Tuesday, July 07, 2009


At the end of every karate class, our sensei says "Kaizen!" and we clap three times. The translation according to our dojo is "Constant, Never-ending Improvement". Wikipedia gives it as "a Japanese philosophy that focuses on continuous improvement throughout all aspects of life."

There is power simply in the saying of a word, especially saying it so emphatically, like an exclamation point at the end of every karate workout. It's a reminder that when we go out the door, our commitment does not end. And not just our commitment to the practice of karate, kaizen is a principle that can be applied to every aspect of life. Of course, kaizen appeals to the engineer in my brain: "Is there a more efficient way to hang and fold my laundry?" I try hanging the t-shirts together so that I can fold them all at one time, matching the socks up as I pin them out. I think about kaizen when I prepare food - is this the best most nourishing thing I can give my body right now? Give my kids' bodies? And of course kaizen goes hand in hand with triathlon training. How can I make my hand position more efficient in my swimming stroke? Increase my running foot turnover? Make my bike position just slightly more aero? And it's tailor-made for the Crossfit approach. Crossfit is nothing if not the practice of kaizen.

Even my work encompasses kaizen. One thing I love about coaching, in fact, is the notion that all of the people who come to me are there because they are in search of improvement, and I love helping them achieve that goal. No matter where they are in ability, they are each striving to make themselves better. It's really a brave act, when you think about it (especially as an adult) to come and seek out a teacher, to try to improve. There are many who never do. I see the same swimmers in the pool year in and year out who never change their stroke, never vary a nanosecond in their lap times. Perhaps they are practicing something else, something more zen, more appreciative of the present moment, I don't know. But I do know that the people who are seeking kaizen are the ones that really appeal to me.

And of course, all of us who have taken the parenting leap benefit from the notion of kaizen. I hope I never get to the point where I believe I am a "good enough" parent. I rarely read the "mommy blogosphere" for this reason, it seems that there has been a swing or shift, almost a rebellion against the notion of trying to become a better parent. Instead, mommy bloggers in droves are embracing and even elevating their moments of mediocrity, laughing about investing in their kids' counseling funds, and handing themselves a "bad parenting award" as if that's a good thing. I'm sure much of this is in response to the perfect-parenting notions of the early internet days, the "I breastfed my cloth-diapered organically born-at-home baby longer than you did" competition that seemed rampant for awhile. But somewhere in between the two is more than enough room for some kaizen, I think. I don't need to be a perfect parent, but I never want to stop striving to become a better one.

Student, athlete, employee, parent, spouse, friend, even blogger - the concept of kaizen can bring all aspects of life into sharper focus. Hmmm, now how do I blog better..... all suggestions are welcome...


No comments: