1st January 2012
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
"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
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.
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
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."
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 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.