Tag Archives: Furuya Sensei

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!”

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.”

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!

 

“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

 

“If it was just me, I am totally free.
But what is a world, without you and me?
Although we are one, we must think of the sum,
For all, all together, – is the true One.
We want to divide and conquer as well,
With everyone fighting, all is hell.
Stop the fighting and please stop the hate,
For the sake of peace, before its too late.
To love one’s self is to love another,
We are all fathers, we are all mothers.
We, the sons and daughters of loved ones.
Share the world with one and all,
To live in harmony, is Nature’s call.”
– Rev. Kensho Furuya
 
 

Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday…

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?

Learn to “throw away”

When you look in the mirror, do you see a ghost? Sounds like an absurd question, but although many of us don’t see a ghost staring back at us in the mirror, many of us act like ghosts throughout the day.

Think about it, a ghost is caught in purgatory forced to relive some moment from their past over and over again. They hang around the same place and do the same thing.

Many of us spend our days relentlessly pursing some thing with the mindset, “If I could only get that thing then…” It is only after we acquire that thing (hopefully) that we realize its futility as we are no closer to happiness than when we started. Furuya Sensei called these things, “gendai seikatsu shukan byo” or modern lifestyle diseases.

Sensei advocated a type of “throw away” learning when he wrote, “As many people might think, learning is not a process of accumulation. This means that it is not a matter of taking and taking for one’s self. In True Learning, throw away first. Take and throw away, take and throw away. People understand taking, but not throwing away. If I were to explain it in simple terms, “throwing away” means to take a fresh start in everything you do.”

A ghost is someone who cannot “let go” and thus becomes trapped.

A true warrior knows that life is not about pushing themselves to acquire more and more but to learn how to let go of those things which hold them back.

 

The Best Teachers Are The Most Unreasonable

A few years ago, we had a person teaching for us. He was knowledgeable about his art but a woefully horrible teacher. When students would come to me to complain about him, I would tell them, “It is your job to work hard, overcome and get better despite the circumstances.” Most would quit because they couldn’t get over this person’s presentation, but the real reason is that they didn’t want to persevere and overcome the adversity.

What these people couldn’t understand is that often times, the best teacher is the one who is the most unreasonable. Sometimes the teacher’s unreasonableness is intentional such as in the case of Furuya Sensei who was a staunch disciplinarian. In other cases, it is the teachers lack of ability which forces the student to surmount the situation. Either way they have to find a way to get better. The “unreasonableness” forces the student out of their comfort zone and towards mastery.

Today, we will be getting a new President. Regardless if we voted for him or not, we are stuck with him. He appears to be unreasonable. Thus we have to find a way around him whether we like it or not. We are martial artists, no matter the situation or odds, we must have the courage to step up, face the challenge and succeed.

Accept things as they are not as they should be. Work hard, persevere and succeed.  Nobody is coming to save us, but us. The victor is not the person who sits idle and complains, but the person who keeps on going despite the situation.

2nd Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba passed away 18 years ago today

On this day in 1999, Nidai Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba passed away.

Aikido is now practiced by millions of people in over 130 countries. What an achievement! Most know that the spread of Aikido worldwide was primarily due to the efforts of 2nd Doshu. What most students of Aikido don’t know is how hard it must have been for him. I can only imagine what it must have been like to not only follow O’Sensei but to thrive as well. Having to follow Furuya Sensei and my own struggles must pale in comparison to what 2nd Doshu had to endure.

Here is a story that Sensei used to tell about 2nd Doshu when he was an uchi-deshi at hombu dojo in 1969 just after O’Sensei passed away. 2nd Doshu was under a tremendous amount of pressure. Every where he turned someone wanted something or was threatening to breakaway. People all over the world were gossiping about him or criticizing his every move. The most common belittling thing people would say was, “He is nothing like O’Sensei.” One day after Sensei overheard some Aikidoist complaining about 2nd Doshu, he became so frustrated that he confronted 2nd Doshu and said, “Why don’t you defend yourself.” 2nd Doshu calmly looked up at him and said, “Aikido people don’t do bad things or say bad things about other people.” The look on 2nd Doshu’s face must have been so reassuringly calm because at that moment Sensei was awe struck and thought to himself, “What a great man.”

Hearing that story always reminded me of this quote by Kisshomaru Ueshiba, “One becomes vulnerable when one stops to think about winning, losing, taking advantage, impressing or disregarding the opponent. When the mind stops, even for a single instant, the body freezes, and free, fluid movement is lost.”

He truly was a great man.