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October 30, 2022

Finding Good Points

This is an interesting story that I heard when I accompanied Koichi Tohei Sensei during one of his seminars in Hawaii.

During that trip, an American young man was observing a class with his mother and came to greet Tohei Koichi Sensei after the class was over.

The mother told us that, years ago, she had brought her child to the dojo during Koichi Tohei Sensei’s long stay in Hawaii to promote Aikido. At the time, the boy was very naughty, and his mother was concerned about this, and sought help from Koichi Tohei Sensei.

Tohei Sensei immediately remembered them, and they had a lively conversation. Especially for me, who did not know about those earlier days, the mother told me the following story in detail.

She said that when she first consulted Tohei Sensei about her child, she said, "My son is restless and misbehaves all the time. There is not a single good thing about him.” When Tohei Sensei heard this, he said, "Don't worry, every child has good qualities.” Tohei Sensei decided to let him participate in the training to see for himself.

When Tohei Sensei met him in class, he found that he was not really able to pay attention and follow directions, and Tohei Sensei confirmed that he was a very difficult boy. His mother, who was watching the class, had a look on her face that said, "See! Isn't it just as I said?"

After practice, Tohei Sensei decided to talk to the child alone. The child must have thought that Tohei Sensei was going to be angry with him, and so he shrank with shame.

Tohei Sensei said to the boy, "I tried to find your good points, but today I couldn't find them. However, next time I will find them for sure, so be sure to come back to practice again!" The child was relieved to find that Tohei Sensei was not angry with him, and said, "All right! I'll come back!" and left with big smile.

After that, the child started practicing attentively. Whenever Tohei Sensei found a good point in the boy’s practice, he would say, "I found a good point!” and he would identify it to the boy. The mother, who was observing the practice, watched this exchange.

Little by little, the boy began to calm down, and the behaviors that had been bothering his mother became less and less. Seeing this remarkable change, the mother became aware that she had been consciously looking for the child's bad points.

When it came time for Koichi Tohei to return to Japan, the boy and his mother came to bid him “goodbye,” and the boy cried and would not leave Tohei Sensei’s side.

Twenty years later, that “bad boy” had become a fine young man.

The mother also said that her now grown child was "a proud son who loves his parents", and tearfully thanked Koichi Tohei Sensei, saying that "that experience with you changed our lives".

The expression on the face of the mother and son at that time left a deep impression on me.

The Lesson:

“Finding good points and supporting others”, rather than “finding bad points and scolding others” may be easy to understand in our head, but it is not easy to do in daily life.

This is because to discover those good points in others, we must take the time and effort to find out what is good about the person. Often it is not possible to understand a person just by spending a little time with them, without looking at them lovingly and carefully.

Only by calmly understanding another person can we support their development. Therefore, practices such as 'keeping one point' and 'Ki breathing' are of great help.

If you just want to point out what is wrong with someone, it does not require that much effort. It is easy to fall into this trap because it seems so straightforward and clear. However, just pointing out what is wrong will never make it better.

The same is true in the practice of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido. Simply pointing out what is wrong with a student cannot be called teaching. Teaching is about "guiding the other person until he or she can do it", which is what instructors need to practice all the time.


The Japanese former baseball star, Tatsuro Hirooka simply says, "What is good is good, what is bad is bad", and he looks carefully at "how to make the person better" and continues to think about it. Once he has made up his mind to train someone, he will take care and continue to support them until the end.

I feel that this is what I should be doing as a leader.

Sometimes, I forget, and look at the 'lacking areas' of the other person. When this happens, I remember to return to the basics of 'finding the good points'.

Edited by: C. Curtis
Hawaii Ki Federation
https://www.hawaiikifederation.org/

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October 16, 2022

The Real Value of Ukemi

In the practice of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido (Ki-Aikido), we attach great importance to “ukemi.”

The Japanese word “ukemi” is usually interpreted as “passive attitude’” “Passive” here meaning being in a defensive position to receive an attack by others.

However, in practice, ukemi is the exact opposite. It is active, meaning offensive.

Ukemi means “to defend oneself,” only in the sense of being ready, at the moment of being thrown, to make the next move instantly. The moment of being thrown is not the end, but the beginning of the next movement.

Therefore, in Ki-Aikido practice, you do not "win" because you throw, and you do not "lose" because you are thrown.

If your body is jarred or even injured by the throw, you will not be able to make your next move, or you will be slowed down. It is immediately after being thrown that your biggest moment of vulnerability occurs.

If the nage (thrower) is keeping one point, then the uke (person being thrown) must also need to keep one point. Even if the nage throws in an unreasonable way, if the ukemi is maintaining mind and body unified, forceful techniques will no longer work.

This is how we can understand the meaning of respecting the opponent and interacting based on the Five Principles of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido.

 
The Five Principles of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido

 1, Ki is extending
 2, Know your opponent's mind
 3, Respect your opponent's Ki
 4, Put yourself in your opponent's place
 5, Perform with confidence

 

About 20 years ago, one of the athletes I regularly coached was a professional boxer. He had come to me to learn “Keeping One Point” and “Ki Breathing” in order to be able to maintain his strength in stressful fights.

One day, as I explained the meaning of ukemi and showed him how to perform ukemi, he looked at this with longing. I asked him why he was so interested in this, as I thought there were no opportunities to do ukemi in boxing. He gave me an answer that I did not expect at the time.

He said, “Ideally, you should always be able to knock down your opponent, but against a really strong opponent that doesn't always happen. When you get knocked down, the impact of the fall can be substantial, sometimes even more damaging than from the opponent's punches, Therefore, I would like to study how to fall without being injured.”

In a competition where the goal is to knock down the opponent, the perspective of studying how to fall was very impressive. After that, this fighter trained ukemi until he could do it unconsciously and seemed to have acquired an exact feeling of it.

 

The same is true in everyday life.

Life is not always peaceful and there are times when we make mistakes and fall down. At those times, it is important to know “how to fall down.”

Effective Ukemi is directly related to the strength of mind.

Real strength is not about never falling down, but about instantly getting up and being ready and take the next action. Falling down is not the end of life.

You will find the real value of ukemi when you are faced with adversity.

Edited by: C. Curtis
Hawaii Ki Federation
https://www.hawaiikifederation.org/

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