Misogi and the New Year

waterfall01Upon waking up this new year morning of 2016 I always reflect back on the previous year. This reflection then heads into what I want to focus on this coming year and how best to approach that. In the past few weeks I have been reading poems of Basho, and just using both the Japanese and the English readings to trigger thoughts and ideas that may come into my head. This morning two of these came into my thoughts and wanted to share.

The first for new years:

(Ganjitsu ya / omoeba sabishi / aki no kure)

New Years Day!
and I recall the loneliness
of autumn evenings.

This to me is how I feel sometimes on the path of Aikido and training. While we have lots of teachers, students, friends, and others we meet upon the path we are the drivers (of our destiny) and alone in one sense. I remember talking to many of my students and people I have trained with during my almost 30 years in training about it is up to them alone to push their own training and not to “wait” for others to catch up.

I have seen many times where two students started practice around the same time and have progressed together for the first few steps (ranks, tests, challenges, etc). I think this is also great and can encourage us to get to the Dojo and be with out friends while on the path. Over the time though is when one of the two comes less regularly or not fully engaged in their training. Sometimes this can have an negative affect on the other student and sometimes even though they are doing well or really enjoy training can stumble.

I personally have had many people I started with or even Sempai quit Aikido or only come so often. I tried to never link their training directly to my own and always progress and challenge myself to be the best Aikidoist that I can be. Of course I enjoy working out with other passionate people and especially as a teacher want to encourage and be there for my students and other Aikido practitioners (as uke, nage, sensei, student, etc). By focusing on my own training and trying to be the best that I can be I believe that then I can be a helpful for others. Sometimes I think people in the beginning tend to do the opposite. Always be available but sometimes in detriment to themselves or their training. Have you seen similar situations in your training or at your dojo?

To come back to this post, Why did I title this “Misogi and the New Year”? Misogi to me and has been shared by my teachers through explanation and experiences in training is – purification of our spirit. In Japan Misogi practice can be under a waterfall or a lot of the “cleansing” rituals involve washing away something. Maybe this is why I originally chose the waterfall for the Kiryu logo? Hmm?

Misogi is also done through hard training. In the last few months of practice I have been thinking about this concept and how Misogi manifests itself in every training session. A lot of times I tend to go to the dojo after a long day at work or at the end of a long (work) week. Sometimes I am mentally exhausted and not always fully motivated. However, once I begin to loosen up, sweat, and enter into my practice the day/week/year/etc is shaved away from my thoughts and body.

(Everytime) At the end of the training session I am much more mentally clear and awake then I was before. I feel better and have clearer thoughts. To me this is the most common form of Misogi through practice that I want everyone to enjoy and experience. There are many other levels of this concept and how it can strengthen our spirit, training, and our lives and am still exploring those as well.

Aikido/training can be very deep and a worthwhile (lifetime) journey. This is why I continue to train and work towards my own path both alone and also with my teachers, students, and friends along the path.

To finish up the second quote that came to me while reading basho called “The Spring Sea”:

(haru no umi / hinemosu notari / notari kana)

The spring sea —
all day long it rises and falls,
rises and falls.


Keiko Osame (Kiryu CA, 2015)

This to me (especially at new years) is the cycle of the year, each day, and our lives. Things can go good, they can go bad, people begin to train, people quit training, we may loose contact with friends, but may meet new ones, etc… The author of the book stated that (even though all this is going on) “The fisherman doesn’t dwell upon the primordial pulse of life as he laboriously hauls in his nets.”

Maybe that means focus on what is important to you and move forward, train, enjoy life… do your thing…

Be well and hope to train with all of you more this year!


Comments (2)

Kara StewartJanuary 1st, 2016 at 9:02 pm

Thank you, Andrew Sensei, for sharing this post and for sharing your passion for Aikido with all of us.
So many insights you shared resonate with me that I will be taking forward into my next year of practice: long-term focus, personal responsibility for improvement, continual refinement, and the importance (and joy) of regular misogi.
Here’s to 2016: a great, strong year for Kiryu Aikido and everyone in the dojo.

Les StevesonJanuary 2nd, 2016 at 5:47 pm

Great writing. Hope to see you soon to continue our practice.

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