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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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