Wednesday, June 30, 2010


So often, it seems, humility goes hand-in-hand with progression.
When a weakness is accepted, it can then be fixed and built upon. Personally, I get frustrated when I don’t pick up a new technique quickly. Even worse, is when a bad habit emerges while doing a technique I thought I knew inside-out.
In my experience to date, humility is the only solution. If I really want to execute the technique correctly, I figure, I have to admit to myself there is a weakness to be fixed.
And believe me, I always find plenty to keep me busy.
Says Ueshiba: "Failure is the key to success..."

Monday, June 28, 2010

The classic 1899 description of the samurai way of life by author Inazo Nitobe. Considered a key work by many students of Japanese budo and culture, it is, as promised, a very insightful view into the codes and ethics of a world long lost to history.

Friday, June 25, 2010


--green samurai by craig mullins

"An episode in the doctrine of kenjutsu, concerning two swordsmen who had evidently delved deeply into the theory and practice of this principle of application, is instructive. When these men met, they both felt an irrepressible urge to test each other's respective skill in swordsmanship. They selected a quiet spot for the encounter, girded themselves for battle, unsheathed their weapons, assumed basic stances and guards, and ... waited. Whenever the one or other would change his posture of readiness to another he felt was better suited to a specific sword attack, the other man would change his posture accordingly. This process of coordinating postures, of adapting to the opponent's strategy and thereby of controlling and neutralizing it from moment to moment, continued until dusk--at which time (or so the story goes) both men burst out laughing, sheathed their swords, and, as peers, went back to town to celebrate a new friendship."

-- as told in Secrets of the Samurai by Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Art of Balance

I would never boast about my knowledge of advanced aikido techniques--I love the handful of defenses I do know—but I am, in many respects, hooked upon the philosophies of the art’s founder Morihei Ueshiba. I have spent much time recently reading the words found in John Stevens’ translation of the Art of Peace. The words apply to any student of budo, or any student of life for that matter. The tone is simplistic and its content rich.
This post, however, need not focus past the manual’s title. I have been following Sensei Strange as he continues to unfold the meaning of aikido and deliberate upon the definition of this art form (see: kyu ryu link). I am enjoying his journey and will by no means solve his riddle in this post. Meanwhile, many of us have also been following the police use-of-force debate as demonstrated by one of Seattle’s police officers (go to either link: dojo rat or Japanese jiu-jitsu).
In both cases, the blogs have moved martial artists to reflect upon what it means to use action in a manner that will uphold the highest moral principles. And trying to define what those principles are. It seems the main issue in both subjects becomes the methods of using such action—both effective and minimal--to properly de-escalate a violent situation.
I see this as a good thing to debate and think about, which brings me back to The Art of Peace. The title, at first, seems like a contradiction, as, despite aikido’s defensive attributes, it is still an effective combat form. But when we look at the word Peace as in relation to Balance, I think the message gets a little bit clearer.
For if the police officer were trained in a proper manner—say in aikido or another more “combative” art—it would have been a much more Peaceable arrest.

For as Ueshiba says, "The Art of Peace is to fulfil that which is lacking."

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Chasing Your Tail....

A few passages about Zen’s role in the martial arts caught my attention while doing some further reading of Nicklaus Suino’s book: Budo Mind and Body.
It speaks of using rigorous training to develop deeper awareness and “a clearer perception of truth, aiming at something greater than ourselves, and consciously putting aside thoughts of personal gain.”
Admittedly, the author adds, these heightened states of mind can be fleeting, and need to be constantly pursued.
“We cannot become complacent, however, since we stagnate as soon as we stop striving, so the life of the Zen aspirant is one of constant struggle… (For) the paradox of Zen is that the moment the warrior starts to reflect on this miraculous unity of thought and action, he divides them in two again…”
Anyway, as I thought about this concept, and what it meant to me, I realized my over-analysis of the matter was in fact taking me right out of any sort of unity of mind.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Circle Game

Basically, the way I see it, is that martial artists are reprogramming their patterns of thought to view the world in a circular format rather than a linear one.
It is a concept that extends beyond technique and merges into the student’s overall perception of reality itself. After all, linear forms are human, and not of nature. The universe works effortlessly, utilizing spin to create and sustain energy. This is true with planets or atoms, and everything else in between. Even space itself bends, causing starlight to curve as it travels from its source to our eyes.
In martial arts such as small-circle jiu-jitsu, aikido and judo, this relationship with the circle is paramount. The techniques won’t work without it. Force eases with its use, and an attacker’s energy can be transferred away from harming the defender.
When this concept is taken outside of the dojo, into daily life, it works the same way. Deflecting negativity allows our own energy to remain stable. We learn about cycles of seasons, growth, emotion, economy, injury and age. In the trees we see the rings of years, which are comparable to our own periods of inner development.
However, while everything exists in circular form, as a species, we juxtapose our own patterns onto nature’s: square houses, right angled roads, rectangular books and screens, etc. This is because we don’t view the world around us as an integrated whole. We see it in limitations and separations.
But when we learn to think in circles, we maximize our energy and potential. In this way, we may expand our understanding of our own lives and remove ourselves from the boxes in which we have placed ourselves.