Kaizen is a martial arts term which was moved into the rebuilding of Japan following World War II. The word Kaizen means "continuous improvement". It comes from the Japanese words "kai" which means "change" or "to correct" and ("Zen") which means "good". One thing at a time, keep it simple, do it right or don’t do it, practice and improve and keep getting better at it.
Kaizen is part of a way of life philosophy. If something is in your life, it’s important, and you should want and need it in your life or if not you should get rid of it. The same is true with material stuff, if you’re not using it, then it’s clutter, so get rid of it. So, everything you put in your life; people, habits, food, job, family, friends, activities, social, TV, tech, etc. everything, and everything should be looked at as important and treated with respect and improved or get rid of it, if it has a negative effect on you. Since Kaizen is a philosophy and not a rigid system, it’s flexible and adaptable to the person or company. Just 1% better every day, what extremely small step can I take to improve my life, process, product, life?
Kaizen is based on making changes anywhere and everywhere that improvements can be made. Western philosophy may be summarized as, “Good enough”, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" “We have always done it that way, why change it now” The Kaizen philosophy is to "do it better, make it better, integrate with other improved systems, improve it even if it isn't broken, because if we don't, we can't compete with those who do. If life is out of balance, balance it. It is not however the “Massive Change” or “Go Big or Go Home” type change, Kaizen is less about obsessive hustle and working more, and more about thoughtful adjustments, accepting failure, and applying learning to work better and smarter.
Kaizen in Japan is a system of improvement that includes home, Dojo, school, business life, and manufacturing. It is a concept that is applied in every aspect of a person's life.
Kaizen is the Japanese word for constant and never ending improvement "Good Change". In the dojo, martial arts is a lifestyle, no time off, you are a martial artist all the time 24/7. If you witness senior students and instructors they are always working on improving their mind, body and spirit, they enjoy those thoughts and the practice. Many people set goals, but it’s your daily habits, being mindful of what’s important, your systems, that accomplish the goals.
Only a small percentage of people read but will spend countless wasted hours on the internet or watching TV, however successful people constantly read and listen to positive and inspirational books and tapes, they seek out mentors and experts for guidance, they analysis their results. They know that by reading 60 minutes every day, within a few years they can be in the top 10% of their chosen field, this method becomes their daily normal, it’s not forced, they enjoy it. In the dojo, top black belts are 100% present in every class, the practice those skills on their own, building their mind, body, spirit, skills and attitude.
Kaizen involves setting high standards, but starting at the most basic level, then continually improving those standards at the most basic level. By setting high standards at basic level, your foundation, in all areas, it has a compounding effect that is nothing short of incredible. To support the higher standards Kaizen also involves providing the training, materials and supervision that is needed to achieve the higher standards and maintain their ability to meet those standards on an on-going basis. Kaizen is a system that involves everyone here at the Dojo - from Hanshi Alexander, Kyoshi Riedmiller to the brand new 7-year-old white belt.
The five foundation elements of Kaizen are; Teamwork, Personal discipline, Improved morale, Quality circles, Suggestions for improvement. Everything is based on Kata (system), and should stay within Kata, your Kata or system is a way of life. A bad system will destroy you where as a good can make things amazing. In a solid Kaizen system; Everything should be organized, professional and tidy, clean, standardized, sustained, and discipline.
This concept is now being used by pro athletes, has been used to rebuild small & massive company’s, and has recreated nations from the edge of ruin to world powerhouses. But it started in Martial Arts thousands of years ago and was the backbone of the old traditional Dojo’s, transforming countless people. Change starts from within yourself first.
Kyoshi Riedmiller has been researching the kaizen concept for years and has consulted with some of the top authorities in this field. In the business world there are Kaizen based awards "The Deming Prize" and "The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award" the highest awards on TQM in the world and the U.S. that recognizes individuals and management.
In the Dojo, you will see Kaizen manifest itself in many ways; Advance training classes, the way classes are taught, World class seminars, recommended reading, Lessons in Mindfulness, Leadership development classes, and commitment to the highest quality and standards in the world.
Summit Martial Arts Standards of Excellence
The Chinese say that a journey of 1000 miles begins with one step. Kaizen
is all about making that step towards improvement, everyday.
1) Shoshin – Beginner’s Mind
Shoshin means “Beginner’s Mind” It reflects an attitude of eagerness and openness when beginning an endeavor, and a lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner would. When you are in a state of shoshin you should be feeling enthusiastic, creative and above all optimistic and positive. Think about a time when you were getting ready to start something new that you were very passionate about. You were excited and wanted to start as soon as possible, ready to do or learn whatever it was you were about to start.
Getting into a state of shoshin would clearly be whenever you’re about to start something new, even ones you may be nervous about or dreading, but with an attitude of open minded which helps to make most situations that you once thought were difficult or unpleasant much more enjoyable as your confidence grows. Shoshin is an absence of preconceptions and a general sense of optimism. You shouldn’t be thinking too much about what is going to happen, you should just be eager to accept whatever comes and assured it will all be for the best.
Releasing preconceptions and an attitude of new is one of shoshin’s most valuable qualities. You can work on placing yourself in a state of shoshin even when doing something you’ve done before, but at a new level, with experience and wisdom to ensure that you aren’t making poor decisions based on preconceived biases. It also helps train you to keep a positive and eager outlook about everything that might come your way.
The phrase is also discussed in the book Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki, a Zen teacher. Suzuki outlines the framework behind shoshin, noting "in the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few.
This refers to the kind of attitude that you probably had when you first started martial arts. You were excited and eager to learn. You had an attitude of openness, eagerness, and had no preconceptions of how to do your techniques. You just wanted to learn. This is the mind that you should have, even when you get to the point of learning advanced martial arts or mastery. Looking at how different arts may use the same or similar technique, but in very different ways. Using this in Bunkai or analysis or disassembly of Kata, and there are three distinct ways of looking at bunkai: Omote, Ura, Honto (more on this latter) Help beginners that are in this state, they can help remind you to find this state again. If you are a beginner, take your time and enjoy this state , don't be in a hurry to go to another level to soon.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you already know everything that you need to know. Maintain a beginner’s mind, even when you get to the higher levels of your martial art. The person who thinks that he or she already knows everything, is not open to learning anything. Maintain Shoshin when you are training with others and continue to learn from everyone you meet, what to do and what not to do.
Kyoshi Charles Riedmiller Head Instructor/Owner Summit Martial Arts Delaware, Ohio and has over 43 years experience in the Martial Arts, he started training in Goju Ryu karate and Judo at age 13. He been training in Goju Ryu & Shorin Ryu Karate, Kobudo, Judo, Jujitsu, Aikido for over 4 decades and BJJ for over 20yrs with Professor Pedro Sauer. He has been dedicated to teaching authentic, high quality Martial Arts his entire life. Sensei Riedmiller has taught thousands of Military, Law Enforcement, pro-fighters/champions and martial art students of all ages.