Furuya Sensei posted this to his Daily Message on August 20, 2004:
Calligraphy by Saigo Takamori, signed by his pen name Nanshu.
Saigo Takamori is considered the “real” Last Samurai. He lived during the complex end of the Tokugawa Bakufu in the mid-1800’s. He is not famous because he was the victor or because he made a great deal of money – actually he lost the war and committed seppuku as his last troops were being defeated. All his life, he was quite poor and is known for having only one set of underwear and kimono. It is said that when they were being washed, he was naked and simply didn’t see any guests until they dried.
What he is famous for is his loyalty to what he believed in – regardless if it was the winning or losing side, despite fame or fortune and “for richer or poorer” as I have heard somewhere.
When I view his calligraphy, I see great inner strength as well as gentleness. It is easy to see in his strokes that he doesn’t not follow any popular way but is true to himself and his beliefs. This type of brush stroke is extremely hard to imitate when such a brilliant personality shines through so strongly.
Our Aikido should be the same – true to the Path and strong but at the same time gentle.
I know some of you will ask me, “How can something be strong and gentle at the same time?”
Of course – isn’t this what we are trying find out in our practice? Who can answer such a question?
To fight alone
In the end, nobody really exists but you. In philosophy this idea that no other mind exists is called Solipsism. I’m not trying to get all nihilistic here nor am I speaking about oneness in a narcissistic sense but what this idiom means is that when it comes down to it we are alone in our efforts. No one is coming to save us or going to make us better – it is solely our job to get it done.
Training in the martial arts is a solitary pursuit. We are influenced by our classmates and our teachers, but the improvements we acquire are ours alone and with that being said solely under our own power. Rarely can anyone provoke us to get out of bed or off the couch and go to class. Most times, we make an active choice to improve our lives by going out and pursuing that thing that we want.
There is an African saying, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Kogun funtou is the first part of this saying in that to get what we want we must do it under our own power. However, true change and lasting tranquility is only acquired when we share ourselves with other people. In other words, it is only when another human being enters into our world is humanity truly created. It is the same with art – it only becomes “art” when it is shared with the world.
In Aikido, this is where we come to understand the interdependent cycle of humanity. We cannot improve if we don’t do it under our own power, but man cannot evolve unless we share ourselves with others.
Furuya Sensei posted this to his Daily Message on March 4, 2004. I found it inspirational. I hope that others might too. I would like to have a mindset like the hishaku where nothing is special and live my life with the “everyday mind.”
Hei-Jo-Shin: Everyday Mind
Calligraphy by Shibayama Zenkei, Zen priest.
This is a very popular phrase in Zen and the Japanese arts and is what is aspired to as the epitome or ideal mental state. “Everyday mind” implies to our modern minds as “nothing special,” but in Zen, nothing special means “everything is special.” As everything is special, everything becomes equal in value and position and therefore, once again, nothing is special.
In this respect, it is not to pick and choose or take this and that in our lives and make it something what we deem of lesser value or importance, but to take the total whole of our lives, leaving nothing behind, and taking it one more step to a higher level. . . . .
As in the tea ceremony – the ideal is the water ladle called “hishaku” which can be used freely between hot and cold water without discriminating between the two. . . its “universal” state makes it universally important and useful. . . . . this is what is known in Zen as “freedom.”
In Zen, discrimination is not particularly wrong or condemned, it is only in our discriminating mind that we are so restricted and limited as we swing back and forth from one side of the scale to the other. . . . .
Here is a fine piece of calligraphy by Takayama Chogyu who was a writer in the Meiji period. It reads, “Sky with stars, ground with flowers, and people with love.”
As human beings our most natural tendency is love, but this concept of true love has been blurred somewhat over the years. This calligraphy espouses O Sensei’s personal philosophy of life which became the basis for Aikido.
To understand Aikido is to understand nature. With things in their most natural state, the stars need the sky, the flowers need the ground and people need love.
Aikido exists not to go against nature but to follow a way of life that is in harmony with it.
One must enter into each and every endeavor with a clear and calm mind. This tranquil mindset is called meikyoushisui (明鏡止水) in Japanese which translates to “clear and serene.” When we are agitated or upset that “forces” us out of balance and with out this balance there is no harmony. Without harmony, there can be no Aikido.
Our art requires us to see the “bigger picture.” With this expanded horizon we realize that our partner is in pain and thus is in need of compassion. With harmony we are able to choose not to destroy them but to instead help them.
The first step within any confrontation is harmony. First with yourself then with your partner.