Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Kyokushin Dojo Kun: Third line

"Hitotsu, wareware wa, shitsujitsu goken o motte, kokki no seishin o kanyo suru koto."
"With true vigour, we will seek to cultivate a spirit of self-denial."

Meet Arisada, the self mummified Japanese Buddhist priest. He died in an ultimate act of self-denial. Through years of extreme physical training to remove any fat from his body, a special diet of bark, and roots from pine trees, and then drinking a special poisonous tea which induced vomiting, sweating, and urination, the priest prepared his body to be buried alive in a small stone tomb, with just a tube that provided air, and a rope that allowed him to ring a bell that was suspended outside of the tomb. This kind of suicide by choice has been outlawed near the end of the 19th century, but there are 16 known shrines of such mummified priests. This history is part of the Japanese culture, and stories. In fact, North american children, and teens can became aware of this historical fact before adults from some of the anime cartoons that they watch coming from Japan such as "Inuyasha".

This kind of extreme self denial was done in a way of becoming a permanent symbol of being able to disregard one's physical self as important ( Live or die ) to other buddhist priests. Arisada's example is to strengthen the hearts of those who think that they just possibly "can't" do things. He is an embodiment of what the human will is capable of.

Training in karate is very demanding when following the Martial Way. It can be tempting to just stay home today, or to find an excuse for why one can miss class again, or to avoid doing one's best during class. The Dojo Kun tells us to deny ourselves of these complexities, and to return to the simplicity of when we first started training. We had no expectations then, only a desire to learn something new. We were willing to give it our best shot, and accept that we would have to overcome limitations.

Training in karate means "emptying your cup". It can be that we feel that we know this already, or that we've done Chudan tsuki over 100,000 times already. Yet, we need to deny ourselves this option of dismissing the chance to learn from our efforts. There is always room for improvement no matter how well we think we know the various demands of our Art. We have to return to the simplicity of a beginner's mind, and yet rely on our prior experience to guide us up into even more effective use of each movement.

As we age, and our bodies become older, we have to learn to work within the challenges that this present. We have to deny ourselves the temptation to stop our efforts due to our pride. Our memories of prior youthful abilities may taunt us, but we need to simplify our desires, and realize that we are becoming like the mummified priest to the younger generation. They look upon us, where we are now still training in spite of all of our challenges, and they learn to appreciate, and hope to imitate us in the future.


Sarah said...

That was both really weird and really interesting. It's a interesting way to look at it though. To learn we certainly have to make sacrifices - do I want to work on my kata or do I want to sleep in a few more hours? Do I want to study for a test or would I rather hang out with my friends? Should I go to work or should I call in sick because I just don't want to today? But thank goodness we don't have to do that extreme sort of self sacrifice as Arisada. Either way, it does ask one to balance the commitments of what they've chosen to do. And following the Martial Way, as you said, means making martial arts one of the top points in your life. Interesting post. :) I'm trying to catch up on what I've missed now. :)

Paul and/or Trish said...

Very interesting, this philosophy of self emptying is almost exactly identical to the the first part of the Eastern Orthodox way. We go one step further in that we empty ourselves in order that we may be filled with the divine. Some of our monastics are called to the type of aeceticism Arisada lived. (many also gladly died when called to,but to artificially do it in this manner would be considered self centered) All Orthodox, monastics or not, are called to self denial ie. married people consider their spouses and all they meet each day as a "cross to die on" or we live for the other rather than ourselves.

supergroup7 said...

Thank you Sarah, Paul and/or Trish, for your comments.

I think that there is such a good effect that happens when we mature to the point where we cease to focus on feeding our ego, and start to understand the good that happens when we challenge our spirit by letting go what we "think" is important.