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Go out and slay that Monday!

Gouma (降魔) in Japanese means “To conquer the devil.” Mondays really do feel like that sometimes, don’t they?

 

The devil in this sense is the devil which exists inside all of us.

One of the hardest things to realize is that our life is our own. Other people, things or events can influence our lives but they don’t control them. Those things merely inform our decisions.

Our greatest gift is that we have the power to choose. At any given time we can choose our perspective and our actions. Exercising choice means taking control.

Life’s journey is supposed to be arduous. Nothing good comes easy, but that doesn’t mean it has to be torturous either. The easiest way to make an arduous path more sufferable is to change the way we see it. We cannot know with any amount of certainty where the path of our lives will take us nor do we know how this will factor into our future. Therefore, because of this uncertainty, we can choose to see it any way we want. Choosing to see something in a more positive light enables us to create alignment with it and with who we are and where our lives are going.

In Aikido, one of the main tenets is to create alignment with not only our opponent’s energy but also with their perspective. It is easier to give them compassion when we can see what they see and where they are coming from.

To conquer the devil, is to align, redirect and use our devil’s power to our advantage and reach our greatest heights.

Have a great Monday!

 

 

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!

 

“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

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

What do you get to do?

jackToday, we are at a most unprecedented time in history. Never before have we been given the freedom that so many of us enjoy today to do whatever we want and be whoever we want. Because we have this freedom it is our responsibility not to waste it. When Japanese people see something being wasted they say, “Mottainai.” Mottainai is almost a sacrilegious feeling that something is being wasted.

Here is something I read that inspires me to be more productive:

If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep you are richer than 75% of the world.

If you have money in the bank, your wallet, and some spare change you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness you are more blessed than the million people who will not survive this week.

If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the agony of imprisonment or torture, or the horrible pangs of starvation you are luckier than 500 million people alive and suffering.

If you can read this message you are more fortunate than 3 billion people in the world who cannot read it at all.

We often lose sight of things that we already have. We are lucky. We get to spend our time the way we want to. We choose budo thus we must throw ourselves into our practice because there are many who would like to but don’t have the opportunity, resources or capabilities to do so.

Don’t waste! Don’t let this day go away lightly, spend it wisely.

 

Take control

jackThere is a great saying from the movie Sanjuro, “The best swords are the ones that are kept in their scabbards.” At the heart of all martial arts training comes the understanding that our minds are our greatest weapons and simultaneously our worst enemies. In the Japanese traditional arts, the highest level one can attain is the ability to show restraint. A master is supposed to be someone who has kokkifukurei or the ability to demonstrate their skills in decorum and etiquette but more importantly their ability to exercise self restraint at all times. Restraint can only come after years and years of training. Restraint is the ability to do the right thing at the right time which one might call seido in Japanese or precision in English. Learn to control yourself and your emotions so that other people cannot control you.

 

I can do it!

i-can-do-itThis is a very interesting picture.  To me the “Which Step Have You Reached Today” isn’t so much about where have you reached today but rather where are you as a martial artist on any given day.  As martial artists we are never at the “I won’t do it” or “I can’t do it” stages.  It is not in our nature to be defeated before we even start.  As martial artists we are typically at the “How do you do that?” stage as our baseline.  From there at any given moment during our training we vacillate somewhere between trying, doing and succeeding.  Martial artists are doers and we tend to set a goal, figure out a way to succeed and set about doing it.  That is the nature of training.

At what stage are you at today?

Spend your days well

archery光陰矢のごとし
Kouin yanogotoshi
“Time flies like an arrow.”

Before his passing, Furuya Sensei would often say, “There is no time left.” By the time I understood his admonishment, he was gone.  So much time has passed since those times.

Upon realizing his words, the questions arise, “what will we do with our lives?” and “How will we live them?”

If there is truly no time left then life itself as we know is fleeting – It is passing us by as we speak.  Understating this reality in Buddhism is called mujo or impermanence.

To understand budo is to understand death. Death, not in its morbidness, but in its impermanence and this inevitability teaches us how to live our lives. The glass can be either half full or half empty.

To see the fleetingness of life as something bad then we are looking at the glass as half empty. To see the glass as half full, we are realizing how in which to live our lives with what little precious time we have left.

Time does fly like an arrow, but we get to choose how and what we aim it at. What do you want to do? Who do you want to be? Time truly does fly by. Spend your days well for tomorrow may never come.