Jisei自制:  Self-Control 

Jisei自省:  Self-Examination

“By their actions, ye shall know them.”  One of the gems of wisdom passed down over the generations and still relevant today.  You never really know what someone else is thinking.  For that matter you often don’t know what you are thinking or why you are thinking it!  However, one sure way of ‘knowing’ someone, yourself included, is by actions.  What we do makes us who we are.  Our actions define us.  It is not what we want to do, nor what we think.  Observe someone’s actions, and you know who they are.  Observe your own to know who you are!

It is always easy to make excuses as to why you can’t get to the dojo.  I have had so many men and women either email me or come to watch a class, and tell me that this practice is something they have always wanted to do!  Some actually come to class and begin.  Very often, within a few months, they come up with excuses why they can’t come to practice.  Sometimes it is family responsibilities, work, or health issues.  Slowly, over time, they just stop making excuses and stop practicing.  On the other hand, I have some great students who come to every practice and every seminar even though they too have work, school, and family responsibilities.  If you have hurt your arm or knee, come to practice and do it standing up or with a light sword/bokuto, or come and watch and take notes:  mirugeiko, watching practice.

What is the difference between the first and second kind of person?  They both have the dream of being able to use the Japanese sword and become good at it.  Yet, they both exhibit different behaviours.  Why?  It is a matter of what you really want.  Look at what you do and that will show you what you genuinely want.  Scary, isn’t it?!  How do you spend your time, money, and energy?  Please don’t complain that the monthly fee is too high or that seminar fees are too costly.  How many times per week do you buy that three dollar cappuccino or eat out?  How often do you go to movies?  How much time do you spend on Facebook or the Net?  I’m often asked how I have been able, for 25 years, to go to Japan every year for one to two month to practice with my teachers?  It’s simple.  I merely have decided that this is a main focus in my life and I spend my money and time pursuing it.  Sure, that means that I don’t have a lot of disposable income for other things.  I don’t think I’ve been to a film in a theatre in ten years!  I rarely eat out in a restaurant.  Since I’ve retired from work, I’ve hardly bought any new clothes.  Sure, I miss those things but I’m willing to do without some stuff, because I want something else more.  It is simply a matter of setting priorities and using self-control.

Do more than just dream and read about what you want to do!  Knowledge is not power.  Rather the implementation of knowledge is power.  Put the time, money, and energy into what you want to become good at.  Of course, reading is also good but does not take the place of action.  As the old Chinese saying goes, “The journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.”  You don’t have to be good to start a practice, but you do have to start and be consistent to be good.

How do you know what you really want to do?  Look at what you are doing right now in your life and that will answer your question.  Not so happy with that?  Then, look at yourself [self-examination] and write down what it really is you want to be doing.  Then do it.  Just like the Nike ads…”Just Do It!”  As far as we know, we are given only one chance at life.  Let’s spend it fulfilling our dreams.  As Joseph Campbell, the eminent anthropologist once said, “Follow your bliss!”

Ken Maneker

August 4, 2011