7 Quotes From Mr. Miyagi For Mindful Growth

Oct 01, 2020
 Created by Author — original image Wikimedia commons


I’m ashamed it took Netflix’s release of Cobra Kai to remind me how perceptive The Karate Kid’s Mr. Miyagi was. It’s funny to think about how much a fictional character has influenced my life and the path I took. I wasn’t even alive when he made his first appearance in 1984 as Daniel’s offbeat karate instructor. Yet the old school VHS tape was well worn by my repeated re-watchings. It was he who influenced me to start training which led to me eventually teaching and traveling to his birthplace Okinawa.

In the story, Mr. Miyagi’s student struggled to adapt to a new school and his mind was a mess. Mr. Miyagi transforms the student’s beliefs through karate and helps him mature to become a more enlightened version of himself — ignoring The Karate Kid III.

The character is so illuminating because he’s based on the screenwriter’s real-life sensei. As an adult, I thought rewatching would taint my memories but it’s only furthered my respect for the brilliance of his lessons. I’ve picked out the ones I felt were most authentic and could improve your life the most.


“Lie become truth only if person want to believe it”

Mr. Miyagi uttered these words decades before we had access to a million sources of information at our fingertips. But they are more important now than they’ve ever been. Many tech experts believe we are now living in the age of misinformation. We are surrounded by lies and half-truths and trust in the media is trending downward. Netflix’s The Great Hack and The Social Dilemma have shown algorithms intentionally showing us posts to feed our biases.

Yet this isn't an excuse to be uninformed as we can choose what we believe. Be curious about the world around you and don’t give in to those trying to outrage you. Instead of reacting out of haste, take your time to uncover different sources, and follow the experts.


“Walk on road. Walk right side, safe. Walk left side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later, get squish, just like grape.”

Once in an obstacle course, I had to trampoline off a platform 4 meters high into an ice-cold river. I was terrified. I could back out or I could leap. The problem was I was still in two minds when I jumped so had a crushingly painful landing. Jumped is generous as stumbled with my eyes closed is more accurate.

If part of your brain is focusing on failure then you aren’t using your full potential on the task at hand. You’re increasing the likelihood of failure by half-doing and half-doubting as we struggle to multitask effectively. It’s like trying to run with one leg going forwards and the other going backward.

It’s far more effective to channel all our energy in one direction. In Japan, they call this mindset fudoshin which translates to the unstoppable mind. This is what Mr. Miyagi wanted to instill in his student. Trust in yourself and put your entire soul into whatever you are doing.


“First learn stand, then learn fly”

This is a lesson I learned many years ago but conveniently forget until the next time I crash. When we look online, everyone seems to be achieving amazing feats and it’s easy to wonder why they can and we can’t.

The thing is we only see the tip of the iceberg of their journey, we don’t know how many times they slacked off or nearly gave up. I can assure you perfection doesn’t exist. It leads us to rush into unrealistic challenges with a heart full of hope then crash down back to earth.

What I’ve found as a much healthier way is using if-then plans. If I learn the basics then I can experiment. This can be applied to almost anything. Break down your goal into different stages and forget all of them except the one nearest to you. Regardless of how impressive the dream is, it all must start from somewhere.


“Just remember, license never replace eye, ear, and brain.”

One of my senseis made us take off our graded belts when they knew another teacher was coming to watch. Instead of standing in rank order, we would stand alphabetically by name. If we truly deserved our grade then an outsider would be able to correctly guess our rank without a piece of cloth.

This is exactly what Mr. Miyagi means here. Just because you earn a title, it doesn’t mean you can become complacent. Arrogance in our abilities can blind us and block us from acting in the way that got us there in the first place.

No matter how high up the ladder you get, it’s a reminder to apply the Japanese concept of shoshin, the beginner’s mind. Be mindful of your surroundings and remember there’s always something new you could learn if you keep your ears open.


“Never put passion in front of principle, even if you win, you’ll lose”

When I was part of the national karate squad, I would train with the same people I’d face at regional tournaments. Whenever I figured out a flaw in someone’s technique, I’d tell them even though it would make them a tougher opponent on tournament day. I hate the feeling of a hollow victory. I’d rather lose than surrender my integrity.

Putting passion in front of principle doesn’t make you a bad person. Who hasn’t told a white lie? Often the lie is to ourselves. It’s completely human but can spiral where each small action leads to a big one we thought we’d never do.

Be mindful of the person you want to be. Define to yourself the lines you never want to cross. Write them down. Tell a friend. Anything to make it harder for you to overlook them when you’re teetering on the edge.


“You trust the quality of what you know, not quantity.”

The internet seems determined to fill our heads with useless information. We can read hundreds of stories and think we are progressing but really we can’t remember anything we read. I’ve been trapped in this cycle before of finding ways to waste time but justifying it because it’s “productive”. It wasn’t.

In Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, he describes the brain as wanting to minimise its own load. It’s easier to learn and forget something new rather than employ deep thinking to push up a steep part of a learning curve.

Don’t be the person who reads 200 books in a year. Be the person who reads 10 and grew because of every single one. You should pay attention when Mr. Miyagi and Bruce Lee agree:

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” — Bruce Lee

“Better learn balance. Balance is key. Balance good, karate good. Everything good. Balance bad, better pack up, go home. Understand?”

60% of Americans struggle to maintain a good work-life balance and 46% say they never have time to relax according to a Groupon study. Even when we’re not working, we need to juggle family, passions, friends, and our health. It’s hard.

Balance is key in karate because all the flashy kicks you see in films are impossible without it. The best fighters are serenely calm and could deal with whatever was thrown at them. A strong core means they react with neither haste nor hesitation.

Yet in life, we push ourselves to the edge knowing we are burning out but take a sick pride in it. I used to wake up every day at 6 am and now I wake up naturally instead. My balance was off and rather than waiting until it was too late, I took action. Seek balance first, everything else comes after.


What You Should Take With You

Mr. Miyagi was a fictional karate instructor but his teachings were based on the real lessons from Okinawan masters. His words inspired countless people including me to seek out the martial art and expand our minds. I’m forever grateful to Pat Norita for bringing the character to life so vividly.

  • Lie become truth only if person want to believe it — You have the power to pause and seek out the truth before acting.
  • Walk on road. Walk right side, safe. Walk left side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later, get squish, just like grape. — If you choose to act then commit the power of your entire mind.
  • First learn stand, then learn fly — Focus on the first steps rather than the summit.
  • Just remember, license never replace eye, ear, and brain— Recognition doesn’t mean you can stop doing what got you there.
  • Never put passion in front of principle, even if you win, you’ll lose — Draw your lines and never cross them.
  • You trust the quality of what you know, not quantity. — Seek to understand a few things well rather than many inadequately.
  • Better learn balance. Balance is key. Balance good, karate good. Everything good. Balance bad, better pack up, go home. Understand? — Balance isn’t an afterthought, it’s the priority.

Thank you for reading and have a wonderful day!

Amar's Letter

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