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.”

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…

知者は惑わず、勇者は恐れず
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!

石の上にも三年
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.