Monthly Archives: July 2017

Be like the moon…

Kake Fukedomo Dozezu tenpen no tsuki which means “Though the wind may blow, the moon in in the sky is unmoved” is an old Zen saying which swordsman were fond of,

Some may think that as warriors we strive for a place of physical perfection where our skills in fighting are supreme, but this is too shortsighted. An experienced and true warrior seeks the pinnacle of fighting which is non-fighting. Sounds kind of weird being that the martial arts is all about fighting and destruction. At this place of non-fighting, one realizes that the only true opponent worth contending with is ourselves.

Most warriors never get to this understanding. It rarely happens because most have to defeat every opponent in the world in order to realize that the true and only opponent is themselves.

Today, we strive to be like the warriors of old without having the risk of the warriors of old. We have their hard fought realization at our finger tips which usually took many years of fighting to achieve.

Like the warrior of old, the true ultimate goal was to not only develop their bodies, but to also develop their minds to place which is referred to as immovable in swordsmanship.

To have a mind which is immovable is to be like the moon which is unmoved by the wind. It takes several years of training to reach this place of equanimity. Please be patient and don’t let the wind steer you off course.

 

This is Life

French poet, Jean de La Fontaine once wrote, “Our destiny is frequently met in the very paths we take to avoid it.” In Japanese, that seemingly cruel twist of fate often times brings us to the place where we least expect to find ourselves is referred to as aienkien (合縁奇縁).

The more we grip on to what we think is the control of life, the more it tosses us around as it tries to wrench our steadfast grip. A true warrior realizes that nothing is under their control. With that awareness they can meet their destiny with kyoshintankai (虚心坦懐) or “a calm and open mind.”

In Aikido, the nage, or the one who throws, is trying to learn how to flow with their partner’s energy and allow the natural flow of the movement to take over. Likewise, the uke, or one being thrown, is trying to learn how stay connected to the flow of their partner and allow the technique to unfold as it will.

In life, it is no different. When we realize there is no true “control” we can see the joy in aienkien. Thus we can meet the serendipity of life on the battlefield with the calmness of kyoshintankai.

This is the path your life is taking, accept it and honor it.

 

Put in the time

Practice makes perfect, but only time will show who becomes a master.

I’ve seen them come and I’ve seen them go. We never really know who has the character to put in the time to get good. There are no magic pills or panaceas. There is only one formula for mastery – put the time into the practice.

習うより慣れよ
Arau yori nareyo
“Practice makes perfect.”

Never give up!

In Japanese culture, a person is lauded more for their perseverance than if they actually achieve their goal. In Japanese, the word for perseverance is gaman (我慢). Gaman is more of a cultural idea than merely just a word.

To gaman means to not only persevere, but to have the utmost patience and self-control en route to accomplishing one’s goal no matter how long or arduous. The person who gamans knows that winning or succeeding is not an over night thing but a journey filled with ups and downs.

Having the ability to have unwavering patience while maintaining total self-control in the face of adversity is to have a will of iron or tesshin seki cho (鉄心石腸). People of lesser patience and even less self-control do not have the staying power to see their goals achieved.

A true martial artist is a person who keeps going despite the odds but that requires having an iron will. A will that sees things through until the end no matter what.

In most stories that we hear about, the goal being achieved is but a minor point. The bulk of the story is centered around the hero overcoming the insurmountable odds.

In every person’s life, sometimes daily, we are confronted with the opportunity to step up and show our true metal. That true metal is our will of iron.

Furuya Sensei’s last scroll he put it up explains tesshin seki cho perfectly. It said, “Stay strong, be humble and always keep going!”

Come and get it…

Those that will, will. Those that won’t, won’t. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.

All the rewards and benefits of Aikido training are there for you. But, you cannot receive them from your couch.

Furuya Sensei used to say, “The Way is in training.”

It is nobody’s fault but your own if you don’t get good.

If you want it, come and get. If you don’t, stay where you are.

What does the air say?

Most people hate surprises.

It is so true. Does any really like to be surprised? A warrior hates to be surprised. Being surprised means that we were totally unaware of the situation. In Japanese, being aware is referred to as kuuki wo yomeru or “To be able to read the air.”

To be able to read the air means to be able to see what is hidden in plain sight. A person’s intentions, a hidden trap or just a plain old surprise party.

To train in Aikido is to inculcate one’s self with an almost sixth sense. It is not a superpower per se because it comes about as a result of being self-aware during train. In order to master Aikido, one has to be self-aware enough to see one’s own shortcomings because those weaknesses inevitably create a suki (隙) or an opening for attack.

A warrior is supposed to be completely self-aware to the point that their self-awareness extends to their surroundings and to other people as well. Their awareness becomes almost a superpower because they can see what others don’t. It really is almost like “reading the air” which is why they loathe surprises because nothing is worse than being caught off guard.

Stand ready, work hard and become aware of yourself.

 

 

 

Success is a choice

It always seems really hard to get motivated the day after a holiday. On a day like today I always feel so un-motivated. I am sure if you’re like me, you just don’t want to do anything. Today, I have a lot of writing to do, patients to see, and classes to teach, but I don’t want to do any of them. I just want to relax and do nothing.

Jerry West said, “You can’t get much done in life if you only work on the days when you feel good.” What West’s assertion points to is that those days when we feel “great” are few and far between and thus we won’t get to the place we want to go if we wait. Furuya Sensei said that those days, when we feel great or do want to, don’t actually count. It’s the days when we have to almost force ourselves to finish or show up, those are the one’s that actually count the most.Those times are places where we find the most rewards whether it is a breakthrough in class, a promotion at work or one more pound lost.

Success is a choice. We can choose our higher selves or lower selves. That is why the days when we don’t want to matter the most. How do we expect to find our greatness when we choose to give in to weakness? Choose to be great.

I know its hard but that is why the road to success is paved with failures not successes. 七転び八起き (Nanakorobi yaoki) or “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.”

 

 

Happy Fourth of July!

Happy Fourth of July Holiday!

“We also call this ‘Independence Day’ – why do we call it this, do you still remember – learning this is your old school days?

We think we are “independent” and have the right to be free and we think we can realize this all by ourselves by exerting our “free will.” In some ways, this is quite true.

On Independence Day, we remember all of the hundreds and thousands of people, over how many years, who have fought and died and sacrificed themselves, just so we can enjoy such freedoms and liberties today. We think we are independent but in actuality we owe this to so many others and we don’t even know all of their names or faces to say, “thank you.” True independence is the harmony between ourselves and others around us. True independence is to realize the perfect harmony of how we are a part of the greater plan of Nature. To think that we stand alone and are “independent” in this world all by ourselves is only a distorted fantasy. . . . . We refine this understanding more deeply in our Aikido practice on the mats.”
– Rev. Kensho Furuya

Are you a butterfly?

Are you a butterfly?

Some samurai adorn their armor and weapons with the butterfly or chou (蝶) motif. This might seem peculiar since a butterfly is a delicate insect which doesn’t incite fear or display any prowess.

Furuya Sensei once commented on this and equated it to the study of budo. He said, “There is a tremendous, desperate struggle to emerge from the cocoon to become a beautiful butterfly. Learning must be a struggle – this does not mean that you have to suffer and die. This means that you must follow your quest or dream through your own power. ”

The reason a samurai chooses a butterfly is because the butterfly has to grow strong to overcome. This struggle is what brings out the butterfly’s true beauty. In the samurai’s case, the battle at hand will be a struggle which they must overcome in order to enjoy their victory.

The adornment of the butterfly is also because in reality the battle is not waged on the battlefield, but inside of us. So the butterfly is to remind us that the struggle is valuable and to be determined to do our best. Struggling and suffering only exist to make us stronger, but only if we choose to see it that way.

Today, when confronted remind yourself to be the butterfly and say, “I too will grow from this.”