Anchūmosaku — Groping in the Dark 暗中模索

Reality is not a simple exercise in collecting all the information we need, and then making perfect decisions. Rather, we must refine our ability to make decisions based on incomplete information. As leaders, karateka are called upon to make those decisions, even when the path ahead isn't clear.

Anchūmosaku 暗中模索 [pronounced “ahn-chew moe-sah-koo”] means “groping in the dark” — and notes the importance of gathering information, building skills, and acquiring knowledge so that we do not form plans and goals based on an incomplete picture of our situation.

Moreover, though, it also highlights the importance of a very important skill: making decisions and taking action on incomplete information.

The Reality of Incomplete Information

Very often we are faced with making decisions and creating plans based on an incomplete picture of the situation at hand. This is completely normal, and in the real-world, happens very often.

However, two things are very important concerning this: first, we must be aware that we are in fact creating such plans and making those decisions based on an incomplete picture. In effect, we must understand that yes, we are indeed groping in the dark, feeling our way along.

And secondly, we must also do everything we can to bring light into this darkness. In some cases, that might mean gathering more information, in others it might be sifting through that information to identify (and create) knowledge, and perhaps even in other cases, it is a matter of acquiring new skills or experience so that we can better navigate the problem at hand.

In both of these instances, however, we must be cognizant that we are in fact, searching blindly. We are moving by feel, by intuition, by approximation, but in the final analysis, we are blind. And that makes us vulnerable to making mistakes that we normally might not make, had we a more accurate picture of the situation at hand.

Learning to "See" in the Dark, and Move Forward

There is another, even more important, aspect to anchūmosaku, however.

Whether we like it or not, most of the time we have no choice but to act on incomplete information. Rarely are we afforded the luxury of having everything we need to make a decision.

Being able to take whatever information we do have, and then move forward, is a very important skill. In many ways, it is a fundamental component of leadership. We could even say that part of the definition of a leader is someone that is good at making the best decisions based on incomplete information.

Leaders are Good at Navigating the Darkness

As karateka, we are called upon to lead. We practice leadership in the dojo, and we train leadership by studying and putting into practice the elements and ideas inherent in karatedō.

Of course, we have to do this for ourselves, as well. Both in our personal and professional lives, our ability to make good decisions based on incomplete information is a component of success.

But as leaders, anchūmosaku 暗中模索 is a vital skill.

Those we lead – whether in our families or our project groups or our companies or at the dojo – look to us to pick the way forward. And generally it is a hard thing to do, otherwise the way forward would be obvious to all.

Like most things we practice at the dojo, the experience we gain in making decisions and considering options helps us to get better at making these decisions on incomplete information. We should approach the development of our skills in anchūmosaku 暗中模索 just like we approach the development of any of our skills: through hard work, repetition, and constant improvement.

Darkness Does Not Stop a Karateka

Anchūmosaku 暗中模索 reminds us that groping in the dark is not the best way to navigate any part of our life, but it is in fact the way we sometimes are forced to move forward.

Our awareness of this fact, and our determination to change it and bring light into that darkness, are one of the keys to understanding the path ahead, and traversing it.

Kanji/Katakana Meaning
暗中 in the dark (anchū)
模索 groping (mosaku)

Editor's Note: This lecture was first delivered by Sensei at the Goju Karate dojo in San Rafael, California on 21 May 2014; this concept was presented again at the Goju Karate NYC Dojo on 29 November 2023.