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.
Today’s kakejiku or scroll hanging in the tokonoma is an ichigyo brushed with the single character toki 刻 which is commonly translated as time. An ichigyo is a single line of calligraphy that is supposed to elicit a response or provoke the viewer into a different mental state.
Warriors of old were always well read individuals who were not only well versed in the military arts but also in religion, literature, poetry, Japanese and Chinese classics and art.
Generally, most kakejiku are supposed to be profound and many times what is left out is sometimes more important than what is put in. This scroll is no different. Its meaning is not readily understandable by simply just reading the character.
The character toki 刻 left standing alone means “to chop or engrave.” So an uneducated person could accidentally misinterpret that as its meaning. However when the character toki is added into the idiomatic expression jijikokkoku it means “from one moment to the next.” From here we extrapolate that it is supposed to mean “moment,” but that also is a little too juvenile. As we sit there and ponder the scroll’s deeper meaning, what arises could be the Buddhist’s perspective on impermanence and thus every moment that existed before or after this one moment is an illusion and that we can easy be deluded into thinking that those thoughts are real.
Since this scroll is more of the smaller size used in a chasitsu or tea house, we can theorize that its meaning is to make full use of this one moment for all other moments before may not have happened and all moments after may never come. All we have is this one moment – cherish it!
The best things are almost always plain and simple. When something is good but in a plain and simple way it is referred to as jimi (地味) in Japanese.
Martial artists naturally tend to shy away from things that are too ostentatious. This is because humility is a quality that all martial artists strive for. Something that has jimi is something taht is subdued with almost a plain sense to it.
When we look at the techniques, some may have a flashy quality but those aren’t usually the most effective. The most effective are the ones that are usually the most simplest.
People are that way too. Look around at the people in our lives. I am sure that most of us will see that the people whom we regard the highest are the people who are just “working class” people who have a kind of simple and subdued nature to them. We all have that one friend who is either pompous or overly dramatizes things – those are usually the people who are the most complicated.
As we look at the great martial arts masters of old, we see just normal people like you and me. The difference is not in how flashy they are but that they simply put in the work to get good which led us to think of them as great.
Today, the martial arts is, on a certain level, completely different. People tend to laud those with the loudest voices or showiest techniques. This is not budo. In Budo, jimi is simply putting in the work. We put in the work to get good – it’s that plain and simple.
Like most, Mondays always seem so blah. I thought I’d re-post something Furuya Sensei wrote about training in hopes that it might help us get over the doldrums of Mondays.
Sensei’s explanation: Museishi (無声詩)- The Unvoiced Poem – the message of our training is like a poem, the words are heard but the message lingers elsewhere silently. . . . To go deep into the art of Aikido is to go deep inside one’s self.
At the heart of Aikido training exists our true selves. This journey can be hard and arduous but it ultimately leads to joy and happiness. The first step begins with us and looking at our lives with a lens that is trained inward. We are our biggest problem and when we start to see that we can begin this journey inward. Until that time the world will be against us and every person and every thing will be our enemy. Give up the need to find the source of your problems outside yourself and begin to look inside of you. This is the only way out.
Giri–giri is an onomatopoeia that Japanese use to refer to something that is done last minute. This morning on the radio, I heard that there was an earthquake advisory in effect from now until October 4th. This advisory happens to come at the end of national preparedness month. This made me think about how a martial artist needs to be prepared for any person, condition or thing.
As martial artists, we are always supposed to be prepared. It is part of our training and the reason why we train so much. I am sure many of you have heard this one, “How long have you been training? You’ve been going so long, why do you still need to go?” We still need to constantly train because, like in emergency preparedness, we never know when the “Big one” will hit.
As martial artists, we are people who not only learn from our mistakes, but from others as well. I can remember this one time when I was a student and someone forgot their hakama at a demonstration and how mad Furuya Sensei got. From that point on, I always kept a back up uniform in the car just in case and I know that many others did too. I learned from that person’s mistake. There is a famous story about Tiger Woods during his time at Stanford. Supposedly, there was a really bad storm out and Tiger was seen heading toward the driving range. Someone stopped him and he said, “This is the only time I will ever get to hit balls in these type of conditions.” Tiger wanted to be prepared if he ever had to play in hostile weather conditions.
We train so that our minds and our bodies will be ready for anything that comes our way. Nothing would be worse than to succumb to someone or something because of a silly mistake or underestimation.
Martial artists must be prepared for anything, natural or man-made. We are always prepared and thus are never giri-giri. Please make sure that you are always prepared.
I recently saw this video made in Japan where three Olympic fencers took on 50 untrained or barely trained fencers on a Japanese variety show. The video was made for a TV so it wasn’t that serious but I was amazed at how poorly the Olympic fencers performed. Not only did they show a low level of skill, but they also showed that since it is a sport there was no group strategy.
At first as the 50 converged on them, the Olympians fled to the stairs. I thought, “Ahh, this is correct.” Furuya Sensei taught us that to fight one person is the same as hundred and to strive for high ground (which I am sure was gleaned from Miyamoto Musashi’s Book of Five Rings strategy). Going to the stairs would have provided them a natural barrier for three of the four sides of attack and they would only have to face opponents from only one direction and, most crucially, only one at a time. This strategy would have allowed them to use their skill to win the battle.
As you can see from the video they abandoned the strategy of working together and using the stairs. Those three Olympic fencers would have been overwhelmed and killed in a matter of minutes if it were are real fight. They would have been picked apart as the odds stacked up against them because each Olympian could be surrounded by as many as 16 people at any given time who would be attacking from all sides. Also, did you see by how many times the untrained fighters just poked them in the arms and back as they ran by? This method is called “Death by a thousand cuts” in knife fighting where small non-lethal wounds add up to a tremendous amount of blood loss and eventually take their toll on the fighter as the battle rages on.
It is interesting, as things become more “modern” or sporty they can sometimes lose their martial sense. As martial artists, we can look at this video and take heart to make sure that we practice our arts as martial arts and not just something we do for exercise.
“It takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your own soul than it does for a soldier to fight on a battlefield.” – W. B. Yates
Anyone can be physically strong, but being physically strong doesn’t necessarily mean that we are mentally strong.
To be mentally strong, one needs to have an inner courage. This courage isn’t blindly running foolhearted at something. Rather it is standing up to the darkness that inhabits our inner souls despite the pain or fear that it elicits.
Yates’ quote is so apropos to budo and because true budo is really just the journey that one undertakes to develop themselves.
It’s like the cave scene in Empire Strikes Back. Yoda says, “That place… is strong with the dark side of the Force. A domain of evil it is. In you must go.” Luke asks, “What’s in there?” Yoda replies, “Only what you take with you.”
When push comes to shove, what we do shows our true inner character. To be the people that we want to become, we need to have courage and be brave. Courage is the inner attitude or strength and bravery is what it looks like on the outside.
The only true strength is the strength to keep on going despite the odds and that is the definition of courage.
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.