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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 is how hard your partner is working…how about you?

sanbai shaolin copySan bai no do ryoku
To triple one’s effort.

“If my opponents train twice as hard then I will train three times as hard.” – Masahiko Kimura

It is easy to take the day off or put something off until tomorrow.  It is only human nature to choose pleasure over purpose.

A martial artist is not a typical person.  We are seekers.  Thus as seekers we are people who purposefully choose the path not well traveled.  On this path we encounter some of life’s greatest challenges.  It is in these challenges that our mettle is tested and our character is forged.

It is true that adversity builds character.  Building character is a layering process where each episode becomes the stepping stone to the next level.  When we are confronted with adversity we draw upon those past experiences to make ourselves stronger and to persevere in order to succeed.

One way to summon this strength is to san bai do ryoku or to “triple one’s effort.”

Furuya Sensei used to talk about the famous Judoka named Masahiko Kimura.  He was the pinnacle of Judo in the 1930 and is said to be the greatest Judoka ever.  There is a saying in judo, “Before Kimura there was no Kimura and there will be none after.”  Kimura Sensei used this idea of san bai do ryoku to become the greatest Judoka ever.  His dedication and drive was impossible to beat and supposedly even in his retirement he still trained eight hours a day and did 1000 pushups.  Inspired by this, Sensei used to say things like, “If my opponents train for one hour, I should train three.” or “If they do 100 suburi, I will do 1000.”

The only secret to getting good at anything, albeit in business or in the martial arts, is to do it consistently and constantly.  How hard are you working?

 

 

 

 

Do what comes naturally

the high moon scrollAs the moon rises high in the sky, the shadows of the castle disappear. . .

I came across this post by Furuya Sensei.  It succinctly encompasses the mind all students and teachers must have in order to improve.  To improve we must commit ourselves to our daily practice and keep going and with time we will naturally improve.  This is an example of atarimae hinshitsu (当たり前品質).  Atarimae hinshitsu refers to something that happens naturally or the obvious consequence.  For example, when you pick up a pen and just start writing and the pen works – that is atarimae.  Another example of atarimae more apropos to martial arts training is when the Japanese soccer fans cleaned up the their section after Japan’s World Cup game in Brazil in 2014.  They did it without thought to be diligent and clean up “their” mess because it was the natural thing to do.

Here is Sensei’s post:

We all have many questions about Life and about our practice. If we think about them very seriously, most important questions such as these cannot be answered so quickly or easily through our experiences in Life and in our Aikido.  However, these questions will be naturally answered as we progress.

Over the years, we find that in the long run of many years in Aikido it does not depend on how many techniques we master or what school or style we belong to but what really matters is staying on the True Path of Aikido faithfully and with commitment.

In this age of internet and high tech computers we have become accustomed to “instant” everything!  Some people may consider “instant ramen” a good meal – only because it can be made in three minutes. I once went to a hamburger stand many years ago and saw a sign – “if we can’t get your food for you in 30 seconds, you get it free!”

I thought to myself, “I don’t really want it free, can you take maybe four or five minutes, and do it right?”

When I see people today, everyone is rushing around doing this and that with no time for anything. Everyone tells me, “I’m so busy, I’m so busy!” Yes, it is important to work hard and build a good life for one’s self.  At the same time, we have a profound paradox that in building a good life, we compromise our very same lives by being pulled back and forth with much too much on our plates and in our heads.

Answers may not be answered according to our own schedule – answers come when they come as part of the natural process of our training from day to day.  We often forget that our commitment to training, the natural day to day fact of our lives, is a natural process of increasing this and decreasing and this is all part of the answer to what we are truly searching for.

The castle does not think of being enveloped by dark shadows, nor does the moon think to brighten the castle walls at night.  It does so on its own, by itself, without purpose or attachment, all is accomplished as it should be in this world – naturally over time and only with commitment.

Please commit to practice Aikido hard without thought or desire.

A warrior always under promises and over produces.

Kick copy

A warrior always under promises and over produces.

Bushi no ichigon comes from the Japanese proverb Bushi no ichigon kintetsu no gotoshi which means “The single word from a warrior is as unbreakable as the bond formed when gold and iron are combined.”

Martial artists are supposed to be upright people of principle.  If we say we are going to do something then we do it.

This idea of bushi no ichigon is a work in progress for most of us.  When I was a student, I used to get into trouble all the time.  One of the main reasons why Furuya Sensei would have to scold me was because I “over promised and under produced.”  Whenever he would ask me to do something, I would always say yes because I wanted him to like me and think favorably of me.  What I didn’t understand was that Sensei was a “do-er.”  He liked to get things done and if he asked me to do something it meant that he wanted me to get it done no matter what.  It only took a few hundred scoldings to realize this and stop doing it.

This idea of over promising and under producing is something that I see a lot in new students as well.  With just a cursory understanding of Aikido and the commitment that it take to master it, they always over estimate themselves.  This is not a bad thing per se, but it can lead to misunderstandings, miscommunications and hurt feelings.

It takes a long time to understand one’s self and to gain the skill of maintaining healthy boundaries in order to practice bushi no ichigon.  When we understand ourselves better and maintain healthy boundaries, we can then fulfill the things that we say that we will do.

Calmness is mastery

hakuho

“Calmness, not skill, is the sign of a mature samurai.
A samurai should neither be arrogant or egotistical.” – Tsukahara Bokuden

A day or so ago at the Nagoya Sumo Basho, both Hakuho and Harumafuji lost to maegashira or the lowest ranked wrestlers at the tournament.  When a maegashira beats a yokozuna it is called kimboshi.  Both Hakuho and Harumafuji are Sumo Grand Champions or yokozuna.  A yokozuna is supposed to be the pinnacle of sumo and a grand champion must always conduct themselves with the highest amount of decorum and poise as they are sumo.  At the highest level of sumo, a yokozuna is supposed to be in a state of calmness and composure or (安定した).  The ability to calm down is called ochitsuku (落ち着く).  Both states of calmness and the act of becoming calm are the marks of true mastery.

Last night when Hakuho and Harumafuji lost, they both showed a lack of composure.  When Hakuho’s bout started to change in favor of his opponent Ikioi, Hakuho showed a lack of ability to ochitsuki when he uncharacteristically lost his cool and tried to force the win and thus lost his balance.  Harumafuji also lost in grand fashion as Yoshikaze threw him down and as the cameras followed him to the dressing rooms he showed he wasn’t anteishita as he was seen getting angry and snapping at one of his subordinates.

Anyone can be defeated by anyone, but only a true master can defeat themselves.  When one reaches this level, they get a certain air about them – they seem to have a sense of calm and the ability to stay calm.  A person who only values skill or the physicality of a art will always have a sense of discord about them.  Whether a person with mastery wins or loses, they are still calm.  People with a low level of mastery are always turbulent vacillating between highs and lows.

As Tsukahara Bokuden said, “Calmness, not skill, is the sign of a mature samurai. A samurai should neither be arrogant or egotistical.”  Thus, we train not just for physical mastery but mastery over every aspect of ourselves.

“With our thoughts, we make the world.” – Unknown

karate chop

We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” – Unknown

I am often asked, “What is the best way to learn?”  Truth be told, there is no substitute for going to class.

One should do their best to be present and focused as to what is being taught when one is in class.  The two basic ways to be a better learner is to listen carefully and watch diligently.

Listening carefully seems obvious but how many of us actually drift off.  I know I do and it can be a constant struggle to keep my ears from tuning out.  Listening carefully enables us to “hear” what is being taught.

Watching diligently shouldn’t be that hard but like listening, we also sometimes zone out and miss what the teacher is teaching.  Our eyes glaze over and we actually don’t see what is being taught.  Watching diligent enables us to “see” what is being taught.

Listening and watching are a given as to what is necessary to learn, but just because we understand their importance doesn’t mean we can do it.

One of the best ways to listen carefully and watch diligently is to use active positive self-talk.  When the teacher demonstrates the technique, follow along in your mind and say the steps to yourself using the same cuing or directions that the teacher is emphasizing.  The words or cuing we use should be short one to two words per step.  For instance, the teacher says, “Slide in, turn, step back.” As you watch the demonstration, you mutter the words silently to yourself.  With this type of self-talk, we are  imprinting the technique into our minds with the proper steps.

This active talk actually enables us to engage our minds, clarify the right behavior and decrease the amount of negative chatter in our minds (notice I used the word positive before).  “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world” is an often miss-attributed to the Buddha but it’s still appropriator here.  Using active positive self-talk enables us to learn Aikido properly and thus make our own world. 

So when you talk to yourself, what do you say?  Be mindful to be active but also to be kind and compassionate to yourself as well.

 

 

 

Fight one more round!

kendo men copy

“Fight one more round. When your feet are so tired that you have to shuffle back to the centre of the ring, fight one more round. When your arms are so tired that you can hardly lift your hands to come on guard, fight one more round. When your nose is bleeding and your eyes are black and you are so tired you wish your opponent would crack you one on the jaw and put you to sleep, fight one more round – remembering that the man who always fights one more round is never whipped.” – James “Gentleman Jim” Corbett

Don’t ever give up.  A warrior’s greatest asset is their ability to preserve and over come the odds.  Gentleman Jim’s assertion could be the warrior’s inner dialogue which drives them to the finish.  Perseverance, drive and commitment are those things which cannot be taught and are only learned along the way.

Mark Twain once wrote, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”  When things are rough and seemingly not going our way it really does comes down to the size of the fight in our hearts and warriors never give up!

Nobody said it was going to be easy…

failure

七転び八起き
Nanakorobi yaoki
Fall down seven times and stand up eight

Furuya Sensei used to say, “To step off the path even a step takes a million miles to get back.”  The hardest part about the Way is living it.  Living the Way means living our lives with conviction by a set of rules, boundaries or codes of conduct that we will do our best not to break.  Being resolved to live a certain way is easy to say but extremely hard to do.  It is easy to say, “I don’t do” this thing or that thing but quite another to put it into practice.  The samurai referred to this practice of conviction as bushi no ichi-gon or “a warrior says one thing.”  This warriors code dictates that we are resolved to make our actions, words and thoughts be in alignment with each other.  The honest truth is that I probably spend more time failing and stepping off the path than I do staying on the path, but that is human nature.

The proverb “Fall seven times and stand up eight” is usually depicted with a Daruma doll that has kind of a wobbly shape called okiagari in Japanese.  Oki means to get up and agari means to rise.  None of us are perfect, but what we can be perfect at is getting back up once we have fall down- Aikido can be thought of as the physical manifestation of this practice.

There is only one defeat and that is giving up.  At any given moment, we get the chance to do it better.  We can choose to step back on the path and choose to do better.  For me, my personal mantra is “I seek only to improve” and that helps me get back up and dust myself off and begin again.  That is all any of us have and that is all any of us need – the courage to try again.  One of the few things that separates humans from animals is the opportunity to change.  The lion doesn’t have a choice to stalk, kill and eat his prey- it is in his nature.  It is in our nature to change, adapt and overcome.  It is in our nature to be better.  The Way is hard, but nobody said it was easy.

It can be hard, its supposed to be

obstacle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The secret to success – Don’t give up, just keep going.

Doesn’t matter what we are doing or for what reason.  The only way to succeed is to never give up.  In Japanese this is called gaman (我慢).  To gaman is to patiently preserve in order to see something to its end.

It is sooo easy to quit when something become difficult or uncomfortable.  What people who quit don’t know is that the obstacle is the path.  The obstacle sheds light on the real path and is there to teach us something about ourselves.  If we quit, then we miss that golden opportunity.

I know it can be hard, its supposed to be.  Only through the challenge can we truly change.

 

 

Let it be

let-it-be

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Everything is connected.  There are no coincidences.” – Unknown

All around us are the signs or signals helping to push us in the right direction in life.  These signs are called synchronicities or as most people just call them “coincidences.”  The problem is that most times we are completely unaware of their presence.  Every once in awhile I stumble upon one of them and I am always in awe and humbled when I do.

The other day as I was prepping to pick up a high ranking well known visitor who was coming to teach at our dojo and I was rushing around and starting to stress out. As I got into the car and started driving to the airport a song came on the radio that caught my attention.  I was so engrossed in my thoughts that I actually hadn’t even noticed that the radio was on.

The song that came on was Let It Be by the Beatles (Now mind you I am not even a Beatles fan).  The Let it be part of the song caught my subconscious and it was one of those head turning moments.  I stopped thinking about all the trials and tribulations ahead and just focused on listening to the song.  Strangely I found that the song spoke to me.

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

It helped to remind me what Aikido is all about.  Let it be is harmony.  While I was waiting at the airport I Googled the song’s origin and came upon an interview with Paul McCartney where he described the origin of the song.  At the time of the song’s creation, Paul felt a bit disillusioned and lost in his life.  One night in a dream his mother who had passed away came to him and said in a gentle reassuring way, “Let it be.”  When he awoke he felt a sense of calm and the message that he took away from the dream was: Be gentle, don’t fight things, just try and go with the flow and it will all work out.  I was surprised because these ideas are the essence of Aikido.

Ideally, the secrets to the universe are all around us.  We just have the awareness to see them.  It’s not something that you have to force.  Just let it be and they will come.

If you want to read the entire article, please click the link below.
Let it be

Today is National Simplicity Day.

OsenseiToday is National Simplicity Day.

From the outside looking in all martial arts look very simple.  However, when we delve into them, we realize that they are actually quite complex.

When something is simple but complex, in Japanese it is called kanso ( 簡素).  For something to be kanso it must be almost outwardly simple yet be internally complex.

Most martial arts are this way.  They are always designed to be economical yet they are layered in such a way that it makes them complex.

Human beings are the same way.  When we judge people by their outward appearance, actions or speech, we run the risk of seeing them to simplistically.  We are all much deeper than we appear.

Today, as we celebrate National Simplicity day, please don’t forget to look a bit deeper beyond the surface.  Henry David Thoreau said, “In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness.”