December 10, 2014

Performing the Bamboo Cut

Performing the Bamboo Cut

Bamboo cut was held at the Ken and Jo Seminar at Tochigi HQ from the 11th (Saturday) – the 13th (Monday) of October.

The Bamboo cutting (Takekiri no Gyo) was held on the morning of the last day of the camp.

I have been receiving a lot of questions and enquiries from members about Bamboo cutting which is why I will be talking more about it in this blog.

There is a form of practice which is called Bamboo Cutting (Takekiri no Gyo). Each end of a green bamboo stick is placed in a couple layers of paper with slits cut in them to hold the bamboo stick horizontally of the ground, these layers of paper at each end is supported by a short knife with the blade facing up. Each knife is held at each end by someone throughout the bamboo cutting practice.

It is impossible to support the bamboo with just one sheet of paper, with 2 sheets it is also difficult, 3 sheets of paper is at least needed to support the bamboo. Even with 3 sheets of paper, sounds of the papers tearing when supporting a heavy stick of bamboo can be heard.

When everything is ready, all that is left is to cut the bamboo stick with a Bokken (wooden sword). When cutting if even a little weight is put onto the bamboo, the sheets of paper that is holding the bamboo up will rip and tear and the bamboo will fall to the ground without being cut. If there is tension/ unnecessary strain in the hands when swinging the bokken to cut the bamboo, the cut will also be unsuccessful.

While being relaxed and Ki flow is already going first and then swing the bokken to cut the bamboo, the sheets of paper holding the bamboo will not tear and the bamboo will be cut easily and clearly.

Being able to cut the bamboo cleanly with the bokken does not mean that the person has done anything “great or special”. The purpose of the Bamboo cutting practice is to realize the state of our mind when we perform the cut, the bamboo being cut at the end, is the result and reflection of the state of our mind throughout the practice.

When we are able to use and focus our mind a 100 percent, this is called Focus / Concentration “Shuchu”, when we get distracted and we are unable to use our mind a 100 percent it means we have already lost our focus/ concentration. During the bamboo cut practice if we think of trying to cut the bamboo perfectly or even if we worry about whether we are able to cut the bamboo, it means we have already lost our focus/ concentration and the result will be that we are unable to cut the bamboo.

If our mind is calm and our focus/ concentration is to just cut the bamboo, the result will be that we are able to cut the bamboo easily and cleanly.

“Mind moves/ leads body”, the state of our mind influences and reflects in our body movements, we can feel this clearly during the bamboo cut practice.

The following is a situation that happened 20 years ago.

Soshu Koichi Tohei Sensei was sponsored by the Japanese Management Association to conduct 5 seminars about Ki Principles which ended with the bamboo cut practice for the last seminar.

During that seminar, a mother and her daughter participated. The daughter at that time was still in Elementary school. Her mother worked as a manager in the company and was often times busy working, which led to the daughter having a rebellious attitude towards her mother. The daughter was actually unwilling and uninterested in coming to the Ki Seminar at the Dojo.

Her mother was able to cut the bamboo with a single cut. The daughter tried repeatedly but was unable to cut the bamboo after many tries. She then started crying, at the time I was an Otomo and I remembered watching her cry.

Then, Soshu Koichi Tohei Sensei spoke to the daughter gently.

Soshu : “Do you know why you are unable to cut the bamboo?”

The daughter: (While crying) “No, I do not know why!”

Soshu: “You are behaving rebelliously towards your mother right?”

The daughter: “… Yes.”

Soshu: “You were forced to come here by your mother and because of that you do not believe that you are able to cut the bamboo?”

The daughter: “… Yes.”

Soshu: “Trust what I am about to say only one time. Believe and decide in your mind that you are able to cut the bamboo and just cut. Can you do this?”

The daughter: “Yes!”

Immediately after, the daughter cut the bamboo easily and clearly. Everyone watching (mainly managers from companies) started cheering when they saw this.

Soshu Koichi Tohei Sensei spoke to the girl’s mother, he said: “Your daughter is strong in determination and able to achieve many things, you should be more encouraging towards her and believe in her.” After hearing this, the mother started to cry as well and went over to hug her daughter.

He then continued to say: “Our mind is real and powerful. I also want you to believe that you are strong and able to achieve many things.” It was at this time that I understood the meaning of the bamboo cut practice.

We have seen many people including a 6 year old boy as well as an 80 year old lady cut the bamboo easily and beautifully. Whether a beginner or an advanced member, anyone can come and practice cutting the bamboo correctly. What about coming to HQ and experience the bamboo cut practice?

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July 11, 2014

USA National Seminar for Instructors and Members in Las Vegas

The Las Vegas National Seminar was held from the 26th of June (Thursday) to the 29th of June (Sunday). I taught all the classes for the seminar which was held over 4 days.

There were 120 participants for the seminar which came from Dojos all over the USA including many instructors and Chief Instructors of Ki Societies and Ki Federations. The venue for this seminar was at the University of Nevada- Las Vegas (UNLV), 300 mats was laid out in the gym for the practice sessions. The participants also stayed in the dormitory rooms of the campus giving the seminar a feel of being at an Aikido camp.

The seminar held on the 26th of June (Thursday) was for Chief Instructors, Instructors as well as Examiners. From the 27th of June (Friday) till the 29th of June (Sunday), the seminars were open to all members from beginners to Instructors.

The themes that I used to teach for techniques at the Seminar this year is as follows – “Moving from One Point”, “Keep Focus with Basic Posture”, “Respect Ki Movement” as well as “Unify Breathing and Action”.

The USA National Seminar 2014 was a success and I really appreciate the efforts of Northern California Ki Society who organized and managed the event as well as other Ki Societies and members who contributed into making this seminar a success.

This time 6 participants including members and Instructors from Japan attended the Seminar in Las Vegas. In 2018, this Seminar will be held in Las Vegas again and we hope more members from Japan and around the world can attend and participate in this event.

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July 10, 2014

To Recreate/ Imitate

I am a part-time lecturer in general education at a university in Tokyo. Every week, I teach the students unification of mind and body in Aikido. During the past 15years, I have taught more than 1,000 university students.

Most of these students usually have no experience in Aikido. I need to teach them in half a year, 14 class sessions of 90 minutes each, and have them learn the basics.

Showing and explaining to the students the waza forms is of course very important but unless they feel and experience the correct way of performing the art or technique, it would be difficult for them to understand it. This is why I make the effort to personally partner with each student, to make sure that they get the correct feeling of the waza.

There are students that were very hardworking and intellectually gifted as well as talented, but because classes are only once a week and only 90 minutes long, it is sometimes not easy for the students to progress quickly. In the beginning, it took a series of trial and error to come out with the best way to guide my students.

One of the challenges that I became aware of was that the students could not recreate or imitate the correct way of doing the techniques, which is very important and essential for their progress.

In order to make sure that they can recreate/imitate the correct way of doing the techniques, the students would have to observe and pay close attention to the way that I taught and showed them the techniques. This would mean that when I showed them the techniques I would have to make sure that everyone in the class could see the movements clearly. Sometimes due to the large size of the class this would not be possible.

I would tell my students before I showed them the techniques, or the point I was trying to make, that they should stand or sit in a position that they could see me clearly and that during my explanation if they can’t see, that they should move to a spot that would help them see clearly. At the beginning, it is sometimes difficult for them to aggressively move to find the place to see during a class, but once they get used to this, they can achieve this.

This practice alone helps the students to learn and improve how to observe and watch correctly.

Even after they become sure of taking a good position where they can see me well, there are a number of students who still cannot imitate/recreate the correct way of moving or performing the technique. This was the next challenge that I faced.

The two common points I found in students that could not recreate/imitate correctly was that they did not pay close attention and just watched loosely. Additionally, their mind was often focused on a certain part of the technique, so that instead of seeing the whole movement they only saw one part.

For beginners, to help them learn correctly it is important to let them watch the movements accordingly: legs, footwork, body (including the head), hand movements. This would help them imitate and remember the whole body movements more easily.

It is very important to teach by how the legs and feet should move, which allows for the posture and balanced movement to come naturally. If the footwork (base) is unnatural, it will not become a good waza. This is why students need to start learning from the footwork.

An example is like a tree.  Think of the legs and feet as the roots, the body as the trunk and the arms and hands as the branches. Of course all parts are very important for the tree to grow properly, but if the roots of a tree are not strong it would not be possible for the tree to grow healthily at all.

However, students who have not had training on how to learn and watch movements correctly tend to observe only by parts or observe everything but do not pay full attention. There is a phrase from a long time ago “paying attention to insignificant details.” I found out that this is the main reason why students cannot recreate/imitate correctly.

Therefore, today I teach thoroughly “Recreate/imitate for learning”, “Watch carefully for recreating/imitating” and tell them “Move to watch” and “Watch from footworkbodyhands movement.”

As a result of this way of learning, even with a very limited chance of practicing, students are able to progress and improve. There are many students who learn “How to recreate/imitate” in my Aikido classes and that would help them progress well in their future careers.

After experiencing and going through my own experiences I realized that even though this way of learning and teaching how to watch/observe correctly makes sense, it does not seem to be taught in schools.

We should all learn how to watch and observe things correctly and recreate/imitate in our daily practices. Especially with younger children, if they start to practice this way, their learning abilities could be improved. This way of learning cannot be acquired only by intellectual training.

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June 17, 2014

Furman University Shinshin Toitsu Aikido Training at HQ

Two professors and seventeen students from Furman University (South Carolina, USA) came to Japan in May to train Aikido at Tochigi HQ Dojo for 2 weeks.

In Furman University, there is a group that studies Koichi Tohei Sensei’s teachings as part of Eastern Philosophy Studies. This group was founded by Dr. David Shaner who has been a long time student of Koichi Tohei Sensei, he is also the Chief Instructor of Eastern Ki Federation and still continues to spread our teachings by teaching at seminars and Aikido classes.

This time, during their stay at HQ these students wished to further their understanding and experience these teachings first-hand during their classes with the HQ teachers who taught them daily.

These students were very sincere and enthusiastic during their training sessions.

These students were also interviewed by the Tokyo Shimbun and the article was published in the newspaper for the Tochigi based Tokyo Shimbun. This article can also be found on the Tokyo Shimbun website (Tokyo web).

We would like to thank the Furman University group especially their teachers Dr. Mark Stone and Dr Eiho Baba as well as Dr. David Shaner for helping make this trip and seminar a success.

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June 11, 2014

The power of the Mind (Strength of the Mind)

Words such as “steel” or “iron” are often used to describe the power or strength of the mind in Japanese. This usually gives the impression that a strong mind is hard or rigid.

The truth is, the state of a strong mind is not hard (stubborn), but just the opposite.  A strong mind is very flexible. For example, people who have a strict “Things must be done by this way” way of thinking are unable to either react to change or accept the difference between ideals and reality.

This can be easily shown by practices on the mat.

When trying to learn one technique, people who think strictly that “This technique must be done exactly this way” are unable to cope, and get frustrated, when things are unsuccessful and do not turn out the way they planned or decided. This usually leads to them becoming depressed and negative.

This feeling of frustration usually consumes a lot of energy, so a mind in this state does not have the stamina to persevere, and therefore will not be able to achieve the desired result.

On the other hand, people who have flexibility and think “Things will be better soon.” are able to accept and adjust to the outcomes of things even if it does not happen accordingly to how they planned it. In this way, they are consistent in trying to achieve their daily goals or tasks and achieving results instead of just giving up.

This was noticed in lectures/classes conducted in universities.

I am teaching Aikido at classes/ lectures in a university, and within half a year there are some students who are absent from Aikido classes due to getting hurt or sickness.

During this time, I noticed that students who keep thinking hard that they have to make sure they attend all Aikido classes and not even skip one class, would not be able to come back and usually stop practicing.

Students who have a flexible approach can come back after some break and can be consistent in everything.

A rigid mind has a risk of breaking, and a flexible mind does not break. An old saying goes that the roots of a willow tree are firmly planted in the ground but in the wind the branches of weeping willow is flexible and move freely as the wind blows.

How do we obtain this form of flexibility?

One way is to understand the difference between focus and fixation.

If all you can see or focus on is one point of a flow of things to do, this is called fixation or over concentration, since all you will be concentrating on is one part, instead of being able to see the whole picture or the broader scope of the whole thing. To have a clear goal is very important but when you think “Things must be done by this way” to achieve that goal, obsession or fixation starts immediately.

To concentrate or to fixate is two different things. To concentrate or focus is a result of being relaxed and the mind can be used freely. Whereas to be fixated is as a result of being nervous and tense which leads to not being able to use the mind freely. So in order to be focus properly, the mind and body has to be unified and relaxed.

When I had a three-way discussion with Mr. Sadaharu Oh and Mr. Tatsuro Hiroka for the book of “Do ji nai”, this point was covered thoroughly by Mr. Oh.

A hitter who thinks “Hitting must be done this way” is too stubborn to cope with changes and will not be able to achieve the best possible result. Once Mr. Oh was learned to think “That way of hitting is also OK”, he could be more flexible and adaptable to changes and could achieve the best possible outcome.

I was surprised to find out that Mr. Oh who is well known as very firm and disciplined, was also very flexible.

Another way is: not to over react to the result or outcome of a situation.

People who over-react to the outcome of any situation are always tense and seem to use up a lot of energy which leaves them exhausted and weary during big changes. To achieve any one thing, it always takes a long time, and so over-reactive people will be tired before crossing the goal line.

To receive both good changes and bad changes calmly and be able to move forward a step at a time will be the shortest route to achieve our main goal.

Breathing calmly and achieving a calm mind is very important. To be mindful and not react impulsively to any changes, taking a deep breath before you move, is a way of training. Training to have calm breathing is directly connected to having a strong mind.

To have a strong mind is not about it being powerful during certain instances but about being consistent and progressing steadily, being able to get through things all the way to the end. This is obtained by being flexible and open minded and not by being narrow minded and inflexible.

To be able to get through and walk this long road, let us continue practicing and learn this strong powerful mind.

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February 16, 2014

Strong Ki

Please imagine that a person that you know as having “strong Ki”.  The image that comes to most people is usually of a person being very assertive, tough and intense.

The meaning of “strong Ki” is actually very positive and good. It means that no matter how tough the situation may be, Ki is always extending positively and strongly.

The operative word here is “always”.

Human beings go through both good and bad conditions. During good conditions Ki is naturally extending positively, this happens for everyone.

But what is important is whether positive Ki is extending during tough situations, such as when we are unwell, having family problems or even when we are having a hard time at work. When positive Ki is extending, we can face the problem that has arisen, as well as be able to find a solution and overcome it.

Most people misunderstand extending positive/plus Ki. They may try very hard to imagine extending Ki, or they may just try to think about having positive/plus Ki.

To constantly be extending plus Ki means that our subconscious mind always has to have and store plus/positive thoughts, and then we will be able to keep our conscious mind positive without consciously trying to do something. In order for this to be the case, it is essential for us to practice in our daily lives to train to put only plus/positive thoughts in our sub-conscious mind.

There are many people who are easily affected by their surroundings and it makes them susceptible to negative words used, actions and behavior. A person that has a negative sub-conscious mind is easily influenced by negativity around them. This is usually referred to as having weak Ki.

My line of work allows me to meet and interact with many professional sports athletes. What I noticed about these individuals was that some of them have outstanding abilities but are unable to produce great results because of their weak Ki extension.

Here are some examples of thoughts that influence weak Ki extension:

“I failed the last time, this time I might fail again.”

“If that person can’t do it, I will be unable to do it as well.”

“Everyone says it is impossible, so I guess it really is impossible.”

These thoughts all come from the result of weak Ki extension. This weak Ki extension influences our abilities, and the outcome is that we are unable to perform at all. Failure is not the problem, it is the fear of failure and letting it affect our Ki extension that is the problem.

Practicing the form and training the physical capabilities is of course important, but many people/athletes forget that training to have stronger Ki flow is also important. It is not how much you have “the guts to perform,” but the specific training is important.

The same applies to practicing Aikido.

Thoughts such as “I can’t do this” will definitely mean that you will not be able to perform and succeed in what you are practicing. There are some age and gender differences, such as how much physical power or experience you have. However, those are not the reasons for not being able to accomplish something. The only reason would be that you have weak Ki extension.

Always having plus/positive Ki extension in Dojo practice is not enough. There are 365 days and 24 hours a day to practice keeping positive/plus Ki extension continuously, and that will keep our sub-conscious mind positive/plus.

This will not be an easy task to accomplish. Whatever is easy to learn can also be easily used up. What is not easily learned or adopted, will stay with you for a long time after you get it. Strong Ki extension and flow is definitely an asset in life.

Let’s practice together to have “strong plus Ki”.

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October 07, 2013

Senshin No Gyo

Our “Kagami Biraki,” which is the first celebration of each year, starts from “Senshin No Gyo” which usually begins with a splash of water on oneself in the extreme cold. It is then followed by the first Aikido practice of the year in the dojo. This year it was -5 degrees centigrade when we started with the Senshin no Gyo (cleansing of mind and body) ceremony.

This year would mark the 55th time that this traditional ceremony is participated in.

Originally it was carried out at the small stream that runs behind Koichi Tohei Sensei’s ancestral home (Daikan Yashiki), but became very popular and many people came to participate in it, so the venue was changed to the Kinugawa River.

The Kinugawa River later became unsuitable as there was less water because of the dam. The ceremony was then moved back to Tochigi HQ and was carried out in the big pond. Now, this ceremony is held at “Gyoba”, the proper water area near the Tenshin Gosho.

Due to area constraints the number of people allowed to join now is limited, but in the old days when this ceremony was still being carried out at Kinugawa River, about 400 people used to participate, it was also televised in the news, as some of you may know.

The purpose of “Senshin No Gyo” is not about how much cold a person can withstand or how long he/she can withstand it, it also does not prove anything according to how many times a person has participated in the event.

There are two major points for the purpose of Senshin no Gyo.

The first is that if we are able to maintain calmness at our one point, no matter how challenging our situation may be with training and experience, we are able to go through it effortlessly.

I have been participating in this ceremony since I was seven years old. Even when it was held at Kinugawa River, it does not mean that after doing it so many times that I do not feel the cold. However, I realized that by keeping the mind calm at the one point and being certain of what I was doing, everything became much easier.

I learned that the mind moves the body and that the mind has a very large influence on the movements of the body. I also realized that in order to do everything effectively it is very important to be decisive and set the mind correctly to the task I am doing.  Particularly in daily life or while working, this has proven to help a lot.

The second point is in welcoming a New Year the icy water helps wash away all the events that have happened in the past year, whether they may have been good or bad.

People tend to always reflect in the past. This means that if our mind is always stuck in the past, we cannot move forward and direct it to new things and experiences. A common question is that “it is easy to understand washing away our bad experiences and negative feelings but why should we wash away our good experiences as well?” This is because our mind tends to persist on the good events even more than the bad ones.

For myself I have also had a very busy year last year with many experiences as well as achievements but it is important to let it go and move forward in the New Year to welcome new challenges and focus on new accomplishments.

To all members who have not participated in this event please by all means come and participate in it next year. It is not enough to understand the importance of the ceremony just by thinking, but it is very important to go through it and experience it.

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July 09, 2013

Don’t let your guard down even after a victory

When we make mistakes or run into a problem, we tend to think about the reasons and causes for it, but when things are progressing well we often do not think about it. Of course it is good if things are really progressing well but sometimes when things look smooth or things happen to go well by chance, it can actually be quite dangerous. During this time we are most likely to become careless and we will tend to stop Ki flow.

Big mistakes and problems do not occur suddenly without reasons.

Before some problem arises there are usually at least a few small signs to alert us. We often overlook these signs until we finally meet the result. If we pay attention to these small signs and determine the cause of the problem, we can avoid making big mistakes and going through big problems. The danger is that these signs can be hidden by the feeling of “all looks well at first glance,” and as a result we are unable to notice them.

A good example of this occurred when one of my uchideshi was driving the car to take us to a seminar.

Usually when the traffic light turns yellow it means that the driver should start to slow down, but what he did was to step on the accelerator and speed up. If it happened only once, it could have been by chance, but after watching him more closely it seemed that he did it regularly and it had become a bad habit.

I pointed out his mistake, and he responded, “Yes, I understand”, but it was clear that he did not really understand the reason why it was not correct. So, I told him to pull over at a safe spot at the side of the road so that I could explain this to him.

When driving, there are no zero percentage rates of accidents.

However, the probability rate of accidents can be reduced as close to zero as possible. This is usually determined by our daily habits. To believe that everything will always be fine just because we have not encountered any major accidents when driving in the past, is actually a big mistake, as it makes us become less aware and more careless even when there are tell-tale signs given.

By driving through even when the traffic light turns yellow and not getting into an accident only proves that the driver has been lucky so far. By speeding up and driving through on a yellow light actually makes an accident hard to avoid, especially if there are impatient cyclists or pedestrians trying to cross from the side of the road.

Having a habit of slowing down and getting ready to stop when the traffic light turns yellow actually reduces the chance of getting into an accident or causing one. Now the uchideshi understands how dangerous it is to have this bad habit for the rest of his life. As a result, he has changed this bad driving habit.

At times when things look very smooth and there appears to be no problems, it is important to ask ourselves whether it is really as smooth and safe as it appears. “Is it really going well?” “Could it be that this just happens to be smooth?” It is very important that we continually check our habits, behaviors, and our thoughts.

The same thing applies to Aikido practice.

When we get caught or stuck on a particular art or movement during training, we normally make an effort to find out the reason for it and do our best to become better. This practice will help to give us confidence and a positive attitude. However we believe we can do well, we do not often improve those techniques without learning the cause of our mistakes.

Sometimes things move smoothly and sometimes they don’t. We need to be more careful when things go well. When it looks well, please double check. In reality it could be really dangerous sometimes.

It is very important not to stop Ki flow in daily life. A well-known Japanese saying goes, “Don’t let your guard down even after a victory.” I try to keep this in mind every day.

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June 28, 2013

Learning about the sense of distance

Some months ago I was interviewed by an education magazine for parents of students.

During the interview with the press, we talked about how in recent times many children have had trouble with not being able to cope with stress.  They give up easily when faced with important tasks, and are often unable to communicate well and form relationships. As a result, they seem to lack enthusiasm, both at school and in daily life.

When forming relationships it is important to be able to have a good sense of distance. One of the factors in Budo (martial arts) is to be able to maintain a safe distance from our partner, in order to protect one self. This “safe distance’ is called “ma ai”. In Shinshin Toitsu Aikido practice we define “ma ai” as follows:

1)      A distance where you are unable to reach the opponent unless a step forward is taken.

2)      A distance when you see the opponent’s face, you can also see the entire outline of the opponent’s body.

3)      A distance in which you are able to maintain a calm state of mind.

If you are unable to achieve even one of the above points, it is not achieving “ma ai”.

When you are closer than the safe distance, you are inside “ma ai” and when you are further than the distance, you are outside “ma ai”.

To not be able to maintain “ma ai”’ not only means that you are unable to protect yourself, but also that you may pose a threat to, or simply make it uncomfortable for, your partner. When you meet someone for the first time and you have not yet formed a trusted relationship with that person, to enter into their “ma ai” is considered impolite in Japan. 

If you are able to have an appropriate sense of distance in daily life, you will be able to communicate and form good relationships with others.

We should all check to see if we are managing to keep “ma ai” in our daily life.

For example when shaking hands with someone, the distance for it is always within the “ma ai”. In fact, the act of shaking hands is actually getting closer to the inside of the other person’s “ma ai.” However, from the other person’s point of view, it is welcoming to their “ma ai,” since, when shaking hands with someone, there is a demonstration of your trust.

People who do not understand this sense of distance, when introducing themselves for the first time, will usually approach people with abrupt suddenness in trying to shake their hands. If you actually try it, it is easy to understand the uncomfortable feeling caused by this kind of action. When meeting someone for the first time, it is best to greet/introduce oneself outside of the other person’s “ma ai” first, (this helps indicate that you are a safe person), then step into the person’s “ma ai” and offer to shake hands. This is proper manners.

The other day it was reported on a program on NHK (Japanese news broadcast) that children nowadays have difficulty understanding and having a sense for “ma ai.” As stated above, this can result in them not being able to form strong and lasting relationships with others. There is a saying, “a hedge between keeps friendship green.” In any kind of close relationship, it is necessary to have a good sense of distance at times. Unfortunately, it seems that children nowadays are unaware of this practice.

                                                                                                             

Most children spend their time focusing on their studies so that their opportunity to interact with other people is minimized, and this makes their understanding of creating and judging safe distance less. This can be a serious problem. In order to go out into society and make a living in the future, studying should not be the only priority for these children. Being able to form relationships with people around them and communicate well is also very important.

In school, children form many relationships with other children around the same age. In Shinshin Toitsu Aikido children classes, they not only interact and make friends with other ages but also have a chance to practice and experience other aspects of human relationship with older and younger generations.

Older children learn to look after the younger children, the younger children learn to respect as well as learn from the older children. Children of all ages can then be able to learn about forming relationships and as well as sensing appropriate distance.

Learning how to sense and judge a safe distance is also very important for adults as well.

When studying martial arts (budo) becoming stronger both physically and mentally is of course necessary during training.  But it is also important to learn about basic relationship skills, like “ma ai”. By learning these skills, we are then able to become more confident in practice as well as in daily interaction with many different people and their different characters.

We should all put into practice the principles we learn from dojo into our daily lives.

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May 03, 2013

Training in Daily Life (2)

Last month’s blog on “Training in Daily Life” had a big response so I would like continue a little more on the same topic again this month.

The term “Thank you” holds a very important meaning. My father would always show his appreciation by saying “thank you” when he received gifts or when he was being taken care of. Even when he went to the store to buy something he would always thank the staff at the store.

It is easy to understand that the staff at the store or business says “Thank you” to thank the customers for visiting or purchasing from them. However, it may be difficult for some people to understand why the customer needs to say “Thank you” after purchasing from the store.

Even while dining at restaurants, my father would always thank the waiter each time they served him. It is natural for a customer to get proper service as they are paying to get good service. But again, why is it necessary as customers to thank the staff after receiving service?

Again, it comes down to the same question.

From a young age, even without knowing or questioning the reason, I would also imitate my father and say “thank you” whenever I was being helped or assisted. Hence, I have also cultivated this habit till today. 

During the times I have spent abroad in foreign countries, it was more common to hear people saying “thank you” compared to when being in Japan. Of course the cultural differences of Japan and countries overseas would not make this comparison easy, but to hear and feel the sincerity of each “thank you” being repeated was indeed a very pleasant feeling.

Simply put, this is not a matter of words, but the communication of Ki. It is also the same when we bow at each other and show thanks when practicing at the Dojo. 

Whenever we used to stay at hotels, my father would always find out where the emergency exits were on his own.

When I became older, some of these roles became my duty. There are some exchanges of conversation I still remember to this day.

My Father: Have you checked where the emergency exits are?

Me: The exit is on the left when you leave the room.

My Father: Well, how do you open the door? By pushing the door outwards or by pushing the handle down and pulling the door inwards towards you?

Me: ………

My Father: Please go and check again.

After some time:

Me: The door opens by pushing it outwards.

My Father: That’s good. Is there only one emergency exit?

Me: ………

My Father: Please go and check again.

After some time:

Me: There are 3 emergency exits.

My Father: Would it be possible to walk to the exits with our eyes closed?

Me: …… What is the reason for walking to the exits with our eyes closed?!

I vented my irritation at my father for having me check so many times.

My father then explained: “If there is a fire, visibility will be poor because of the smoke. Electricity might also be cut off. Even if you know where the exits are during a bright and visible situation, in a fire you might not be able to find it. It is important to be aware of the walls leading to the exits so that during a fire you can get to the exit far from the fire by touching and following the walls.”

It is always important to know where the fire extinguishers are placed and which part of the building the emergency exits connect to. His cautiousness was learned from his experiences during the war. This checking and locating of exits then became my habit.

When I travel around Japan and overseas to teach and instruct at seminars, I have sometimes found the emergency exits in hotels locked or in some cases blocked by luggage and things. I have learned that in order to protect and/or even save my own life, I should not depend on someone else to take care of it.

This has since become a habit and I practice all the time.

The following story was after I became an Uchi-deshi to Tohei Sensei.

Whenever Tohei Sensei was invited to speak at a company or at organization functions, a waiting room where he usually waited was always prepared beforehand. There would always be a waste paper basket in the room to use. He would always caution me before we left the room to make sure to clean out the waste paper basket and not leave anything in it. I did not understand why it was necessary to clean out the waste paper basket whenever we left because isn’t a waste paper basket used for throwing trash?

When the seminars were finished, I always made sure the chairs and tables or cushions we used in the waiting room were put back in place before we left. I could understand later that successful people in many fields look and check this point and recognize it positively. 

Since I became an instructor, these points have developed into an important habit.

These are many other examples and memories that I value from Tohei Sensei.

Hopefully when there is another opportunity I will be able to share more of it.

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