Happy Fourth of July Holiday!
“We also call this ‘Independence Day’ – why do we call it this, do you still remember – learning this is your old school days?
We think we are “independent” and have the right to be free and we think we can realize this all by ourselves by exerting our “free will.” In some ways, this is quite true.
On Independence Day, we remember all of the hundreds and thousands of people, over how many years, who have fought and died and sacrificed themselves, just so we can enjoy such freedoms and liberties today. We think we are independent but in actuality we owe this to so many others and we don’t even know all of their names or faces to say, “thank you.” True independence is the harmony between ourselves and others around us. True independence is to realize the perfect harmony of how we are a part of the greater plan of Nature. To think that we stand alone and are “independent” in this world all by ourselves is only a distorted fantasy. . . . . We refine this understanding more deeply in our Aikido practice on the mats.”
– Rev. Kensho Furuya
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.”
“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
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 relationship between Wisdom, Love and Power. Wisdom without Love and Power would be cruel and weak. Power without Wisdom and Love would be dangerous and selfish, and Love without Power and Wisdom would be victimized and foolish. In our hearts we must learn how to find and join all three of these virtues.”
– Suzanne Lie
Wow! What a wonderful quote. This could be the definition of true budo. A true warrior is at the junction of all three of these. It takes great balance and depth of character to properly and responsibly wield the power that a warrior possess.
If you think studying the martial arts is about crushing others, you are sorely mistaken. It is much much more than that.
“When you think you’re safe is precisely when you’re most vulnerable.”
– Kambei Shimada, Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai
No win is ever permanent. With victory sometimes comes arrogance. That arrogance brings with it a sense of righteousness where we think that either the end of the battle is the end or that we are somehow invincible.
All warfare is based on some form of deception, misdirection or sleight of hand. Sometimes the win is just the calm before the storm or a rouse our opponents uses to gain the overall victory. In martial arts this type of technique is a sutemi-waza or sacrifice technique. We give up something small to get something even bigger.
There is a Japanese saying that Furuya Sensei was fond of, “Katte kara kabuto no o wo shime yo” which means After victory, tighten your helmet. Never let your guard down even if you think you have won. That just might be what your opponent wants you to think.
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?”
The author, Haruki Murakami said, “When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
As Furuya Sensei used to say, “The Way is in training.” The goal of training is serenity. The path to serenity is training. Training itself is serenity.
What we are trying to achieve by training in the martial arts is not the ability to destroy others but rather the ability to control ourselves so that we don’t have to. We seek to be the calm in the eye of the storm.
When confronted, it is easy to lash out and use our darker more negative self to win, but after a while one realizes that the true opponent lies within. It takes a more evolved and more sophisticated person to realize where the real battle lies.
Yoda once said, “That which you seek, inside you will find.” Serenity is that thing we all seek. Training is serenity. Serenity is the path. The path is serenity. “The Way is in training.” Keep on training because training is the Way.
“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!