Dojo Essay


Dojocho Essay(2)
1st January 2012

"Associating with People"

The November issue of PHP magazine had a special edition on "Associating with People", and there was an article by the actor Kayama Yuzo that left a strong impression in me that I would like to share.

"Be careful how you think. Thoughts eventually become words. Be careful how you speak. Words eventually become actions. Be careful how you act. Actions eventually become habits. Be careful with habits. Habits eventually define your personality. Be careful with personality. Personality eventually becomes fate."

I think they are wonderful words, but at the same time scary. When I read this, I felt a tingle up my spine. It seems to apply to me in so many ways. How about you, dear reader?

The feeling of gratitude manifests as thoughtfulness. A thoughtful heart harbors warmth. Ueshiba Morihei O-sensei had said, "武 (Bu: as in武道 martial art/way) is love," "the 'ai' (合) in aikido is connected to love (愛)" and "aikido is the martial art of gratitude."

It has been 48 years since I first entered Meiji University and joined the Aikido club. However, I feel that I have not come to understand even 0.01% of O-sensei's aikido philosophy.
The second Doshu, Ueshiba Kisshomaru sensei had told me, "aikido becomes interesting when you are in your 50's and 60's! " Now that I am in the mid-60's, it has indeed become more interesting, but at the same time I realize the complexity and wonder every day, "what is strength/power? "


"The Beginner's Mind"

In Maciej Slota's (Calgary Aikikai, Canada) 4th dan essay, "How to teach Aikido to Beginners," there was an interesting entry at the end.

"The most important thing for all students is to practice with pure, beginner's mind. To quote S. Suzuki "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few.'"

It is embarrassing for me to say it, but I must admit that I did not know about S. Suzuki. When I researched a bit, I found that Shunryu Suzuki sensei was a priest of the Soto sect, and had been very influential in spreading zen in America. He had also written some books and was a famous teacher.

Lately, it seems that there are a lot of foreigners who are teaching us about Japanese traditions and history. It seems that foreigners who are sincerely practicing budo know more about Japanese traditions and Japanese traditions than Japanese. They also understand more about Aikido and O-sensei.

I deeply felt Suzuki-sensei's words in Maciej's essay, "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few." As an aikido expert, those words deeply pierced my heart. I felt that this is no time to be saying, "after-keiko(practice) beer is delicious."
I continue to do some more soul-searching and reflection.


Dojocho Essay(1)
1st January 2011

"The Ancient Japanese Treatment of Manners and Virtue"

One of our earnest members at Hashimoto Dojo, Dr. Bodart-Bailey recently published a new book, "Kaempfer: Visiting the Land of Manners" (Kaempfer: Reisetsu no Kuni ni Kitarite).
She is a professor in the Department of Comparative Culture at Otsuma Women's University, and is well known for her research about the 5th Tokugawa Shogun, the infamous Dog Shogun, Tsunayoshi.
Near the end of a 10-year journey, the German Kaempfer visited Japan in 1690 (3rd year of Genroku era) and stayed for 2 years.
He recorded his days at Nagasaki, his meetings with the Shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi and his encounters with people on the road. His collected notes were published posthumously as "History of Japan," and was the first book in Europe to provide an unbiased overall picture of Japan.
In the book, he writes, "I am deeply impressed by the way the townsfolk conduct their lives in such an orderly manner and high regard for one another." Also, "Looking at the way they live their lives, from the poorest farmer to the richest lord, it seems that the whole country is like a high school geared towards teaching manners and virtue."


"Proper Application of Force"

Now I would like to introduce a very interesting article written by the head of the Meiji University Aikido Club, Sugiyama Tamiji (professor in the Agriculture Department), in the club magazine, "Agatsu," entitled, "Improving Measuring Experiments via Learning".
He writes, "It seems to me that opportunities to use our hands to manipulate objects is being significantly reduced. For instance, lately, one does not have to turn the faucet to wash one's hands, one just has to place one's hands beneath the faucet, and the water comes automatically. In the past, our daily manipulation of objects taught our bodies the "proper application of forceユ, but lately, the use of sensors has curtailed this learning. This has caused some problems in some of our science research activities."

It seems that some students have had problems opening and closing the valves of gas tanks due to the improper application of force.
"Ii kagen" used to mean "good kagen", but lately it has changed to imply negative traits such as "half-hearted" and "irresponsible". (Note: kagen literally means add and remove, or "not too much, not too little")

Aikido is one of the budo arts, and it is possible to cause injuries with the improper application of force.It is also possible to experience such pain that it causes one to scream.
This is often seen in younger generations which are not familiar with pain.
With regular practice, one learns through experiencing pain and giving pain the proper application of force.

I think it is time to reconsider Kaempfer's perception of "Japanese" and Prof. Sugiyama's "kagen".
It seems that we modern humans have forgotten the ancient Japanese treatment of manners and virtue and think that, "everything's ok so long as I'm ok." We have also become coddled by too much comfort and automation.


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