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Home > Columns > Chuck Clark > March, 2004 - Practice
by Chuck Clark

Practice, by Chuck Clark

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As beginners, we're all nervous and filled with expectations. Some of this is overt and much is covert. All of us start out wanting to do well. We want to know all there is to know about this new strange way of doing things. We're competitive with others, and we're even competitive with ourselves. Some of us are combative in nature. We tend to be aggressive in this strange new place, or we may show the opposite by being shy; and unwilling to commit or be open and vulnerable. We bring along a lot of baggage about ourselves and what we have labeled as good and bad. We cant help it. We're human and as such, we're fearful and insecure.

One of the wonderful things about this practice, this WAY of life in the dojo, is that it shows us who we are. Along with learning kihon, kata, randori, etc. we often see things about ourselves that have been hidden to us. We also see things about others that help us learn about them and, in so doing, about ourselves. This is all part of the practice. It takes courage and determination to do this practice. The relative level of physical ability in performing technique isnt necessarily that important. Our commitment to the process of the practice and our willingness to look at these things is important. Always try to practice with an open, joyful spirit. Have faith and develop trust in your instructors and teachers. Dont give up your responsibility for yourself, and never take part in abusive behavior (on either side). Your sensei will put you in many uncomfortable situations but it should NEVER be for their own amusement or power.

The ideal dojo is (as my son calls it) a dilemma-rich environment that gives you the chance to learn and desensitize ...then resensitize your body, mind, and spirit. It is our goal to provide a climate which is dilemma rich, yet full of trust and stimulation to help students who have chosen this path to realize the integration of body, mind, and spirit. We want to learn to share this in harmony with all beings, thus helping to create a better society and community. Budo practice can show us a way to truly understand freedom tempered with responsibility. The inevitable conflicts in life can be dealt with from a calm, peaceful center that develops intuitive methods of resolving these conflicts without fighting. Everyday stress becomes chances for creative decisions and action.

The Japanese talk about shoshin or beginners mind. Many people think this means to always approach things with an empty mind. This is not correct. We must have an open mind that is willing to change while being responsible for what we already know. Many people have heard the story about the Zen master over-filling the visitors teacup and remarking that he should have an empty cup in order to accept the masters tea. Tsuneo Nishioka Sensei, menkyo kaiden of the Shinto Muso Ryu, says, ... not an empty cup, but an expandable cup as it is impossible for us to have an empty cup. Another word in Japanese that describes the necessary mindset for learning is nyunanshin or malleable spirit. In many traditional dojo, sensei would not accept anyone that didnt have nyunanshin. Of course the ideal is to keep shoshin or nyunanshin all the time. A master budoka of forty or fifty years practice who has done the inner spiritual work along with the physical, will always show this willing eagerness to learn and change. One of the pitfalls in this practice is to want to be different than we are now. We see some possible outcome of this training and get caught up in being goal oriented to the point that it is nonproductive and even unhealthy. Forget the end of this journey and just walk the path, one step at a time. None of us will get to the end in this lifetime. Practice for the sake of the practice.

(This is taken from the Jiyushinkai Guide For New Members, Copyright 1996 by C. Clark, All Rights Reserved)

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