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“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.

 

The true balance of budo

“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.

 

After victory, tighten your helmet

safe“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 yowhich 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.

The enemy of achievement is comfort

mifuneI 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?”

 

Serenity is the path.

stormThe 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.

Align yourself and leave no openings

rei

“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.

 

 

 

Go out and get it

go-get-itIf 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 today…

Start eating healthy.Go to bed early. Wake up early.
Be more grateful.
Quit your job. Find a new job.
Start exercising.
Start Aikido 😉
Stop smoking.
Ask that person out. Stop going out with that person.
Enroll in college.
Tell people what you really mean.
Go to class more often.
Etc, etc

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!

No matter what, choose to do it

ken“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.

We make each other better

For samurai-jackFor 20 years during the Sengoku period, Takeda Shingen and Uesugi Kenshin fought a series of hard fought battles. It was during this time that each cultivated a deep respect for one another. When Takeda Shingen died suddenly on the battlefield, Uesugi Kenshin supposedly wept and said, “I have lost my greatest rival, there will never be a greater hero.”  Our adversaries can be our greatest teachers. As a training partner, it is our duty to bring out the best in our partners. We owe it to them to give them a good hard practice. That doesn’t mean be a jerk. It means to push them to become better. If we are too easy they become too complacent and soft. If we are too hard they become bitter and contemptuous. Pushing them to their heights in a positive and productive way enables them to reach their true potential. It is a great honor to be a part of that process.  Be a positive force for change so that as C.S. Lewis stated, “All of hell rejoices that I am out of the fight” because I help make others better.