“Yurusu, an Aiki perspective,” by Francis Takahashi

Yurushimasu, in Japanese, is the decision to, and the act of forgiving another person for an action or intention deemed detrimental or hurtful. In a tightly controlled society as may be found in Japan, the value of forgiving and being forgiven is a highly prized, and perhaps indispensible characteristic of that society. For me, it means forgiving the person involved, without necessarily discounting or dismissing the actual damage done or perceived to have been committed. To distinguish between these two notions is vital to appropriately and reasonably resolving any conflict or misunderstanding for any and all parties involved and affected. Thus, the fundamental connection to the other party is preserved, while constructive measures are being taken to rectify the situation, and reconcile true emotions, perceptions, and attitudes.

No doubt, other cultures and societies have their own version of dealing with applying the notion, and with the actual act of forgiveness, and must be respected as such by any fair observer. Nonetheless, it seems to me that there are certain factors in common for all such manifestations of human compassion and tolerance. One such characteristic may well be the WIIFM factor. “What’s In It For Me?” to forgive another person one may ask. For one, the release of tightly held resentment in exchange for opening that burdened space to more positive emotions and to establish constructive solutions can be huge. For another, the opportunity to reestablish lines of communication and of exchange that proved previously beneficial to both parties, cannot be quickly discounted, and steps may then be taken to reconnect them. When one realizes how much, and how long it took to establish this advantage in the first place, it certainly is worth every effort. It certainly can be accepted as “good for business” to bury the hatchet of resentment and rancor, thus providing new and improved opportunities for mutual growth and prosperity. Say, don’t our so called world leaders strive to achieve this happy result most of the time?

Let us not ignore or forget the singularly most important aspect of “yurusu”, which is the essential ability and willingness to forgive the self for a recognized misstep or for a perceived error. How legendary are the accounts of those who lost great amounts of time, anguish and lost opportunities, simply by refusing to come to terms with their own fallibility, lack of vision, and unquestioned personal biases, and thus failed to reconstruct a healthy self image based on a genuine love and appreciation for that familiar face in the mirror. Yes, that one, the one who has always, is always, and will always be with you, through thick and thin, and is most deserving of another chance. The best friend you can ever have is staring right back at you, and is the one person you cannot wisely exclude for any length of time. Self forgiveness is quite hard, but ultimately an essential habit to cultivate and to treasure.

As we practice Aikido techniques, movements and open minded attitudes on the mat, let us include the lessons of the continuous application of Aiki Principles to the rest of our 24/7 existence, wherever we are, and decide to go. Let us eschew this “part time” commitment to our Aiki ideals, and be unconditional in its constant and consistent practice in all phases of our lives, and with all manner of relationships we may form.

In his singular book on Aikido, Yurusu Budo, the late Shoji Nishio Sensei was apparently attempting to explain his idea of the Founder’s wish for benevolence in Budo, a true and realistic attitudinal change towards reconciliation and non violent resolution of differences of thought and action. This could only begin with a change of insight on the part of those who seriously train in traditional Budo systems, and who can and actually decide to incorporate the ability to “forgive” in their choices of response. This would be a paradigm shift indeed.

In our Aiki Web forums and blogs, we may note many disagreements on topics such as terminologies, philosophies, legitimacy of systems, genuineness of research, and other related matters. What we may want to seriously consider as well is to encourage a more tolerant, open minded, and “forgiving” environment of responses to posts that appear incongruent with our own views and beliefs. Let us honestly try and give harmonious and meaningful conversations and debates an even chance.

Who knows, we may even grow to like it.

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  1. O Sensei has shown to be very farsighted and open minded. To be open minded includes understanding and empathy. Training sincerely on the mat and living with aiki principles in both on and off the mat one’ s mind might open step by step and realize that forgiving another person and forgiving oneself is a necessary act to live in peace with oneself and with the world. So when Takahashi Sensei askes: What’s In It For Me?, the reply is : Everything, we are gaining everything, but most of all a peaceful mind and a peaceful life, forgiving is an ability where we self gain more for us than for others.
    Thank you Takahashi Sensei for a thoughts provoking wonderful article!

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