May
14

“Basking In Reflected Glory,” by Nev Sagiba

The “good old days” were not. There was simply less media and communication, so evil mostly went unnoticed. Except for the recipients and victims. That’s why despots like to control communications. Although ignorant people liked to imagine mythical stories to help them stay in denial of, for example, disappeared loved ones, reality was as harsh then as it is now.

Reflected glory an illusion. Whilst the struggles of human beings against odds can be spiritually heroic personal battles, there is not one life which in some way has not experienced inner battles and conflicts to reconcile with external challenges.

When a grown man dons the garb of a long gone era such as a hakama, a split skirt, and does not know how to ride a horse, then practices a fake re-enactment vaguely resembling real and deadly fighting, something has to be said about that man’s sanity.

When he starts to feel important because of it, something is definitely revealing itself about his lack of sanity.

When the intent is a respectful honouring of a valid tradition, I suppose such insanity can be forgiven. But when it’s an ego riddled show of pretend skill, it starts to get a bit sad.

I think the privilege of practicing any budo path is cause for great thankfulness and humility. It may improve you. Perhaps it may help you to one day survive as well.

But there is no glory in it. Seeking to become awakened is no cause for pride. It can be hard, painstaking, grueling, sometimes painful and often dirty work. Particularly for those who are less than true dilettantes and who make it a choice to put the valid value of anything learnt to practical use, in real high risk, as a professional protector.

As anyone who has participated in real battle without imbibing drugs will inform you, there is no glory in battle. Only gore.

As a child, every boy I knew wanted to be a fireman when he grew up. To me, it held no attraction whatsoever. Nor did the silly uniform firefighters wore then. Brass helmets were an electrocution risk, The Prussian Army uniform archaic. Brass buttons need constant maintenance. I liked the boots though, great on horseback and motor-bikes when you replace the rubber soles with leather.

When I grew up (somewhat), the others got high risk jobs in little square rooms shuffling foolscap. Paper cuts were no doubt as frequent as RSI and the slow growth of spare tyres. Only God knows how, somehow, when nothing else was available, I ended up in the fire brigades.

Glory? I never noticed any. Lots and lots of toxic smoke. Bodies. More bodies. Hard, long, cold, wet, carbonated, unfed hours until the job was done. High risk. Men often behaving badly not knowing how to cope with stress, toxic inhalation, post traumatic stress, long hours, continuous extended shifts when recalled, exhaustion, rigidly over-disciplined military attrition (now all gone in favour of the opposite extreme), lack of sleep and other stuff. Every day, in most stations, it was “on the front.” Did you know that several times more people die in domestic car crashes every year than all the current wars put together?

Glamour? If there was any I never noticed it. No orchestras in the sky playing propaganda music either. Suicides? Yes, a few. Some could not cope. Misbehavior? Yes, some. Heroic action? Yes, much of the time, mostly taken as par for the course unsung and unrecognized. Hard, dirty, uncomfortable work? Yes, lots of it. And other stuff.

Proud? Only now looking back. Then, every day was just another day we thought was ordinary, whilst some part inside of us seemed to die at the almost daily witnessing of death, broken bodies and sad unfair things that happened mostly to careless people.

Was it a good job? Yes. It was a service to life, protecting life and property and maintaining safety in society.

Police, rescue, coastguards, security and others experience similar stresses, as do soldiers and others who PUT THEIR BUDO INTO PRACTICE DAILY.

None of these jobs are either “glorious” or glamourous. They may be nobly intentioned and contribute to great good through personal sacrifice and risk taking, but there is nothing for a dilettante to validly bask under. Simply wearing the garb of a firefighter, policeman, coastguard, paramedic, nurse, men-in-black, marines or other soldiers or protectors and merely mimicking their actions, confers no special power or authority, or skill or any measure of any worth whatsoever. Rather, it insults the trade and those who sacrifice themselves for the greater good.

Doing the real job, risking your life to actually and factually serve, does have merit. This merit cannot cast glory upon one desiring to absorb undeserved light and the idea of “glory” or unwarranted feeling of self-importance by merely pretending in a safe environment.

So also with samurai garb and re-enactment. Were you there in those days? Can you remember the bleak, the deprivation, the atrocities, the hardships and sacrifices? You who are too well off and like to fantasize over movies such as “Last Samurai” and “Shintaro” in mythical context, can you recall the humdrum, frequent humiliation endured by low ranking samurai, the menial tasks, the boredom, drunkenness, the vice in a harsh lifestyle of brutality, privation and inequity. And then the death dealing battles where mêlées selected lives like the feeding frenzies of vampire shark kami gone mad?

Have you ever experienced anything more than those high risk paper cuts to serve life? Have you ever lain injured, shivering in the frost of the longest night, not knowing whether tomorrow’s sun would smile on you ever again?

Have you seen death and crushed bodies? What can you do in the face of real emergency. Other than run? Would you give your life to save another?

The value of any Budo practice is in the increase of the ability to serve life and the personal benefits of awakening that may accrue to those who practice with authentic, sincere intent, to increase real and valid skill that may be in fact deployed in situations of high risk in order to bring about good.

Otherwise it has no purpose and you are making mockery dressed up in a skirt with a crack in the middle, which was designed for riding a horse for purposes of battle. A rank for purposes of re-enactment is as fake as the re-enactment and carries no authority whatsoever.

Most mushy arts only conduct practice of one or two aspects out of a vast array of skills comprising heiho; and gunpo, yet have the temerity to call this hokum; “martial” art. On what basis?

Do you know what the words heiho and gunpo mean and what they imply? If not why not?

If you are training to improve yourself and someone is helping you, thanks and respect are valid, but nothing more than that. Especially if you are parting with cash for the privilege of participating in yoga like re-enactment of quasi fighting that’s not.

Who are we kidding when we dress up and make believe a mimicry of activities the ancients had to do for real; and most likely would have preferred not to, but for dire necessity. We need to wake up to ourselves. After all is said and done, whom are we fooling besides ourselves?

How many died, bleeding out in the fields of battle and what was the net gain? We who inherit these shapes of movement, passed on for generations, to survive, do we honour them enough? Do we like to imagine that this privilege is a right?

Is the spirit of thankfulness present each time we bow in to begin another class and practice session?

The bottom line: You are not a warrior unless you are.

Budo is not for basking. It is for actually and factually serving society, humanity and life, often at great cost to yourself, more-so in places of high risk, immense challenge, under conditions of attrition and danger. Integrity. Protection.

Standing up for what’s right, in less immediately dangerous situations, is within everybody’s reach, however. Strategic capability, wielding due process correctly deployed, can really test a persons mettle to sustain until the greater good is truly served.

Budo, at any level, is not intended to be entirely comfortable. Not physically, not mentally, not morally and not spiritually. Decay is comfortable. Death, once consummated, is comfortable. Budo embraces change, the force of evolution itself. And this whilst meeting challenges. Aikido, is no less a game but a deadly earnest matter of converting discord into harmony, wherever you may find yourself.

Under the play and make believe there is one thing that makes the difference to training: Motives as a human being.

And only one person knows what these really are. Yourself.

Glossary

In medieval, feudal Japan, ‘Gunpo’ was the name given to field strategies such as troop movement, dam busting, the use of fire, terror tactics, etc., and ‘Heiho’ the collective strategic skills, which included horsemanship, archery, spear, sword, jujutsu and other methodologies relevant to a given situation.

Nev Sagiba
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Comments

  1. “Otherwise it has no purpose and you are making mockery dressed up in a skirt with a crack in the middle, which was designed for riding a horse for purposes of battle. A rank for purposes of re-enactment is as fake as the re-enactment and carries no authority whatsoever”….That’s why we like to practice in street cloths and shoes on…how your going to use Aikido for Real and not in a Dojo.

  2. bruce baker says:

    I don’t know if honesty in the NANNY-STATE of world opinion that seems to have taken over the world lately is the correct way to wake some people up from their martial arts fantasy?

    Who are you serving? Is it your ego? Is it your fantasy ideas of some imaginary warrior, or is it … a practical application of taking what was once theory and putting into practice?I agree with Nev, have you ever rode a horse or tried to apply those supposed skills in battle of ANY kind?

    Ya know, heroes are heroes NOT because they want to be, they are merely doing what was necessary at the time, and as we move forward in this ever complicated time in our civilization … we all need to apply a little common sense to not only why we train. What we will do when either life or the world over-whelms us with either stress or complications?

    Ya know what? I don’t care what ya call it .. but at some point .. you have to come down off the cloud and participate in life beyond the fantasy of cleanly pressed uniforms and safe practice.

    At some point … you have to smell life and pay attention to the situations in your neighborhood, your territory or state, your nation, your world and affect positive change … somehow, someway … and put away the fantasy-practice for reality.

    It won’t be easy .. and it will certainly aggravate many people who derive their importance from their rank or skills in “the practice” of martial arts, but wasn’t the real purpose of practice was to learn to bring a skill back into the reality and a practical part of your life .. not to hide in a dojo practicing your life away? Just a thought …

    Don’t get me wrong, you NEED to practice, but what I am saying is practice with COMMON SENSE and INTEGRATE those skills into your everyday life .. don’t leave them out, figure out how to apply them thar skills and lessons.

  3. I agree. What is the use of pretending if you don’t use what you learn. I suppose some my use it “in case” some situation arises. A good instructor should teach practical applications of their art, and encourage its use.Well written Mr. Sagiba.

  4. I disagree with the general principle of the note. With my utmost humility and respect, I do not know Mr. Nev Sagiba but I think that for some personal reason, it makes the theme is carried to the extreme. As I said, in my humble opinion, after 20 years of following the footsteps of my Sensei and Conductor of Aikido in my country (Argentina) our loved Katsutoshi Kurata Shihan, after meeting his own aspects of history and of his youth in Japan, I feel obliged to say that his teachings about the Budô after having been in contact with O´Sensei, are more than enough for me. I’m not looking to be a caricature of a samurai warrior, but I think that the practice developed in all honesty, day after day is not a subject that deserves to be belittled.

    I am not a warrior, I’m no expert or firefighter or police officer or was in battle centuries ago, but I faced battles that life brings me everyday with all sincerity of heart and spirit. Every year a great teacher from Hombu Dojo who visits our country to offer seminars, takes a lot of money for doing this. Every time we reach a new Dan, Hombu Dojo takes a huge amount of money to validate our success … This would not be far from the values mentioned in the text?.

    Respectfully, humbly, I am on the side who prefer to see the daily practice in the Dojo as a way to harmony as a legacy of O’Sensei. Everything else will be achieving and finding each one, I dare not judge the hearts of others.

    Please, I hope you accept my opinion greatly and humbly.

    Sincerely
    Gustavo Romano – 3rd Dan
    Argentina Aikikai Federation
    Aikikai Foundation

    (Oh, by the way, I certainly hope I have been able to clearly express my thoughts in English. My apologies, it is not my native language).

  5. …ever notice when you get into a situation, there is no background theme music? oh. if you want situations, that too is an indication of, shall we say, a few too many bats in your belfry? but, if you do, just live in a major city in a place that’s affordable to the median income wage earner. it WILL be good practice, but not as predictably scheduled as keiko. keiko will assume new importance…

  6. No theme music? You have to bring your own. This comic illustrates preparation.

    http://xkcd.com/337/

    Also, at the risk of being more facetious, my knees would like to see hanmi handachi replaced with defending against attacks while seated in a chair.

  7. Christopher Lester says:

    An appropriate title, thinking that participating in or viewing death and murder grants you some kind of special status is flawed.

  8. There’s no status in service protecting life, only results. If you get there in time.

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