I read a sign the other day, “Comfort is the enemy of achievement.” This is a quote by a businessman named Farrah Gray. In terms of budo it is spot on.
On the road to greatness, the main question is, “What are we willing to sacrifice in order to get good?” Not can we, but will we forgo things like sleep, money, food, or any other thing that causes us to be a little bit uncomfortable in order to achieve our goals? Most normal people won’t, but warriors are not normal people.
Warriors are people who stave off pleasure for purpose. People who “need” to sleep, eat or save the money will never push themselves to get good. There will always be something. Over the annals of time, the greatest opponent there has ever been and who has beaten millions of warriors has been the soft, warm and comfortable bed. Don’t let it beat you!
So the question is, “What will you sacrifice to get good?”
The author, Haruki Murakami said, “When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
As Furuya Sensei used to say, “The Way is in training.” The goal of training is serenity. The path to serenity is training. Training itself is serenity.
What we are trying to achieve by training in the martial arts is not the ability to destroy others but rather the ability to control ourselves so that we don’t have to. We seek to be the calm in the eye of the storm.
When confronted, it is easy to lash out and use our darker more negative self to win, but after a while one realizes that the true opponent lies within. It takes a more evolved and more sophisticated person to realize where the real battle lies.
Yoda once said, “That which you seek, inside you will find.” Serenity is that thing we all seek. Training is serenity. Serenity is the path. The path is serenity. “The Way is in training.” Keep on training because training is the Way.
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Many times in life, whether we like it or not, perception is reality and budo is no different. As a warrior, we must be forever diligent and thus must be en garde at all times. We can expect to be attacked anytime we let our guard down. Therefore we cannot leave any openings.
There is a famous Japanese saying, bushi wa kuwanedo taka yoji (武士は食わねど高楊枝) which means a “A samurai, even when he has not eaten, uses a toothpick like a lord.”
Most think it means that a hungry samurai chooses pride before poverty. Another way to understand it is that if one lets on that they haven’t eaten and are hungry then they will be weak and thus an easier target for attack. The perception of weakness can then lead to a person being attacked.
In training, we constantly trying to ensure that our intentions match our reality. If we want people to think that we are respectful then we must act respectfully. If we want people to think that we are humble, we should then act with humility. Conversely, if we want people to think we are jerks then we should act like a jerk.
Like it or not, people “judge” us by the things that we say and do. Our job as martial artist is to make our actions and our words line up with our intentions.
If you want to try and save your 2016, there are 36 days left. What did we want to get done that we never got around to doing or failed to complete? Furuya Sensei used to say, “There is no time left.” Don’t waste your time putting things off for 2017 that you can start doing today. There is still time left.
Start eating healthy.Go to bed early. Wake up early.
Be more grateful.
Quit your job. Find a new job.
Start Aikido 😉
Ask that person out. Stop going out with that person.
Enroll in college.
Tell people what you really mean.
Go to class more often.
In life, there are no free lunches, shortcuts or ways to cheat. If we want something, we have to go out and get it. If you want to get good at Aikido, all you have to do is come to class. It is that simple! There are still 31 days of training left this year. Want it? Come get it!
“I took an arrow in the knee” was an old Norse saying to indicate that someone had gotten married. The arrow implies that one of the biggest decisions in one’s life isn’t necessarily made by choice.
Just after Furuya Sensei passed away, I was working with one of my older clients and was telling him about Sensei’s death. I said, “Now, I have to take over the dojo.” He stopped me and said, “No, you choose to take over the dojo.” At the time I did not think I had a “choice” but today I understand that it is what I chose to do. We can be in control or we will be controlled.
Today, in an arguably more civilized society, we are free and thus have freedom of choice. What is choice? Choice is the ability to decide to empower ourselves with what it is we want. This empowerment begins by saying, “I choose to…”
Regardless of the situation or circumstance we can always “choose” how we internally address what is going on – we give it context. In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, it is called re-framing. In Buddhism, it is called equanimity. In budo, it is called the non-abiding mind.
Today, we don’t have to do anything but we do get to choose to do whatever we want. The choice is ours.
For For 20 years during the Sengoku period, Takeda Shingen and Uesugi Kenshin fought a series of hard fought battles. It was during this time that each cultivated a deep respect for one another. When Takeda Shingen died suddenly on the battlefield, Uesugi Kenshin supposedly wept and said, “I have lost my greatest rival, there will never be a greater hero.” Our adversaries can be our greatest teachers. As a training partner, it is our duty to bring out the best in our partners. We owe it to them to give them a good hard practice. That doesn’t mean be a jerk. It means to push them to become better. If we are too easy they become too complacent and soft. If we are too hard they become bitter and contemptuous. Pushing them to their heights in a positive and productive way enables them to reach their true potential. It is a great honor to be a part of that process. Be a positive force for change so that as C.S. Lewis stated, “All of hell rejoices that I am out of the fight” because I help make others better.
We sometimes erroneously think that the Way is the end product – a place of bliss, peace or happiness. However, the place where the Way truly resides is in the places where we struggle. On good days, it is easy to follow the righteous path and anyone can do it. The days and situations that are the most difficult are when we need, utilize and come to understand the true meaning of following the Way. Therefore the Way is in the struggle. That one moment between when we don’t want to but do so anyways is the real moment of the Way. Everything else leads up to that point and all others are a result of that decision.
“Embrace the struggle and let it make you stronger. It won’t last forever.” – Tony Gaskins
Art by Sam Didier
Furuya Sensei posted this to his Daily Message on November 19, 2002. His statements ring true today more than ever. We as martial artist must strive to be better.
I think that the very basis of civilization and ultimately our own survival is that we can get along with each other. As far as we have advanced in science, medicine, technology, finance, the arts and education, we still do not do this very well at all. Why do you think this is so? Why do you think that it is so hard for us to get along with each other? We don’t even get along with many people we like and love sometimes! It is really quite amazing if you think about it. Even the simple ant has evolved their own social structure and monkeys do not even have all the problems we suffer from. In Aikido, we talk about harmony and blending, we probably need to go into this idea much, much more than we really do.
Sometimes, the simplest and most fundamental questions are the hardest to answer. We still must try very hard – our lives depend upon it!
Sozan, a Chinese Zen master, was asked by a student, “What is the most valuable thing in the world?” The master replied: “The head of a dead cat.” “Why is the head of a dead cat the most valuable thing in the world?” inquired the student. Sozan replied: “Because no one can name its price.”
The things that matter to us, only matter to us. In the beginning, middle and end, we are under our own power and thus choose what is valuable to us. Others might not agree. That is fine because what matters to us only matters to us. Be only concerned about what it is that you do and don’t worry about what others think or what they are doing.
There is a great saying from the movie Sanjuro, “The best swords are the ones that are kept in their scabbards.” At the heart of all martial arts training comes the understanding that our minds are our greatest weapons and simultaneously our worst enemies. In the Japanese traditional arts, the highest level one can attain is the ability to show restraint. A master is supposed to be someone who has kokkifukurei or the ability to demonstrate their skills in decorum and etiquette but more importantly their ability to exercise self restraint at all times. Restraint can only come after years and years of training. Restraint is the ability to do the right thing at the right time which one might call seido in Japanese or precision in English. Learn to control yourself and your emotions so that other people cannot control you.