Viewing entries tagged
O Sensei

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.

Today is National Simplicity Day.

OsenseiToday is National Simplicity Day. From the outside looking in all martial arts look very simple.  However, when we delve into them, we realize that they are actually quite complex.

When something is simple but complex, in Japanese it is called kanso ( 簡素).  For something to be kanso it must be almost outwardly simple yet be internally complex.

Most martial arts are this way.  They are always designed to be economical yet they are layered in such a way that it makes them complex.

Human beings are the same way.  When we judge people by their outward appearance, actions or speech, we run the risk of seeing them to simplistically.  We are all much deeper than we appear.

Today, as we celebrate National Simplicity day, please don't forget to look a bit deeper beyond the surface.  Henry David Thoreau said, “In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness.”





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

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!



The secret is...

sensei throw ken  








If it was easy then everyone would do it.

Training in Aikido, or any martial art for that matter, requires that one puts their all into it.  In Japanese this "all in" attitude is called isshokenmeiIsshokenmei means to put forth an effort equivalent to if one's "dear life" was at stake.  The word Isshokenmei has two different sets of kanji.  The first,  一所懸命 means to protect one's land and the other 一生懸命 means to protect life.  This one 一所懸命 is more commonly use today despite the fact that most of us don't have any land to protect.

The Japanese are huge fans of herculean efforts and almost always go with the sentimental favorite over the "big" guy.  One can see this in the creation of all of the Japanese martial arts and in the great stories of the heroes of those arts.

The martial arts is completely egalitarian in that whoever puts in the work gets good.  There are no short cuts, magic pills or secrets.  If you want to get good, you just have to put in the isshokenmei.


Value life


I came across this passage that Furuya Sensei posted to his Daily Message on July 10, 2004 about this idea of Shisei Kan (死生観) or one's perspective on life or death.  People often erroneously think that the samurai loved death.  It is quite the contrary.  The samurai were able to find life in the face of death and that is what separates them from other warriors.

Shisei Kan:

If one is to pursue fame, fortune and power, I do not think Aikido is for you. They are two totally different paths. Even with my humble talents and poor strength, I still aspire to Aikido's ideals, but this is not easy at all. After 47 years, I have learned not to be discouraged although success and such is beyond my grasp. After all, the path to peace and harmony is a quiet and subtle one.

Today people see everything as pleasure and play. With such a mind, you will never understand the inner value of life - life itself will just pass by you like the floating clouds.

What is the great difference of the great warriors of the past and us today? In martial arts, we have forgotten "Shisei Kan" or View of Life and Death.

If we only focus on life, we begin to think that we are gods and are immortal. It we only think of death, we become desperate and lose hope.

Shisei Kan means to value Life by keeping a view of Death before us. It is this view of our own mortality that encourages us to preserve and refine our humanity within Life..


Please take a moment to remember O Sensei today.

Morihei_Ueshiba1 watering  









On this day 47 years ago, Morihei Ueshiba passed away.

Since O Sensei's passing, Aikido has become a global phenomenon and is now practiced in over 130 countries by millions of people.

Aikido training has changed my life.  Without O Sensei's teachings where would I be?  Hard to say, but I do know that I wouldn't be the person that I am today.

It's hard to believe that 26 years has gone by since I started Aikido and that 47 years have gone by since O Sensei passed away.

Obviously I never met O Sensei so it could be quite easy to downplay, overlook or forget his passing.  But, to remember O Sensei is to pay my respects to the person who has started this martial art that has given me so much.

I hope that as the years pass by that people won't forget O Sensei and his contributions.  Furuya Sensei once said, "It is just one day each year that you have to think about O Sensei, you at least owe him that much."  Sensei's chiding is something that I try to take to heart each year.

The Japanese word for practice or training is keiko which means to "reflect on the past" so in a way we remember O Sensei every time we train.  But, is that good enough?  Kojima Sensei once talked about how Japanese people don't celebrate birthdays and that every January 1st every person gets one year older.  It is only in their death that people get a "special" day.  Sensei is right about taking the time to remember those that we are close to or those we owe a special debt to.

The mark of a good student is one that does the right thing at the right time.  It is easy to be a good student when the teacher is present.  The final exam comes when the teacher is no longer around and our true nature comes out.

To take time out to remember O Sensei on this day is what a good student would do.  A bad student forgets even if it is by accident.  True character is what one does when no one is looking and when it seemingly doesn't matter any more.  A good student will do the right thing at the right time regardless of circumstance or who is watching.

Please be a good student and take a moment to remember O Sensei and all that he has done for us on his special day.

One of my favorite O Sensei quotes is:

"In true budo there is no enemy or opponent. True budo is to become one with the universe, not to train to become powerful or to throw down some opponent. Rather we train in hopes of being of some use, however small our role may be, in the task of bringing peace to mankind around the world."


Happy Earth Day!

O sensei nature  








  "Create each day anew by clothing yourself with heaven and Earth, bathing yourself with wisdom and love, and placing yourself in the heart of Mother Nature" - Morihei Ueshiba, The Art of Peace

Earth Day is Aikido Day.

At its core, the philosophy of Earth Day is the same as the way of Aikido.  The philosophy of Earth Day is simply to protect and conserve the Earth.  The philosophy of Aikido is also to protect and to save mankind.

Simply put, the philosophy of Earth Day and Aikido is one of love.  Aikido believes that all things have life and that all life is precious and thus must be protected and conserved.

Aikido believes that everything is connected or inter-related and that all things in nature have this circling back effect.  To attack or hurt others only brings harm to ourselves.  Therefore, to destroy, abuse or neglect the Earth is against the philosophy of Aikido because harming the Earth only brings harm back to us.

When a person confronts us, we understand that this person is suffering and thus we are not truly the focus of their aggression despite what they might think.  We also understand that this person is really only going to hurt themselves in the long run - the police will come, they will go to jail, they might lose their job, or their spouse might leave them as a result of their actions.  Understanding all the unintended circumstances we don't want to add to this person's misery and so we try and "save" them.

We save them with Aikido.  The Aikido techniques are designed in a way to minimize the damage to the attacker and to diffuse the person's anger, aggression or more importantly their suffering.  To do Aikido is help this person because they are blinded by their emotions or their suffering and are in need of kindness or compassion not aggression.  It would be the same for an upset child who tries to strike us.  We know they don't know any better so treat them with kindness and compassion and we don't destroy them.

The Earth is our home and just like our attacker, we need to treat it with kindness and compassion.  After all it provides us with so much.  Please do something today to show your appreciation to the Earth for all it does for us.

Great video of O Sensei

Why do I do Aikido?  I am not really sure.  Aikido is something that intrigues me.  I teach a lot of classes and on a regular basis I see something new or different.  When this happens, it peaks my interest and pushes me to study more.  I don't know why or how I became interested in Aikido so I can't tell you if it was some sort of nature/nurture thing from my past.  I can tell you that Aikido has been something that was around me but unknown to me as a child.  Here are a few things that make me think, "Hmm" and that perhaps Aikido was something that I was always supposed to do.  When I was a small child my grandfather suggested my mom take my brother to Aikido lessons.  People in Furuya Sensei's family were close to people in my family, but we had never met.  Interestingly, when going through Sensei's stuff after he had died, I found a funeral program for my great grandmother's funeral. Are things pre-destined?  I am not sure, but the signs and synchronicities are all around us.

Here is a great video of O Sensei doing Aikido.  Look at how he uses the angles and how he is constantly moving.


Happy Thanksgiving

"The true path of the martial arts is that of great love that protects and nurtures all growth and development. Were the path of Aikido anything less than that, it would not be a true martial art. Aikido is not for the purpose of creating winners and losers. The human body and the universe are one in the same; the universe is the body we inhabit. Aiki can only be understood as the expression of universal movement.  Until you realize this, you will not understand Aikido."

- Morihei Ueshiba, Founder of Aikido. From Mitsugi Saotome's book A Light on Transmission. 

Being able to give thanks is the first step of compassion. Thank you for all you do or have done for me. I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.

Interesting documentary abut Andre Nocquet Sensei

I found an interesting video about Aikido Sensei Andre Nocquet (1914-1999).  Andre Nocquet was a famous post-war Aikido student who was a direct student of O Sensei's.  He is credited with bringing Aikido to France.  This video is very interesting in that there is a lot of candid footage of O Sensei not only doing Aikido but also discussing it.

Aikido - The art of peace

master-ueshiba-moriheiTo confront, collide or to fight is not the Way of Aikido.  Aikido's goal is to bring harmony to not only the situation but to the world.  When a person confronts you and tries to destroy you, they are only hurting themselves.  When we live our lives on a plane of higher existence, we can clearly see the bigger picture.  The bigger picture is that this person who is confronting us is really suffering.  As we realize he is suffering, we realize that this person is human and in realizing this person's humanity we realize that they are ignorant.  They are ignorant to the true nature of their suffering and also that their action will only lead them to more suffering regardless to whom they think is to blame.  I recently read a quote from a famous criminal psychologist who summed up why murders are not evil by saying, "Most of these killers are best understood as untreated, traumatized children who inhabit and control the minds, hearts, and bodies of adult men."  We are martial artists who live our lives a different way than the average person.  Our abilities come with a certain amount of responsibility.  Once we can understand our own humanity then we can realize the humanity in others.  Therefore with this understanding we realize the only remedy for this person's attack is to giving them compassion.  Consequently, the Way of Aikido is born.  Aikido does not attempt to destroy other, but to harmonize with them, to give them compassion and hence change the world.  We are all saints and sinners and are all in need of kindness, compassion and forgiveness.  Thus, we cannot destroy others because we would only be destroying ourselves.