Tag Archives: Aikido

“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!

The victory is yours.

Osensei throw copyThere is a Buddhist saying which some attribute to the Buddha that I am fond of, “It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles.  Then the victory is yours.”

This saying is very much budo inspiring.  Today, so much time is spent talking about what is “real” or true in the martial arts with practitioners on both sides claiming that their way is the best or only way.

Both arguments are hollow.  The only true way is the way that one truly follows.  All else is just talk and babble which distracts us from the real reality of actually following it.  I am talking about actually living it as best we can.

The Way or do (道) as it is referred to in Japanese traditional arts may be interpreted as a path, but more over its is the direction by which one lives their life.

Following the Way is a doing thing which requires action not a talking thing which can easily be taken over by one’s ego.  The Spanish proverb, “Who knows most speaks least.” is apropos to budo.

Shall we talk about it?  Shall we even fight with each other about it?  Both of those things distract us from the true battle which exists within.

Furuya Sensei used to say, “The Way is in training.”  Training is a doing thing.  It takes so much focus and concentration that any little distraction like spending time discussing or arguing about it only leads us away from the Way.  Sensei didn’t say the Way is in talking he said, “The Way is in training.”  Training is a doing thing.

Don’t get caught up in finger pointing or chest beating, none of which matters.  Who is truly following the Way will be evident by their actions and not by what they say.

The one true way is the one that we follow in thought, speech and in action.  Everything else is just a distraction.

Some days are sunny, some days are cloudy

samurai rain copyIn every warrior’s training, a little rain must fall.  I would love to tell students that throughout their training career they will only experience fun, excitement, joy and happiness.  The truth of the matter is that at some point every person is confronted with some adversity and will have some difficulty at some time or another.

Some people are very smart intellectually and will struggle physically.  Some people are very gifted physically but will struggle mentally or emotionally.  Some people get hurt while some people hurt others.  Regardless everyone struggles with something.

The obstacles that we encounter are the training.  Our struggles are our truths and thus the Way is in the struggle.

If everyone struggles, then what should they do when that happens?  Here are some general suggestions for people when we find that we are struggling.

Be patient.  Learn to push yourself.  Find other ways to train yourself.  Learn to forgive.
Seek out help.  Believe.  Trust.  And most of all don’t give up.

I could elaborate on each of these but I am choosing not to.  Think of them as koans for your personal growth.  If you can come up with your own definitions or elaborations for the suggestions above you will have solved your own problems and you will come to understand that the struggle is the Way.

What do you do when you think nobody’s looking.

trashWhen we look at a long time practitioner of budo we see nothing.

We see nothing because there is nothing to be seen.  A person of budo follows the way of budo for themselves.

True budo is nothing more than seeing a piece of paper on the floor, picking it up and disposing of it properly.  Nobody will ever see us do it and therefore nobody will ever know that we did – only we will know.  At budo’s highest level, we perform the task without thought.  There, the path of budo is the path of “no-minded” integrity.  Furuya Sensei called it, “The place where the self disappears.”

It is “no-minded” because we want to reach a level where we barely even know we are doing it.

Nobody will ever know what it is we do or for that matter what it is that we can do because it is hidden.  Only we will know and we alone have to live with it.

To follow the path of budo means that who we are is the same person regardless of who is watching or what the circumstance might be.  Therefore if we see a piece of paper on the ground, we must dispose of it properly and almost without thought.  If one has to think about it, it is not yet budo.

To think is to discriminate between right and wrong or how it helps us pay homage to our  egos.  That moment of discrimination is the gap between non-budo and budo.

Please do whatever it is you do just to do it without thought of recognition or reward – this is true budo.

Flashback Friday: Pay attention

attentionFlashback Friday: Please enjoy this article Furuya Sensei posted to his Yahoo group on September 23, 2004.

In Aikido, one of the greatest skills to develop is to be able to think clearly and assess the situation without bias – this is essential to act correctly and do the right thing to protect one’s self and others.  This is one reason why, in traditional martial arts, they continually talk about mushin or “no mind” which really means “unbiased mind” or “clear mind.”  Today, we don’t realize how important it is to think clearly.

When you ask a question, please think.  When I answer you, I think long and hard before I answer so that I can give people the best answer.  I look at everything from the standpoint of training.  I am not concerned with my popularity or the politics or what I can do to buy your favor.

As much as I consider my answer to you, you must consider the question you ask and what the answer means.   This is the simple basic, process of learning and education.

Just to ask me questions to satisfy a passing curiosity or to gossip does no one any good at all.

Some people ask me questions and I immediately realize that they have not been paying attention.

Endless discussion about this and that and how much of this really pertains to your practice?  How much of the questions you ask really will help you with your understanding of what you do during training?

Looking at how one handles their sword, we can immediately determine their skill before they even draw it.  When a student bows into the mat before practice, one can quickly tell where their mind is.  By the questions some people ask, one can immediately tell where this is going.

Please remember that this group as well as my Daily Message is an extension of my dojo and I am here to teach you Aikido.  Please pay attention, as you would in class. . . . Oops!  I shouldn’t say that – Please pay good attention more than you usually do.  Pay attention like you are facing a lion (I am just a pussycat, really) who will leap and attack you if you make the wrong move!

Hahah!  Have a good day today!

 

We are not alone…

friends

We are not alone…

Sounds like a sci-fi title or some tag line to a bad movie about aliens, but the fact of the matter is that we are not alone and nothing is ever achieved or accomplished alone.  It’s wonderful to think that we alone score the winning goal, achieve enlightenment on our own or get good at Aikido alone, but the reality is that no matter what is done, accomplished or won, we had help.  I read an interesting article about a book coming out called the Powers of Two in which the author contends that everything that has ever been done was done as a partnership.  In the article the author was spending time refuting the idea of the lone genius.  The lone genius would be someone who came about as a result of solely their own efforts.  Of course this is not true because from the moment we are born we are nurtured, protected and fed by someone else.  Therefore we are never alone and we never get it done by ourselves.

Aikido is the same.  Everything we achieve and experience is done as a cooperative.  We only get good as a result of someone helping us.  In a a big way, people help us by taking our ukemi or because some other person teaches us.  In smaller terms, someone made the cotton which was then turned into the uniform that we then bought so that we could do Aikido.  Either way our experience of Aikido came as a result of cooperation.

Upon realizing that the world turns only because of this cooperation we can begin to learn gratefulness and compassion.  We are grateful because we need the cooperation, kindness and compassion of others just to exist let alone do Aikido.  We are compassionate because we realize that they sacrifice for our benefit.  This never ending cycle of gratefulness and compassion is what Aikido is all about.  O Sensei called it love.

There is an old Japanese proverb, “No road is too long in the company of friends.”  Please remember that you are not alone and to be not only grateful for the sacrifice and kindness of others, but to be also compassionate to them as well.  This is what Aikido is all about.

Don’t give up!

dustちりも積もれば山となる
Chiri mo tsumoreba yama to naru
“Even specks of dust over time become mountains.”

“Don’t give up!”  This is probably the best advice that anyone has ever given me.

So many times when we come up against our own mountains we become disheartened or disenchanted.  This disillusionment can cause us to lose sight of the bigger picture which is that every one of us starts out as a beginner and with time, patience and determination we get better.

“Don’t give up!” means seeing the entire road and not just its impediments.

There is a saying in budo, “Bushi to kogane wa kyukei shite mo kuchinu” which means that gold and warriors may rest but never decay.  As martial artists we fight battles everyday against apathy and contentment.

“Don’t give up!” is the battle cry of the specks of dust which over time pile up to become mountains.

“Don’t give up!” because the only way to get better at whatever we are doing is to keep going – no matter what.

I promise, you will get better as long as you keep going and never give up.

 

A warrior always under promises and over produces.

Kick copy

A warrior always under promises and over produces.

Bushi no ichigon comes from the Japanese proverb Bushi no ichigon kintetsu no gotoshi which means “The single word from a warrior is as unbreakable as the bond formed when gold and iron are combined.”

Martial artists are supposed to be upright people of principle.  If we say we are going to do something then we do it.

This idea of bushi no ichigon is a work in progress for most of us.  When I was a student, I used to get into trouble all the time.  One of the main reasons why Furuya Sensei would have to scold me was because I “over promised and under produced.”  Whenever he would ask me to do something, I would always say yes because I wanted him to like me and think favorably of me.  What I didn’t understand was that Sensei was a “do-er.”  He liked to get things done and if he asked me to do something it meant that he wanted me to get it done no matter what.  It only took a few hundred scoldings to realize this and stop doing it.

This idea of over promising and under producing is something that I see a lot in new students as well.  With just a cursory understanding of Aikido and the commitment that it take to master it, they always over estimate themselves.  This is not a bad thing per se, but it can lead to misunderstandings, miscommunications and hurt feelings.

It takes a long time to understand one’s self and to gain the skill of maintaining healthy boundaries in order to practice bushi no ichigon.  When we understand ourselves better and maintain healthy boundaries, we can then fulfill the things that we say that we will do.