Zen Martial Arts Center

Sacramento Martial Arts and Karate

Proverbs is known as a book of wisdom. I like to think of it as a book of perspective. Sure its the same thing in a way, but reading a book of wisdom is daunting. A book on perspective sounds more digestible.

 There were a few passages that gave more perspective than most.


Proverbs 4:23-27 “Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.”

 The concept of gi is a difficult one. How do we choose the right way? What is “right”? I’d like to think I follow my heart, that my conscience chooses “right”, aka the “firm path.” Life makes it confusing lately. The choice most helpful for others is not always the best choice for another. So where is the balance?

 Another perspective from the passage is ambition. We all have dreams. A single minded focus on that dream can achieve it while a split focus cannot. Words should be as focused as actions and choices, all devoted to fulfilling one’s dream. Evil and corruption therefore becomes that which does not help bring about one’s dream. Just something I’ve been considering.


Proverbs 16:24 “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

 I am most critical to myself and with the ones I love. Proverbs reminds me to share pleasant words. Compassion heals. Criticism cuts down.


Proverbs 18:14 “A man’s spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?”

A strong kiai can do more than we realize. It can pull you through when pleasant words are lacking, or friends are too busy to hang out, or family doesn’t have cell phone reception, or you just need a mid-afternoon pick me up during a less than fun project at work. I highly recommend actively building your kiai to lift your spirits.


Proverbs 24:26 “An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.”

Still pondering this one with little headway.


Proverbs 24:32 “I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw…”

Mr. Oliver told me during my first week of classes, “The teacher can only show you the door. You have to walk through it.” Karate will help you only when you apply yourself. Proverbs knows it, and I needed to be reminded.


Proverbs 27:19 “As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man.”

It’s that time in life for me… that time after earning a degree, before finding my path in life. Those dreams from verses 4:22-27 are still being decided. I’m still figuring out what I want and what that looks like, and who to share it with, etc. Someday perhaps.


Proverbs 28:14 “…he who hardens his heart falls into trouble.”

There were many times, many slight turns of phrase stating the consequences of a hard heart. It is easy to close ones heart in anger, or after a betrayal, or when you’re busy. The constant repetition of the same warning made me think long, hard, and often about an open heart. What is open? How do you protect an open heart from further betrayal? How do you share an open heart? How do you close a heart? How do you open a heart closed off? And so on…


Proverbs 29:11 “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”

Mushin reminds me of a slinky. Hold one end of the slinky in each hand. No matter how you wiggle the slinky, it remains balanced. Even weighted more on one side, the slinky is held equally in both hands. Mushin is similar. It is the art of weighing everything equally and choosing the best course of action in a controlled manner. When I get frustrated at work, I play with my slinky. It helps me consider the choices while playfully venting the clouding emotion. Proverbs reminds me to chose the slinky instead of venting. Yay for slinky.


The book of Proverbs was thought-provoking, with more to questions than answers.

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Comment by Lisa Spagnolo on May 24, 2011 at 10:03am
Proverbs is excellent--so many good reminders.  It (and gi) also gets me thinking about cause and effect (have I mentioned this before?).   The effects in Proverbs are precisely appropriate to the causes (the attitudes of the heart, in many cases).   Nice application to mushin, and, of course, slinky.

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