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.
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Never depart from DO.
Every year my birthday falls on the autumn equinox. Autumn is the season associated with letting go which is sometimes sad to me. It is a little sad because there is so much hard change in the fall. In a blog post on the website alchemistrecovery.com someone wrote that autumn according to Chinese medicine is the “season of decline, release and ultimately death. It is the phase of the yearly cycle where we are encouraged, or forced to, let go of the things that are naturally coming to an end.”
Being able to accept or just let something be, no matter what it is, is a corner stone of budo. Not being attached to something is what the Monk Takuan talked about as the “non-abiding mind” in his book The Unfettered Mind. The non-abiding mind does not discriminate – It only observes. This ability to just observe is what one might call mindfulness.
There is a saying associated with autumn, “If it comes, let it, if it goes let it.” Yagyu Munenori said that the goal of training in swordsmanship was to overcome the six diseases parallels this ability to just observe things and let them go. The six diseases are: the desire for victory, the desire to rely on technical cunning, the desire to show off, the desire to psychologically overwhelm one’s opponent, the desire to remain passive in order to wait for an opening and the desire to be free of all these diseases.
These diseases can be thought of as the stages of one’s development in one’s training.
If we let it come when it comes and if we let it go when it goes then we can be free of the diseases that Yagyu Munenori was warning us about.
This is a great little article by Furuya Sensei about happiness being a matter of perspective. Have a great Friday!
Isn’t It Funny?
When we consider what we have, we are always happy. But somehow, when we begin to think what we don’t have, we are never satisfied. Isn’t it better not to go there in the first place?
In Zen, there is a well-known saying: “Houken wa te ni ari.”
“The Treasure Sword is in your hand.” Everyone searches of their “treasure sword” (wisdom) yet, it is something which we already possess in our own hearts.
In the early days of the dojo, we were so poor and many times there was no money at all to even pay the bills. As it often happens, one weekend there was not a penny at all, so I just stayed in the dojo and did not go out or do anything at all. The next day, when I started to do my laundry, I found a ten-dollar bill in my back pocket. I thought I had no money to go out and buy myself some groceries to eat, not knowing the money was there right in my pocket. I could do nothing at all. I was not stopped by the lack of a little money but my lack of “understanding.”
More often than not, we have everything we need to be happy but not realizing we already possess this “treasure sword,” we are unhappy and complain about this and that.
“It’s your road, and yours alone. Others may walk it with you,but no one can walk it for you.”
Where we go we go by ourselves. People can join us on our trip but ultimately we must do it by ourselves. We have to push the button, knock on the door or slay our dragon. We are responsible for ourselves and what we do.
Budo is nothing more than doing that thing that we have to do when it has to be done. No one can do it for us.
All that we can hope is that people show up along the way to keep us company and support us on our journey.
Thank you for all the birthday wishes!
I am thankful for all the people who assist me on my journey and I am humbled by their support.
I wish you all the best today and I hope you have an even better tomorrow.
This is a very interesting picture. To me the “Which Step Have You Reached Today” isn’t so much about where have you reached today but rather where are you as a martial artist on any given day. As martial artists we are never at the “I won’t do it” or “I can’t do it” stages. It is not in our nature to be defeated before we even start. As martial artists we are typically at the “How do you do that?” stage as our baseline. From there at any given moment during our training we vacillate somewhere between trying, doing and succeeding. Martial artists are doers and we tend to set a goal, figure out a way to succeed and set about doing it. That is the nature of training.
At what stage are you at today?
“Time flies like an arrow.”
Before his passing, Furuya Sensei would often say, “There is no time left.” By the time I understood his admonishment, he was gone. So much time has passed since those times.
Upon realizing his words, the questions arise, “what will we do with our lives?” and “How will we live them?”
If there is truly no time left then life itself as we know is fleeting – It is passing us by as we speak. Understating this reality in Buddhism is called mujo or impermanence.
To understand budo is to understand death. Death, not in its morbidness, but in its impermanence and this inevitability teaches us how to live our lives. The glass can be either half full or half empty.
To see the fleetingness of life as something bad then we are looking at the glass as half empty. To see the glass as half full, we are realizing how in which to live our lives with what little precious time we have left.
Time does fly like an arrow, but we get to choose how and what we aim it at. What do you want to do? Who do you want to be? Time truly does fly by. Spend your days well for tomorrow may never come.
The journey toward being the best is a road traveled inward. To think that mastery is defined by what one’s physical body can do is too short sighted.
True mastery is not what one can do to others. Rather, true mastery is to what degree one can control one’s self.
The Greek word sophrosyne is exact definition of true mastery. To get sophrosyne one needs to defeat the opponent within. This is what O Sensei was referring to when he talked about Masakatsu agatsu or “The true victory is the victory over one’s self.” If you want mastery, journey inwards.
“I have not special talent. I am only passionately curious.”
– Albert Einstein
What is true mastery? Is mastery being able to execute the techniques perfectly? Is mastery being able to know everything? I wish that it were. Mastery is not a static thing that can be measured by achievement. In Aikido or any other martial art, mastery is a mindset. Just as Einstein’s quote eludes to, mastery is having the openness and willingness to just be curious. As we become more experienced or perhaps older and more wiser, life becomes less about what we don’t know and more about what we can learn. Wanting to know or to achieve “mastery” as means to stave off self-doubt is replaced with the confidence of curiosity. Wikipedia defines curiosity as, “a quality related to inquisitive thinking such as exploration, investigation, and learning….” Curiosity is not based in fear and it has a calmness about it and calmness is one of the main goals of Aikido training. To master anything all we need to have is the calmness to be curious. This calmness to be curious enables us to achieve mastery over ourselves so that we may live a life of harmony and eventually happiness. If someone as smart as Einstein changed the world by just being curious, what could we achieve by following his example? Please just be curious.
There is a Buddhist saying which some attribute to the Buddha that I am fond of, “It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours.”
This saying is very much budo inspiring. Today, so much time is spent talking about what is “real” or true in the martial arts with practitioners on both sides claiming that their way is the best or only way.
Both arguments are hollow. The only true way is the way that one truly follows. All else is just talk and babble which distracts us from the real reality of actually following it. I am talking about actually living it as best we can.
The Way or do (道) as it is referred to in Japanese traditional arts may be interpreted as a path, but more over its is the direction by which one lives their life.
Following the Way is a doing thing which requires action not a talking thing which can easily be taken over by one’s ego. The Spanish proverb, “Who knows most speaks least.” is apropos to budo.
Shall we talk about it? Shall we even fight with each other about it? Both of those things distract us from the true battle which exists within.
Furuya Sensei used to say, “The Way is in training.” Training is a doing thing. It takes so much focus and concentration that any little distraction like spending time discussing or arguing about it only leads us away from the Way. Sensei didn’t say the Way is in talking he said, “The Way is in training.” Training is a doing thing.
Don’t get caught up in finger pointing or chest beating, none of which matters. Who is truly following the Way will be evident by their actions and not by what they say.
The one true way is the one that we follow in thought, speech and in action. Everything else is just a distraction.
In every warrior’s training, a little rain must fall. I would love to tell students that throughout their training career they will only experience fun, excitement, joy and happiness. The truth of the matter is that at some point every person is confronted with some adversity and will have some difficulty at some time or another.
Some people are very smart intellectually and will struggle physically. Some people are very gifted physically but will struggle mentally or emotionally. Some people get hurt while some people hurt others. Regardless everyone struggles with something.
The obstacles that we encounter are the training. Our struggles are our truths and thus the Way is in the struggle.
If everyone struggles, then what should they do when that happens? Here are some general suggestions for people when we find that we are struggling.
Be patient. Learn to push yourself. Find other ways to train yourself. Learn to forgive.
Seek out help. Believe. Trust. And most of all don’t give up.
I could elaborate on each of these but I am choosing not to. Think of them as koans for your personal growth. If you can come up with your own definitions or elaborations for the suggestions above you will have solved your own problems and you will come to understand that the struggle is the Way.
Somethings can’t be helped and no matter what we say, think or do, we have to accept the reality of the situation.
Whenever the situation could not be changed and we had to just accept it, my mom would say with a shrug, “It’s shogani.” Shoganai roughly translates to “It can’t be helped.”
Years ago, I asked Furuya Sensei about his family’s experience during World War II and the internment camps. I asked him, “It must have been terrible, did they ever talk about it?” With a shrug he said, “It was shoganai” and then he said, “It was war and things happen in war.” Sensei didn’t say another word about it. At the time I took his silence as a sign that he didn’t want to talk about it. Later as I got older, I realized that it wasn’t that he didn’t want to talk about it but that there wasn’t anything more to say about it because it was shoganai.
I think one of the greatest things and some of the pivotal things that helped the Japanese and Japanese Americans recover from WWII were these things like shoganai. How can we move forward if we are always stuck in the past?
Things happen and some things cannot be fixed. When they cannot be fixed, they must be accepted and that’s shoganai. From shoganai we accept it and we move on.
In budo, the highest level is when we can attain the non-abiding mind. The non-abiding mind is one that is fluid and does not dwell. It is in this fluidity that we find the ability to accept something as it comes and move through it – that is shoganai. There is a great quote that Hagrid says in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, “What’s comin’ will come, an’ we’ll meet it when it does.”
What comes will come and it is going to come and that is shoganai.