Tag Archives: Aikido

Quote of the day

“Everything in Aikido can be called what we say in Japanese, ‘atari-mae.’ We can even say, ‘atari-mae no Aikido,’ which means, ‘common-sense, reasonable, very natural Aikido.’ This is what I aspire to myself in my own Aikido – something simple and very natural. . . . . .

Most people do not really need something new and different, they simply need to take their own technique to the next level, and then to the next level after that.”
– Rev. Kensho Furuya

Be A Stone Warrior

Last week we put an interesting scroll in the tokonoma which reads 力以石武 which means “the power of the stone warrior.

What this scroll alludes to is a teaching in swordsmanship in which a true warrior is one that has attained an equanimous mind.

The rock in this sense is the mind, but don’t think of it as a stationary rock. The mind should be in a free flowing state like a rock rolling down a hill. Along the way, the rolling rock may touch or run into things, but it just calmly and effortlessly moves around the impediment. It could, theoretically, keep on rolling forever.

One of the goals in Aikido training is to develop an unaffectable mind which is always calm and free flowing. In swordsmanship, this is referred to as having an immovable mind or an non-abiding mind.

When a person engages us, if we react to their advances then we are mindless. If we have  equanimity then we can be mindful and thus choose the appropriate course of action.

This kind of mindfulness is necessary in Aikido based on O’Sensei’s philosophy of non-violence. Furuya Sensei explained it:

Aikido has the effectiveness to throw the opponent but, we have decided that in order for it to be real Aikido, it must express a goodness, respect and nobility for life that does not allow us to use excessive violence or a “by any means necessary” attitude.

Being very aware of what we do, we become aware of the consequences and seek to achieve a higher level of existence in this world and within our lives to become good human begins, we are then practicing Aikido as a “do.”

The power thus comes from being a stone warrior who’s mindfully aware and who always acts with appropriate action. This what we strive for and this is one of the true secrets of Aikido training.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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!”

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.”

 

 

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.

“We emphasize modesty and humility in our practice, but some students do not appreciate the spiritual aspects of the art and look at others as objects or toy to be played with, no considerate of the feelings of others.

Indeed, we live in a ‘me, me, me’ society and approve of selfish behavior. Losing the spirit of practice and the meaning of Aikido, the art itself becomes another common tool for one’s self-promotion and constant quest for power, authority and recognition. We must see such arrogance and egotism as the acts of those who are spiritually destitute and have lost their way from the path of Aikido. What to do, it is really so sad.

Aikido practice, indeed, takes much courage, patience, commitment and wisdom.”

– Rev. Kensho Furuya

 

Mind Your Manners

Mr. Miyagi from the movie The Karate Kid said, “No such thing as bad student, only bad teacher. Teacher say, student do.” This thinking is not that far off from tradition Japanese values. There is a famous Japanese proverb “kodomo wa oya no kagami” (子供は親の鏡) or that “children are a reflection of their parents.”

As student’s of Aikido, we are mago-deshi to O’Sensei. Mago means grand like in grandson and deshi means student. We are mago-deshi because we can trace our lineage back to O’Sensei. However because we are all mago-deshi we must act like direct student’s of O’Sensei.

As Aikidoist and martial artists, it is believed that how we conduct ourselves is a reflection on our dojo, our teacher, our art, on Hombu dojo and O’Sensei. All Japanese martial arts follow this same line of thinking.

Warriors are supposed to be experts in kokkifukurei or self-restraint in all matters of etiquette and decorum.  A famous proverb is Yaiba ni tsuyoki mono wa rei ni suguru” which means that the greatest warriors surpass all others in etiquette and decorum.

Beyond what one’s physical body can do, one’s character is paramount or as Voltaire said, “With great power, come great responsibility.” Furuya Sensei said it best, “Always act as if your teacher is watching.” Be careful how you act, it is a reflection of more than just you.

 

 

Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday

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!