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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


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.



Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday Furuya Sensei posted this to his Daily Message on November 19, 2002. His statements ring true today more than ever. We as martial artist must strive to be better.

I think that the very basis of civilization and ultimately our own survival is that we can get along with each other. As far as we have advanced in science, medicine, technology, finance, the arts and education, we still do not do this very well at all. Why do you think this is so? Why do you think that it is so hard for us to get along with each other? We don't even get along with many people we like and love sometimes! It is really quite amazing if you think about it. Even the simple ant has evolved their own social structure and monkeys do not even have all the problems we suffer from. In Aikido, we talk about harmony and blending, we probably need to go into this idea much, much more than we really do.

Sometimes, the simplest and most fundamental questions are the hardest to answer. We still must try very hard - our lives depend upon it!

The victory is yours.

Osensei throw copyThere is a Buddhist saying which some attribute to the Buddha that I am fond of, "It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles.  Then the victory is yours." This saying is very much budo inspiring.  Today, so much time is spent talking about what is "real" or true in the martial arts with practitioners on both sides claiming that their way is the best or only way.

Both arguments are hollow.  The only true way is the way that one truly follows.  All else is just talk and babble which distracts us from the real reality of actually following it.  I am talking about actually living it as best we can.

The Way or do (道) as it is referred to in Japanese traditional arts may be interpreted as a path, but more over its is the direction by which one lives their life.

Following the Way is a doing thing which requires action not a talking thing which can easily be taken over by one's ego.  The Spanish proverb, "Who knows most speaks least." is apropos to budo.

Shall we talk about it?  Shall we even fight with each other about it?  Both of those things distract us from the true battle which exists within.

Furuya Sensei used to say, "The Way is in training."  Training is a doing thing.  It takes so much focus and concentration that any little distraction like spending time discussing or arguing about it only leads us away from the Way.  Sensei didn't say the Way is in talking he said, "The Way is in training."  Training is a doing thing.

Don't get caught up in finger pointing or chest beating, none of which matters.  Who is truly following the Way will be evident by their actions and not by what they say.

The one true way is the one that we follow in thought, speech and in action.  Everything else is just a distraction.

Some days are sunny, some days are cloudy

samurai rain copyIn every warrior's training, a little rain must fall.  I would love to tell students that throughout their training career they will only experience fun, excitement, joy and happiness.  The truth of the matter is that at some point every person is confronted with some adversity and will have some difficulty at some time or another. Some people are very smart intellectually and will struggle physically.  Some people are very gifted physically but will struggle mentally or emotionally.  Some people get hurt while some people hurt others.  Regardless everyone struggles with something.

The obstacles that we encounter are the training.  Our struggles are our truths and thus the Way is in the struggle.

If everyone struggles, then what should they do when that happens?  Here are some general suggestions for people when we find that we are struggling.

Be patient.  Learn to push yourself.  Find other ways to train yourself.  Learn to forgive. Seek out help.  Believe.  Trust.  And most of all don't give up.

I could elaborate on each of these but I am choosing not to.  Think of them as koans for your personal growth.  If you can come up with your own definitions or elaborations for the suggestions above you will have solved your own problems and you will come to understand that the struggle is the Way.

What do you do when you think nobody's looking.

trashWhen we look at a long time practitioner of budo we see nothing. We see nothing because there is nothing to be seen.  A person of budo follows the way of budo for themselves.

True budo is nothing more than seeing a piece of paper on the floor, picking it up and disposing of it properly.  Nobody will ever see us do it and therefore nobody will ever know that we did - only we will know.  At budo's highest level, we perform the task without thought.  There, the path of budo is the path of "no-minded" integrity.  Furuya Sensei called it, "The place where the self disappears."

It is "no-minded" because we want to reach a level where we barely even know we are doing it.

Nobody will ever know what it is we do or for that matter what it is that we can do because it is hidden.  Only we will know and we alone have to live with it.

To follow the path of budo means that who we are is the same person regardless of who is watching or what the circumstance might be.  Therefore if we see a piece of paper on the ground, we must dispose of it properly and almost without thought.  If one has to think about it, it is not yet budo.

To think is to discriminate between right and wrong or how it helps us pay homage to our  egos.  That moment of discrimination is the gap between non-budo and budo.

Please do whatever it is you do just to do it without thought of recognition or reward - this is true budo.

Flashback Friday: Pay attention

attentionFlashback Friday: Please enjoy this article Furuya Sensei posted to his Yahoo group on September 23, 2004. In Aikido, one of the greatest skills to develop is to be able to think clearly and assess the situation without bias - this is essential to act correctly and do the right thing to protect one's self and others.  This is one reason why, in traditional martial arts, they continually talk about mushin or "no mind" which really means "unbiased mind" or "clear mind."  Today, we don't realize how important it is to think clearly.

When you ask a question, please think.  When I answer you, I think long and hard before I answer so that I can give people the best answer.  I look at everything from the standpoint of training.  I am not concerned with my popularity or the politics or what I can do to buy your favor.

As much as I consider my answer to you, you must consider the question you ask and what the answer means.   This is the simple basic, process of learning and education.

Just to ask me questions to satisfy a passing curiosity or to gossip does no one any good at all.

Some people ask me questions and I immediately realize that they have not been paying attention.

Endless discussion about this and that and how much of this really pertains to your practice?  How much of the questions you ask really will help you with your understanding of what you do during training?

Looking at how one handles their sword, we can immediately determine their skill before they even draw it.  When a student bows into the mat before practice, one can quickly tell where their mind is.  By the questions some people ask, one can immediately tell where this is going.

Please remember that this group as well as my Daily Message is an extension of my dojo and I am here to teach you Aikido.  Please pay attention, as you would in class. . . . Oops!  I shouldn't say that - Please pay good attention more than you usually do.  Pay attention like you are facing a lion (I am just a pussycat, really) who will leap and attack you if you make the wrong move!

Hahah!  Have a good day today!


We are not alone...

friends We are not alone...

Sounds like a sci-fi title or some tag line to a bad movie about aliens, but the fact of the matter is that we are not alone and nothing is ever achieved or accomplished alone.  It's wonderful to think that we alone score the winning goal, achieve enlightenment on our own or get good at Aikido alone, but the reality is that no matter what is done, accomplished or won, we had help.  I read an interesting article about a book coming out called the Powers of Two in which the author contends that everything that has ever been done was done as a partnership.  In the article the author was spending time refuting the idea of the lone genius.  The lone genius would be someone who came about as a result of solely their own efforts.  Of course this is not true because from the moment we are born we are nurtured, protected and fed by someone else.  Therefore we are never alone and we never get it done by ourselves.

Aikido is the same.  Everything we achieve and experience is done as a cooperative.  We only get good as a result of someone helping us.  In a a big way, people help us by taking our ukemi or because some other person teaches us.  In smaller terms, someone made the cotton which was then turned into the uniform that we then bought so that we could do Aikido.  Either way our experience of Aikido came as a result of cooperation.

Upon realizing that the world turns only because of this cooperation we can begin to learn gratefulness and compassion.  We are grateful because we need the cooperation, kindness and compassion of others just to exist let alone do Aikido.  We are compassionate because we realize that they sacrifice for our benefit.  This never ending cycle of gratefulness and compassion is what Aikido is all about.  O Sensei called it love.

There is an old Japanese proverb, "No road is too long in the company of friends."  Please remember that you are not alone and to be not only grateful for the sacrifice and kindness of others, but to be also compassionate to them as well.  This is what Aikido is all about.

Don't give up!

dustちりも積もれば山となるChiri mo tsumoreba yama to naru "Even specks of dust over time become mountains."

"Don't give up!"  This is probably the best advice that anyone has ever given me.

So many times when we come up against our own mountains we become disheartened or disenchanted.  This disillusionment can cause us to lose sight of the bigger picture which is that every one of us starts out as a beginner and with time, patience and determination we get better.

"Don't give up!" means seeing the entire road and not just its impediments.

There is a saying in budo, "Bushi to kogane wa kyukei shite mo kuchinu" which means that gold and warriors may rest but never decay.  As martial artists we fight battles everyday against apathy and contentment.

"Don't give up!" is the battle cry of the specks of dust which over time pile up to become mountains.

"Don't give up!" because the only way to get better at whatever we are doing is to keep going - no matter what.

I promise, you will get better as long as you keep going and never give up.


A warrior always under promises and over produces.

Kick copy A warrior always under promises and over produces.

Bushi no ichigon comes from the Japanese proverb Bushi no ichigon kintetsu no gotoshi which means "The single word from a warrior is as unbreakable as the bond formed when gold and iron are combined."

Martial artists are supposed to be upright people of principle.  If we say we are going to do something then we do it.

This idea of bushi no ichigon is a work in progress for most of us.  When I was a student, I used to get into trouble all the time.  One of the main reasons why Furuya Sensei would have to scold me was because I "over promised and under produced."  Whenever he would ask me to do something, I would always say yes because I wanted him to like me and think favorably of me.  What I didn't understand was that Sensei was a "do-er."  He liked to get things done and if he asked me to do something it meant that he wanted me to get it done no matter what.  It only took a few hundred scoldings to realize this and stop doing it.

This idea of over promising and under producing is something that I see a lot in new students as well.  With just a cursory understanding of Aikido and the commitment that it take to master it, they always over estimate themselves.  This is not a bad thing per se, but it can lead to misunderstandings, miscommunications and hurt feelings.

It takes a long time to understand one's self and to gain the skill of maintaining healthy boundaries in order to practice bushi no ichigon.  When we understand ourselves better and maintain healthy boundaries, we can then fulfill the things that we say that we will do.

"With our thoughts, we make the world." - Unknown

karate chop "We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world." - Unknown

I am often asked, "What is the best way to learn?"  Truth be told, there is no substitute for going to class.

One should do their best to be present and focused as to what is being taught when one is in class.  The two basic ways to be a better learner is to listen carefully and watch diligently.

Listening carefully seems obvious but how many of us actually drift off.  I know I do and it can be a constant struggle to keep my ears from tuning out.  Listening carefully enables us to "hear" what is being taught.

Watching diligently shouldn't be that hard but like listening, we also sometimes zone out and miss what the teacher is teaching.  Our eyes glaze over and we actually don't see what is being taught.  Watching diligent enables us to "see" what is being taught.

Listening and watching are a given as to what is necessary to learn, but just because we understand their importance doesn't mean we can do it.

One of the best ways to listen carefully and watch diligently is to use active positive self-talk.  When the teacher demonstrates the technique, follow along in your mind and say the steps to yourself using the same cuing or directions that the teacher is emphasizing.  The words or cuing we use should be short one to two words per step.  For instance, the teacher says, "Slide in, turn, step back." As you watch the demonstration, you mutter the words silently to yourself.  With this type of self-talk, we are  imprinting the technique into our minds with the proper steps.

This active talk actually enables us to engage our minds, clarify the right behavior and decrease the amount of negative chatter in our minds (notice I used the word positive before).  "We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world" is an often miss-attributed to the Buddha but it's still appropriator here.  Using active positive self-talk enables us to learn Aikido properly and thus make our own world. 

So when you talk to yourself, what do you say?  Be mindful to be active but also to be kind and compassionate to yourself as well.




The greatest things are accomplished by ordinary people























Furuya Sensei believed that Aikido is egalitarian - open to anyone willing to put in the work.

When we think about accomplishment, sometimes we think that only people with super-human like gifts are able to reach the highest pinnacles.  Sometimes this is true in that the JFK's of the world with the opportunity, pedigree and prowess are successful.

However, in more times than not, the person who reaches the highest summit is usually just a seemingly average person, but under that ordinary exterior they posses the drive, determination and perseverance to succeed.

Strong, fast, young, athletic, flexible, good-looking or wealthy doesn't get one out of bed nor does it motivate them to go to class especially when they don't want to.  The catalyst for success is a mixture of having the drive to go and do something, the determination to do it and the perseverance to keep going in spite of obstacles.  Drive, determination and perseverance know no gender, age, athleticism, or socioeconomic background.

We are all the same - we all suffer, are all lonely, are all insecure and we all must put in the work to accomplish something.  Aikido is egalitarian because only those seemingly ordinary people who are willing to put themselves out there, put in the work and keep going despite the odds get good.

Mokuso - to look inward in silent contemplation

child mokuso  








Before class begins, students should clear their minds so that they are ready to learn.  To clear one's mind and look inward in silent contemplation is called mokuso (黙想).  Here is a nice article written by Furuya Sensei about the need to be in right mindset in order to learn.


Look & Listen by Rev. Kensho Furuya

Nowadays, I don't think there is anything more important in practice than to look hard and listen carefully.  One must not only focus on their teacher but also be aware of everything around that is happening in practice and in the dojo which might be related to practice. When it comes to idle gossip and chit-chat, just run away as fast as you can! But even the slightest hint of instruction, clue or hint to improve your practice, catch it right away and don't lose it or forget it!

This is a very important skill to develop, not only for one’s Aikido, but in every aspect of daily life.

More often than not, people do not understand because of what they are hearing or seeing is too difficult to understand.  This is merely because they are not listening closely enough or seeing hard enough. Much of the time, we are so filled with our own ideas and conclusions that there is no room in their heads for anything else. Much of the time, however, we are just not there in the present. Many times, good Aikido is just the result of paying attention and following the instructions and practicing earnestly, sincerely and with awareness.

The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek. - Joseph Campbell

cave 1

"There is nothing noble in being superior to some other person. True nobility is being superior to your former self."  ~Hindu proverb

It is said that all paths lead to the same top of the mountain.  This Hindu proverb has the same connotation as O Sensei's, Masakatsu, Agatsu or "The true victory is the victory over one's self."  The only real opponent that exists is you.  This can be a hard concept for some to realize.  For many it takes a long time to fully realize let alone actualize.  We are sometimes our own worst enemies.  When we can realize this, the real battle begins and that opponent knows all of our moves and tricks.

How do we begin this battle?  This hard fought battle begins with first accepting that the only opponent that exists is you.  Secondly we now have to undertake the journey within.  Mythologist Joseph Campbell referenced this journey when he said,  "The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek."  This was the basis for the scene in Empire Strike's Back where Luke enters the cave on Dagobah.  Next, the battle begins as we struggle with the truths of who we are and who we have become.  It is a struggle because some of those things may be painful or uncomfortable.  Finally, we come to a place where we have to let go.  We let go because the resistance we put forth will become too heavy of a burden.   At this final stage we should feel a bit lighter as the burdens we have carried for so long are lifted.  When the battle is through the things that burdened us or blurred the path will no longer be relevant and thus we can now move freely.  This unencumbered movement is the goal of every great martial art and that is why O Sensei said, Masakatsu, Agatsu  or that "The true victory is the victory over one's self."

Photo credit:Joey Mason Art

How badly do you want it?

7 samurai  




Mitori-geiko (見取り稽古) is a style of learning used in Japanese traditional arts.

Mitori-geiko literally translates as mitori or "to sketch" and geiko or "to practice" but the nuanced  meaning is to learn something by watching and copying.

Today, most martial arts are experiential in nature in that one needs to do them to learn them.  However, this hands-on type of learning wasn't the case for centuries.

In the past most students learned mitori-geiko style in which their teachers didn't actually let them do the art for a long period of time.  Most had to clean and care for the teacher for a long  time and just watch the teacher perform the art.  After a long period of time, which I think was to vet the student's dedication, earnestness, honesty and loyalty, the teacher started to actually "teach" the student and allow them to do the art.

Today especially in the west, we don't have that luxury for a myriad of reasons to do that.  Students want to do the art and not just watch.  However, sometimes a special opportunity arises for a student to take their training, for a short period of time, back down this traditional route.

Usually this happens when a student gets injured or can't physically practice.  When a student gets injured, they usually don't come to class.  However, if a student is dedicated enough then they will show up and watch.  Most think this is somehow beneath them so most don't do this.  If a student does show up and mitori-geiko then they get the opportunity to, as they say in martial arts, develop their eye.  To develop one's eye means to learn how to see things from this art's perspective.  From this vantage point a wealth of information opens that might have been hidden while one was in the act of doing it.

In this world, our perspective is determined by how we "see" the world.  We can either choose to see something as a benefit or a detriment.  Looking at an injury as just another "way" to train enables us to use it for our own benefit.

Mitori-geiko is a wonderful opportunity to use an adversity in a positive way as we develop our eye and possibly see something that we have never seen before while at the same time demonstrating our true dedication.


Comfort is the enemy of achievement

sensei teaching bokken  









Furuya Sensei teaching a beginners bokken class in the old dojo.

Day 2 of our Weapons seminar.

Please pay attention and work hard, but most of all don't be so hard on yourself.  Showing up is  half the battle.  If we show up, we are already 50% better than the person who didn't.  So even if we learned only one thing we are miles of ahead of the average person who is still sleeping in their bed.  Remember, comfort is the enemy of achievement.

Tonight we are having a party at the dojo.  Everyone is welcome to attend.  If you are reading this, I would love for you to come.  Let it go and come by. 6:00 PM 1211 N. Main Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012


Be vulnerable

o sensei sword  















Starting tonight our dojo will host a weapons seminar that caters to beginners.   Weapons are something that most Aikidoists find daunting, boring and at times mysterious.  Weapons skill can sometimes feel like it just came out of the ethos and that one needs to be a genius in order to master them.

This anxiety about weapons, or anything foreign for that matter, can either be a cause for anxiety or excitement.  How one perceives the situation dictates how they will experience it.

Werifesteria - To wander longingly through the forest in search of mystery.

I saw this word on the internet that made me think about learning and how we approach it.

By all accounts, werifesteria is actually a made up word.  A close Japanese equivalent for werifesteria might be yugen (幽玄) which I loosely translate as the mystery of something which makes it beautiful.

When we are in a forest rummaging around, there comes this point where we realize the beauty in that moment but somehow we can't quite put our finger on what it is that makes it beautiful - That is yugen.  To be in the state of yugen requires that we be vulnerable.

When I talk about vulnerability, I don't mean vulnerability from the standard definition of being easily hurt or attacked.  I mean that to experience yugen one must be in a state of openness which allows for the yugen to occur.

When we are open and willing, the world seems to open up and the experience of yugen just emerges.

Furuya Sensei used to say, "The only qualification a student needs is the right attitude."  The "right" attitude means allowing ourselves to be open and willing to learn or in other words to be vulnerable.

Brene Brown said, "Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”  When we partake in this seminar, we will all be changing.  If we allow ourselves, who we are at the beginning will not be who we are at the end.  Therefore, based on Brene Brown's definition, we need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable.

If you are able to be vulnerable then what you don't know (aka the mystery) will somehow become beautiful or for lack of a better word - awesome.

I almost can't explain it.  When you find yourself getting nervous or anxious, just give yourself a smile, take a deep breath and say to yourself, "be vulnerable."  If you can do all three of those things then your experience will change and I guarantee that you will have a much better experience.

I wish you all a wonderfully vulnerable seminar!



Can you enryo?

sensei poseTbt: I found a nice snippet written by Furuya Sensei on enryo or modest restraint.

I think today we admire people who go out and get anything they want or can.  To me, some appear too forward, too aggressive and a little pushy.  But I suppose as long as they themselves are happy it doesn't matter much.  This goes for teachers as well as students.  In Japanese, at least the older times, we spoke of "enryo" (遠慮).  Enryo means to hesitate or show modesty or restraint.  

The other day, I spoke of the immediacy of one's answer, "hai," to establish this mental-spiritual connection with the other person.  We also see this connection with the other person having enryo by showing hesitation and modesty in their actions.  When someone offers something, we used to politely refuse several times before accepting to show our modesty and level of self-restraint. To simply grab what is offered without this little pause of polite ceremony was considered crass and rude by Japanese standard.  Some Japanese today say that this gesture is too complicated and takes too much time.  For me, it is still a beautiful sentiment.  It means that you really care for the other person and hesitate only to make sure of the other person's feelings.

Training is very complicated.  Sometimes we must answer quickly but sometimes we hesitate to show who we are and that we are not being too forward or pushy.  When we see the other person hesitate in this way with the feeling that they are not trying to offend us, it can really be touching and we respect this person much more.  Anyone can grab at what they want, but few can put others before themselves. Aikido training can not only make us strong, but I think it is also to make us very beautiful people too. 

Written February 3, 2002.

Either you win or you learn

sumo throw copy  








"Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn." - John C. Maxwell

If you are a Cleveland or Golden State fan, last night's game 7 was a real nail bitter.  Today, depending on which side you are on, you are either happy or sad.

In the martial arts, we don't get the luxury of being either way.  The way we see it is just as John C. Maxwell asserts, "Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn."

In Buddhism, this mindset is called equanimity.  In swordsmanship it's called a non-abiding mind.  Either way, we cannot allow ourselves to be swayed one way or another.  When you win, great!  When you lose, great!  Regardless of the outcome, the situation allows us the opportunity for growth.

Victories only live on in books and martial artists understand the fleetingness of winning and, for that matter, losing.  We understand that the journey of life is a process of growth and self development where at any time or with any outcome we have the opportunity to learn something.  If we think for one moment that who we are is defined by that moment, we run the risk of losing our way.




Ubuntu = Aikido

image Interesting graphic. At its core Ubuntu's philosophy is the same as Aikido's. As Aikidoists, we choose the path of Aikido because we too understand this philosophy of humanity. Aikidoists understand that all people are good and doing the best that they can. We understand that every person is suffering and going through their own stuff. Every person deserves kindness, compassion and forgiveness just as we do too when we make a mistake. To destroy them is to destroy our own humanity too and thus a vicious cycle ensues. When the people of the tribe surround the person who made the mistake and remind them of all the good they have done, they are doing Aikido and are breaking the cycle of negativity.