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.”

What we do here on Earth echos in heaven.

Tendo Chirei

The kanji in this kakejiku or scroll reads 天道地霊 which most typically translate as “Tendo Chirei.” Tendo Chirei typically translates to mean, “God in heaven, spirits on the ground.

When I looked up the kanjis, another translation came to mind. Another translation of 天道 is amaji or “Path in the heavens.”

So if we use this translation, the scroll means “The path in the heaven, the spirit on the ground” which we can then be interpreted to mean what we do here on Earth is a kin to walking the path in heaven.

O’Sensei’s once wrote, “One does not need buildings, money, power, or status to practice the Art of Peace. Heaven is right where you are standing, and that is the place to train.”

The Indian philosophy of ahimsa comes to mind. Ahimsa  dictates that one should strive to do no harm in action, speech or thought.

To train in Aikido is to polish the soul. The genius of O’Sensei is that he was able to put the ahimsa philosophy of non-violence into the techniques.

Every day when we train we are carving out those paths in heaven.

What we do here on Earth echos in heaven. Please train with this in mind.

A wise person…

A wise man does not lose his way, a brave man does not succumb to fear.

I read this quote by Kate Forsyth which I think succinctly sums up what a warrior strives for.

“Kind Heart
Fierce Mind
Brave Spirit”

A warrior only needs three things. This assertion is supported by the Japanese proverb above. If we are wise then we will have a kind heart. If we are resolute then we will have a fierce mind. If we are brave then we won’t succumb to fear.

Have courage, don’t give into fear, be determined and never give up. To live the life of a warrior is nothing more than this.




Don’t Give Up!

Ishi no ue ni mo sannen
“Perseverance will win in the end.”

Ishi no ue ni mo sannen is a Japanese proverb that most ascribe to mean “don’t give up.” The actual translation is, “Even the coldest rock will get warm if sat on for three years.”

The people who are often times the loudest or biggest aren’t always the one’s who are the strongest. True strength comes from inside. When fear or self-doubt over take us, it takes someone of true inner strength and character to not run or give up.

There is an old Samurai kuj-ji or mudra that Furuya Sensei put on his Art of Aikido video series that reads Rin Byo To Sha Kai Jin Retsu Zai Zen (臨兵闘者皆陣列在前) which translates as “The bravest warrior excels at the front of the battlefield.”

Brave or courageous people never quit in the face of adversity – They step up. If we persevere, eventually we will win.

Whatever you do, don’t give up!


Do your work.

Everything that we get in life comes from putting in the time. To be successful, we have to do the work.

Unless we are doing the thing we are supposed to be doing, we will not achieve the success we are chasing. It is so easy to become distracted with all of life’s modern technologies and conveniences.

It doesn’t matter what other people are doing…do your work.

It doesn’t matter what people are saying…do your work.

It doesn’t matter what other people are doing on Facebook or Instagram…do your work.

It doesn’t matter who thinks you can or can’t…do your work.

There is only one thing which will make us successful in this life and that is doing our work.

No one  can make us successful. People can help us, but ultimately we have to pen to paper. We have to go to the dojo. We have to do our suburi. We have to do our homework. We have to show up for class. We have to do the work.

Black belts aren’t made, they are forged out of one’s own blood, sweat and tears.

There is only one formula for success: hard work = success. Do your work.

Cinco de Mayo – Fighting spirit

On this day in 1862 which came to be known as Cinco de Mayo, a small Mexican army defeated a larger and more powerful invading French army. A motley crew 2,000 Mexican fighters hunkered down in the small town of Puebla de Los Angeles and fended off a force of 6,000 French soldiers. The battle lasted only one day but resulted in the French army losing five times more troops than the Mexican army. Realizing they were succumbing to a superior force, the French troops retreated.

The Battle of Puebla became the symbol of opposition and its memory became the symbol of Mexican warrior spirit. The seemingly impossible victory at the Battle of Puebla displayed what the Japanese call “Yamato-damashii.” Yamato-damashii (大和魂) is used to when people talk about one’s “fighting spirit” but its more than that. Yamato-damashii refers to one’s soul which causes them to exhibit extraordinary spirit and character in the face of overwhelming odds.

The people who stayed and fought against a force that was bigger, better equipped and seemingly more knowledgeable took great courage. It showed the extraordinary soul and spirit of the Mexican people – it showed their yamato-damashii.

Enjoy your Cinco de Mayo!



May the Fourth Be With You

Happy May Fourth or should I say, “May the 4th Be With You.”

“For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship. ” – Yoda

What Yoda is talking about is the same thing O’Sensei once wrote, “The divine is not something high above us. It is in heaven, it is in earth, it is inside us.”

Essentially, what they are both talking about is ki (氣) which is the fundamental construct of the universe. Ki imbues everything and is within everyone of us.  His Holiness, the Dalai Lama said, “In a world marred by violence and rising nationalism, he says we must try to find commonality.”

Ki is that commonality. We are all made up of the same fundamental substance – ki. We are all the same and thus must treat each other with respect. This is the fundamental principle of Aikido. Enjoy your May the Fourth.

Be mindful of your behavior

There is a saying in budo, or “Everything begins and ends with respect” (礼に始まり礼に終わる).

Last night we hosted an outside teacher from another country. The thing which made me the happiest was how polite our students were. Everyone treated each other with respect and everyone had a good time.

For the most part, the martial arts are physical and up to a point, anyone can become skilled. Reigi-saho or etiquette is one of those things which cannot be taught but can be learned.

Being a jerk reflects poorly on your teacher, your parents, your art, your dojo and most importantly you. Be careful what you say or do because it means a lot.