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Polish your soul first




















Yaki tachi wo saya ni osamete, masumasu masurao no kokoro wo togari keri "Before you draw your tempered blade, keep it in its saya and polish your soul first."

What a great Japanese proverb.  It doesn't say anything about kicking butt, winning medals or smashing people.  This seemingly succinct statement sums up what training in the martial arts is really all about - developing one's self.
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"Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet." - General Mattis














"Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet." - General Mattis

On a certain level General Mattis' words are completely true for budo or the martial arts.  However at another level, it is not quite apropos to someone of his level of understanding or ability.

To understand how his words pertain to budo, one might look to the kanji for the word martial arts or budo 武道 for an explanation.

At first glance, most look at the kanji for budo and see 武道 as just bu 武 for "warfare" and do 道 for "the way."  Therefore without knowing any better, one believes that budo simply means "the way of warfare."

However, as one trains a bit more and becomes more experienced the word budo and its kanji take on a deeper meaning.  To understand requires further training.  With this experience one learns to look deeper and as we take a look closer and peel back the layers, we see something different.  The kanji for bu 武 is actually made up for two separate radicals.  The kanji for stop 止 and the kanji for spear 戈.  From this closer look, the meaning of budo might be "the way to stop fighting."

General Mattis assertion isn't wrong, but perhaps, like most quotes, taken out of context.

We all start out with the desire to win and dominate our opponents.  As we become more learned, we realized how fleeting winning can be and that the true opponent is really ourselves.

Is the goal then to reach the level of "the way not fighting?"  Actually no, the goal is total relinquishment of even the idea of budo or perhaps it is like the time when a student visited a famous sword teacher and showed him a sword to which he said, "What is that?"

The famous sword teacher Yagyu Tajima no Kami said that in order to master swordsmanship one need to cure these diseases:

  • The desire for victory,
  • The desire to rely on technical cunning,
  • The desire to show off,
  • The desire to psychologically overwhelm the opponent,
  • The desire to remain passive in order to wait for an opening, and
  • The desire to become free of these diseases.


Happy Friday the 13th!

Maneki Neko  












I wish you good luck today and a happy Friday the 13th!  Today is supposed to be bad luck so I send you this Maneki Neko in hopes that it bring you good luck.

The Maneki Neko or "Beckoning Cat" is a symbol of good luck in Japan.  The waving cat is everywhere in Japan, but did you know one of its origins is samurai related?  Here is one famous story about the samurai origin of the Maneki Neko.

In 1615 during the Edo period there was a temple in Tokyo called Gotokuji that had fallen on hard times.  The priest there loved cats and, although poor, he saved his meals to feed this stray cat.  As the cat ate, he would say, “Please bring me good luck and prosperity.”  The story goes that the famous samurai Naotaka Ii who was the feudal lord of Hikone happened to be walking by the temple on his way home from falconry one afternoon.  As he looked over at the temple gates, he noticed that the stray cat seemed to be beckoning him to come in.  Naotaka became curious and entered the temple just as a severe thunderstorm passed over soaking the entire area with heavy rain.  The famous samurai from Hikone spent the rest of the afternoon drinking tea and listening to the priest's sermon on Sanzeinga no ho (三世因果) or the reasoning for the past, present and future.  Grateful to the cat for keeping him dry Naotaka Ii donated a large sum of money to re-build the temple and designated it the official temple of his clan.

I wish you the best of luck today.


Sakamoto Ryoma

Sakamoto Ryoma On this day in 1867, the famous samurai Sakamoto Ryoma was ambushed and killed.  Sakamoto Ryoma was famous for his efforts to bring about the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the opening of the doors to the west during the Bakamatsu era which was at the end of the Edo period.  Sakamoto Ryoma studied swordsmanship from the age of 14 under renowned sword teacher Chiba Sadakichi Masamichi of the Hokushin Itto-ryu school.  Sakamoto Ryoma carried a Smith & Wesson revolver despite the fact that he was an accomplished swordsman

Sakamoto Ryoma came from a well to do family of sake producers who were able to purchase the lowest samurai rank of goshi or merchant samurai.  During the Edo period there was a strict level of segregation enforced between joshi (high rank) and kashi (low rank) samurai. Because of his families low rank, they were always segregated from more higher ranking samurais which always bothered him and he was inspired to change by the Revolutionary war's slogan which became the first line of the Declaration of Independence, "All men are created equal."