View Full Version : Yurusu, An Aiki Perspective

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01-16-2012, 08:12 PM
Yurushimasu, in Japanese, is the decision to, and the act of forgiving another person for an action or intention deemed detrimental or hurtful. In a tightly controlled society as may be found in Japan, the value of forgiving and being forgiven is a highly prized, and perhaps indispensible characteristic of that society. For me, it means forgiving the person involved, without necessarily discounting or dismissing the actual damage done or perceived to have been committed. To distinguish between these two notions is vital to appropriately and reasonably resolving any conflict or misunderstanding for any and all parties involved and affected. Thus, the fundamental connection to the other party is preserved, while constructive measures are being taken to rectify the situation, and reconcile true emotions, perceptions, and attitudes.

No doubt, other cultures and societies have their own version of dealing with applying the notion, and with the actual act of forgiveness, and must be respected as such by any fair observer. Nonetheless, it seems to me that there are certain factors in common for all such manifestations of human compassion and tolerance. One such characteristic may well be the WIIFM factor. "What's In It For Me?" to forgive another person one may ask. For one, the release of tightly held resentment in exchange for opening that burdened space to more positive emotions and to establish constructive solutions can be huge. For another, the opportunity to re establish lines of communication and of exchange that proved previously beneficial to both parties, cannot be quickly discounted, and steps may then be taken to reconnect them. When one realizes how much, and how long it took to establish this advantage in the first place, it certainly is worth every effort. It certainly can be accepted as "good for business" to bury the hatchet of resentment and rancor, thus providing new and improved opportunities for mutual growth and prosperity. Say, don't our so called world leaders strive to achieve this happy result most of the time?

Let us not ignore or forget the singularly most important aspect of "yurusu", which is the essential ability and willingness to forgive the self for a recognized misstep or for a perceived error. How legendary are the accounts of those who lost great amounts of time, anguish and lost opportunities, simply by refusing to come to terms with their own fallibility, lack of vision, and unquestioned personal biases, and thus failed to reconstruct a healthy self image based on a genuine love and appreciation for that familiar face in the mirror. Yes, that one, the one who has always, is always, and will always be with you, through thick and thin, and is most deserving of another chance. The best friend you can ever have is staring right back at you, and is the one person you cannot wisely exclude for any length of time. Self forgiveness is quite hard, but ultimately an essential habit to cultivate and to treasure.

As we practice Aikido techniques, movements and open minded attitudes on the mat, let us include the lessons of the continuous application of Aiki Principles to the rest of our 24/7 existence, wherever we are, and decide to go. Let us eschew this "part time" commitment to our Aiki ideals, and be unconditional in its constant and consistent practice in all phases of our lives, and with all manner of relationships we may form.

In his singular book on Aikido, Yurusu Budo, the late Shoji Nishio Sensei was apparently attempting to explain his idea of the Founder's wish for benevolence in Budo, a true and realistic attitudinal change towards reconciliation and non violent resolution of differences of thought and action. This could only begin with a change of insight on the part of those who seriously train in traditional Budo systems, and who can and actually decide to incorporate the ability to "forgive" in their choices of response. This would be a paradigm shift indeed.

In our AikiWeb forums and blogs, we may note many disagreements on topics such as terminologies, philosophies, legitimacy of systems, genuineness of research, and other related matters. What we may want to seriously consider as well is to encourage a more tolerant, open minded, and "forgiving" environment of responses to posts that appear incongruent with our own views and beliefs. Let us honestly try and give harmonious and meaningful conversations and debates an even chance.

Who knows, we may even grow to like it.

Francis Takahashi was born in 1943, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Francis began his Aikido journey in 1953, simultaneously with the introduction of Aikido to Hawaii by Koichi Tohei, a representative sent from Aikikai Foundation in Tokyo, Japan. This event was sponsored by the Hawaii Nishi System of Health Engineering, with Noriyasu Kagesa as president. Mr. Kagesa was Francis's grandfather, and was a life long supporter of Mr. Tohei, and of Aikido. In 1961, the Founder visited Hawaii to help commemorate the opening of the new dojo in Honolulu. This was the first, and only time Francis had the opportunity to train with the Founder. In 1963, Francis was inducted into the U.S. Army, and was stationed for two years in Chicago, Illinois. He was the second instructor for the fledgling Chicago Aikido Club, succeeding his childhood friend, Chester Sasaki, who had graduated from the University of Illinois, and was entering the Air Force. Francis is currently ranked 7th dan Aikikai, and enjoys a direct affiliation with Aikikai Foundation for the recommending and granting of dan ranks via his organization, Aikikai Associates West Coast. Francis is the current dojo-cho of Aikido Academy in Alhambra, California.

Mary Eastland
01-19-2012, 07:35 AM
Thank you, Francis, for another heartfelt column. Aikido training for me is all day, everyday. I fall short of the mark many times a day. I don't practice a religion. Aikido training and a set of principles are my guideposts. The principles I study are given a physical expression in my practice of Aikido.

Forgiveness is important. It puts the focus back on the practice and the principles. Human beings, including myself sometimes fall short. Acceptance of humanness, mine and that of others is the answer. I believe we are all doing our best. Sometimes my best or the best of others is not good enough. Yet no one can do better than their best.

I pray for the people that I need to forgive. Often when I start I really don't want to forgive them. Through the process of repeated prayer and attention to my own behavior I notice a softening in my heart and soon forgiveness is achieved.

I don't have to let them hurt me again if that is their nature. That is my responsibility. Forgiveness and prayer and acceptance set me free to be current in my life and enjoy each day.

01-19-2012, 08:54 AM
Mr. Takahashi
I greatly enjoyed this article, thank you. I think it is timely, at this juncture here on aikiweb.
Many of your points ring deep in my own heart, and serve to remind me that not only do we need to forgive each other, but we also should remember to try harder not to cause someone to feel they need to forgive...us!

It would be a great New years resolution here on Aikiweb were we to all pause a bit and consider each other. As I have traveled these last few years and met so many teachers in budo, I have come to both appreciate and understand the depth of Ellis Amdur's initial defense of and admonitions to me to re-think the quality of people in Budo. He recognized and also knew some of the snake pit experiences I had previously had with people in the arts, and encouraged me to reconsider and reach out to them. It was he and he alone, that told me I must teach. Were it not for him, I would not be meeting hundreds of teachers around the world, and I would have missed meeting some of the nicest people I know-not the least of which would be Ellis himself. Few know the story but I blew him off for six months because I didn't want to meet him!! Idiot!! Here is the critical point; many of those teachers were my harshest critics. In line with your excellent article here, we had chosen to put aside petty squabbles and try to achieve an understanding. It worked, and I can count some great relationships started, because of Ellis, and because of Aikiweb!

One common trait that I have seen in Budo teachers is that we are all confident, but it is through a life of failure and frustration in attempting things beyond our means and ability. Budo tends to keep our failures right in front of us everyday we practice...seemingly without end...cough. This alone should produce a bond and awareness and also a recognized tenacity between us all.
I think and hope that many of us have experienced the power of forgiveness in our personal lives. Letting go instead of holding on, releases a floodgate of interrelated events, many times unseen, and it reaches places we could not otherwise have approached.

I also agree with you that this stems from honest evaluations of ourselves within our community and helps us keep a keen eye on the fact that we are better and stronger as a we instead of as a me. I am often reminded of Mohammed Ali giving one of the shortest and most compelling commentaries of his treatment by the Government for refusing induction into the armed forces and being stripped of title and being left bankrupt. Facing the press and a group at a college campus he simply appealed to a greater awareness beyond each of our own selfish concerns in being mindful of what we allow to happen to one- can happen to us all:
"Me? We."
I thought it brilliant.

Why not consider that here as well. We should all assume the better of each other when we disagree over various issues. These things that we hotly debate, are not issues that define us as people. Each of us are far more than these things. A case in point is the continued disagreement on issues of aiki; Where and how should that correlate to judging each other and going on the attack? As George Ledyard once said Can't we find a way to disagree without the need to lay waste to the other person? To which we all need to give a resounding...Yes we can!

I am going to keep your column in mind throughout the new year-it will give me pause. Let me know how I do.
Thanks again.

01-19-2012, 11:25 AM
Thank you, Takahashi sensei! Such a very good reminder in a number of ways for me. Forgiving can be so hard to do, both in dealing with others and with ourselves. Our emotions can have such a visceral compulsion attached to them that it can be hard to move in a different direction than they "want." It takes a fair bit of training/practice to be able to consistently handle our own emotions in order to forgive ourselves and others; to look past the problem and see the solution.
People often seem to think that if they're not behaving according to their emotions, they're being untrue to themselves somehow. "That's just how I feel" is something I've heard a lot as if it were a rational reason for their "side" of the story, or as if it were unavoidable. But it is avoidable, even if difficult. Over time our actions shape our neurological system, so with practice we can learn to change into the people we want to be (e.g. not flying off the handle; being more magnanimous; what have you).
I don't know how much it applies to other people, but I have always noticed my ability to handle interpersonal problems goes way up when I am happy with myself. I simply do not get flustered by others when I feel secure in myself. The last several years has been a process of learning how to forgive myself for certain mistakes...and I notice as I make progress within myself, my acquired misanthropy dwindles; the things that tend to bother me, do so less and less...and it's refreshing to experience; it's a misogi.

01-19-2012, 04:17 PM
Excellent sentiment, Francis Sensei. There is never NOT a good reason to be tolerant, patient and forgiving.

Thanks for putting the idea out there in such a hopeful manner.

01-19-2012, 04:48 PM
this was the sentiment i wanted to express when there was a discussion on here about someone who had been cast out of aikido many years ago, and many were adamant in NOT forgiving this person.
it seems, then, that there are various levels of difficulty in forgiving based on the wrong committed. so my item for pondering: how to apply this sentiment to all scenarios; does group-think change people's ability to forgive? (eg. if one perceives that forgiving someone would not be backed by the bigger community, how does the individual proceed?....what does this say?)

just thoughts..

01-19-2012, 05:29 PM
I truly believe in the redemptive power of forgiveness. But like most things, it has two sides. True forgiveness cannot be given unless there is repentance on the part of the wrongdoer. And absolution cannot be granted without restitution. Without repentance and restitution, forgiveness is meaningless, the conflict is unresolved, and the path remains open for more wrongdoing.
Even when it comes to self-forgiveness, this must be present. How can we forgive ourselves if we are not truly sorry for what we have done? And how can we absolve ourselves of blame if we are unwilling to make up for the wrong we have committed?
Forgiveness and repentance must go hand in hand.

01-19-2012, 05:55 PM
True forgiveness cannot be given unless there is repentance on the part of the wrongdoer.
Can't totally agree with this. While reciprocity is certainly a noble goal, I see more value in forgiveness that comes unconditionally. I can hope that my gesture results in a positive influence on the other guy, but the true reconciliation is with myself. Your mileage may vary. ;)

01-19-2012, 06:24 PM
Can't totally agree with this. While reciprocity is certainly a noble goal, I see more value in forgiveness that comes unconditionally. I can hope that my gesture results in a positive influence on the other guy, but the true reconciliation is with myself. Your mileage may vary. ;)

While you are forgiving unconditionally, just make sure you keep one eye your enemies intentions.

True it is in within oneself, but just in case, a good application of violence despite what your mama told you, will solve problems
There will be no "value" when you are dead. Unless you are in category of Christ or Obi Won Kenobi;)

01-19-2012, 06:34 PM
" For me, it means forgiving the person involved, without necessarily discounting or dismissing the actual damage done or perceived to have been committed. "

No surprise, Takahashi Sensei has similiar sensibilities and this is after all a "martial" art forum.
No harm no foul then there is no harm nor foul , percieved or otherwise. I can let go of ego, life and limb are another matter.

01-19-2012, 09:29 PM
While you are forgiving unconditionally, just make sure you keep one eye your enemies intentions.

Absolutely. My point was that forgiving may be done as a singular act, and is valid whether it is embraced by the other or not.

01-20-2012, 03:59 AM
Excellent voice as always Sensei, compliments and appreciation.

IMHO, for-giving ia about acknowledging that something was wrong, who did it, and "giving" to responsibility of that act back to the offender. It frees us. It does not mean anything is forgotten about what that offense says about that person, not about their victims.

Given that lessons and statements can be forgiven but not forgotten, perhaps patience and tolerance is tacit permission and condoning the acts committed. Perhaps we accept and tolerate too much and act on them too slowly.

Always an honor.

01-20-2012, 05:21 AM
Can't totally agree with this. While reciprocity is certainly a noble goal, I see more value in forgiveness that comes unconditionally. I can hope that my gesture results in a positive influence on the other guy, but the true reconciliation is with myself. Your mileage may vary. ;)

Well, I forgive you for not totally agreeing with me :D

01-20-2012, 06:13 AM
Absolutely. My point was that forgiving may be done as a singular act, and is valid whether it is embraced by the other or not.

There are "conditions"there still whether percieved or not. Obviously, "unconditional" is another whole set of circumstances.
I wonder can a person or group be unconditionally forgiven after the 7th time the same offense is committed or the 8th?
Unconditionally moves us away from judgement and justification of actions.
Another area we are increasingly afraid to act on, judgement and justice, because we are led to believe there should be none?
I would love to walk around saying, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do"
As a matter of fact , He said it for us. All we can do is try to be more like him.:rolleyes:

jamie yugawa
01-31-2012, 05:12 PM
Thank you for another great article. Recently I have been conversing with a sensei who started practicing Aikido in the 50's in Hawaii. I asked him what his key or secret to life was, he answered without hesitation "Forgiveness". You live life with an open heart and hold no malice towards others even though you may want to.

Diana Frese
02-01-2012, 10:05 AM
Gregory's post just reminded me of something, though I've been thinking of the article for weeks intending to make a general comment on the great topic and great essay by Francis.

My friend Ginny, who in recent years returned to attending church (Roman Catholic, she is a "fan" of Mother Teresa, by the way) was working at cleaning people's houses years ago before she went into retail sales. Most of the housecleaning customers were very nice, but some customer said something unkind, I seem to remember her saying. What I'm sure she said was "It was very ignorant of them." This reminded me of a simple and modern restatement of one of the most famous quotations in history. It was something spontaneous and she was probably not thinking of the original at the time, but it was something taught to me by someone a lot younger than myself. She is a sensitive woman, but in spite of whatever hurt she felt, she held on to the right attitude for herself.

I have learned to pay attention to what she says over the years because I can learn so much from her.