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Home > Columns > "The Grindstone" > March, 2006 - Misogi on Several Levels

Misogi on Several Levels by "The Grindstone"


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This column was written by Michael Collins


I've been in the process of starting a new dojo. There are always reasons when someone stops training sincerely in one place and takes it upon himself to start a new dojo rather than to stay and work to make himself or herself comfortable where they are. I had and have mine, and they are important only to me. I have great respect for my first teacher, and I can only hope that he feels as positively towards me as I do towards him. We are different people and sometimes it's best different people walk different paths. So it goes.

In the process of preparing the space I found to become a dojo, I've had time while working to think about stuff, in particular about the concept of misogi. I'm a fat guy, and in part because of the extra weight, I have back and knee pain that makes doing hard physical labor painful. As I was laying out lumber for the floor on which the new mats will rest, I was hurting a lot. I had just loaded a bunch of lumber into a cart, off the cart and into my truck, off my truck and into a stack inside the new dojo space; this all after a day at work, so I was tired and sore. As I measured, and chalked and marked and began laying out the lumber, I was hurting so bad that I was very frustrated. I was a roofer, before I became a pencil pusher, and to me, whining about work is foreign. But here I was, hurting, tired, sore, mentally fatigued, and frustrated. I took a short break and sat in the empty space, and let my mind rest a minute. After just a few seconds, I felt myself thinking almost out loud "The pain is just part of the deal. Building this dojo is in large part about misogi. Some of what I need to clean out is the physical and mental laziness that has allowed and maybe caused me to gain so much weight, and provide the source of the pain" My responsibility to myself and to this new school I had decided to take on, was to do some of the misogi, to clean and prepare the space both internal and external, to allow the Aikido done there to have some value. Somehow that concept was enough to get me to keep moving through the pain and keep going.

What I found myself doing at the times when I was the most fatigued and hurting was to not run, mentally and physically, from the pain, but to go into it a little bit, make sure that I moved with all the physical integrity I could muster, and keep going, no matter how slowly (and often it was just sickening how damned slow this old fat cranky body has become), as long as I wasn't doing any real damage. I found that a good guage for me was whether or not the pain in my back, which would keep me from sleeping for several hours when I laid down, was gone next morning. My guess was that if the pain didn't last more than a night, it was muscle pain, not structural pain, and I could tough it out and keep going.

And little bit by little bit the dojo built itself. I had some great help in the form of my friend Dave Churillo, a true Gumba with whom I worked and sang stupid old Dean Martin and Louie Prima songs and told lies and told jokes, and he, poor bastard, was hurting almost more than me at times. But we plugged along and got it done. And the space has already, a week before I open the doors for the first time, begun to feel like home to me. I hope it has legs. I hope the dojo gains strength to keep going and grow beyond it's present size and space, and eventually move to it's own building. But even if the dojo doesn't outlive it's lease, the practice of helping it be born was a great one for me. I only hope I can do a sufficient job of nurturing it that it grows into the healthy, mature, whole thing I have envisioned it to be.

It almost seems like the dojo will do more to make me a more complete Aikidoist than I will ever do to make it a complete dojo. Not unlike the way my sons have done way more to make me an adult than I'll ever do to help them become adults.

Funny what you can see from the other side of a difficult, scary thing. I wonder what the fear and trepidation I feel right now, on the eve of the birthday of Aikido Santa Clara, will look like a year, or three or ten from now. I guess my job between now and then is to continue with the misogi I've begun, and work to keep the interior and the exterior clean and free of fear, trepidation, and anxiety.

The pain lasted as long as the build-out, but long after the pain in my back is forgotten; the feeling of working through it will last and feed my soul. Worthwhile misogi is like that, I suspect. Ask me in twenty years!

If you're ever in the neighborhood, stop in and train with us (or maybe only with me, we'll see soon enough).

-- Michael Collins
http://www.aikidosantaclara.com


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