists of young men who focus on competing in the tournament rules. However, we have the duty to show that there is the other aspect of training karate to the society. If we can demonstrate the value of the true martial arts, we will increase the number of middle-age men in dojo because the “health” and the “self-protection” can become their themes of a lifelong research.
Lastly, I would like to conclude this discussion with dedicating my favorite words.
“Harmonize with breathing, the tanden become the sun. The sun nerve, the brilliance of light, the harmony of mind and body become the four virtues. This way the sun-man of the harmony is created.”
These words are originated by the master of breathing method, Fujita Reisai. The meaning is that we can harmonize the mind and the body by training the sun nerves with the tanden breathing in which comes alive the four virtues: health, bravery, wisdom, and faith, then, our lives become as shiny as the sun. When I say these words, I feel I am energized my body.