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.
There is a saying in budo, or “Everything begins and ends with respect” (礼に始まり礼に終わる).
Last night we hosted an outside teacher from another country. The thing which made me the happiest was how polite our students were. Everyone treated each other with respect and everyone had a good time.
For the most part, the martial arts are physical and up to a point, anyone can become skilled. Reigi-saho or etiquette is one of those things which cannot be taught but can be learned.
Being a jerk reflects poorly on your teacher, your parents, your art, your dojo and most importantly you. Be careful what you say or do because it means a lot.
A good martial artist strives to create balance. Here is an interesting take on the taiji or yin-yang symbol. It is a Japanese kamon or family crest using the properties of yin-yang or in-you in Japanese.
A martial artist with balance mentally and physically cannot be moved and thus cannot be defeated.
If we are easily swayed from one side to the other then we can be moved to a place of unbalance. At this place of unbalance, even the weakest of foes can defeat us.
Balance mentally is more important than balance physically. It is said, “Everything in life begins with a thought.” Our minds are our greatest weapons – they can defend us or defeat us. How we think is more important than what we do or what we say. Both of those are an extension of our minds.
What will it take for you to be defeated? A terse word or a insensitive glance? We don’t always have to be punched in the face to be defeated.
The goal of every great martial art is to create this balance which we call the immovable mind. An immovable mind is one of calmness and imperturbability where can nothing unbalance us.
Are you a 10? Typically when we hear this type of question, we think that the person is asking us if we are good looking. In Japanese culture, the number 10 or juu is a homophone for juubun (十分) which is intended to mean, “Replete.” Thus, the number 10 is lucky because the number 10 means to be content.
In the west, we pursue things in order to achieve or acquire happiness and thus happiness is a result of taking – I receive and thus I am happy. In Japan, contentment is often associated with living a life of purpose or meaning and happiness comes as a result of giving.
The number 10 then reminds us that true happiness is a result of finding inner contentment instead of outer attainment. Finding contentment is a result of having a living a life of meaning. To have meaning means that we “get to” share or give something with the world and with that we are grateful for the opportunity. When we have meaning, then contentment, and thus gratefulness then true happiness is not far behind. True happiness is then a function of giving from a place of contentment and not taking from a place of fear.
Are you a 10?
“If you think you’re enlightened; go home.” – Ram Dass
Ram Dass’ quote reminds us that the people closest to us, who know us the best, have the ability to put us off balance no matter how exalted we become.
The holidays can be a huge source of stress. As martial artists, we know that the ability to be calm in the midst of conflict is our greatest asset.
The Dalai Lama once said, “Peace does not mean an absence of conflicts; differences will always be there. Peace means solving these differences through peaceful means; through dialogue, education, knowledge; and through humane ways.”
“To find inner peace, be still the mind and let go. Live in the now. Breathe.” – Ryokan
To control one’s self is the source of true strength. To be able to use our minds properly is true mastery. The ability to be calm is not only the goal in budo training but the display of true power. Our training dictates that we not only be strong and powerful but also kind, compassionate, patient and forgiving. After all, it’s the holidays regardless if we are warriors or not.
I read a sign the other day, “Comfort is the enemy of achievement.” This is a quote by a businessman named Farrah Gray. In terms of budo it is spot on.
On the road to greatness, the main question is, “What are we willing to sacrifice in order to get good?” Not can we, but will we forgo things like sleep, money, food, or any other thing that causes us to be a little bit uncomfortable in order to achieve our goals? Most normal people won’t, but warriors are not normal people.
Warriors are people who stave off pleasure for purpose. People who “need” to sleep, eat or save the money will never push themselves to get good. There will always be something. Over the annals of time, the greatest opponent there has ever been and who has beaten millions of warriors has been the soft, warm and comfortable bed. Don’t let it beat you!
So the question is, “What will you sacrifice to get good?”
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Many times in life, whether we like it or not, perception is reality and budo is no different. As a warrior, we must be forever diligent and thus must be en garde at all times. We can expect to be attacked anytime we let our guard down. Therefore we cannot leave any openings.
There is a famous Japanese saying, bushi wa kuwanedo taka yoji (武士は食わねど高楊枝) which means a “A samurai, even when he has not eaten, uses a toothpick like a lord.”
Most think it means that a hungry samurai chooses pride before poverty. Another way to understand it is that if one lets on that they haven’t eaten and are hungry then they will be weak and thus an easier target for attack. The perception of weakness can then lead to a person being attacked.
In training, we constantly trying to ensure that our intentions match our reality. If we want people to think that we are respectful then we must act respectfully. If we want people to think that we are humble, we should then act with humility. Conversely, if we want people to think we are jerks then we should act like a jerk.
Like it or not, people “judge” us by the things that we say and do. Our job as martial artist is to make our actions and our words line up with our intentions.
If you want to try and save your 2016, there are 36 days left. What did we want to get done that we never got around to doing or failed to complete? Furuya Sensei used to say, “There is no time left.” Don’t waste your time putting things off for 2017 that you can start doing today. There is still time left.
Start eating healthy.Go to bed early. Wake up early.
Be more grateful.
Quit your job. Find a new job.
Start Aikido 😉
Ask that person out. Stop going out with that person.
Enroll in college.
Tell people what you really mean.
Go to class more often.
In life, there are no free lunches, shortcuts or ways to cheat. If we want something, we have to go out and get it. If you want to get good at Aikido, all you have to do is come to class. It is that simple! There are still 31 days of training left this year. Want it? Come get it!
“I took an arrow in the knee” was an old Norse saying to indicate that someone had gotten married. The arrow implies that one of the biggest decisions in one’s life isn’t necessarily made by choice.
Just after Furuya Sensei passed away, I was working with one of my older clients and was telling him about Sensei’s death. I said, “Now, I have to take over the dojo.” He stopped me and said, “No, you choose to take over the dojo.” At the time I did not think I had a “choice” but today I understand that it is what I chose to do. We can be in control or we will be controlled.
Today, in an arguably more civilized society, we are free and thus have freedom of choice. What is choice? Choice is the ability to decide to empower ourselves with what it is we want. This empowerment begins by saying, “I choose to…”
Regardless of the situation or circumstance we can always “choose” how we internally address what is going on – we give it context. In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, it is called re-framing. In Buddhism, it is called equanimity. In budo, it is called the non-abiding mind.
Today, we don’t have to do anything but we do get to choose to do whatever we want. The choice is ours.