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Celebrating Our 40th Anniversary
Welcome to the Daily Message. Ito Sensei writes articles for your information and enjoyment. The late Reverend Kensho Furuya started this Daily Message in the late 1990s. Our dojo celebrates its 40th year in 2014 and our monthly publication, The Aiki Dojo, is now it its 30th year.

Warning: When using this website, the Daily Message, and The Aiki Dojo monthly publication, please use caution: Information and Knowledge are not the same thing. You can get information from your computer and the Internet, but you can only get knowledge when you use your mind and your body. 

Protect with AI.

Grow with KI.

Never depart from DO.

This Road

Yamanochaya_0021Kono michi ya
yuku hito nashi ni
aki no kure

This road!
with no one going – autumn evening

(translation by Robert Aitken)

Here is one of my favorite haiku poems by Basho.  Here Basho deftly explains the Way in poetic prose.

Practice makes permanent

The teachers at this school can be somewhat demanding at times and some might even be a bit overbearing when it comes to how the techniques are being learned.  This can be difficult for some students to endure, but it might be useful to understand the impetus.  You see our teacher was a very harsh disciplinarian despite what you may have seen of him on TV or what you might read that he wrote.  Sensei prescribed to an age old theory that is actually surfacing today in modern athletic training: perfect pays and sloppy stays, practice makes permanent.

The theory is that whatever we do we should do it as perfectly as we can because whether it is perfect or sloppy it will become habit.  As we all know, bad habits are easy to get into but hard to get out of and good habits are hard to get into and easy to fall out of.  So this is where the instructors’ constant reinforcement comes into play.  They are trying their best to stem the tide of the student’s bad habit before they set in.  This can seem callous, cold-hearted or unkind, but it is quite the opposite.  Sensei used to tell us all the time, “If I didn’t care, I would say nothing.”  So their constant berating and criticism is really compassion.  Compassion?  Yes, compassion.  Telling you when you are wrong is the highest form of compassion because you hear what you need and not what you want.  One of my students once told me something very significant about child rearing.  He said, “You say yes out of fear and not out of love.”  The instructors criticism is no different and the burden falls on the instructors or teachers to be the bad guys.

So when you are getting criticized or corrected please remember that this hurts the teachers just as much as it hurts the student when they have to scold them, but they do it for the student’s benefit because they want them to get good.


Watch some good Aikido

suganumaO Sensei passed away in 1969 and many of us didn’t have a chance to train with him.  However, there are a few of his direct students still left and teaching around the world.  One such student is Morito Suganuma Sensei who is based out of Fukuoka on the island of Kyushu in Japan.  Sensei knew Suganuma Sensei from Sensei’s time in Japan in 1969.  Here they are pictured together in front of Hombu Dojo.  I don’t know who the gentleman is in the middle (if you do email me).  Sensei always wanted to bring Suganuma Sensei out to our dojo but the timing never worked out.   Suganuma Sensei is very good and his Aikido is every clean and it is  what we would consider “normal” Aikido.  If you are going to watch Aikido on Youtube (which I don’t suggest), please watch people like Suganuma Sensei who are experts because a majority of people who post to Youtube are not.  Suganuma Sensei put out a video and here is a link to it on Youtube.  It is almost 45 minutes long but very good.

Please enjoy!

Nobody’s perfect

Even monkeys fall out of tress so nobody’s perfect.

猿も木から落ちる -Saru mo ki kara ochiru Even monkeys fall from trees

猿も木から落ちる -Saru mo ki kara ochiru
Even monkeys fall from trees

This is one of my favorite kotowaza or Japanese proverbs and one that I use all the time.  I usually direct it toward myself and rarely direct it towards others.  It is one of those things I use to keep myself going when I make a mistake or are a little down about something that didn’t go my way.

The idea that anything or any person is perfect is a complete and utter fallacy.  I wish that perfect was attainable, but sadly it is not.  Nothing and no one is perfect.  Sorry, hopefully I didn’t ruin it for you.  Perfection is a road and not a destination.  It is something we strive toward but never achieve.  As I become more of an adult or grown up (yikes!) I am starting to see a shift in myself in which I am starting to understand that perfection is a myth.  It is hard because for most of my life I have been an over, over, over achiever.  Maybe now that I have two children of my own I will be able to embrace that sometimes even monkeys fall out of trees.  Well there is always tomorrow.

From the LA Times on March 12, 2006 about our dojo.

Bansetsu-an or the retreat of the untalented teacher.

Bansetsu-an or the retreat of the untalented teacher.

From the LA Times on March 12, 2006 about our dojo.

Green Inches

Loft life–not a natural choice for most Southern Californians–doesn’t mean surrendering to a barren concrete jungle. With a batch of pots, a patch of dirt and a lot of imagination, these urban gardeners have managed to create their own downtown oases.

Bamboo Lane

It is as much a part of his daily ritual as practicing the martial arts he teaches at the Aikido Center of Los Angeles. Every day at about 4 p.m. Kensho Furuya washes down the narrow loading dock of the 100-plus-year-old sugar warehouse that he has converted into his samurai dojo. He’s also transformed the dock itself with bamboo architectural elements, river rocks and lush foliage.

When his students arrive, he says, “the leaves and stones are wet and clean, creating a sense of calm–like walking in the mountains by a stream.” The garden is a physically and mentally refreshing transitional space “to welcome the guest from the outside world to the school.”

Furuya’s goal was to emulate Kyoto-style gardens “that bring you closer to nature.” At just 6 feet wide, the connection is inevitable. Emerald ferns, spider plants, azaleas and impatiens thrive in the shadow of nandina, towering bamboo, pomegranate and Ficus benjamina. Asian ceramics and black plastic nursery pots share space with redwood planters–“humble materials,” Furuya explains.

Visitors enter under a Japanese sign that announces Furuya’s dojo as the Retreat of the Untalented One. Posts, crossbeams and small ornamental gates define the space. Paving stones made of concrete and pebbles create a slender walkway, bordered by polished rocks “representing a stream” and leading to a circular stone that “stands for completion,” says Furuya. “It makes people more aware of their feet, and symbolizes that it is a narrow path to success.”

A Los Angeles native, Furuya was an early settler in the downtown Arts District. “In 1984 it was just dirt and asphalt, and when I added this greenery residents protested, saying it didn’t look downtown.” Now the area is filled with small gardens. “Occasionally I will come out to putter and find people standing in the garden,” Furuya says. “I wonder, ‘Who is that?’ Sometimes it’s a Japanese person who is homesick, sometimes it is a commuter from Orange County who just wants a moment of peace.”

Source: http://articles.latimes.com/2006/mar/12/magazine/tm-loftgardens11

Flashback Friday

Sensei posted this to the Daily Message on January 10, 2005

I think I spend much too much time in the Dojo. When I go out – driving on the streets, grocery shopping, eating in a restaurant, I am always impressed at how impolite people can be without even thinking about it. When I ask other people, I hear the same complaint but no one does or says anything about it. We just accept it as the way people are these days. We are, as many will agree, are simply a very impolite society. As a matter of fact, being polite will only cause you to be frustrated and annoyed. So, as a result of this, we become tougher, less feeling, less sensitive people – impervious to any kind of annoyance or disturbance. As I can see, some of us turn ourselves into walking images of people in stone or wood.

We bring this into the dojo – a mentality of being impolite and uncaring as a way to be “cool.” Being impolite, for many, is the emotional shield to defend themselves against the whole world. Politeness for many is a sign of weakness and vulnerability leaving one’s self open to any kind and type of “attack.” This disturbs me at so many levels. The emotional shield, like a crutch for a healthy person, only causes one to become weaker – it is only more mental baggage we carry around and, like a city detective, flash this “badge of disobedience” around before any human encounter as a warning, that we have the power and authority to do you damage.

When I see depictions of samurai in the movies and mass-media, they are stereo-typed as shouting, spitting, glare-eyed wild men with a decapitation fetish. No – they were, for the most part, highly educated, refined warriors, adept in the tea ceremony and poetry and many other literary arts. The rule of etiquette in Japanese culture and in the dojo was born from this Samurai culture and tradition. The rules we follow in the dojo are not simply rules to create an authoritative order or to establish a feudal social structure, Reigi Saho was a way to express, in every way, a beauty and nobility of movement and thought.

Reigi literally means “the duty and ceremony of gratitude.” Saho means, “to create order (social order) and to create universal or the order of Nature.” It is not simply to use a napkin or not pick your nose at the dinner table. it has quite a bit deeper and broader meaning than this.


It’s shoganai

Many years ago I asked Sensei if he had ever talked with his father or grandfather about their time in the military or in combat and the bad things they must have experienced.  He said the only thing his grandfather said was, “War is war and things happen, shoganai.”  This is something that has always stuck with me.  Shoganai or shikataganai are responses, but they are more of a state of mind that you utter in passing when you get some unpleasant news or when something bad happens.  They roughly translates as that there is nothing you can do so just accept it and move on.  The spirit of shoganai is what enables Japanese people to pick themselves up and move forward after something untoward happens.  I wish it was something that I could take advantage more in my own life, but I think it has to be engrained in you so that it can be automatic so that when something unpropitious happens I can just utter shoganai and move on.

Maybe not dwelling upon adversity is one of the biggest differences between the Japanese and the Americans.  In Japanese traditional arts and especially in the martial arts adversity is seen as something that helps the student grow.  The teacher tries to create an environment to push the student toward change and ultimately his greater self.  It is thought that most students or young people have iji or stubbornness and resist what is good for them.  Therefore a teacher is supposed to instill in the neophyte konjo or fighting spirit, but in order to do that the teacher must create an environment for change.  This change can sometimes be unpleasant as is most change.  So adversity isn’t seen as something to dwell upon, but more of something to surmount.  How do the Japanese do it?  First they say, “shoganai” and then they move on and get over whatever adversity is that they are presented with.

I remember this scroll written about in Tea life, Tea Mind that read, “Be rebuked, stand corrected and learn.”  Within these sagely words we can see the root of shoganai and the fighting spirit of the Japanese people.  Please train hard.

There are three reasons why we don’t or won’t

There are three reasons why we don’t get good at Aikido or anything else for that matter.
I can’t …
I won’t…
I don’t …

It is said that every movement begins with a thought.  Therefore how we not only speak but how we think is extremely important.  These three word contractions are the gatekeepers of success whether thought or spoken.  If we do use them as part of our everyday language then we probably won’t achieve much in life let alone get good at Aikido.  If Aristotle was right when he said, “Well begun is half done,”  then we need to modify how we think as well as how we speak in order to become more successful at whatever it is we are doing.

How about trying…
I can…
I will…
I do…

shokunin-the way of the craftsman

In Japan, a shokunin is anyone who is takes his or her art seriously no matter if it is making sushi or making a yumi or Japanese bow.  There is a technique for doing everything and there is also a way to master that technique as well.  Lots of times I post things here to help give the students a little bit better perspective on their own Aikido training.  I found this video of a Japanese master bow maker.  Please try to notice the care and detail he puts into his work.

Today in 1871…

On this day in 1871, Emperor Meiji orders the abolition of the han system and the establishment of prefectures as local centers of administration.  What this means is that the local feudal lords or Daimyo had to return their powers back to the Emperor which is referred to as the Meiji Restoration.  This is what some also consider the birth of martial arts to the masses.

Before this time the Japanese traditional arts were for the elite class only and commoners and merchants were looked down upon and not allowed to participate.  After the Meiji Restoration, the martial arts were not only open to commoners but the door swung wide open for people from the West too.

The martial arts systems that pre-date the Meiji Restoration are referred to as koryu or old style and the systems that follow the Meiji Restoration are referred to as gendai or modern.   Aikido, Kendo, Judo, and Karate are the modern iterations of koryu systems.

The Meiji Restoration is also thought to be the point when martial art systems went from jutsu or technique to do or the way referring to them as forms of art.  Before the 1860s the martial arts were used to prepare warriors for real life combat and thus the need for systematized fighting techniques was necessary.  After 1871 there was no longer a need for combat use training and so the martial arts became a means of self-cultivation.