The Hidden Dojo Blog
OBLIGATION VS. ENTITLEMENT by Xander Mitchell Sensei
In Japanese there are two words for Obligation: Giri and Gimu. The difference is slim and hardly distinguishable in the English language. The latter, gimu, having the connotation that there has been a set duty laid out that needs to be obliged. Giri, on the other hand, refers the innate sensation of responsibility, duty, and honor towards a certain subject that comes along with fulfilling one’s purpose. This innate emotion, as natural as it is to the Japanese people, is almost lost in society in America. As important as it is to have this sense of duty towards one’s parents, profession, or even country; it is equally important, if not more so, that this feeling is kept alive in the martial arts atmosphere. In order to keep an art alive, as opposed to simple repetition and memorization, there must be a certain sense of obligation towards the Sensei, and the art itself. If technique is the body of a martial art, then Giri is the breath. Constantly keeping the art growing and adapting, it ensures that the heart of the Dojo, or the art, maintains a stable and steady growth; rather than shriveling and dying.
One of the most important things one can achieve is fulfilling one’s purpose to the utmost level. That is to say that, one of the greatest things that an apple tree can do, is to produce the most delicious and healthy apples. Likewise, all humans serve a purpose, many purposes. Teachers are expected to guide their students on the path that they have already walked, to share the most effective means to the designated end. A student’s purpose is to be teachable, willing to learn. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that the teacher has opportunity to teach. It is the obligation of the teacher to constantly adapt their teaching methods to fit the student’s needs; to continue learning how to teach.
When Giri dies, a martial art will die. The day that a Sensei does not feel obligated to teach then the art will suffer and fail; the cup will ever remain dry in lack of knowledge. The day a student loses the sense of obligation then the art will shrivel and die; when the student loses the drive to learn then the teacher will have no cup to pour his teachings into. In Budo, it is the student’s responsibility to provide the cup in which the sensei will divulge his teachings. There are several ways, in Martial arts, for a student to provide adequate means for a Sensei to teach. In being humble the student shows the teacher that they have much to learn, therefore allowing room for more knowledge. Trust in the sensei is also crucial to maintain the right state of mind in order to learn.
There is an innate emotion instilled within the culture that drives the Japanese people; giri. Obligation is what might possibly account for their high literacy rates, and record low crime rates. The obligation that they feel towards their society and to each other exceeds all expectations by American standards. Martial arts in Japan are of the same nature. A sensei in Japan will never tell his students they have to do anything; they will simply share their suggestions with them. It is the student’s obligation to the teacher to respect their wishes. This, however, can become too extreme such as teachers who force their students into a lifestyle they would never choose themselves simply because they know that the student will listen to every word they have to say. Like everything in life there is a balance between duty and blind obedience. Obligations should not be hard to fulfill if one realizes that it is obligation that turns the student into the teacher. In life we are but a link in the chain, if we begin to feel that we are not obligated to hold what has been preserved for years before, then the chain will fail to continue and the wisdom of the past will be lost. Obligation is what preserves, and solidifies our art. At the root of all students should be the sense of duty and honor towards their teacher and fellow students, to continuing the circle and contributing to the constant growth of the art. Robert E. Lee, one of the most respected military leaders of all time said “Duty is the most sublime word in our language. Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less.” When we understand our obligations we add another brushstroke to the picture that is, Self Mastery.
Contraction & Expansion
Everyone who joins a martial arts school does so for the wrong reason. It’s not that their motives are bad or that they all want to be Bruce Lee, it’s just they all set foot on the path without a complete, or in most cases, any idea of what they have got themselves into. I believe that whether you are taking up JuJutsu, tea ceremony or even Kendo, Japanese fencing you will inevitably reach the point in your training where you realize you are continuing the path with a different understanding, and altogether different motive than that with which you began. This is because the pathway of progress in all traditional arts follow a similar pattern of contraction and expansion. From the moment one begins their journey they begin the process of contracting. Like the sculptor you must chip away the excess before you can really begin to work. One must first overcome their pre-conceived notions of what their art and skill is about, and then follow patterns called kata in order to remove the sloppy and arbitrary movements of the body. Simultaneously all undesirable attributes, weaknesses and awkwardness are removed so that only the true self remains, void of all fear, doubt and delusion. This process of contraction is absolutely vital in order to center oneself. We all seek enlightenment or at least higher understanding in some shape or form in our lives and being centered means you are at peace with yourself because you are no longer fooling yourself, but are “keeping it real” as the popular phrase says. What is “real” and what is your reality that you exist in. If you can cut through the layers of fear and doubt that over time harden around us like a shell for us to hide inside when something uncomfortable comes our way you can finally discover and free yourself from your self imposed prison and that is what it means to be truly centered. It’s a return to the true you where you are aligned with your life’s vision and supported by your internal values and immovable character. If you try to build too quickly on an unsure foundation your long term growth will be severely limited thus the contraction process must not be ignored.
Once you have reached your true foundation, void of all unnecessary distractions, absolute focus can finally be achieved. Every time a martial artists takes a moment to bow before stepping onto the training area or at the beginning of a class, they do so in an effort to remove the daily distractions from their mind and realign with their center. We must always return to our center to clear the thick fog that can at times attempt to overtake us. Meiso, or meditation, has the sole purpose of doing this as all material surroundings disappear and only our breathing remains. Breath is the foundation of life and is the first step to reaching a calm and pure foundation on which all our other actions can build upon. Take time to clear the fog by simply sitting still with good upright posture, your eyes closed and attention on breathing in your nose and out your mouth, drawing in oxygen with deep abdominal inhalations and soon you will taste the clarity of thought that can exist in the person who learns the art of contraction.
“We all must suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret or disappointment.” -Jim Rohn
By: Derek Morris
We all know somebody who is just a natural at something.. We watch their ability to do a certain skill and think to ourselves, “Man! I wish I was that lucky!”. The interesting thing is, there is a way for all of us to be that lucky, it’s called practice! Arnold Palmer, the famous golfer, put it best when he said,
“It’s a funny thing, the more I practice the luckier I get.” We, too, can be lucky or even become an overnight success as long as we are willing to put in several thousand hours before that pivotal “overnight” takes place. You see, the only real way to mastery is WORK and if you simply aren’t willing to put in the work then you should turn the TV back on and resume living on autopilot. In this article we will look at the top three strategies to increase your performance in any pursuit by improving your self-discipline, or ability to stick to your training even when it gets tough.
Step 1 is DECIDE! Too many times we get stuck in analysis paralysis and over think things to the point that we put off making a decision all together. The longer we delay the longer we just keep floating on life’s currents with no real destination. Once we spot our island we start working, we start rowing and we move in the right direction, but the problem is we will be tested and tempted along the way, guaranteed. It is up to us to trust in our decisions and avoid being thrown off course by the emotions we feel. I once had dinner with Rex Crain, an ex-Pro Baseball player turned motivational speaker who taught me that, “You are never what you feel, you are always what you decide!” Conditions don’t determine our outcome unless we let them. We hold all the power and we use that power when we decide. Decide now what is no good for your life and get rid of it. Decide which direction you wish to move forward and then apply Step 2: Worst First. We all have a to-do list of some sort and if you are like most humans you like to check things off that list so inevitably you choose the easy stuff first to get the satisfaction of accomplishing something, but you are doing it wrong. What is the big ugly scary thing that you need to do to move forward, but you always put it off because it is just too overwhelming to dive into? THAT is what you want to do FIRST and in doing so you will feel so much more empowered and move much faster toward your goal when you decide to stop taking the easy route and take the true straight course instead. When you complete steps one and two you will mess up, get distracted, lose sight of your vision or even get knocked around by some storms that find your ship in the most inopportune times. If you have heard of the story of the donkey who fell in the well, then you know what to do when the farmer assumes his well is dried up and starts shoveling dirt in it to fill it in, YOU SHAKE IT OFF and step up! Don’t give up and let yourself get buried by the crud that gets tossed on you, but shake it off and step up until you can walk on out just like the donkey and give the farmer a near heart attack that you persisted and rose above the challenges heaped upon you. When you master these three strategies you will find your discipline to do so will allow you to master the martial arts while simultaneously mastering life.