Muda, Muri, Mura – The Three M’s of Karate
Watching some adults in class recently reminded me that it’s time to share this information again. It can be really hard to see and correct what each student is doing. Even each student will do the same technique differently in one 10 count!
Sensei literally means one who has been on the path before you. He guides you and shares what he has discovered along his path. Ultimately you will need to find your own way. Increasing your focus on your karate, being responsible for your own progress, and attention to the minutest of details will all have an impact on how you live the rest of your life.
Do you find karate too technical and obsessed with seemingly trivial details? Many folks are attracted to our style of karate for exactly this reason. However, others might not be so intrigued.
As Sensei Tony frequently says: “No matter what your reasons for being here (exercise, stress management, community…) you’re riding the self-defense bus.” So you’re going to learn the self-defense aspects…..including the details. They matter.
Focusing on the details serves several purposes. Most obviously it provides training in focus, concentration and self-control. But there is also the fact that all those pesky details add up to something really powerful when in concert with each other. Then, there is the safety aspect. I suspect that some of our additional movement that we do when we train puts unnecessary strain on our body. That little bounce you add when you move into shiko dachi could impact your knees down the road.
Focusing so strongly on every detail enables us to internalize a technique so we can use it if needed. And if needed, we want an economy of movement that uses optimal energy in order to get maximum effect while offering the least exposure.
It is towards this end that we strive to identify and eliminate waste (muda), remove overburden (muri) and get rid of inconsistency (mura).
These are the three M’s of Karate.
The three M’s that every Karate-ka should strive to identify and exterminate, because together they block your reaching your highest potential.
Muda, made up of the ideograms representing “none” + “burdensome”, literally means waste, or something that is unproductive.
In Karate, muda is all activities that do not add value from an outcome-based perspective and thus can be removed. Of course, this presumes that you already know the aim of the technique or movement in question.
To use a very basic example (I’m confident that you can come up with a better one) let’s take a stepping punch, oi zuki.
A common muda mistake that many people repeat in this movement, is if you would slightly (often unconsciously) adjust your front foot just before lunging forward. This small adjustment of the foot is muda, waste, and must be removed. It serves no real purpose, except if you have been training incorrectly.
Other common muda include such classics as raising the shoulders, tensing the fist too tight, moving up and down when intending to go straight forward, or for beginners turning the whole body while performing techniques that require remaining squared to the front. There’s a reason we’re always pointing these things out!
Muri, made up of the ideograms representing “none” + “logic”, literally means unreasonable, or overburden/overdoing.
In Karate, muri is when you try to do everything at the same time, putting too much strain on the system, resulting in failure. Muri is simply not following the logical order of movement (also, think internal vs. external) in a technique.
Let’s use the stepping punch again.
What part of the body do you move first?
The head? The shoulders? Your elbow!?
For greatest economy of movement, initializing the stepping punch through the back leg, buttock and shooting the pelvis/hip forward in an arching movement is what most instructors would agree is the optimal way. Only then can the head, shoulders and rest of the body be propelled forward and hurled into the object receiving your (hopefully) devastating blow.
Muri is about being smooth, and doing things the logical way.
Mura is, unlike Muda and Muri, only written with one kanji, meaning “unevenness” or “inconsistency”.
Unevenness, mura, can often be in such basic things as stances and posture. Start small. Notice one thing to work on next.
All of the three M’s can also be looked at beyond the dojo floor. We strive to eliminate waste when it comes to what our minds focus on and what we choose to do with our time. We strive for calm and patience with ourselves and those around us by removing unnecessary thoughts and practices. And with all of the goals we have for ourselves, we strive for consistency. Just as in life, in karate, these goals take a lifetime to continue to improve.
So, to sum it up: To establish an economic – and ultimately effective – technique, eliminating the three M’s is mandatory.
It must be done.
The sooner the better – because new details can’t surface unless the old ones are gone.
The technique is hence incrementally and continuously improved, which is known as “kaizen” (“continuous improvement”) in Japanese.
Continuous improvement in life will happen if you can apply the same ideas to your everyday choices.
Eliminate muda, muri and mura both in your techniques, in your body. and in your mind.
(some information borrowed from karatebyjesse)