Jan
01

New Year’s greeting from Patrick Augé Sensei (English and French)

Minoru Mochizuki, founder of Yoseikan Budo, and Patrick Augé Sensei

Minoru Mochizuki, founder of Yoseikan Budo, and Patrick Augé Sensei

Dear Students, dear Parents, dear Friends:

As 2014 approaches, I would like to share with you some experiences and thoughts directly related to our study of Budô.

One summer early morning, I was having breakfast with Kanchô Sensei (Mochizuki Sensei) at the dôjô. I asked him: “Did S. Sensei quit? I haven’t seen him for a long time!”

With a “What-are-you-talking-about?” look on his face, Sensei answered, “Budô people don’t quit!”

At that moment, his reply did not make sense to me. S. Sensei had always been present at the dôjô, assisting Kanchô Sensei and practicing with us. Then suddenly, he was gone, and nobody had said a word. I had witnessed so many similar disappointing cases of enthusiastic and assiduous Budô students and old-timers, who, out of the blue, joined the ranks of the dropouts and master-less instructors that I heard at least one voice explain, “That’s what happens when you’re too zealous and don’t get what you’re after… Rigidity cannot overcome rigidity; it always leads to rupture.” Also, the judgment that quitting or jumping ship was considered a shameful act which led to no one talking about it did not help clarify the matter.

But another voice also was saying: “Sensei has a knack of giving us answers to trigger our thinking far beyond the literal meaning of his words.” To some students, he explained everything while, to others, he gave answers that brought more questions. At that time, I had not seen that behavior as his way to treat us equally, that is, according to our respective ability. I had to think more deeply in the context of his teachings before I realized what he had been doing.

I found myself reflecting on this path that we travel. We look at the Martial Path as a way to meet and manage life’s difficulties, starting from our need to survive most fundamental physical threats, such as falling and bullying. Through the use of martial techniques (Bujutsu) as tools to work with our fear of falling or getting hurt by someone else, we progressively internalize the concept of Familiarization as the Antidote to Fear. Nowadays, physical threats still exist, but we are more likely to be threatened psychologically than physically, and the resulting damage may be worse. In one day, do we not face many unpleasant events? How do we manage to go through each day?

We start with our commitment. One of the Yôseikan’s mottos – “Whatever Happens, Meet it with Kiai” (Danshi Koto Ni Atatte Kiai Daiichi Nari) – was displayed near the Shômen (Dôjô Front). In simpler language, it means: “Face challenges with determination; don’t chicken out!” We have many and regular opportunities to examine our commitment. In our training, first, we must experience the threat at the physical level: Committed sincere attacks lead to committed sincere defenses. Otherwise, there can be no Kiai, that precise moment when our combined mental and physical energy meets that of our Uke (Partner). What we experience at the physical level can be transferred to the mental level; the same rules apply. But for that to occur, we need the example and guidance of experienced teachers who have gone through the training themselves. That is one of the reasons why Yôseikan cannot be done alone if we want to operate at the Budô level.

Later, I understood Mochizuki Sensei’s answer to my question: Someone who quit actually had not been studying the Martial Path but only had been mindlessly repeating Martial Techniques in the hope that some miraculous self-transformation would occur. This explained why he wasn’t able to manage the obstacles that life put in his way in order to train him to overcome greater challenges yet to come. That is the result of conditional commitment.

Other students have practiced conditional commitment. One I distinctly remember was a very talented student who did everything his own way. He kept insisting that Aikidô was just a health exercise and that all that spiritual mumbo-jumbo was nonsense to confuse and manipulate people. He obstinately refused to teach beginners; he considered it a waste of time since he was practicing for his own pleasure, which is what he believed everyone should be doing. He had made a habit of arriving after the beginners’ class had started so that other senior students would be tasked to teach that class; he also routinely missed the Sunday afternoon Mondô (Period of Questions and Answers), which was the weekly session when Kanchô Sensei, Uchideshi (Resident Students) and Kayoideshi (Commuting Students) communicated with one another without time restraint. This student also – among other events – regularly skipped Shihan meetings where important decisions were to be made. (Of course, he never failed to criticize the outcomes of these meetings.)

Kanchô Sensei often scolded him for his self-centered behavior and half-hearted commitment. That student couldn’t differentiate tough love from harassment, so he disappeared sometimes for several weeks when he felt humiliated and came back when he felt better. After Mochizuki Sensei passed away, he resigned and became independent. However, because he skipped learning all the fundamentals, for he was such a rare talented individual – one of the few that I have ever encountered – he could only teach from his present level and could not teach those who needed a foundation in the fundamentals. Therefore, since he did not teach the basics, he guaranteed that no one who followed him would ever reach his level. His own personal achievement was the end of the road, which was his focus from the beginning.

The Yôseikan embraces the concept of Mutual Welfare as one guiding principle in our path. I have met Bujutsu people who had come naturally to the discovery of the Spirit of Mutual Welfare through their relentless research and application of the Principle of Efficiency and reached the Dô level while conversely, so-called Budô experts had stopped their study at the technical level (Jutsu). As one teacher once said, “If your two eyes are on the goal, you have nothing left to watch the Path!” This is one of the results of getting stuck in one’s comfort zone: we fall into a comatose state. The Aiki Expo gatherings have given us ample exposure to those situations. Some well renowned teachers showed genuine curiosity over and interest in what others were doing and went around observing and even participating in other teachers’ classes; however, other celebrity teachers expressed no interest at all and left as soon as their classes were over, and they no longer had to teach or even be present.

Being present is where everything begins. An old French proverb says: “He who is away is always wrong.” Or in more colloquial terms; “You snooze – you lose.” Nothing can replace the direct experience of being present physically and mentally. There is a distinction between being absent from an event due to some urgent priority and being absent due to negligence and/or indifference. A person’s true motivation always ends up being revealed through his or her attitude regardless of the explanation offered.

For that reason, make sure that you make up for missed classes. If you cannot practice due to an impeding physical condition, attend the practice and observe it attentively. It’s called Mitorigeiko (Practice through Observation), a powerful learning tool that anyone can cultivate. On the mental level, it also helps motivate students to re-join the practice as soon as possible, which results in faster healing. Attending practice when ill or injured is an especially beneficial discipline that must be developed early and consistently. Beginners and lower-ranked students who miss classes, intending to resume practice later when more favorable conditions allow, may inevitably find themselves filling that missed class time doing something else, something more “fun” and “entertaining,” and possibly never make it back to class. Thus, the mind should be set on learning even when the body cannot practice. Both can still be present.

The same principle applies to intermediate and advanced students. If you are going to miss a camp or any important event for whatever serious reason, you are encouraged to offer to help those attending in some way. Find and take advantage of leadership and involvement opportunities at the dojo throughout the year. If you need to miss your class, consider making up by staying with other classes besides practicing with yours. There is always a way when there is a will.

Black Belts, you need to accept that the junior students are watching your example. Your behavior speaks more loudly than your words, and it sets the standards for those coming after you. A sign at the Yôseikan said, “Black Belts arrive early and leave last!” Of course, as you know, this statement means more than just logging in time.

And for those aspiring to rise to the advanced level, do not wait until you reach the brown belt level to start developing the qualities of a black belt. Start right away. Once you reach the purple belt level, ask yourself: do you join the Saturday morning practice, or do you maintain the same weekend routine as before? Do you sometimes stay with the beginners’ class to share your experience and polish your basics?

Yes, the Yôseikan enforces demanding standards – and there has been pressure from all directions to lower the standards in order to accommodate and attract more students. It already had been going on while Mochizuki Sensei was active; he would often hear: “There are too many techniques; students cannot follow”; “This technique is too dangerous”; “Promotions are too slow”; “We cannot compete with other schools.” He had to deal with these and other similar complaints.

All this whining infuriated Kanchô Sensei: “What do you think will happen if you lower the standards? You will never be able to raise them again! Look at the present deterioration of Aikidô after Ueshiba Sensei! You have to study and teach better in order to bring your students up to the standards and not lower the standards to your students’ levels!”

As one of the four designated successors of Mochizuki Sensei, I renew my vows to maintain the standards and the values that we have received from him. I know that learning and practicing techniques is easier than training the mind. I also know that the more natural ability we possess, the more likely we are to neglect the cultivation of the Spirit (Shin) and focus only on Techniques (Gi) and Physical Fitness (Tai). But what happens then in the absence of spirit when the body deteriorates due to age and abuse? History has proven that those who follow that easy path will irremediably give up or become independent while those less gifted ones – the majority of us, who have made a habit early in life to deal with hardships – have consequently developed the appropriate skills. For this reason, we have been taking a more direct approach to train students from the beginning level to develop Kiai and Zanshin (a Continued State of Mental Awareness and Physical Readiness). Starting with clear greetings upon entering the Dôjô to set the mind for the practice, children and beginners have been responding well to the training. Some adults, even experienced ones, have been struggling with it, but they need to get over their own personal inhibitions to develop something valuable that they – and others in our dojo community – may use.

I stand by my statement that “The Yôseikan is an endangered species.” That statement has drawn criticism to the effect that it may continue to discourage people from joining a community and a way of life that may disappear. My reply is that we continue to seek only students who have a vision for themselves and others and who aspire to develop noble leadership to realize that vision. Many people would be interested in this form of Budô for themselves and/or their children if they knew of its existence. The question is how do we reach them and get their attention in this present numbing mediocrity and confusing maze of $9.99-a-week-plus-free-uniform deals, nine year old black belts, and great-grandmaster com-martial artists? (Yes, the pun was intended!)

Our best source of stable and long-term students continues to be the word of mouth. That is why we have been encouraging our existing students to develop the skills to talk about Aikidô, how its study has benefited them, and how it can benefit others. We invite you to share your experiences with others who may benefit from what you have developed.

Many thanks to Mr. William Brown who kindly offered to review this original English version prior translating it into the French. For a better understanding of the subject, I recommend reading both versions for those who are fluent in both languages.

We wish you Happy and Mindful Holidays and a Healthy and Prosperous New Year. Thank you for your continuous trust in and support of the teachings we received directly from Mochizuki Sensei.

Patrick Augé and Kaoru Sugiyama
Contact Yoseikan Budo

Torrance, California

Le 28 décembre 2013

Chers élèves, chers parents, chers amis:

Nous voici presqu’en 2014 et j’aimerais partager avec vous quelques expériences et pensées reliées directement à notre étude du Budô.

Un tôt matin d’été Kanchô Sensei (Mochizuki Sensei) et moi prenions le petit déjeuner au dôjô. Je lui demandai : « S. Sensei a-t-il abandonné ? Cela fait longtemps que je l’ai vu !»

Avec un regard disant « Qu’est-ce que tu racontes là ? » Sensei répondit : « Ceux qui font du Budô n’abandonnent pas ! »

Sur le moment sa réponse me dérouta. S. Sensei avait toujours été présent dans le Dôjô, assistant Kanchô Sensei et s’entraînant avec nous. Puis soudain il avait disparu et personne n’en disait mot. J’avais été témoin de tant de cas décevants d’élèves et d’anciens enthousiastes et assidus qui sans crier gare avaient rejoint les rangs des déserteurs et des moniteurs errants qu’une voix finit par me dire : « C’est ce qui nous arrive quand on fait du zèle et qu’on n’arrive pas à obtenir ce qu’on veut avoir!… La rigidité ne peut venir à bout de la rigidité ; cela amène toujours à une rupture. » Et puis aussi le fait que d’abandonner ou de déserter le navire étant considéré comme un agissement honteux – expliquant ainsi le silence de chacun, aidait peu à clarifier la situation.

Mais aussi une autre voix me chuchotait : « Sensei a le chic de donner des réponses qui nous forcent à penser bien au-delà du sens littéral de ses mots. » A certains élèves, il expliquait tout en détail tandis qu’à d’autres il donnait des réponses qui amenaient plus de questions. A cette époque je ne voyais pas cela comme un moyen de nous traiter sur un plan d’égalité, c’est-à-dire d’après nos capacités individuelles. Il me fallait penser plus en profondeur en fonction de ses enseignements avant de comprendre les raisons de son comportement.

Cela me mena à réfléchir sur le chemin que nous parcourons. Nous considérons la Voie Martiale comme un moyen de faire face aux difficultés de la vie et de les gérer, en commençant par la nécessité de survivre les menaces physiques les plus primitives, telles que les chutes et la brutalité. En utilisant les techniques martiales (Bujutsu) comme des outils servant à travailler avec la crainte de tomber ou d’être blessés par d’autres personnes, nous intériorisons progressivement le concept de Familiarisation en tant qu’Antidote de la Peur. De nos jours, la menace physique existe encore, cependant les probabilités de nous faire agresser psychologiquement sont beaucoup plus nombreuses et les dommages qui en résulteront pourront être pires. En une journée, ne rencontrons-nous pas toutes sortes d’évènements déplaisants ? Comment faisons-nous pour persister à travers chaque jour ?

Cela commence par notre engagement. Une des devises du Yôseikan –« Quoi qu’il arrive, rencontre le avec Kiai » (Danshi Koto Ni Atatte Kiai Daiichi Nari)—était affichée près du Shômen (mur antérieur du Dôjô). En langage simple, cela signifie : « Fais face aux défis, ne te débines pas ! » Nous avons de nombreuses chances de vérifier notre engagement. Lors de l’entraînement, il nous faut d’abord faire l’expérience de la menace au niveau physique : Une attaque sincère portée avec détermination produira une défense sincère et déterminée. Sinon il ne peut y avoir de Kiai, ce moment précis où notre énergie mentale combinée à notre énergie physique rencontre celle de notre Uke (partenaire). Ce que nous vivons au niveau physique peut être transféré au niveau mental : le principe est le même. Mais pour que cela arrive, il nous faut l’exemple et les conseils de professeurs expérimentés qui ont eux-mêmes vécu cet entraînement. C’est une des raisons pour lesquelles on ne peut faire du Yôseikan en solo si on aspire à fonctionner au niveau du Budô.

Plus tard je compris enfin la réponse de Mochizuki Sensei à ma question : en réalité celui qui abandonne n’étudiait pas la Voie Martiale ; il ne faisait que bêtement répéter des Techniques Martiales dans l’espoir qu’une transformation miraculeuse se produirait. Cela explique son inhabilité à gérer les obstacles que la vie lui présentait dans le but de le préparer à surmonter de plus grands défis à venir. C’est ce que j’entends par Engagement Conditionnel.

Voici d’autres exemples d’engagement conditionnel. Je me souviens très clairement d’un élève extrêmement doué qui faisait tout à sa manière. Il répétait fréquemment que l’Aïkidô n’était rien d’autre qu’un exercice pour la santé et que tout ce charabia spirituel n’était qu’absurdité servant à mêler et à manipuler les gens. Il refusait obstinément d’enseigner aux débutants ; il voyait cela comme une perte de temps vu le fait qu’il pratiquait pour son propre plaisir et que d’après lui, c’était ce que tout le monde devrait faire. Il avait pris l’habitude d’arriver après le commencement du cours des débutants afin de s’assurer qu’une autre ceinture noire y aurait déjà été assignée. Il manquait aussi régulièrement le Mondô (période de questions et réponses) du dimanche après-midi, cette session hebdomadaire où Kanchô Sensei, les Uchideshi (élèves pensionnaires) et les Kayoideshi (élèves externes) pouvaient communiquer sans limite de temps. Cet élève s’abstenait aussi – parmi d’autres évènements – de participer aux réunions de Shihan, là où d’importantes décisions allaient être prises. (Bien sûr, il ne se privait jamais de critiquer les décisions prises lors de ces réunions !)

Kanchô Sensei le grondait fréquemment pour son comportement égocentrique et l’insuffisance de son engagement. Cet élève ne pouvait faire la distinction entre l’amour exigeant et le harcèlement. Se sentant humilié il disparaissait parfois pendant plusieurs semaines et revenait lorsqu’il se sentait mieux. Après le décès de Mochizuki Sensei, il démissionna et devint indépendant. Cependant étant donné qu’il avait évité l’apprentissage des bases, étape non nécessaire chez un individu aussi doué que lui – et l’un des rares que j’ai rencontrés – il ne pouvait enseigner qu’à son niveau et se trouvait incapable d’enseigner à ceux pour qui l’apprentissage des bases était nécessaire. Ayant ainsi sauté cette étape il devint inévitable qu’aucun de ceux qui le suivirent n’atteindraient jamais son niveau. Son accomplissement personnel devint un cul de sac, ce qui était son objectif depuis le début.

Les enseignements du Yôseikan mettent l’accent sur le concept de l’Entraide et Prospérité Mutuelle en tant que principe fondamental. J’ai rencontré des pratiquants de Bujutsu qui étaient arrivés naturellement à la découverte du principe d’Entraide et Prospérité Mutuelle à travers la recherche et la mise en pratique incessante du principe de la Meilleure Utilisation de l’Énergie. Ces personnes avaient ainsi atteint le niveau du Dô. Par contre j’ai aussi rencontré de nombreux soi-disant experts de Budô dont l’évolution avait été interrompue au niveau technique (Jutsu). Un professeur dit à ce sujet « Si tes deux yeux sont fixés sur le but, qu’est-ce qu’il te reste pour voir le chemin ? » C’est ce qui résulte quand on reste pris dans sa zone de confort : on tombe dans un état comateux ! Les AikiExpos nous ont procuré bien des exemples de ce phénomène. Certains professeurs réputés montraient une curiosité sincère envers ce que faisaient les autres et circulaient d’une classe à l’autre en tant qu’observateurs et même participants, alors que d’autres professeurs célèbres ne montraient aucun intérêt et partaient aussitôt que leurs classes étaient finies et que leur présence n’était plus nécessaire.

Tout commence par la présence. Un vieux proverbe dit : « Les absents ont toujours tord. » Cela signifie que rien ne remplace l’expérience directe d’être présent mentalement et physiquement. Il faut distinguer l’absence due à une priorité urgente de l’absence due à la négligence ou à l’indifférence. Quoi qu’il dise, la motivation profonde d’un individu finit toujours par se révéler à travers son comportement.

Pour cette raison, assurez-vous que vous rattrapez vos absences. Si vous ne pouvez vous entraîner dû à un empêchement physique, soyez présent et observez attentivement. Cela s’appelle Mitorigeiko (Entraînement par l’Observation), un puissant outil d’apprentissage que nous pouvons tous cultiver. Au niveau mental cela vous encouragera aussi à reprendre l’entraînement aussitôt que possible et stimulera votre guérison. La pratique du mitorigeiko lorsqu’on est malade ou blessé est une discipline tout-à-fait profitable, surtout lorsqu’on s’y met tôt et avec fermeté. Les débutants et ceintures basses qui manquent leurs classes avec l’intention de reprendre lorsque leurs conditions s’amélioreront se trouvent souvent inévitablement à remplir cet espace de temps avec une autre activité plus amusante ou distrayante; il est improbable qu’ils retourneront au Dôjô. Par conséquent nous devons maintenir l’esprit d’étude, cela même quand le corps ne peut bouger. Ainsi corps et esprit restent présents.

Le même principe s’applique aux élèves de niveaux intermédiaires et avancés. S’il vous est impossible de participer à un camp ou autre évènement important pour quelque raison sérieuse que ce soit, il vous est conseillé d’offrir votre support à ceux qui participeront. Il suffit d’observer et de vous renseigner. Tout au long de l’année, de nombreuses occasions se présentent de vous impliquer et de pratiquer votre leadership. Si vous manquez un cours, voyez à participer à d’autres classes. Partagez votre expérience. Avec la volonté on trouve toujours un moyen.

Ceintures Noires, vous devez accepter le fait que les ceintures de couleur observent l’exemple que vous donnez. Votre comportement parle plus fort que vos paroles et établit les normes pour ceux qui viennent après vous. Sur un écriteau au Yôseikan on pouvait lire : « Les ceintures noires arrivent tôt et partent les derniers ! » Il est évident que cette déclaration signifie plus que pointer à temps.

Et en ce qui concerne ceux qui aspirent à atteindre le niveau supérieur, n’attendez pas d’arriver à la ceinture marron pour commencer à développer les qualités d’une ceinture noire. Mettez-vous y immédiatement. Une fois la ceinture violette atteinte, posez-vous la question suivante : « Vais-je participer à l’entraînement du samedi matin ou vais-je continuer la même routine des fins de semaine? » Aussi vous arrive-t-il d’assister à une classe de débutants dans le but de partager votre expérience et d’affiner vos bases ?

Oui le Yôseikan impose des critères exigeants – et les pressions venant de toutes directions pour abaisser ces critères afin d’accommoder et d’attirer plus d’élèves existent depuis longtemps. Elles étaient déjà présentes du temps de Mochizuki Sensei ; on lui disait fréquemment : « Il y a trop de techniques ; les élèves ne peuvent pas suivre ; cette technique est trop dangereuse ; les passages de grade sont trop lents ; on ne peut pas rivaliser avec les autres écoles. » Il lui fallait faire face à ces plaintes ainsi qu’à d’autres du même genre.

Toutes ces jérémiades exaspéraient Kanchô Sensei : « Que croyez-vous arrivera si vous abaissez les critères ? Vous ne pourrez jamais les relever ! Regardez le présent état de dégradation de l’Aïkido après Ueshiba Sensei ! Vous devez étudier et améliorer votre enseignement de façon à amener vos élèves au niveau des critères et non abaisser les critères à leur niveau ! »

Etant l’un des quatre successeurs désignés de Mochizuki Sensei, je renouvelle mes vœux de maintenir les critères et les valeurs qu’il nous a légués. Je sais qu’apprendre et pratiquer la partie technique est bien plus facile que d’entraîner l’esprit. Je sais aussi que plus on est doué plus on est susceptible de négliger le développement de l’Esprit (Shin) et de se concentrer uniquement sur le développement de la Technique (Gi) et du Physique (Tai). Mais qu’arrivera-t-il alors que l’Esprit est absent et que le corps commence à se détériorer dû à l’âge et à l’usure ? L’histoire nous apprend que ceux qui suivent cette voie de la facilité abandonneront à coup sûr ou prendront leur indépendance tandis que les moins doués – la majorité d’entre nous, ceux qui ont pris l’habitude dès leur enfance de gérer leurs difficultés, ont développé le savoir-faire approprié. C’est la raison pour laquelle nous nous sommes mis à entraîner les élèves dès leur commencement à développer Kiai et Zanshin (État d’Éveil Mental et Physique). Cela commence par un salut clair et énergique lorsqu’on entre dans le Dôjô afin de préparer l’esprit à l’entraînement. Les enfants et les débutants s’y sont mis sans difficultés tandis que certains adultes – même parmi les anciens, éprouvent du mal à s’y adapter. Il leur faut d’abord vaincre leurs propres blocages afin de développer des qualités qu’ils pourront partager avec les autres.

Je continue à soutenir ma déclaration du « Yôseikan étant une espèce en voie d’extinction. » Cela a attiré les critiques de ceux qui considèrent ces propos comme décourageant les gens de se joindre à un groupe et à un style de vie voué à disparaître. A cela je réponds que nous continuons à inviter seulement ceux qui ont une vision non seulement pour eux-mêmes mais aussi pour les autres et qui aspirent à développer un leadership noble dans le but de réaliser cette vision. Nombreux sont ceux qui montreraient de l’intérêt pour cette forme de Budô, soi pour eux et/ou pour leurs enfants, s’ils en connaissaient l’existence. La question qui se pose maintenant est de savoir comment rejoindre ces gens et attirer leur attention parmi la médiocrité et la confusion créées par les pubs pour des aubaines à $9.99-par-semaine-uniforme-compris, ceintures noires de neuf ans et grands maîtres d’arts com-martiaux (Oui, le jeu de mot est voulu !)

Notre meilleure source d’élèves stables et engagés à long terme, c’est le bouche à oreille !
C’est pour cette raison que nous encourageons nos élèves à développer l’habilité de parler de l’Aïkido, comment son étude et sa pratique leur bénéficie et peut bénéficier aux autres. Partagez votre expérience avec d’autres personnes qui pourraient aussi bénéficier de ce que vous avez développé.

Je remercie Monsieur William Brown qui s’est si gentiment offert pour réviser la version anglaise originale. Ceci est une traduction et je recommande de lire aussi la version originale pour une meilleure compréhension du sujet traité.

Nous vous souhaitons de Joyeuses Fêtes ainsi qu’une Bonne et Heureuse Année. Merci encore de votre confiance et de votre support continus des enseignements que nous avons reçus directement de Mochizuki Sensei.

Patrick Augé et Kaoru Sugiyama
Contact Yoseikan Budo

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Comments

  1. Chuck Warren says:

    After a while there is a problem with finding a teacher who has much to offer. There are two major aspects of this. One is necessary. If enrollment is open you will always have beginners and as most students are at a low level of expertise, necessarily classes have to be at an appropriate level. The other aspect is the flip side. If a teacher demands too much of the students, absent a compelling necessity (threat), they’ll go down the road to a school that offers more for less. I call this one the problem of paying the rent. Presumably in France, where martial arts are state subsidized that may be less of a problem.

    As for the demand for martial training, if the threat is too imminent, then firearms are the default option if available (but criminals can always get them of course). If the threat level is low, there’s the temptation to slack off. Then there are situations where the threat is generally low, but on rare occasions extreme. A terrible example was the BART cop who shot a guy when he thought he was going to Taze him. Training costs time. Time costs money for law enforcement. So the Tazer training and procedures were inadequate. Civilians who become crime victims are the more common example. Now whatever the perception, violent crime, as reported, is on a downward trend. It seems natural that demand for effective martial training is going to be hard to sustain.

    • Josh K. says:

      The world has always been ending, Mr. Warren.
      The nature of existence is that by working through trials and threats, individuals evolve and grow more adept at facing their challenges: as this letter states, the physical / mental struggles of technical training can afford an individual the opportunity to grow an understanding of greater spiritual concepts like “mutual welfare and prosperity.”

      To look at martial arts in terms of “my — dojo’s versus your dojo’s — enrollment” (or “the problem of paying the rent” as you put it) is looking at martial arts as a business, rather than a study. If the “school down the road” in your example offers “more for less,” by which I assume you mean a more quality study of martial arts, then I would recommend going down the road and introducing yourself, and observing with a learner’s mindset.

      That is the beginning of moving beyond the fear or threats to a truer understanding of life’s challenges. As the letter above states: “We look at the Martial Path as a way to meet and manage life’s difficulties, starting from our need to survive … we progressively internalize the concept of Familiarization as the Antidote to Fear. … In one day, do we not face many unpleasant events? How do we manage to go through each day? We start with our commitment…. ‘Whatever Happens, Meet it with Kiai.’”

      The world has always been ending, Mr. Warren.
      And we will always be confronted by perils — as martial artists, as people, as living beings. I would encourage you to take these perils as a given, and focus on developing your Kiai: it will lessen your fear in the face of uncertainties, and remind you of what is truly important to maintain and develop in this brief and precious life. Quality. Compassion. Wisdom. Strength.

  2. TOM COLLINGS says:

    Sensei Auge’,

    Thank you for an inspiring and no nonsense New Years message. Fond memories of training with you and your excellent students. I wish you health and much happiness in 2014. May we all travel far on the path of budo.

  3. Akira says:

    Thank you for taking the time to share your reflections and happy New Year to both you and Sugiyama Sensei!

    I’m curious to know, what in your opinion would be the appropriate way to address the situation when a student drops out? I have noticed often times that this subject is a big elephant in the dojo, which is not particularly constructive.

    • This is a good question since it already contains the answer.

      How about making it a mondô topic? Quitting comes as the result of multiple causes and conditions and most students are unaware of them.

      In Japan where everything is seen as interconnected (ichi ji wa ban ji), people are more careful when dealing with discouragement and the desire to quit since quitting is considered as the indication of an unstable mind. It may affect their relationships and their career.

      In the West where we separate everything, on the surface it is seen as the smart move when facing a difficulty.

      However human nature is the same: shame is universal. For this I think that teachers and students should discuss that topic together.

      Thanks for the hint.

      Patrick Augé

  4. Akemashite, O medetoo gozaimasita! Makoto ni , Yoku O sewaninarimashita. Mata Yoroshiku Onegaisimasu!

    Dear Auge Shihan and Kaoru Sensei. Your consistent leadership via example is truly what we all can appreciate in these times of change and challenge. It is priceless to have your dedication to Budo, and your emphasis on character building as needed reminders of why we train as we do.

    “You cannot lose what you do not have”. So, indeed how can one quit what one has truly never begun. Thank you for such wise counsel, and the sharing of your private message each year with the rest of us.

    Looking forward to even more beneficial exchanges in the months and years to come!

    in oneness,

    francis y takahashi

    • Dulce Costa says:

      Happy New Year!
      Well-said, indeed, Frances y Takahashi Sensei!
      I’m truly thankful and grateful to be one of the existing students of Patrick Auge Sensei and Kaoru Sugiyama Sensei in Torrance, California.
      Dulce.

  5. Bruce Baker says:

    What happens when you are too old or too sick to practice, or just sick and tired of getting in the way of the others who are practicing in group practice? You drop out…. or you decide to integrate what you practice into your everyday life and thereby make that life as safe and healthy as possible, don’t you? Not everyone is destined to be a soldier, a martial art practitioner, or some kind of protector for those around them, which is actually what your responsibility is for learning martial arts, you become responsible for not only yourself but take on an invisible yet passive responsibility to create passive situations for violent outcomes, more often than not your Words and Actions will cause this to occur 99% of the time where your physical martial techniques will rarely, if ever, be used.

    What I am saying is… Do not be discouraged if you choose the path of membership, loyalty to the your teacher and dojo, while others who come and go, or drop-out, have chosen to practice for only a short time. DID YOU IMPART THEM with lessons to better their lives or better society? That is and should be the only question in your mind.

    Very few people will actively practice for all the decades of their life-time. The decision that “it hurts when I do that” or “my health is better served by not doing that” is the individual choice. I must take the view that we do what we can do, we change, and we adapt to those changes as my actual experiences with practice, with illnesses, with where life drags one despite what one would rather do, and yeah even the most ardent practitioner can find life dragging them away from teaching and practicing… forces us all to INTEGRATE our practices into our daily lives. If only every martial art teacher would remember that little phrase… Integrate the practices of this discipline into your daily life…. my god… the world would be changing into place where the citizen would be the invisible police, or at least the support staff that leads the world to a better place.

    Yes, it is a numbers game. Only one in a hundred will be a student, only one in a thousand will become a teacher, only one in that ten-thousand will become a practitioner of historical note. The question is.. did the student who dropped out take something with them that makes them a better person?

    So, I am saying, if you can, support your dojo, but continue to find ways to Integrate the practices of your art into your life because … isn’t that what it was all about in the first place? Did you go to practice to be a movie star, or just to create conditions for your physical and mental health that would give you a longer life, healthier life, better mental attitude? Well, that is what I went to practice for… and now the path of the Old timer/ drop-out is clear… continue to read, continue to integrate practice into everyday life. Leave the young man practice to the young adults… transition to what works for me personally, but if possible support my local dojo.

    I think we of the western world seem to forget that support, be it monetary or in other ways, to support the teachings and physical dojo. I mean, hundreds, sometimes thousands of students who pass through a dojo under one house, and the real purpose of the dojo was to have not just a place to practice, but an active living art that continues to make the lives of human beings in society better.

    Maybe the lessons O’Sensei learned from WWII was not to build a monument to the art by creating a network of temples or dojos dedicated to him or any set of human beings, but the Real Lesson was… Take this… Take these Lessons… find a way to put into your life… connect with the living universe as you send out positive energy in time of negative energy ruling the world and driving men to madness. Maybe that example of O’Sensei’s life was the struggle he endured from youthful soldier to old man/ great teacher? One do wonder… but the evidence is there for every great teacher… Integrate the lessons into your life no matter what path you choose. Choose to see the best way to have long term positive energy neutralize a situation or be the outcome for the thing you do, for the people your actions affect, causing a better world to result.

    Wanna bet the drop out wishes they could continue to practice and they are learning to integrate lessons even as they grow old and feeble… well… no bet. Let the young continue, let the teacher teach, let the lessons continue to spread a mindset that makes the world a better place.

    What I am saying is ADD THIS LESSON to your teaching… Integrate the lessons of Practice into your everyday life…. so even the drop-out has a means to make the world a better place.

    • Akira Sugiyama says:

      I do very much understand your standpoint, Mr. Baker, though if I may point out, just because one has dropped out from training at a dojo doesn’t mean they can’t integrate what they have learned into their lives and make the world a better place – it is perhaps just not at the dojo that they will generate change, but perhaps (and hopefully) elsewhere.

      In regards to being too sick to practice or too old:
      The presence of each individual contributes to our learning experience, which includes those struggling with physical and mental health conditions, relationship issues, etc.

      As for getting sick and tired of feeling in the way of others during group practice:
      Everybody has experienced that feeling at some point, and often times it’s just a matter of overcoming that self-deprecating inner voice, for in a good dojo, nobody will regard someone who is doing their best as “being in the way.”

      Where sports or technique-focused disciplines may operate by the law of the jungle which eliminates whoever can’t keep up, in true Budo we also learn to consider and be inclusive of those who may now be facing situations that someday, a family member, friend, or we ourselves may face.

      If I may add, in our youth we are more inclined to take everything for granted, so observing students who are facing injuries, the signs of age, etc. can very much serve to remind us the importance of taking into consideration that our present actions will have consequences.

      Seeing how teachers and students cope/learn to cope with their conditions can often prove to serve as valuable and inspiring learning opportunities, which would not be possible if all those facing difficulties were to leave.

      Over all we also learn that giving up is not a solution that benefits us nor our community in the long run. And in referring to community, the dojo is but a microcosm of the world.

      In this day and age of convenience, more than ever we need role models who can demonstrate commitment and determination, even if all odds are against them.

      • When someone quits, it hurts everybody, not just the person who quit. We need role models who show “what to do” when facing difficulties.

        Thank you for those mindful comments.

        Patrick Augé

  6. Steve Varley says:

    Sensei, would it be correct to say:

    sincere attacks –> Kiai –> commitment ?

    Is “hardship” synonymous with sincere attacks? Are there examples of people developing Kiai without hardship of some sort (even outside of Budô)?

    Thank you for this important message.

    Steve Varley

    • Commitment leads to sincere attacks expressed through Kiai.

      Concerning your second question, I haven’t met people who developed Kiai without going through hardship both in their personal lives and at the dôjô.

      Mochizuki Sensei said that through competition we find ourselves. He wasn’t meaning “organized” competition or “sport” competition, he was meaning the two faces of competition: competition with oneself, with one’s greed, anger and ignorance; challenges from other people and events out of our control.

      In Bujutsu, we eliminate the competition: our competitor is an enemy to be destroyed.

      In Budô we use competition as a means to improve ourselves: our competitor becomes our Partner.

      Patrick Augé

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