Inga Keiko – Karmic Exercise

कायेन वाचा मनसेंद्रियैर्वा ।

बुद्ध्यात्मना वा प्रकृतिस्वभावात् ।

करोमि यद्यत् सकलं परस्मै ।

नारायणयेति समर्पयामि ॥

“Whatever I perform with my body, speech, mind, limbs, intellect or my inner self, either intentionally or unintentionally, I dedicate it to that Supreme Lord Narayana.”

I’ve had this long standing approach to drilling techniques in practice, and even made special classes out of it in the past.

The thing is, when you settle in to work on drills, theres a lot of ways to count or time it up:

  • you can set a time (“ten minutes each side”)
  • you can set a count (“ten times each side”)
  • you can set a standard (“ten perfect demonstrations”)
  • and so on…

Of course each one of these approaches have tremendous potential to be capitalized or abused. You can clack and get distracted while counting down the time, you can sloppily rush through your count, and the perception of perfection is highly bias-able and subjective; your idea of perfect is likely to be very different than someone else.

For me, I personally like that feeling of having done a movement enough to feels the imprint of the practice, when the nervous system starts to recall the movement (“muscle memory”). However, it takes more than a reasonable repetitions of a movement before muscle memory does what it does, and if you meet that standard everyday, you’ll certainly attain some form of proficiency, but with the mind of a conventional North American (I am located in Canada), one is likely to burnout and be hard put to get themselves off the couch. Mind you I don’t have a couch, nor chair, I sit on the tatami, but that’s neither here nor there…

Tsuki Iri
Illustration hinting at the Gokui of Kukishinden-ryu’s Jojutsu technique, “Tsuki iri”.

So I had decided to take the approach of counting a practice, and relying on my own discipline to not slack. How many repetitions is one supposed to use then? Well, I would say a number of repetitions that are meaning full to you.

At the time of coming up with this approach, I had been going through my training in Sivananda Yoga, and one of the things we did one morning was to practice Surya Namaskara (Sun Salutations; सूर्यनमस्कार), but we did it in repetition one-hundred and eight times. To set the idea of what that was like, imagine repeating a conventional karate kata or a Shinto-ryu kata one-hundred and eight times in a morning. It can be tough and challenging, yet is over before you know it! And regardless you’ll feel it!

Of the Four paths of Hatha Yoga, this is called Karma Yoga. In the manuscript, the Bhagavad Gita, it is described “Therefore, without being attached to the results of activities, one should act as a matter of duty, for by working without attachment one attains the Supreme.“[1] And how it was explained to me so many years ago was that by selflessly doing things, you can reduce the karmic debt that you have in your future, like deducing hardship later by working now. And we used to put this to practice by cleaning things spotlessly. While working, you find things come up in your mind, doubts, antagonizations, all sorts of things, all the negative stuff… And through the Yoga of action, you work through it. Sometimes this also allows you to reach Mushin (Flow State; 無心), which is neat, and cool, and actually quite therapeutic.

In any case, it was through these theories of Karma Yoga that I decided to bring those theories to my martial practice. And as i was at that time surrounded by all sorts of Yogis, Swami, Buddhists, etc., the number 108 was quite predominant, so I decided that 108 would be that meaningful number that I mentioned earlier. Accordingly, I dubbed my practice back then as “Karma Cutting”, with the notion of cutting away karmic obstacles.

Now, as it is seemingly Japanese in all things that I invest my attention (yeah, it’s been called a problem), I had to find a cool name for this approach: Inga Keiko (Cause-effect training; 因果稽古). There’s a nice box of attachment for y’all.



[1] Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 3, Text 19


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