“Daily Shugyo,” by Francis Takahashi

“Good decisions result from applying wisdom, and
that wisdom itself is the result of bad decisions”

Shugyo, in Japanese, basically refers to the concept of training in a discipline of choice. It can also connote “ascetic” training, which means to “lead a life of discipline and self denial, especially for spiritual purposes.”

This second description appears to be more commonly held as pertaining to the core of martial arts training and personal development. Yet, the vast majority of those who participate in martial arts training at almost all levels do not exhibit this level of intensity of purpose, or dedication to real mastery of their chosen art form. It seems enough to simply be a part of the process of practicing principles and techniques, without any sense of urgency or special results or goals in mind. This is not meant to impugn their characters or to denigrate their decisions. It simply is what is normally encountered in the world of martial arts practice and accepted as such.

If one seriously wants to take it to increasingly higher and more severe levels, there is no shortage of opportunities or outlets to follow such urges. One does need to be wary, however, of the many seemingly legitimate and “proven” schools and instructors who promise to deliver such environments and teachings. “Caveat emptor” certainly applies, where the “buyer” must always “be aware”. The sad realization is that, often enough, good decisions result from applying wisdom, and that wisdom itself is the result of bad decisions. Commit yourself to exploring fully each possibility, and trust your inner self to make the best decision. If you err, do not hesitate to learn from your mistakes, and to make immediate changes accordingly.

Does one really need a guru, a special teacher, or a proven system to follow in order to attain significant results from pursuing one’s dreams? Not necessarily. After all, the most important teacher you will ever encounter in life is the one that looks back at you in the mirror. Surround and support this essential teacher with all the best assistant teachers you can find, but do not despair if this is not always possible. Look deep within yourself and you will surely discover that all the elements for making good decisions, and the capacity to act on them, are there, and have always been there. This is the secret of the masters, which is no secret, as they have always been cajoling us to do that very thing. The Founder of Aikido, constantly and consistently reminded us to have faith in ourselves, and to create our very own form of aikido. It is up to us to decide to begin, and to continue.

In summary then, “shugyo” is what we want to make it to mean for ourselves. It can be as hard and excessive as we choose, or we can take it day by day, allowing the fabric of our daily lives to guide us in our choices. There is neither a correct nor an incorrect answer to the question of which is best. It only matters that you find and keep the one that is best for you and your well thought out goals of training, and of living. The one trait that any choice has in common with the others, is that it must be a daily discipline, fueled by the desire to achieve, and led by the uncompromising will to settle for nothing less.

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  1. Again Takahashi Shihan has nailed it, thank you very much for this great article that inspires us to reflect. “Von nichts kommt nichts”(nothing comes from nothing) is something I heard often in my home when I was a child. You must train and work as hard as what you want to achieve, the more effort, more results is a simple formula. Certainly there are places where you get a certificate or degree guaranteed after so many months, having trained or not, but as Takahashi Shihan well said, you cannot deceive the person looking at you in the mirror, he/she is the one who knows, if and how we have got it and if we are ready, and I’m sure of one thing, we will never finish learning.

  2. The best teacher is the person who gives us a hard time… and the fool makes him his enemy, runs away from him or fights him!

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