Monthly Archives: January 2017

Don’t fear failure

“It is not that we lack self-confidence or ability, it is just that we are afraid of failure. We shouldn’t worry about this. There is no such thing as failure until we create it in our minds and bring it into our lives. It really does not exist, it is only an idea, value judgement or sensation which simply comes and goes in your head. It does not exist in reality or in Nature.

Why many worry about failure so much is that they are very much attached to failure. Why? Because failure is an easy way to absolve one’s self of responsibility and commitment which we hate or find burdensome. We shouldn’t waste our time and energy on such tiresome games, move on!

The only problem with failure is that, if we buy into it, it takes a little bit away from us, doesn’t it? That little bit of ourselves which can never be taken back. . . so we should simply put the idea of failure or loss out of our minds!”
– Rev. Kensho Furuya

 

Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday…

Furuya Sensei posted this to his Daily Message on August 20, 2004:

Calligraphy by Saigo Takamori, signed by his pen name Nanshu.

Saigo Takamori is considered the “real” Last Samurai. He lived during the complex end of the Tokugawa Bakufu in the mid-1800’s. He is not famous because he was the victor or because he made a great deal of money – actually he lost the war and committed seppuku as his last troops were being defeated. All his life, he was quite poor and is known for having only one set of underwear and kimono. It is said that when they were being washed, he was naked and simply didn’t see any guests until they dried.

What he is famous for is his loyalty to what he believed in – regardless if it was the winning or losing side, despite fame or fortune and “for richer or poorer” as I have heard somewhere.

When I view his calligraphy, I see great inner strength as well as gentleness. It is easy to see in his strokes that he doesn’t not follow any popular way but is true to himself and his beliefs. This type of brush stroke is extremely hard to imitate when such a brilliant personality shines through so strongly.

Our Aikido should be the same – true to the Path and strong but at the same time gentle.

I know some of you will ask me, “How can something be strong and gentle at the same time?”

Of course – isn’t this what we are trying find out in our practice? Who can answer such a question?

Are you a 10?

Are you a 10? Typically when we hear this type of question, we think that the person is asking us if we are good looking. In Japanese culture, the number 10 or juu is a homophone for juubun (十分) which is intended to mean, “Replete.” Thus, the number 10 is lucky because the number 10 means to be content.

In the west, we pursue things in order to achieve or acquire happiness and thus happiness is a result of taking – I receive and thus I am happy. In Japan, contentment is often associated with living a life of purpose or meaning and happiness comes as a result of giving.

The number 10 then reminds us that true happiness is a result of finding inner contentment instead of outer attainment. Finding contentment is a result of having a living a life of meaning. To have meaning means that we “get to” share or give something with the world and with that we are grateful for the opportunity. When we have meaning, then contentment, and thus gratefulness then true happiness is not far behind.  True happiness is then a function of giving from a place of contentment and not taking from a place of fear.

Are you a 10?

 

Learn to “throw away”

When you look in the mirror, do you see a ghost? Sounds like an absurd question, but although many of us don’t see a ghost staring back at us in the mirror, many of us act like ghosts throughout the day.

Think about it, a ghost is caught in purgatory forced to relive some moment from their past over and over again. They hang around the same place and do the same thing.

Many of us spend our days relentlessly pursing some thing with the mindset, “If I could only get that thing then…” It is only after we acquire that thing (hopefully) that we realize its futility as we are no closer to happiness than when we started. Furuya Sensei called these things, “gendai seikatsu shukan byo” or modern lifestyle diseases.

Sensei advocated a type of “throw away” learning when he wrote, “As many people might think, learning is not a process of accumulation. This means that it is not a matter of taking and taking for one’s self. In True Learning, throw away first. Take and throw away, take and throw away. People understand taking, but not throwing away. If I were to explain it in simple terms, “throwing away” means to take a fresh start in everything you do.”

A ghost is someone who cannot “let go” and thus becomes trapped.

A true warrior knows that life is not about pushing themselves to acquire more and more but to learn how to let go of those things which hold them back.

 

The Best Teachers Are The Most Unreasonable

A few years ago, we had a person teaching for us. He was knowledgeable about his art but a woefully horrible teacher. When students would come to me to complain about him, I would tell them, “It is your job to work hard, overcome and get better despite the circumstances.” Most would quit because they couldn’t get over this person’s presentation, but the real reason is that they didn’t want to persevere and overcome the adversity.

What these people couldn’t understand is that often times, the best teacher is the one who is the most unreasonable. Sometimes the teacher’s unreasonableness is intentional such as in the case of Furuya Sensei who was a staunch disciplinarian. In other cases, it is the teachers lack of ability which forces the student to surmount the situation. Either way they have to find a way to get better. The “unreasonableness” forces the student out of their comfort zone and towards mastery.

Today, we will be getting a new President. Regardless if we voted for him or not, we are stuck with him. He appears to be unreasonable. Thus we have to find a way around him whether we like it or not. We are martial artists, no matter the situation or odds, we must have the courage to step up, face the challenge and succeed.

Accept things as they are not as they should be. Work hard, persevere and succeed.  Nobody is coming to save us, but us. The victor is not the person who sits idle and complains, but the person who keeps on going despite the situation.

Passion

“Discover You. Find Your Passion, Life Purpose And Take Action” – unknown

What a great video. Everyone should find and follow their passions.  The martial arts is nothing but watching and copying someone else to improve one’s life. Watch this video nothing more needs to be said.

The true balance of budo

“The relationship between Wisdom, Love and Power. Wisdom without Love and Power would be cruel and weak. Power without Wisdom and Love would be dangerous and selfish, and Love without Power and Wisdom would be victimized and foolish. In our hearts we must learn how to find and join all three of these virtues.”
– Suzanne Lie

Wow! What a wonderful quote. This could be the definition of true budo. A true warrior is at the junction of all three of these. It takes great balance and depth of character to properly and responsibly wield the power that a warrior possess.

If you think studying the martial arts is about crushing others, you are sorely mistaken. It is much much more than that.

 

Decorum is the better part of mastery

Don’t be that guy. We have this one visitor who comes by at least once a year who is really disruptive. He is a nice guy and well liked so we tolerate him, but the worst part about it is that he doesn’t even know that he is being disruptive. In reality his mere presence is disruptive, he doesn’t have to say or do anything, he just has to show up and chaos ensues. The worst part is that he thinks that everyone is just literally falling over themselves to help him. I heard a an interesting Japanese sentence that immediately made me think of this visitor. あの人と出かけるときは必ず雨が降るので(Ano hito dekakerutoki wa kanarazu ame ga furunode) which means “every time you go out with him it rains.”

Decorum is the better part of mastery. The moment you become a student of the martial arts you are expect to act like one. This goes for black belts and teachers as well. What one does off the mat is often times more important than how one performs on the mat.

This person who visits our dojo forgets that he is required to follow the rules and etiquette of the dojo but instead he chooses to act like nuisance. In Japanese they say あたまかくしてしりかくさず (atama kakushite siri kakusazu) which means that someone who “hides their head but forgets to cover their butt.”

When you visit other martial arts schools, please act accordingly. It reflects poorly on your teacher, your school and ultimately you.

2nd Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba passed away 18 years ago today

On this day in 1999, Nidai Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba passed away.

Aikido is now practiced by millions of people in over 130 countries. What an achievement! Most know that the spread of Aikido worldwide was primarily due to the efforts of 2nd Doshu. What most students of Aikido don’t know is how hard it must have been for him. I can only imagine what it must have been like to not only follow O’Sensei but to thrive as well. Having to follow Furuya Sensei and my own struggles must pale in comparison to what 2nd Doshu had to endure.

Here is a story that Sensei used to tell about 2nd Doshu when he was an uchi-deshi at hombu dojo in 1969 just after O’Sensei passed away. 2nd Doshu was under a tremendous amount of pressure. Every where he turned someone wanted something or was threatening to breakaway. People all over the world were gossiping about him or criticizing his every move. The most common belittling thing people would say was, “He is nothing like O’Sensei.” One day after Sensei overheard some Aikidoist complaining about 2nd Doshu, he became so frustrated that he confronted 2nd Doshu and said, “Why don’t you defend yourself.” 2nd Doshu calmly looked up at him and said, “Aikido people don’t do bad things or say bad things about other people.” The look on 2nd Doshu’s face must have been so reassuringly calm because at that moment Sensei was awe struck and thought to himself, “What a great man.”

Hearing that story always reminded me of this quote by Kisshomaru Ueshiba, “One becomes vulnerable when one stops to think about winning, losing, taking advantage, impressing or disregarding the opponent. When the mind stops, even for a single instant, the body freezes, and free, fluid movement is lost.”

He truly was a great man.

 

Set the Right Intention

How was your New Year’s Day?

In Japan on January first, there are many traditional things that start with the word Hatsu (初). There is hatsu keiko – the  first practice of the year, hatsu yume – first dream, hatsu ne – the first warbling heard signing, hatsu hinode – the first sunrise and of course the hatsu mode –  the New Year shrine visit.

Albert Camus said, “Life is the sum of all your choices.” With that being said, these New Year “hatsu” are supposed to set the tone for the coming year and bring with them prosperity and good luck.

To reach life’s greatest heights requires that we put forth the greatest amount of attention and diligence to every thing that we do. That is why the Japanese have the rituals so that the things that they do have the right tone so that they might inspire themselves to greater heights.

The dojo is supposed to be a respite devoid of the outside world and its distractions – a tranquility. Furuya Sensei used to say, “Before you enter the dojo, cut off your head and leave the outside world at the door.” We can see this idea of hatsu in everything that we do in the dojo from packing our bags to bowing to our partners.

Training calls us to prepare or put in the proper amount of respect, diligence or effort into everything that centers around the dojo and training. Mastery is then the ability to extend that hatsu or positive tone to every aspect of our lives.