Majime Asobu

To be majime, is often described as being serious, or earnest. I was often called “majime” by sensei. I felt this was negative at the time. Yet,from training more and more, I now believe it is extremely important to have a “sober” or ” diligent” attitude toward the practice.

We see professionals dealing with high stress situations.  Those who cannot develop a sence of light heartedness for the sake of their survival, often enter into deep realms of despair, or personal hardship themselves. This is the same with budo. And, if I remember correctly, Takamatsu Osensei wrote something relating to this in his famous essay ” Essence of Ninjutsu.”

“The skills of self- protection, which should provide a feeling of inner peace and security for the martial artist, so often develop without a balance in the personality and lead the lesser martial artist into warped realms of unceasing conflict and competition, which eventually consume him.”

In order to develop as a balanced person, we must also learn how to “play”. This is Asobu.

To develop this balance within training and life, we can come to feel for the changes needed to maintain a healthy environment for all to live within.

Within the dojo, this ability to play is marked by the students freedom of movement and openness to change ( henka ). To play in budo, we must first maintain a vigilance ( majime ) to correctly learn the teachings ( Shu ).

After good knowledge of the fundamental principals and taijutsu, we naturally become able to move more freely and adapt. ( Ha ).

We then come to experience wonderful moments never experienced in any set kata or formulated training scenario ( Ri ).

This is play. The ability to develop a space where one can feel the “space” between life and death.

Within this space we come to learn that taking life is easy, as is the taking of our life. Upon knowing this, we come to understand or at least, become aware of the devastation of true budo and it`s power.We have to go through important stages of development in order to “safely” play. By this I mean, we have to train without weakpoints ( suki ).

If we attempt to play too early, our taijutsu will be based on “lack of awareness”. Our techniques will fail due to our lack of self understanding ( our weakpoints/shortcomings.).

Play can be likened to Yoyuu.

This yoyuu is the slack or  resilience that we learn to harness to our advantage. It is the “eb and flow “of the the moment ( shunkan ).

We often say that the steering wheel of a car has some ” slack ” or  ” play in it “. There is some extra movement that one feels in-between the actual movement that controls the car.

This movement can also be likened to a yoyo. There are times that the string is held in limbo, neither too tight, nor too loose, yet functioning freely.

This slack cannot be measured, but it can be felt.

To “play” also requires a level of confidence. We need to understand the role play between uke and tori. the relationship is a sense of “give and return”. When we give something, we give some more. This is the role of the uke. It also has a relationship with the Gojo.

When I experience Soke through “ taiden, it is a chance to experience the feeling of his “life”, the feeling of the history of the nine schools. I feel it is ok not to understand his movements, because if you did, you would be professing to understanding over 2000 years of history?

Without a feeling for “freedom” or a sense of “transcendence”, one may forever believe that the techniques performed are summoned by the self.

Soke reiterated recently that this is a mistake to believe this.

The important thing is to develop an ability to “let go” of the self and trust that your movements are harnessed from the “gods”.

It is my feeling at the present that to transcend oneself, we have to constantly empty our cup and clean it.

Soke said that in regards to reaching a level of transcendence free from earthly constraints, we must be able to let go of “baggage” as we move along the path. We have to know when things are no longer required and have “no attachment” to them.

However, if we can give things away, or discard them as necessary but, at a later date feel we regret or need them again, we have made a misjudgment .

Therefore, soke has decided to take his time with such things as the planning of a new hombu.    The important thing is to not hurry. There is a saying, ” fools rush in!”

Soke related the discarding of the “unnecessary”,  to space flight missions. When the space ship is first launched, it is very heavy with the rockets and fuel necessary for it to reach it`s destination. During periods of it`s travels, the space ship discards things that have been used and, are no longer required. As a result, the ship becomes lighter, but still follows it`s chosen path. Eventually, the ship has discarded all that has helped it reach it`s destination – space.

Within space, the manned ship floats through orbit with the minimum requirements for maintaining life and study.

While drifting in orbit, the men can view the worlds beauty from a distance. They have the time to peacefully view the magnificence of the whole planet. They come to clearly see the patterns of the wind, water, and land mass. All in all, they are able to see the universe – The bigger picture.

Soke said this analogy is just like the process of searching for enlightenment and thus this is why he calls himself a UFO.

Maybe we can also link this to ” Kanjin Kaname.”

We can also appreciate that the older you get, the less you need. In regards to the space ship, when you reach your capacity or destiny, then all there is to do is live.

We can also appreciate that scientists understand that to truly reach great heights, we must be willing to abandon those things that are not necessary. This is the same as budo.

It`s interesting how the ” masters” perform simple movements with unbelievable effectiveness isn`t it. They have done full circle. Much like the space ship, they began heavy. But, by following the way            ( dou ), they now move freely and lightly within the space!

Now, they seem happy people. They have trained hard and sincerely. And as a result, are reaping the treasures of a good life – Rokkon Shoujou.

Soke has often said that we should come to the mind of a three year old child. This is a mind of happiness yet to be weighed down by the constraints pushed upon us eventually by societal conditioning.

I teach kindergarten students and watch them play everyday. They are little “tengu” at times, but they play with a sense of real enjoyment and purpose.

It`s this balance between being an adult and a child that is important. We have to try to cultivate this balance through the training as we develop a feeling of “ majime asobu”.

One Response to “Majime Asobu”

  1. Wonderful sentiments, Duncan. Thank you for sharing.
    See you in a few short weeks. Buyu ikkan.

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