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Defeating one's self is like trying to wrestle a tiger

Kashiwade no Hanoshi (膳臣巴提使) killing the Korean tiger that had devoured his daughter  


















Furuya Sensei used to say, "The Way is hard."

I am sure it is akin to wrestling a tiger.  To follow the Way means to live one's life at a higher level.  To get to this level and stay there is a constant battle against ego, complacency and carelessness.

I always remember a quote that I read in the Scientific American some years ago, "You fail to the level of your preparation."  It is so true.  We don't rise to the occasion, we fall to to the level of our weakness.

There are three doors in training that once opened can lead one down a path toward failure.

The first is ego which is the enemy of all martial artists.

The second is complacency.

The third is carelessness.

Once these doors get opened, they are hard to close.

A martial artist must always be humble, hardworking and diligent.





















The Priest Mongaku at the Waterall of Nachi by Kuniyoshi Utagawa.

I love this woodblock print despite the story behind it which is rather unsavory.  The picture itself reminds me of O Sensei and his misogi or purification training.  The story goes that a warrior named Endo Morito fell in love with a beautiful woman named Kesa Gozen who was already married to a palace guard named Wataru.  Endo relentlessly pursued Kesa and each time she rebuffed his advances until one day she gave in on the condition that Endo kill her husband the next night.  On the night in question, she cut off her hair and laid in Wataru's bed.  Endo quietly entered the room and killed Wataru and cutoff his head.  He only realized that he had killed Kesa as he ran out of the room with the head.  Upon realizing his mistake, he confessed to her husband and mother and begged them to kill him.  However, Wataru was satisfied with his confession and spared his life.

Being spared and grief stricken with his crime, Endo chose to live in exile and entered into the priesthood and took the name Mongaku.  Interestingly, Wataru entered into the monastery as well with Endo.  Everyday he meditated under the icy falls of Nachi to atone for his crime.  For three years, every day he fulfilled his vow meditate under the falls.  One day during winter, he had almost completely frozen over and was about to die as he meditated.  At the moment right before death, Fudo Myo-o and Kannon, the goddess of compassion came down and saved him.  After his rescue he became an adviser to Shogun Yoritomo and would eventually be exiled to Okishima for plotting against the Emperor.

How strong are you?

swords spears  










Some days, life feels like this and everywhere you look it seems like pointed things are flying our way.

It takes very little strength to attack someone even if we are hurting

It takes even greater strength and courage to not attack especially when we are hurting.

The philosophy of Aikido can be thought of as "non-violent," but that is a bit too simplistic.  To me, the philosophy of Aikido is one of understanding which brings about compassion.  To understand our opponent's suffering is to understand our own suffering.  They deserve kindness, compassion and forgiveness just as we do.  To destroy them is to destroy ourselves. hanh










Be aware

Hasten to Do Good (Zen wa isoge), The Long and Short of It (Nagashi mijikashi), from the series One Hundred Pictures by Kyôsai (Kyôsai hyakuzu) In the dojo, one of the things we stress is that the students be aware of themselves at all times.  This awareness creates a sense of responsibility.  When we see a piece of paper on the ground, "we have to" pick it up.  The meaning behind "we have to" is the responsibility that is born out of awareness.  Since we see something, we must act on it.  There is a Japanese proverb that goes, "zen wa isoge" or that good deeds should be done quickly without hesitation. 

A good student is one who has balance, both physically and mentally.  Aikido is a martial art and thus because its techniques can be lethal, it requires a certain amount of personal responsibility.  In order to be responsible, one must be aware first.  As the old saying goes, "One has to know there is a problem before they can act on it."

If one is taught to be self-aware and notice things and be responsible for them in the dojo then they might be able to carry that over into their daily lives.  If they can see it, then they can act on it and, hopefully when they do, it will be a natural act that is done quickly at the exact right moment and done with good character.  To be unaware of oneself is to act without character and to be irresponsible.  All martial arts teach responsibility because responsibility is the virtue that ensures that when we do act that we will act accordingly.


One of the three historic deaths in battle

morozumiThis Kuniyoshi woodblock print depicts Morozumi Masakiyo or Morozumi Torasada committing suicide.  Masakiyo Morozumi was a famous General under Takeda Shingen.  His death is chronicled in this woodblock titled as San Uchijini No Uchi or or One of the Three Heroic Deaths in Battle.  Supposedly at the time Morozumi was in his eighties and had served three generations of the Takeda family in many different battles.  This famous General was killed in the fourth battle between Takeda Shingen and Uesugi Kenshin.  From what little I have found on this print, Morozumi committed suicide by thrusting his sword into his mouth just as a cannonball lands and kills him and all his followers.