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.
The Zen master Nan-in had a visitor who came to inquire about Zen who was a local university professor. But instead of listening, the visitor kept talking about his own
ideas. As he spoke, Nan-in served him tea. He poured tea into his visitor’s
cup until it was full, then he kept on pouring until it overflowed.
The visitor noticed this and was finally unable to restrain himself. “Don’t you see it’s full?” he said. “No more will go in!”
“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”
Many students worldwide are just like this university professor. Sometimes when students come to the dojo they are already filled up with ideas and theories. This disables them from learning and just like the professor more will not go in. Learning the techniques is hard enough, but we make it harder when we come in with our own baggage. “When yo come to the dojo, cut off your head and leave it outside,” is something Sensei used to say often to us.
In order to learn anything we need to have the openness and willingness to learn and this cannot be done when your cup is full. Please empty your cup before you come to practice so that you can make room for so much more.
Day 2 “Let someone off the hook” update:
Day 2 went as expected. Finding 2 things or people to let off the hook wasn’t that hard. Driving always yields a lot of opportunities. The second one came in the form of letting an old acquaintance off the hook for misrepresenting himself. This one took effort and I hope it lasts.
The Japanese are fond of gift giving. The exchange of gifts is called zoutou. Whenever a Japanese person goes somewhere or travels to any place they always bring back a small token from the place they visited called an omiyage. If they travel within Japan, they usually bring back a food item that the area is known for called meibutsu. Most areas of Japan have some food item that they are known for and this makes for a good omiyage. Many times it is a dessert or snack and is called a miyagegashi or souvenir sweet. When they travel abroad they usually bring back some small souvenir like a key chain, t-shirt or some other non-perishable food (they usually don’t bring back food that is not pre-packaged because it is against the rules and Japanese people always follow the rules).
The exchanging of gifts is a social lubricant. It shows that although you were away enjoying your vacation you were still thinking of the other people. To most Japanese, especially the ones over 30, omiyage is a must and not a choice. In Japan if you came back to the office without omiyage you would be considered rude and not a team player. So as not to offend anyone everyone plays the game and participates in omiyage.
In America, this is not something that we participate in. I remember one of my relatives brought back things from her vacation and one of her co-workers said, “What is this a bribe?” Omiyage is not a bribe but a gentle social gesture that reminds people that we care about them.
What would the world be like if we all showed even a little that we cared? I am sure it would be a nicer place.
“Let someone off the hook” challenge update
Day 1: I was able to fulfill day 1′s requirement to let one person off the hook. It was quite easy and actually I was able to do it about four times. Since I was in the car for 3.5 hrs yesterday there was ample opportunity to let someone off the hook.
Today’s (Day 2) challenge: Let 2 people off the hook.
Having balance in life is about being able to appropriately deal with stress. Stress can come from a myriad of things most of which we create for ourselves. For me one of my self made stressors comes as I personalize things. I get upset as someone cuts me off, cuts in line at the grocery store, or is mean to me. The crazy thing is that I know that I do it yet I still let it get to me. I guess everyone has something to work on and for me this is one of them. Today I am going to try the 10 day “Let someone off the hook” challenge. Won’t you try it with me?
The 10 day “Let someone off the hook” challenge is simple. Everyday I am going to consciously “Let someone off the hook” when something happens to me or if I feel they have done something to me. I am not going to tell them. When something happens like getting cut off in traffic, I am just going to say to myself, “That’s OK, I am going to let you off the hook.” Starting tomorrow I will post my off the hook experiences.
1) Let someone off the hook
2) Say to yourself something like, “That’s OK, I am going to let you off the hook.” You can choose your own phrase, but you must say it out loud or to yourself.
3) You can do it as many times as you want, but they don’t carry over to the next day.
4) Everyday add one
Day 1: 1
Day 2: 2
Day 3: 3
“Although I am just a human being, I just want to model myself
after the sword – always straight, always true and very decisive.
Something that doesn’t have an outer obvious strength the we look for
today, but something that has an inner strength which is hard to see
unless you really know it and really can appreciate it.” ~ Sensei
Today, we are buffeted by society’s desire for gain and self-promotion. What are we to do? If we don’t sell ourselves who will know we are good or that we have value? This is probably one of the hardest parts about following the Way. When I see someone’s bio on the Internet and I see some bent truths it makes me feel sad for that person that they need to “pump it up” in order to maintain their relevancy. Why can’t we be accepted for who we are? We are human beings who are wonderful, beautiful and fallible. Here is something I use to try and keep perspective on myself.
Every person is good and doing the best that they can.
Every person suffers and is going through their own stuff.
Every person is human and human beings make mistakes.
Every person deserves kindness, compassion and forgiveness…
Just like me.
Just do as much as you can.
Not more than you can.
Not less than you can.
Just as much as you can.
But, are you doing as much as you can?
If you want to get better at Aikido, just do more Aikido. I can’t tell you how many times I get asked this question, “What else can I do to get better at Aikido?” My answer, just as Sensei would answer, is just train. It is a common malaise for people to think that a magic pill exists or that the answer to their questions about Aikido or life are complicated or mysterious. The truth is never quite that sexy. If you want your head to stop hurting, stop banging it against the wall.
The answers, if there is such a thing, can usually be found in the most obvious or most simplest way or Einstein put it, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Simplicity applies to not only training but to life as well.
Stop doing that thing that causes you pain.
Stop doing that thing that causes others pain.
Trust more and don’t ask so many questions.
Be kinder to yourself and others.
Let go of control and go with the flow.
and most of all just train and be patient.
In every person’s training a little rain must fall. I would love to tell you that throughout your training career you will only experience fun, excitement, joy and happiness. The truth of the matter is that every person is confronted with some adversity and will have some difficulty.
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. But regardless everyone struggles with something.
If everyone struggles, then what should they do when that happens? Here are some general suggestions for people when they 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.
“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” – Tim Notke
What does it take to become a black belt?
The other day someone called inquiring about classes. The first thing he wanted to know was, “How long does it take to get a black belt?” I answered, “About 5-15 years depending on how hard your train.” His next question was, “How long did it take you?” I answered that, “That is not relevant.” He retorted, “It is for me.” He then said, “You’re not going to tell me?” I said, “No. You should just focus on training and not the attainment of black belt.” He said, “So you’re not going to tell me?” I said, “No.” He said, “Maybe I should go someplace else then.” I said, ” You can, there are many different Aikido schools around that might suit you better. This school focuses on training and not rank.” He then hung up.
This is a typical phone call that I get about once a week. This desire for rank could possibly be a a product of modern thinking or maybe even western thinking – I am not completely sure. But, it is something that people today really covet. When I was a student rank was the last thing you talked about. Anyone who talked about it was severely chastised by Sensei. Budo (martial arts) is not about the attainment of rank, status or wealth. Budo is about self-development.
I want my students to be concerned with improving themselves and not with attainment or accolades.
I have uploaded a video about the 8th dan Kendo examination in Japan. It has a passing rate of less than 1%, but for this particular test the passing rate was 0.4%. In order to be qualified to take the test you have to have been 7th dan for at least 8 years and be at least 46 years old. They say that 1 in 5000 people ever pass the test, but at least 2000 people challenge the test every year. In this video they profile a guy who has taken the test 24 times. He might have been initially concerned with attaining the rank but now it is all about his personal growth as a human being. They say the Way is in training. They don’t say the Way is in getting promoted or attaining rank. Please continue to train hard.
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 as 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 Paul’s 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.
You want to get good at Aikido? Sensei said, “Just be patient and practice ikkyo, nikyo, sankyo and yonkyo everyday.”
Awhile back, we had this really gifted student, who was a teenager, study at our school. He was so athletic and caught on very fast. One of the other students told me he was studying a few other martial arts at the same time and hoped to be a professional fighter someday. The other day he asked me, “When do we get to learn kotegaeshi?” I said that we were currently working on other techniques such as nikyo and that we would switch later on. Soon after, he quit. It was sad because he had so much potential, but I don’t think the monotony of the basics was what he was looking for. Too bad, but this same scenario plays out several times a year. This is common and part of our instant gratification society where everything is available just a click away.
At our dojo, we stress the basics and we would rather that the students know a few things well than a whole bunch of things a little. In this case, less is more. The more I teach, the more I realize that Sensei is right. I wish it could be flashier. I wish it could be something fun. It it could be something more entertaining. But, it is not about what I want. It is about making you better. Supposedly there is something hidden in each of those techniques that holds a secret to the mastery of Aikido. If you can master ikkyo, nikyo, sankyo and yonkyo, then you will have no problem doing any other technique in Aikido. It is as simple as that.
Every day, day in and day out just practice the basics and be patient – this alone will make you good.