As winter settles into Japan, it’s tempting to just cozy up under the kotatsu and ride out the weather. With harsh winds and shorter days, retreating indoors becomes the norm for many. Yet, for some, these cold days become an invitation to seek change in a pursuit of mental resilience.
Kangeiko (寒稽古), in Japanese, refers to the traditional practice of winter training. This custom is commonly observed in martial arts, particularly disciplines like judo, kendo, and aikido. Kangeiko typically takes place during the coldest months of winter, to challenge one’s dedication and endurance.
Those practicing Kangeiko begin in the early morning hours as the sun is rising and partake in various activities from rigorous training to mental training such as meditation. The intent is to challenge oneself both physically and mentally in the harsh winter conditions. And while the tasks on their own are already challenging, the cold weather adds an extra layer of difficulty, requiring participants to overcome not only physical challenges but also the discomfort of low temperatures. The shared experience creates a strong community among participants, promoting discipline, perseverance, and a deep connection to the principles being learned.
Kangeiko is not only a means of physical conditioning but also a symbolic practice that reflects the Japanese cultural value of pushing one’s limits and embracing hardship for personal and collective growth. The tradition is deeply rooted in the philosophy of continuous improvement, resilience, and the pursuit of excellence in martial arts.
However, for most of us, kangeiko sounds like a large step to take. Instead, consider how you would like to improve yourself this winter in other aspects. Taking the morning time to be productive rather than laying under your kotatsu can improve your concentration and motivation levels, setting a precedent for the rest of your day. Joining the TLS community can help cultivate your personal growth and pursuit of excellence in language learning.