Monday, 17 November 2014

余裕 'Yoyu' in Our Training and in Our Life

In our Karate Do training, in our Kata practice, and in life, maintaining the appropriate amount of hardness and softness and showing the appropriate amounts of strength and weakness, especially when dealing with the ups and downs of life, is something that we all struggle with. The struggle may never end, but I still believe that our Karate Do training gives us a special advantage to assess the situation quickly and act accordingly. Reading the situation is something known as 空気読む Kuki Yomu, the ability to intuitively assess the atmosphere and act on these assessments. One may liken this to 'reading between the lines'; looking for hints regarding the course of action to take in all that is around us. In this respect, the term 残心 Zanshin, often translated as awareness or relaxed alertness, may also be used to explain Kuki Yomu. When living in Japan this heightened sense of awareness is a very important skill to have. The ability to read the situation and act correctly could make all the difference between success and failure in Japan, in general, and even more so in the Karate Do environment. (This statement can be interpreted a number of different ways and applied to many situations. Contemplating it in your unique situation and applying it as you see fit is what I would like to recommend)

Perhaps a beneficial question would be, How can someone develop this skill and use it to their advantage? I don't have the answer to this question, but I am aware that this ability has helped me countless times in the past. and simply being aware of its importance helps to develop it further. In previous posts I have provided information about the importance of listening and how to show appropriate levels of courtesy. Here I would like to look at the concept of 余裕 Yoyu. I feel strongly that everything happens for a reason and how we act or react to what happens changes our lives. If we can first, be aware and get in tune with whatever will help us to take the best course of action and then act without entering a state of panic, I am sure the best possible results can be attained. Consciously making a choice not to act in a state of panic or anger (emotional states that cloud our judgement) develops a strength and stillness in our Kokoro, Heart/spirit known as 不動心 Fudoshin, something that many martial artists often talk about, but only a few know deeply. (I would like to talk more deeply about fudoshin in future posts)

(3,333Dan, Kumamoto, Japan)

There is a staircase in Kumamoto that we used to visit and climb early in the new year after the annual 滝行 Taki Gyo, Waterfall training. The number of stairs in this staircase is 3,333 and the stairs resemble our life's path. There are smooth and rough patches along the way, sometimes the stairs are uniform and easy to climb but just as you become accustomed to the pace and stride of these stairs the course takes a twist and the stairs suddenly become uneven and the climb becomes more difficult accordingly. As in life, there are many opportunities to quit as you climb. There are also strategically placed rest areas that, if you linger at too long, will take your motivation away from you if you let them. You will never get the time spent climbing back, so why do it? I have asked myself this question along my climbs. Fortunately, on each of my climbs, I was climbing with good friends and enjoying great conversations along the way. One conversation was about how these stairs resemble our karate do training and indeed our life's journey.

 Along the way, through our conversations with each other and our common goal of reaching the top we created for ourselves and for one another the conditions where we could all benefit from the experience. Isn't this the type of conditions we are trying to build in our lives both in and out of the dojo? And, isn't this the answer to the previous question about the reason why we do it? The more I look at the things that have had profoundly positive effects on my life, the more I see that they are all related. Lately, I am noticing more commonalities than differences. And this has caused me to take pause a few times and ask myself, Have the things around me really changed that much or have I only developed the senses needed to recognize them? Perhaps, a little bit of both has occurred. I think that developing the skills needed to be successful in life helps us to see things around us in a different light. Developing our mental toughness, as discussed in previous blogs, helps us to make decisions differently than we would have otherwise. This ability to see things differently and act appropriately to achieve success or at the very least, positive growth is a result of developing the amount of Yoyu we possess. As stated above, actions taken as a result of decisions made in a state of panic or anger will never benefit anyone involved. Therefore, it is recommended that we all try to develop the amount of Yoyu we possess and apply in our daily lives.
 The direct translation of  Yoyu is creating a surplus or freedom to act rather than react to a situation through developing 'room to move' whether it be psychological or physical Yoyu is very important in producing successful outcomes which is the goal of martial arts training and its many lessons in and out of the Dojo.

The more I research the material discussed in this blog the more I see all of the interconnections within the martial arts, the human spirit and nature. The further these three things drift apart from each other, the more off-balance and unstable we become and, as a result, we often make poor life choices or at the very least become very confused and begin to fall into a slump. If this continues too long we begin to become numb as we spiral downward. The emotions we feel when dealing with something new or challenging are sometimes described as painful, but they are often the pain that comes with growth. When confused we need to work on shortening the gap between our training, our spiritual wellness, and our connection to nature.

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