The thoughts of a master
KODO - in the book section.
Kensho Furuya Sensei's book is one of the most thought provoking books I have ever read.
With his very kind permission you will find below some of his thoughts, and sayings, these and others can be found either in his book, or on his web site, http://www.aikidocenterla.com/ . It is my sincere hope that when you read his words, that you will do so slowly, carefully, and thoughtfully.
Twelve of them:
1. Regardless of success or failure if you have done your best you have passed successfully.
2. Pursue your training only because you love it. That is all.
3. Martial arts can never be separated from the reality of our daily lives. This is true spiritual training.
4. Everybody wants a black belt, but so few people know what it really is.
5. The true dojo is the world.
6. Good training means proper attitude plus correctly focused effort.
7. Train your mind through your body. Train your body through your mind.
8. Without a word, Nature teaches all.
9. There is much more than just strength and speed.
10. Everything in life is a gift.
11. Our ego is our greatest obstacle to learning.
12. If you learn anything in this world learn the value of life.
In days gone by:
In the early days, students worked hard to meet the expectations of the teacher. Today, the teacher often must compromise the practice to accommodate the convenience of the students. Worst of all, the teacher compromises the art to its lowest common denominator to attract the greatest number of students. This is not for the sake of the student and his training, this is only to fill the pocketbook.
When students cater to such low standards, they are not following the Way and all kinds of troubles and problems occur. When the teacher caters to such low standards, they are not following the Way and all kinds of things pull the teacher away from actual teaching. Although the art is more "user friendly," today, we have along with this sacrificed the high standards and expectations of the art and teacher.
As is often the case in the business world, the artist must kill his art to satisfy the customer. . . . .
The purpose of practice:
To be the best is not hard.
To stay the best is very hard.
To be the strongest is not hard, to be strong each day is very hard.
To be good is not hard, to be good day, after day, after day, is very hard.
To be faithful is not hard, to maintain your faith each moment of the day is very hard.
Daily practice is not to become the best, or the strongest, or #1 or whatever, - the purpose of daily practice is to refine the power to sustain you one day after the next, after the next, after the next. . .
Many people practice Aikido to become strong, or rich, or famous, or powerful - such shallow goals in life are only for shallow people.
The essence of the art:
Within the techniques and the traditions behind them lies the essence of the art.
It is not to be taken lightly or played with changing this and that to suit your own fancy.
At the same time, those self-absorbed people will never grasp its meaning.
Let the art absorb you, as you absorb the art. . . . . Simply strive for a pure heart.
Unfortunately, those who can put the art above themselves are very few.
Old zen saying:
Fame and fortune come and go like the floating clouds.
Just embrace your practice and continue to polish yourself.
Although a good sword remains in its case where no one can see and touch it, it is still bright and sharp.
This is a great part of its beauty, nobility and mystery. . . . .
Everyone benefits when we work to the high standards of the art itself not by bringing down the art to satisfy our whims, or to adapt to our own convenience, or petty ideas.
You must teach a student as correctly as possible, whether he likes it or not.
Old S & G song:
There was an old Simon & Garfunkel song that I have always liked which had the words, "I'd rather be a hammer than a nail. . . ."
This is a very old song so I wonder if many of you youngsters even remember it!
Of course, everyone would rather be the hammer because it is the hammer that strikes the nail. It is the nail that appears to be passive and yielding. After how many years now since I first heard this song, I finally decided that I would rather be the nail - not the hammer. It is the nail which penetrates deeply and connects all things in which it comes into contact. And finally, if you think about it, the hammer only exists because of the nail.
Today, I see many hammers banging away at everything because that is all it can do, I see very few nails. . . . .
The spirit of the word:
When most people listen, they really do not hear what is being spoken but only hear what they want to hear or interpret what they want to hear. I find this to be a big obstacle in teaching. This is known as "selective hearing," the opposite of "critical hearing."
In training, one must hear the "spirit" of the word or hear the full meaning of the words or instruction. This means that you must be on the same wave length or "of the same mind" as your teacher. Most student never can understand this. . . Usually, we hear just what we want to hear and often miss the valuable lesson or often the "real" meaning of the words which is often hidden behind the words. . . .
In order to listen to the teaching, one must first make a connection with the teacher trying to understand where he is coming from and what he is trying to tell you. NOT - simply what you think he might mean. . . this is only our interpretation or mind-set, not the speaker's or your teacher's. Can you understand this??
To hear the word, as only you want to hear it, is the level of a very mediocre student. Only a true student will hear the spirit of the word beyond the word itself - this is the meaning of kotodama.
In the same respect a mediocre teacher will only tell you what you want to hear - this is only hype and hypocrisy, a true teacher will give you a part of his spirit. . . . this is true giving. The student must understand and appreciate "true receiving."
People today take things to literally and often read only the most superficial meaning of the words we see or hear. A good student will hear many meanings always trying to penetrate deeper and deeper to find the real, original meaning of the teacher's words. . . .
A pure mind:
They say that they first lesson in practice is to enter the mats with a pure mind.
Sometimes this is the most difficult practice of all.
Heart to heart:
Knowledge can only pass from one person to the other person through that elusive but eternal line of friendship connecting one heart with yours.
Only a master's right:
Variation and transformation come after mastery . . . . . . not before!
The first basic teaching is "have right thoughts, do right action."
How hard this is!
I keep trying and giving up, forgetting it and coming back to it.
Maybe I can never understand this or do this in my lifetime, but it doesn't mean to discard this teachings. . . . perhaps, it is the struggle to understand this is the practice itself - regardless of whether I can achieve it or not.
Can you understand?
Even if it takes ten or twenty years to understand - the virtue is in the correct practice, not in the doing "any way you please."
Eventually, it will come, understanding the teachings is more important than to understand immediate success.
Sometimes the best student is not always the best:
A young, strong student is ideal, but a strong student who is over-confident and arrogant is not as desirable as a student who is weak and understands his limitations and desires to develop himself.
A smart student is desirable but a student who thinks he is smarter than everyone else is not as desirable as a less educated student who understands his limitations and desires to develop himself.
A successful student is desirable but a student who thinks he is better than everyone else is not as desirable as a student who does not have much, but understands his limitations and desires to develop himself.
Time is precious:
When you reach my age, you begin to see how short life really is and how little time we have to do what we want to do.
You should take my word for it and get off your duff right now and begin what you need to do.
Young people today always think these is "tomorrow," but, in reality, you only get a few "tomorrows" and that is it!
Live in the present, be in the present, do in the present.
This is the best advice I can offer.
Time flies like an arrow, and like an arrow, it never comes back.
At the right time:
Wisdom, knowledge, instruction and skill must be imparted at the right time and place and particularly with the right mental state.
Our dojo is very "old-world" and "old-school," and I hope all the members will appreciate the great efforts and sacrifice it takes to sustain such a dojo in this world where such ideals no longer hold true and bow down to complacency and superficiality and momentary goals without deeper exploration of the mysteries of the art.
Trying hard to learn, also means to be easy to teach.
Easy to teach means to come to the dojo with a open heart and mind.
Don't be full of yourself and your opinions.
Be humble and grateful and willing to undergo the hardships of training.
Train to become a better person, not a better fighter.
Talent means nothing without the proper attitude.
Without the proper attitude, there is no proper training.
Use it or loose it:
When you stop your practice, you do not pick up where you left off when you begin again.
This is a great fallacy people like to buy into.
When you stop, you immediately begin to forget what you have done.
I recall some study on this and in two weeks of non-practice or non-learning,
about 65% of what you learned was forgotten. . . .
Oddly, your forgetting works quite a bit faster than your remembering or recalling.
Before and after class, please help with the clean-up of the dojo.
This is not really to understand "cleaning," but to understand "caring heart" and "working in harmony with others."
Let go of your pride:
A good teacher of the Japanese arts will always try to shake your pride first.
This is where most students stumble and fail.
A teacher knows that once the student can drop his pride, he is totally open to receive the teachings.
If the student doesn't understand this process, he is doomed.
Usually people are too stuck on their egos.
Body language says a lot:
On the mats, etiquette is a form of communication and becomes the "universal, unspoken body language" we all use to speak to each other. Thinking that we can only speak with words is another universal misconception.
Students should be grateful there is a dojo where one can practice and sensei to teach them. The teacher should be grateful that students come to practice and support the dojo. The relationship between the student and teacher should always be based on gratitude and respect.
Many base the relationship between student and teacher on power, authority and money. I believe this is incorrect. How a dojo can survive in such a commercial environment as the world today and still preserve the traditions and high level practice of the art, is the great dilemma of practicing Aikido or any martial art. Most martial arts are converting themselves into big business or sports and say this is the only way to survive today. This motivation is nothing other than profits and money. Of course, the reality is that a dojo must create income in order to pay the bills and survive, but all motivation for change must be made in the light of what is best for the student, the dojo and the art.
Because this does not always conform in the best way, there is always the conflict between existing by the power of money, and how to teach the student well - everyone in the dojo, both teacher and student must understand this and work together in harmony to support each other - and support the art and dojo in a noble way of both respect and dignity.
There is no greater virtue than regular training.
One can never make good progress with off and on or erratic training. The discipline is not only practicing correct techniques and watching one's manners in the dojo and on the mats, but coming regularly for practice and making it apart of one's life.
Regular training reinforces what you learn each day. One would be amazed at how much one can forget if one practice is missed. Please keep up a regular training schedule.
It is important to follow the form of training, more than making up your own techniques, please practice the basic techniques each day. No one has mastered them yet. . . . . .
We are all here together because of our teachers, we should never forget this and always appreciate this.
The right path:
In the long run, the correct way is always the easiest.
Most people look for short cuts and always end up taking a longer path.
Spirit of bowing:
Just the other day, I happened to glance at a fairly new student who was bowing onto the mat.
When I saw him sit down, straighten his posture, compose himself and bow very humbly to O'Sensei, I was so impressed and deeply moved. I thought to myself that I never realized how sincere he was to learn Aikido and vowed that you give him special attention in class for now on.
At that moment, another person also bowed onto the mats, he was rather experienced and a ranking black belt, when I saw his curt, perfunctory bow, I realized that he is getting a little sloppy in his practice. Another bowed onto the mats, and I saw that he was very new and didn't understand the meaning of bowing and was very awkward without any focus or sense of calmness.
Even if you are bowing perfectly to form, I think that your inner heart will always appear in your bow. If you are arrogant, your arrogance will seep out as you bow. If you are sincere in heart, that sincerity will also come out. If you are not focused, you will make a sloppy bow without any balance or form.
In practice, they say that bowing is the "A to Z" of martial arts and now I am finally beginning to understand why. In order to bow and begin your practice, you must first correct your mind and spirit.
Please practice your bowing with your heart, mind and spirit as an important aspect of your practice. Your bow will always reveal your inner self.
No eye bowing:
A long time ago, when I was very young in martial arts, someone said that when you bow, you cannot see your opponent so even though you bow your head, you must always keep your eyes up and on him. This was a common saying and practice in many martial arts at the time.
This made a very odd looking bow, of course, and I could never understand this practice. This type of bow did not show any sense of respect or sincerity at all and looked meaningless to me. Even though your eyes are lowered, you can sense if you opponent begins to approach you. This is not difficult at all.
Today, I see people use their eyes in a different way and it is equally bad. I see some people who look at the person, determine their rank or status and then bow accordingly depending on whether they are lower or higher rank. If they are of higher rank, one bows to them very lowly and respectfully, if one is of lower rank, they just get a short nod.
This type of discriminating attitude is very bad in practice.
Of course, we are aware of rank and position in the dojo, but we bow to everyone, regardless of rank or seniority with equal spirit and sincerity of heart. In bowing, it is not to recognize the other's rank, it is to express one's own spirit and mind and dignity.
When I see this kind of short, curt bow - which I call the "Colonel Klink bow" - I am always sad and disappointed that the student does not know any better at all. Among higher ranking students, it is inexcusable.
In bowing, do not use your eyes, use your heart.
No room for innovation:
In Iaido, we closely follow the Way of the masters, there is really no room for innovation in the sense of making up one's own techniques in a willy-nilly way.
We appreciate that by following the masters, we are following the most perfect way of training and the highest expression of the technique.
Before anything, you must understand this important point.
More than innovation and thinking up this and that, go deeper into your own mind and soul for the meaning of the technique.
Observe & learn:
No need to intellectualize, conjecture, doubt, or question - just observe very carefully. It is usually the students who observe very carefully, who catch on to the techniques very well. The ones who do not pay attention and then the ones to think "too much" are the ones who lose out or forget or over look what is being taught.
It is the same with teaching - the most important skill is to observe the students - simply observe very carefully - without judgement, without bias, without pre-conceived ideas or notions.
By observing carefully and seriously - without any idea stuck in your head - you can see what the student is doing very carefully - within this keen observation, it becomes clear what the student is doing - whether there is a tiny mistake someplace which needs correcting, or if he is doing correctly - for his level and skill - or if he is doing very well. . . .
If you correct the student, with pre-judged or pre-conceived notions, most probably your corrections will simply be ego-motivated. I often see people teaching who are not really teaching for the sake of the student, but just taking the opportunity to show off, or express themselves.
For the teacher, in teaching, it is not about the teacher, it is about the student.
For the student, in learning, it is not about the student, it is about the teacher.
This is an important point to understand in learning on the mats.