Saturday, December 20, 2008


In his book Flashing Steel, Masayaki Shimabukuro Sensei examines the essence of the Martial Artist and what sets him apart from others in society.

Peace of mind – which we all are looking forward to as a mean to achieve something else or an end in itself, is what Shimabukuro Sensei refers to as heijoshin:

Heijoshin (or peace of mind) is the by-product of a persons complete inner being. It can only be achieved by refining the whole inner essence and this can only be accomplished if ones intellect, emotions, and character are developed in balance. Heijoshin literally translated means constant stable spirit. Such a translation hardly does it justice. To understand the full nature of heijoshin one has to look to the nuances of the Japanese language. Heijoshin is comprised of three kanji (ideograms):

I) Hei - peaceful, calm, steady

ii) Jo - always, constant, continually

iii) Shin - translates as heart or the whole inner essence of the individual

Combining the kanji heijoshin is the whole inner being of person being continually at peace. One has peace of mind. Heijoshin is best understood not as a single attribute but as a culmination of several character traits. As mentioned above, to achieve heijoshin requires a high degree of mental development in three key areas: intellect, emotions, and integrity (or character).

Why is heijoshin important to us as martial artists? Although our bodies may give way to time and age, we can continue to practice and develop our character and mental faculties. Heijoshin is an unlimited quality. As martial artists, and in life, there is always room for more knowledge, greater compassion, stronger love, and a higher level of character development.

To achieve heijoshin as a martial artist requires a lifestyle of discipline, effort, sacrifice and commitment. Such a commitment to developing excellence of character is what sets the martial artist apart from most people in a confused and unhappy society. As we discover, the true nature of martial arts training leads us to a fuller understanding of the nature of life itself. With this understanding comes peace of mind and true and lasting happiness.

Some practice Zen to calm their minds, and they may reach elsewhere. Some practice to reach enlightenment. They may never find it, but might find Heijoshin. I do not think they are the same thing, but hey, I am not enlightened, so who knows ?

Lately I have been struggling trying to reconcile Martial Arts and Zen. They have a lot in common, and then, there is that precept : Do not Kill....

I understand that under certain circumstances, killing might be the only alternative. In that case one should be ready.

This is a difficult question, it might take a while, and it won't be through reading other's books or listening to self appointed experts or masters.

Nothing comes for free, I have no choice, we have no choice – Let’s train hard !

Shimabukuro Sensei will teach a seminar in Muso Jikiden Eishin-Ryu Iaijutsu in Pensacola on March 6, 7 and 8, 2009. The seminar will be held at the Pensacola dojo (Big Green Drum Japanese Martial Arts.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Zen and George Brassens

Last Sunday I officially became a Zen Buddhist during a JUKAI or discipleship ceremony held at the Atlanta Soto Zen center

During this ceremon
y : I received and vowed to follow the Soto Zen Precepts - This is materialized by my receiving the RAKUSU, a garment that symbolizes the Kesa robe of the Buddhist monks, and a new Dharma name.

Not every school of Buddhism have exactly the same precepts, or express them in the same way.

Soto Zen has 16 precepts :

The Three Treasures:

  1. I take refuge in the Buddha - The teacher
  2. I take refuge in the Dharma - The Buddha’s teachings
  3. I take refuge in the Sangha - The Buddhist community, past and present

The Three Pure Precepts are general vows to abstain from evil and to practice good, not just for one’s self but also others:

  1. Avoiding all evil (actions leading to attachment) by respecting the precepts.
  2. Practicing all good.(Make effort to live in enlightenment)
  3. Doing good for others. (Help others live in enlightenment)

The Ten Grave Precepts

  1. Do not kill
  2. Do not steal
  3. Do not misuse sexuality
  4. Do not lie.
  5. Refrain from Intoxicants (Do not cloud the mind)
  6. Do not discuss others errors and faults
  7. Do not praise yourself and blame others
  8. Give generously: Do not withhold the teachings of Buddha
  9. Refrain from anger
  10. Do not defile the Three Treasures

A very nice program, and difficult to achieve. As Elliston Sensei put it during the ceremony: "Sometimes we practice the precepts by breaking them"

Some of these seem to be contradictory.

Lets take an example : I am walking in the country, all of a sudden, I see a kid running away with his pockets full of apple. A farmer runs behind him with his shotgun. The kid turns right and hides in a ditch. The farmer comes to me and asks me where he is, Should I tell him ? He is liable to shoot him after all. So I’ll lie…

Quand je croise un voleur malchanceux,
Poursuivi par un cul-terreux;
Je lance la patte et pourquoi le taire,
Le cul-terreux se retrouve par terre
Je ne fait pourtant de tort à personne,

En laissant courir les voleurs de pommes.

(Georges Brassens : La Mauvaise reputation)

Precepts are not the dictates of a God who would send us to hell if we break them, they are to be adapted. We have however to be very careful in the way we adapt them, for it would be very easy to justify horrific behaviors by broadly adapting them.

There is no clear demarcation line between “adapting” and “corrupting”, and we should be extremely careful on this matter.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Iai Jutsu class in Pensacola, FL, December 6

Here are my NOTES on this class during which Patty Sensei tried to impress on our thick brains what she had been taught by Shimabukuro Sensei during last november's MJER instructors seminar at the Sakura Budokan Dojo.

If you think wazas were changed, well, you are mistaken, these apparent changes actually are nothing but

Good luck, Train hard...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Meditation and the Autonomous Nervous System

Zazen is the word used by Zen Buddhists for "Sitting Meditation" - The practice of Zazen is the only valuable way to actually progress in Buddhism. The following is part of an article by Gudo Nishijima about the relation between Zazen and the regulation of our Autonomous Nervous System.

My theory about the relation between the autonomic nervous system and Buddhism is only my supposition, but I have been utilizing it in explaining Buddhism for many years. And since I first arrived at this proposition many years ago, I have not met a case that caused me to change my theory. Therefore I would like to express my primitive proposition to the audience for reference. Of course, I am only a Buddhist monk and do not have sufficient knowledge of physiology, psychology, and so forth. However, in my experience, I have found it very useful to explain Buddhism on the basis of scientific knowledge, and so I would like to express my proposition on this occasion.

- Click here for the full article -

That the practice of Zazen helps balancing the 2 antagonistic sympathetic and para sympathetic parts of the autonomous Nervous system is a fascinating concept, and even better, it makes perfect sense.

Somehow, Mr Nishijima's hypothesis can be compared to Carl Jung's concepts of Typologies. Zazen would be a way to achieve Individuation, or the total integration of the antagonistic aspects of individual personality.

This of course is a different story, a very interesting one maybe, which we could further discuss, Let us not forget however, that the most important part is the practice of Zazen, not its discussion, or intellectual understanding...