七転び八起き Nanakorobi yaoki Fall down seven times and stand up eight

Furuya Sensei used to say, "To step off the path even a step takes a million miles to get back."  The hardest part about the Way is living it.  Living the Way means living our lives with conviction by a set of rules, boundaries or codes of conduct that we will do our best not to break.  Being resolved to live a certain way is easy to say but extremely hard to do.  It is easy to say, "I don't do" this thing or that thing but quite another to put it into practice.  The samurai referred to this practice of conviction as bushi no ichi-gon or "a warrior says one thing."  This warriors code dictates that we are resolved to make our actions, words and thoughts be in alignment with each other.  The honest truth is that I probably spend more time failing and stepping off the path than I do staying on the path, but that is human nature.

The proverb "Fall seven times and stand up eight" is usually depicted with a Daruma doll that has kind of a wobbly shape called okiagari in Japanese.  Oki means to get up and agari means to rise.  None of us are perfect, but what we can be perfect at is getting back up once we have fall down- Aikido can be thought of as the physical manifestation of this practice.

There is only one defeat and that is giving up.  At any given moment, we get the chance to do it better.  We can choose to step back on the path and choose to do better.  For me, my personal mantra is "I seek only to improve" and that helps me get back up and dust myself off and begin again.  That is all any of us have and that is all any of us need - the courage to try again.  One of the few things that separates humans from animals is the opportunity to change.  The lion doesn't have a choice to stalk, kill and eat his prey- it is in his nature.  It is in our nature to change, adapt and overcome.  It is in our nature to be better.  The Way is hard, but nobody said it was easy.