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.
If you open it, close it. If you turn it on, turn it off. If you unlock it, lock it up. If you break it, admit it. If you can’t fix it, call in someone who can. If you borrow it, return it. If you value it, take care of it. If you make a mess, clean it up. If you move it, put it back. If it belongs to someone else, get permission to use it. If you don’t know how to operate it, leave it alone. If it’s none of your business, don’t ask questions.
Most of these rules are common sense, but I am sure we are not all surprised at how many people are really unable to comply with them.
This weekend we are having Osoji or the year end clean up. It is our responsibility as students to help out especially since rule #8 is, “If you make a mess, clean it up.” However it is more than that. Cleaning is part of our training and the cleaning itself isn’t what we learning. We are trying to teach ourselves a concept of a higher calling – compassion. Think of this idea of ukemi where we are giving ourselves to others for their benefit. Every great religion in the world preaches this idea of altruism, selflessness and compassion. Ukemi is the practice of selflessness and compassion in action and cleaning is an extension of that selflessness. We are deepening our understanding of that compassionate act when we clean. Sure nobody wants to train in a dirty dojo but it’s more than just cleaning. We clean for the other people who train, for the art of Aikido, for the dojo, for our teachers, for Sensei, for O Sensei and ultimately for ourselves because if we can clean out of respect for others then we have a chance to have respect for ourselves.
The true indicator of a good student is that they do the right thing at the right time. When they see a piece of paper on the ground, they pick it up without being asked and without the desire for recognition or reward. The dojo is dirty, please help clean it up on Saturday. After all it is part of your training.
Osoji: Saturday, December 20th 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM.
Shizen nitaisuru sensai na kanjusei.
Sensitivity to the delicacy of nature.
Many years ago I saw a documentary called What the Bleep Do We Know that changed my life. One of the segments in the documentary really stuck with me over these 10 years. The segment was on the research being done by Dr. Masaru Emoto in the field of human consciousness and how our intentions can influence nature. In this segment, Dr. Emoto showed how the molecular structure of a water molecule could be influenced by how we interacted with the water. He wrote phrases like, “I love you” and “I hate you” on bottles of water and showed how those intentions affected the structure of the water molecules. It was incredible how pristine the molecule looked with the words, “I love you” printed on it and how distorted the water looked when he printed, “I hate you” on it. (Below is a video about Dr. Emoto’s work).
That research made me really think about how not only my intentions but the things I wear affect my mood and body. Sensei must have knew this too. Whenever we would wear some outlandish outfit he would give us a hard time about it. Once a student wore a top adorned with the logo of a popular surf wear company called B.U.M and Sensei told him he couldn’t wear that anymore unless he, “Wanted to be a bum.” Quizzically we all scratched our heads but maybe Sensei knew something we all didn’t. Here is a quote that is often and possibly erroneously attributed to the Dhammapada that may help to shine some light on what Sensei might have known and was possibly trying to teach us.
The thought manifests as the word; The word manifests as the deed; The deed develops into habit; And habit hardens into character. So watch the thought and its ways with care, And let it spring from love Born out of concern for all beings.
As the shadow follows the body, as we think, so we become.
We should all take care of how we interact with not only nature and others but ourselves as well. If Dr. Emoto’s research is even 5% true then we have a tremendous amount of power and as Voltaire wrote, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
This year the creators of What the Bleep Do We Know celebrates their 10th anniversary. If you haven’t seen the movie, it is worth a look and the DVD has four or five more hours of information. http://www.whatthebleep.com/
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 curiosity. Wikipedia defines curiosity as, “a quality related to inquisitive thinking such as exploration, investigation, and learning….” Curiosity is not based on 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.
Why do we clean? The dojo is a sacred place because it represents our inner world. To clean the dojo is to set things right and remove the dust from ourselves. Therefore every day, the dojo is cleaned in some way by the seniors before practice begins and ends with it being cleaning by everyone.
This Saturday is Osoji or year end clean-up where we take apart and clean the entire dojo top to bottom. In Japan, a lot of preparation is required to meet the coming New Year properly. Superstitiously, the Japanese believe that the spirits of their deceased relatives and the gods of luck and fortune visit them around the time of the end of the year. Your ancestors, like the gods and spirits, bring blessing of happiness and prosperity when they are venerated with cleanliness, order and offerings. To be prepared, Japanese people, “get their houses in order” by cleaning and arranging and setting out traditional symbols like shimenawa, kadomatsu and kagamimochi.
Lets all work together to rid the dojo and ourselves of the dust we have accumulated over the year so that we can have a fresh start and enjoy all the happiness and prosperity of 2015.
Our weaknesses and our failures are our greatest teachers.
As a human being, I want to be liked and absolutely never want anyone to hate me. However as a teacher, it is my job to point out the weak points in the student’s technique and this can yield a strong response. The more experienced you become or proficient you become yields more (for lack of a better word) criticism. Pointing out the shortcomings usually comes at a risk because the criticism usually comes up against the ego. For me, I think that if I point out something that the student may or may not be aware of then they can work towards fixing it. Sometimes to the student, they feel like I am picking on them or accidentally take it personally.
In the martial arts there is actually no victory or defeat nor is there right or wrong or good or bad. There is only a lesson to be learned. Every time something happens to me welcome or unwelcome, I try and see the bigger picture and how this lesson fits into my life. I know that if I can be willing and open to the lesson then I can learn and eventually become better.
There is a description of a scroll in Tea Life, Tea Mind that reads: Be rebuked, Stand corrected and learn
I find this to be incredibly true. Don’t take it personal, but take action to personally overcome your weaknesses. This is the crux of martial arts training. The only true defeat is in giving up.
A slip is not a slip but a chance to get to know the floor a little better. All it takes is a change in your perspective.
Someone asked why there isn’t competition in Aikido. I wished I would have had this video on hand to show them why. The title of his video is, “Toddler misses golf putt,” but it should have been, “What emphasis are we placing on winning which is taking away from what golf is really trying to teach?” Golf, like Aikido, is something that cannot be mastered. What this toddler’s parents or teacher should be teaching him is how to enjoy the game as he pursues the a better version of himself. Instead he is learning that happiness is achieved only through accomplishment. What happens inside is more important than what happens outside.
Golf, like Aikido, is a journey where the only victory is the victory over ourselves (Masakastsu, Agatsu). Competition can be a good thing and maybe even healthy, but it can also bring out the worst in us as seen by this toddler’s reaction. Where was his perseverance? Where was his dedication and self-discipline? The only thing we saw was him giving up at the slightest hiccup.
How will he fare once life throws a real obstacle in his path or when he experiences real disappointment? Golf is one of the few games that mirror life, just like Aikido, in that it is supposed to teach us perseverance, self-discipline, patience, self-respect and most of all self-restraint.
On this day in 1867, the famous samurai Sakamoto Ryoma was ambushed and killed. Sakamoto Ryoma was famous for his efforts to bring about the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the opening of the doors to the west during the Bakamatsu era which was at the end of the Edo period. Sakamoto Ryoma studied swordsmanship from the age of 14 under renowned sword teacher Chiba Sadakichi Masamichi of the Hokushin Itto-ryu school. Sakamoto Ryoma carried a Smith & Wesson revolver despite the fact that he was an accomplished swordsman
Sakamoto Ryoma came from a well to do family of sake producers who were able to purchase the lowest samurai rank of goshi or merchant samurai. During the Edo period there was a strict level of segregation enforced between joshi (high rank) and kashi (low rank) samurai. Because of his families low rank, they were always segregated from more higher ranking samurais which always bothered him and he was inspired to change by the Revolutionary war’s slogan which became the first line of the Declaration of Independence, “All men are created equal.”
Yaki tachi wo saya ni osamete, masumasu masurao no kokoro wo togari keri
“Before you draw your tempered blade, keep it in its saya and polish your soul first.”
What a great Japanese proverb. It doesn’t say anything about kicking butt, winning medals or smashing people. This seemingly obtuse statement sums up what training in the martial arts is really all about – developing ourselves.
You can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat the invisible people in their lives. I call them invisible because we tend not to see them or we don’t think of them as people. These people are salespeople, wait staff, doormen or any other person that is “serving” us.
The other day I was attending a wedding and a few of the guests were martial artists. I was appalled by how rude some of these so called martial artists were to the wait staff. The drunker they got, the more belligerent or ill mannered they seemed to conduct themselves.
I was raised a little different as a martial artist and Aikidoist by my teacher. Our conduct had to be paramount and Sensei took us to task if we committed even the slightest faux pas. Sensei was so strict that we tried to always mind our manners. Most times, Sensei never said it out loud that we had to behave, it was just expected of us. He always used to say, “Act as if your teacher is watching” and I can see now why that is important. These people forget that they represent more than themselves. They represent their schools, their students, their teachers, their teacher’s teacher and most of all their art. If this is true then we must conduct our selves with more reserve and restraint.
After all, the goal of learning a martial art is not in using it, but having the restraint not to. Please be careful about how you act because more is riding on it than you might think. If you wouldn’t do that in front of your parents or teacher, why are you doing it? How you act says volumes about you.