Mind, Technique, Body
I have always known that we go through mental and physical phases in our life on the path of study in Bujutsu. It is natural of course but many are unaware of the clarity of shift in this tenuous balance between the mind and the body. When you are young you think little of the physical well-being and ability, you simply accept and expect the body to perform well and without the pain and strain experienced in later years. The road to serious study is demanding and along the way our bodies are pushed to the limit and over and the edge for some. This is a given but in one way we pay the price and in another way we learn the benefits the severity brings.
As I wake I feel the legacy of training in my body. The first steps of the morning remind me of what I have done before and the price I have paid. The minute’s pass and the body awaken and the strength absorbs most of the aches and pains and stresses. Such is the way now as I approach 60 years. Perhaps I ask, it is that my body is just not strong enough but perhaps it is that daily training and not looking for an end point. It is just the way for me now and I accept and must accept that what I am is because of what I have done.
Inoue Sensei would often when I was studying in Japan talk about Shin, Gi, Tai – the balancing between heart or spirit technique, and body. It is the body element as one gets older that is part of the individual challenge. In the pursuit of perfection in all aspects there is a price to pay and in paying it we understand more. Be not those that glorify only the mental elements yet their bodies show the falseness of their ways, be not those that glorify the physical elements yet their understanding shows the error of their ways. Be that which balances all aspects of the way and understands that to achieve understanding you must push and purge both.
This will vary according to each student but the stones we walk upon as we go forward, learn and age are similar for us all:
Physical – Mental
Mental – Physical
Mental – Physical – Spiritual
Mental – Spiritual – Physical
Spiritual – Mental – Physical
Miyamoto Musahsi once wrote that one should not put his faith in the gods or rely upon them. In the “Dokkodo” he says, “Respect Buddha and the gods without counting on their help”, “Busshin wa totoshi, busshin o tanomazu”. However in his last years in the cave of Reigando it is clear he became very spiritual as he prepared himself to meet his death. Such a man nevertheless still became that which he did not approve of when younger but understood the way in all things with man as old age encroached.
It is also known that as age and sickness took away his physical capacity the solace of being alone was imperative to hide the decline and fall of his well being and capacity to do his art in the way of the body. The writing however (Go Rin No Sho) clearly shows that the mind was alive and the spirit strong. To shun the world takes great courage and to immerse yourself in the art you love still, takes even more resolve and strength. This is the power of the mind and spirit over the body.
For us mere mortals in the modern world the power of the mind and discipline is to have the strength to train every day. Have the strength to sacrifice the warmth of the family and home, the strength to get up and do what you must in the study of Bujutsu. All the while as age creeps upon you the body reminds you of its want of rest, its desire of deceiving you to think the pains will go away as you sit and do nothing. The mind tries to convince you of justification and for many this is their downfall.
The challenge is to do what you know needs to be done. To not be deceived by your weakness of mind and not allow the trigger of fatigue and pain to be the excuse for not training.
All those you have known and know who inspire you pay and paid a price and struggled with their bodies. They all have the scars of physical demand and the pain in movement reminding them of their sacrifices and sometimes excessiveness. Without balance we pay the price eventually for our exploration of the pain barrier. It is mostly never at the time of doing the training; it is much much later for most. You will remember those hundreds of kicks and bunnie hops, piggy backs and running which now come back to tell you that you went too far with your body. This is what happens as we age and the wear and tear of the body comes to the fore.
For me it is the time of great discipline to push on, to explore further and within the pain there is something that can’t be found without duress. How well do you know yourself? This is for me Bujutsu. How honest are you with yourself and how strong are you mentally to overcome physical hurdles and mental hurdles? The journey complete in all aspects and challenging me all the time. Sometimes I am faced with a brick wall, unable to pass or get over it, I want to walk way from it and concede and become like many I see teaching martial arts, “used to be’s”. Always walking around and telling all that they are wrong, always doing things slowly and always reminding all of their injuries along with their status. This is easy to become and it is why so many have chosen this way. For me it is clear, training properly is for life and without training there is no life.
So as I awake tomorrow and the next day and the day after I will embrace the pain and know it is a reminder of my endeavour, of my journey and what I have done. The voices will say rest but the mind and spirit will say push on. As I do this I know as I have done so far, discover more about myself and about Bujutsu. I will know from just looking at others what they are and whether they are worthy and I will know from within what I must do to be worthy of my journey. Bujutsu is indeed, life in every breath. I have tried to break down the stages we go through on our journey and made some simple observations of that which I have felt and feel.
The Young Years
Physically growing with a body durable and able to take on the challenge of training. Inept in complete execution but able to use full power and basic force to achieve the end. A mind both fresh and pure to the “do” only without distraction of status or politics.
The Middle Years
A body built around the training and efficient in its usage. Regrets about approaching training and execution incorrectly and the scars and damages of error and excess. A mind often distracted by status, recognition and politics. The beginning of slow down for many and the justification of not doing rather than doing! The best time for the serious, strong in body and aware in mind. The understanding for the serious of strategy (Genri) and the balance of all power.
The Old Years
A body carrying the scars of training and the weariness of age. Frustration of the physical inability but enlightenment for the serious and just how many options and ways there are to achieve victory and understand the true way of Bujutsu. For many the pinnacle of the imperative for status and recognition, living on past deeds and stories of when and how in days gone by. For the serious, a time for self-reflection and understanding of Bujutsu, a time to pass on and make the circle complete.
The way of Shu, Ha, Ri