Self-Control How-to, Part Two

Welcome to the second part of a three-part series on using self-control. Last time, we looked at step number one in my formula for following Dojo Kun #5: Fire Hazard Prevention. I covered ways of daily living and attitudes that will keep “tinder” to a minimum. They prevent and help us use self-control on the fire that, unchecked, can rage inside of us.

If you are following the first step in your daily life, you are cultivating contentment and a positive, grateful, joyful attitude. If you overall have and intentionally work toward that positive attitude, you notice more easily when the fire rises. Anger feels different and at odds with your happy-medium state.

Dojo Kun on Shomen

Dojo Kun in English and Japanese on the front wall, lists morality, honesty, perseverance, respect and self-control.

Recognition of anger rising gives you more control over it. This in turn gives you the power to have more self-control. Imashi is the part of Dojo Kun #5 that means to admonish, or be cautious of. By itself, imashi means “CAUTION.” In the context of the Dojo Kun, it means, “Watch out for and admonish the fire of impetuous courage that can rage in your blood.” We like to say “Push down the fire that can rage within.”

Step number two in my formula for following Dojo Kun #5 is: Pushing the Fire Down in the Moment/Fire Extinguishers. The following fire extinguishers help me to use self-control when anger rises up.


One is to breathe. You have probably heard it before, but breath control is easy to underestimate.  Counting 10 breaths while slowing my breathing gives me a moment to consider my options, instead of responding rashly. Even better, take a little longer to feel your pulse or your heartbeat. Then inhale for five or six beats, and exhale for the same number of beats. Repeat 10 times. This will relax you and help control your emotions, and subsequently your actions. This is one of my tried and proven techniques.


Another is, if someone does something that bothers or inconveniences me, I give them the benefit of the doubt. I use this one for people who cut me off in traffic, or for dealing with someone who is less-than-polite (to put it nicely). I don’t know what obstacles they have had in their day. Maybe they are grieving or dealing with heavy issues. Maybe they are rushing or curt because they have diarrhea! We all have bad days and unfavorable moments, and we don’t always deal with them in good stride. I personally have had my share of less-than-stellar times. And they were often forgiven. I pay that grace forward whenever I can.


Two techniques are particularly helpful for dealing with people I know when they are upset, not controlling their fire, and in danger of agitating me. The first is putting myself in their shoes. Then I often realize that the thing upsetting them is something other than what they are fussing about. I can help them realize this and deal with this “root” problem. The second is listening and biting my tongue, so not to get pulled into an argument.

Later, if my thoughts return to the issue that sparked toward my tinder, I make sure to deal with that stress expediently, so I’m not just bottling up my anger. Next time, I’ll go over my techniques on how to do this (how to relieve stress and old anger).

By Jenifer Tull-Gauger

Bonus: This short Youtube video has the Dojo Kun pronounced in Japanese.

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