Saturday, December 29, 2012

Fear in the Dojo

If you spend any amount of time in the dojo you will eventually hear me say-" this is a safe space." Why do I say this? Because lurking in the corners is fear.  One of the first fears encountered in the dojo is the fear of being criticized by your peers. This is only natural since you are usually in a group setting and when you enter your natural inclination is to think that everyone is looking at you and your faults. Over the course of time you realize that your ego was incorrect and everyone is not looking at you ( for many its is a watershed moment) and that everyone is focused on their own progress, not yours.

Then there is the fear of letting go, of surrender. We all walk into the dojo with preconceived ideas, we also carry with us-insecurity, doubt, anger, unresolved self esteem issues, extra portions of ego and bravado, and for some an overestimated concept of our own intelligence. This is baggage that we carry around the dojo, making our training and life harder. Yet however hard it is to carry that extra weight around it is very scary to let go of it because  the weight is comforting. It is a known quantity- something we can refer back to, it is security and so we are loathe to release it. The alternative, surrender and release is frightening to contemplate. In order to progress however, we must lose the baggage. For some we lose it all at once, for others its a slower process each piece a battle hard fought. Eventually you must surrender, the training and your growth demand it. It is implacable and infinitely patient.

Another fear encountered is the fear of being hit. This is by no means a sequential list. So each of these fears can appear at any time and usually arrive when you least expect them  or want them to surface. Fear of being  hit is very debilitating for many people. Many people embark on the study of a martial art because they feel powerless and want to learn to defend themselves. Some have been abused as children or adults and feel that learning a martial art will help them overcome their history. While you may learn about techniques by reading  about them or even discussing them, in order to really learn them, you must do them. Spending years striking air will not prepare you for the first time you make contact, likewise walking through prearranged fighting drill will not prepare you for a free form sparring session. Free form sparring will not prepare you for prevailing  on the street.
 Together with this fear is the fear of getting hurt or having something broken. None of us likes to be hurt, much less go through the breaking of bones or tearing of muscles. It doesn't sound pleasant and its not pleasant to experience. We have students that come from schools where breaking something in every class was considered normal. I don't consider this to be the norm and it is something to be avoided wherever possible. This is not to say it will not happen, whenever you have contact the possibility of something breaking is there. We do try to minimize it wherever possible.

So how to deal with these fears?  Each person is different. As an instructor you have to assess what each person is dealing with and when. This is where the safe space comment comes from. It is not just a nice thing to say to assuage fears. You have to create a safe space for the students to go as hard or easy as they wish.  Some will have  little or no fear and will want to push themselves to the limit and beyond- and it should be available to them. Likewise some will want to take a slower and more cautious pace- this too needs to be available without recrimination. Underlying it all is the presence of a space that is safe to experiment, learn and make mistakes exists and is encouraged not only by the sensei of the school but by every student in the school regardless of rank.

Fear will always be a part of the dojo, of training. Rather than being a negative influence, its presence can spur us to greater mastery. The key is acknowledging that it exists and surpassing its influence over our thoughts and actions. That is one of the primary roles of a good instructor.

strong spirit-strong mind-strong body

Sensei Orlando

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The ripples of your pond

When I started this blog it was basically a place to put down thoughts that were pertinent to me and my journey through life and the martial arts. I didn't write with the idea of an audience in mind. It just felt important to put those thoughts out there, here, in case someone-anyone might need them.

What I didn't realize then is that I was dropping pebbles into a pond, creating ripples. Let me clarify. Each of our lives, every one of us is like a pond. Some of us have expansive ponds some have very small ponds and some, well some have puddles. However in each of these bodies of water(lives), if you drop a pebble you will get ripples. Its interesting to note that the expansiveness of the ripples-how far they travel, are a direct result of the depth of the body of water. In other words a shallow puddle wont have many ripples whereas a deep lake will. It is also dependent on the size of the pebble if I drop a small stone I will get a few ripples, if I drop a boulder- well you get the idea.

This ripple effect is important because the further the ripples travel denote the depth of your life and actions. So back to the blog. I started this blog as sounding board for thoughts, observations and the sharing of the philosophy of martial arts as it pertains to my journey. Over the course of time it has been read in some very far flung places around the world.
I had no idea the ripples were travelling out that far.

Here is an example of what I mean. A few weeks ago we were visited in the dojo by a young man ( Brian- the white belt in the picture) who was looking into his academic studies here in the states. We get visitors often, some train with us, others want to observe. What made this visitor different was that he was visiting us because he had read this blog- in Australia. Upon coming to the U.S. he requested to visit and train with us, which of course I agreed to.  Here he is with me and some senpai after a class.

 So what do I want you take away with this example? Well lets look at it for a moment. Had I not been writing this blog, Brian would never had known about our school. He would have visited the U.S. but we would have never met. Our lives would have never intersected. Even though the time was brief we are both richer for having met each other.

How many chance encounters, windows of opportunity have you missed?
You many never know. Start taking action in your life and make it as deep as possible. Don't become comfortable in a puddle, look to swim deep.
 One of the greatest examples of this in my life are my children. I look at them as the embodiment of a confluence of events that drove two people to meet and participate in the miracle of life. I know it sounds clinical, its not the only way I see them (I love them all immensely), but it is evident to me that they too are my ripples in life.

When you make your life deep you will have many ripples, many people will be touched by your actions, your words and even your presence. Strive to make your life deep.Make your pond expansive and profound. Let your life touch as many people as possible. You will never know the true extent of the ripple effect in your life and in the lives of  those you touch, but I can guarantee you that your life will be richer for it.

strong spirit-strong mind-strong body

Sensei Orlando

Friday, December 14, 2012

Parents in the Martial Arts

I want to thank Jan(one of our parents) for the idea for this post.

One of the largest groups in our school are children. Invariably, as instructors, when we think of children we have a tendency to disconnect them from their parents. Possibly because we only deal with the children in the class, or we only see the parents fleetingly as they drop the kids off for class. However, we must maintain the bond that exists between parent and child, even in the context of training. Especially in the context of training.  When a child becomes part of a dojo family, it is not just that child that is or should be welcomed. The parents as well must understand what it means to be part of a dojo. They are the ones responsible for making sure the  child arrives on time in a clean and neat gi.

The precepts and values that the child learns in the dojo should be reinforced in the home. Things like courtesy, respect, integrity, caring for others,discipline, perseverance and humility are but a few of the values taught and shared in a dojo setting. It does not serve the child if these qualities are being taught in the dojo, and not in the home.

Parents must and should make an effort to be involved in the training to the greatest extent possible. Some schools even offer a Parent and child class where the parent and the child can train simultaneously. Parents should take advantage of this if its offered. Occasionally we get parents who want to "parent" from waiting area. It is one of the reasons many traditional schools do not have a "waiting area". Martial arts is not meant to be an activity that is watched it is meant to be done.
I have had to have many conversations with parents who feel their child should be doing better, even to the extent that they will try to correct their child in the midst of class. There are  reasons why we as parents should refrain from this:

It sends mixed signals. In the mind of the child if the parent comes into the class to correct them there is confusion. Unless the parent is the instructor, it is an undermining of authority of the instructor. The message the child receives is that I can behave or do whatever I want until Mom or Dad say something. I don't need to listen to the Sensei or instructor.
It disrupts the flow of the class. The instructor may be planning an activity with the children and the interruption throws off the rhythm if the class.
It is viewed as bad etiquette. I would not presume to interrupt a surgeon as he was about to perform surgery.  Or any other professional for that matter. Most reputable instructors have many years of study accumulated.  Many of the sensei  I know have been teaching for three decades or more. Even if you are a martial artist with many years of training it is still seen as bad form to enter a class and begin to offer pointers or corrections.
It can embarrass the child. Being called out before his or her peers is not a pleasant experience for the child and can remove any desire for training.
It displays a lack of trust. When you enroll your child in a school, the implicit statement being made is that I trust this school, these instructors. Acting in any other way dissolves that trust.

These behaviors are usually exhibited by fathers more than mothers. We want our boys to be strong and our girls to be fierce. We look from the sides and usually give the "eye" if we perceive them to be misbehaving or not performing up to what we consider par. Mothers on the other hand usually want to "rescue" the child.

As fathers we can be uncompromising. I speak from experience being that four of my children currently train in our home dojo and visit another dojo where I am not the instructor but just a "parent". I can see myself slipping into the role of super dad and have to occasionally check myself. Its not easy, its your child after all.

These are descriptions done in broad strokes and obviously there are exceptions in both genders. The key is to find out what the code of etiquette is for your school and adhere to it. Support your child in his or her studies in the arts. Reinforce the values they are learning, lead by example and I can assure you that the transformation will amaze you.

strong spirit-strong mind-strong body

Sensei Orlando

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Forge-Why it is essential to training

I often refer to the dojo as a forge. Many of the students look at me with a question on their faces, usually along the lines of "What is a forge?" I forget that in this age of plastic and new age materials that the concept of forging and working with metal may be alien to some. Why is a dojo like a forge?
Well lets examine a forge.The actual word forge can be used as a verb or a noun. When used as a verb it means to make or shape an object (metal) by heating it in a fire or furnace and beating or hammering it. It is also used to mean to move ahead gradually or steadily. As a noun, it is the location where the shaping of an object takes place sometimes referred to as a smith or smithy. Both definitions are pertinent as we will see.When a piece of metal is chosen to create an object, for example a sword-the best possible raw materials are used. In the dojo you do not always have that option. One of the different aspects between the forge and the dojo is that the forge requires the best material to produce quality work. In the dojo it is usually the inverse. You enter a dojo full of doubt, insecurity, ego. Carrying baggage that can only hinder your training. How the dojo and the forge are similar is in what happens next.

Once the metal is selected it is placed in a furnace and heated to such a level that it becomes a liquid. Once this occurs the dross floats on the surface and is easily separated. What is dross? It is the unwanted aspects of the metal, the waste products. This occurs in the dojo as well. The rigour of training brings out the dross of our lives, the ego, the insecurities and doubt, the unchecked anger and the accumulated baggage we carry with us. We find that after training for some time we have to let go of the baggage, the dross must be discarded in order for us to continue, to thrive, to transform.

This is the action that is taken in a forge. Metal comes in one form and is transformed into another. It is still metal, but it is stronger and it is given a purpose. It is no longer simply metal. The base characteristics may remain the same, but its essence has been changed. This same action is taken in a dojo. Yes the dojo is a sacred space, it is a place to train, it is a place to confront yourself. It is also a place of transformation. You enter in one state and over time, usually a very long time you are transformed and discover a purpose. You are liquefied in the heat of  training (sometimes it feels quite literal) and the dross comes to the surface. Here a pivotal choice must be made. You can choose to keep the dross or acknowledge it and then discard it, no one in the dojo can make that choice for you. It is yours alone to make. It is singularly the greatest gift and the most daunting prospect, to be given this choice.

If you are in a training hall of this type you should encounter this state on a continual basis. You are not allowed the luxury of complacency. You cannot rest on your laurels. It is equal parts dread and excitement, you are awed by the students who train with you and strive to emulate your seniors. You can look back and be cognizant of your progress realizing that although you have come a long way, there is still a long way to go. The forge is merciless, the heat is never comfortable and more often than not unbearable. What happens over time is that you become used to it. You adapt.

There is hammering and beating in a forge. Metal is not an easy material to work with and must be coaxed into forms with heat and pressure. In the dojo there is hammering and beating as well (visit us for a kumite class and you will understand) in most cases its usually a hammering and beating of the ego that is ever ready to rear its head if you are not vigilant. Ego, like metal requires the not so gentle coaxing of  the heat and pressure of training.

If you find yourself in a dojo like this. Consider yourself fortunate and commit to your training wholeheartedly. If you have not found a dojo like this then you must take it upon yourself to bring the forge to your life. Be uncompromising and strive for the highest standard in your training and life. Your example will encourage others. Like moths to a flame they too will seek out the heat of the forge.

strong spirit-strong mind-strong body

Sensei Orlando

Monday, October 1, 2012

What is your On?

When I first started training many years ago I realized that I had to pay a monthly fee. I paid this fee for many years, thinking that in paying this fee I was paying for my instruction. I learned several years later that the fee I was paying covered some of the essential costs of the school, i.e. , electricity, heating, furniture, uniforms, rent and many of the other costs. The one thing that was not covered in my monthly dues was the cost of instruction. When I asked why(since I thought that was what the fee was primarily for) it was explained to me that there was no fee that could cover what was being imparted to me. I had just begun my training path and so I didn't entirely understand what was being shared with me.

 Now here I am, a little wiser and much older and I am beginning to see the wisdom of the words that were shared with me. What I didn't understand back then was that the instructors were fulfilling their "on". Their obligation or duty to pass on the knowledge that was given to them. No monthly fee could cover that because the knowledge, the patience, the nurturing, the inclusion into the structure of the school transcends any price.
When I recently spoke to several sensei I was asked what my On was. What was I willing to give my life to, my entire commitment to? Initially I thought the answer was easy- my family, my children. Then I realized that  was too narrow. It is understood that if we bring children into this world, it is our responsibility and duty to instruct, nurture and help them grow into capable responsible adults. My family could not be my answer.

After giving it more thought I realized that it had to be as it was with me. Those individuals that enter the school and become students and later instructors in their own right, all of those are part of my On. My question to you today is what is your On?
 For many of us, it is our parents who are now elderly and some may be infirm. For some it is giving of ourselves and our time to those less fortunate. Whatever it may be, I urge you to sit and discover what you can give back. Many of us feel that we are wherever we may be in life on our own merits or skill. I have discovered in my own experience that you can achieve very little of importance on your own. Every great endeavor and those not so great usually require cooperation and assistance of some sort. If you want to achieve great things you will need help, that is just the way it works.

Take some time to day and discover what your On is. Find out how you can give back, then take action.

strong spirit-strong mind-strong body
Sensei Orlando

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What is a dojo?

The place where a martial art is formally taught is called a dojo ( dojang, wat, kwoon, heya, sasaran), the term dojo is translated from the Sanskrit bodhi-manda which is translated as "seat of wisdom". The  word dojo is itself a Japanese term that literally means " place of the way" or " place of enlightenment".

It differs from a gym in that it is a place for perfecting the spirit. This is not to say that the perfection of spirit cannot occur in a gym, but that is not the focus of gyms. You don't go to a dojo to get a good sweat on, or to see how many reps you can pump out today. That is not the purpose of the dojo. The dojo, as a sacred place is where you go to confront yourself. The emphasis is always on improving the essence of self and aspiring towards the perfection of character. The pledge that is made is towards the collective good for the group, the community and the world.

You may think that by the above definition that  a dojo is a room and you would be right and wrong. It is not just a room. It is not a particular style, or even centered around  a particular group of people. The dojo while it can exist as a fixed place in time is also highly subjective. For example we can say the dojo is going to the park or beach this weekend to train, which does not mean we are moving our building to these respective sites.
 So what does it mean?
If we take the above definition of a place to confront and improve yourself, then a dojo can be anywhere. It is an agreed upon place either by yourself or with a group consensus that serves the purpose for training, discipline, introspection, and the perfection of character. We bow in the dojo because we respect the location and what it provides us. It is a matter of respect. The same way we maintain and clean the dojo, not necessarily because the space is dirty, but because it is part of our training and it is manifestation of respect towards the space, ourselves and those who may train with us.

The next time  you enter your dojo take a moment to really appreciate the space you are in whether it be an actual building or in the park. Remember to show gratitude and respect.

strong spirit-strong mind-strong body
Sensei Orlando

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Keeping your sword sharp

One of the things that samurai in the past focused on, among the many things they were responsible for, was to always have a sharp sword. They knew that in any encounter they had a one in three chance of victory, one in three of being maimed or seriously injured and one in three of death. With those odds they were very careful not to draw their swords frivolously.

 Even so because the stakes were so high they took great pains to keep their swords sharp.  Why would they do this if they rarely drew their weapons?  It was a matter of being mentally and physically ready. The act of sharpening the sword focused the will of the samurai. Then like now violence could visit at any time, and when it does you will not have time to practice the techniques that should be ingrained within your body. You will not have time to polish your defense or work on your fitness.

 Although the art of kendo and kenjutsu still exist today, many of us do not roam the streets with swords strapped to our sides. However for those of us that practice a martial art we do have a sword to keep sharp. It starts(and ends) with our basic techniques, which sadly suffer the most as one advances through the ranks.  It means that those that have a practice must make the time to delve deeper into what they have learned, make and effort to reverse engineer it(bunkai) and truly comprehend what the technique and applications are.

Too many times I have witnessed high ranking students do poorly with some techniques because they have focused on one aspect of their training, neglecting the other aspects. What occurs over time is the creation of a  myopic practitioner  that has dull techniques- a dull sword. We cannot allow ourselves to carry a dull sword, to have techniques or kata we are unsure of because we have not practiced them in a long time.

We must strive to always keep our swords sharp, because if we are ever called upon to use the knowledge we possess to defend ourselves or our loved ones we must possess a weapon with a keen edge sharp enough to make a decisive cut.

strong spirit-strong mind-strong body
Sensei Orlando

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hojo Undo

I punch and kick trees as part of  my practice.
Before you start thinking that I have acquired some strange animosity towards trees(I haven't) let me explain. This part of my practice was something I did before I knew it even had a name. Hojo undo is translated  as "supplementary exercises ", these are exercises that are used to condition the body and specific body parts in the training of martial arts. These are used to build functional symmetry in physical strength, stamina, coordination, stances, techniques and velocity. The tools themselves are made from stone, wood, steel, sand or any other material that can simulate these.

The origin of this training goes back to Okinawa which is the birthplace of Karate, and subsequently China which influenced the development of the martial arts in the Ryukyu Island nation. The most common of these tools is the makiwara which can be seen in most schools (although it is becoming harder to find in practice halls) and is used as a striking post. Contrary to the belief of many, it is not for the development of large knuckles, but rather to create powerful strikes. The  large knuckles are just a side effect and only mean that you have hit something often enough to create calluses.

Why subject myself to this kind of training? I recall a conversation with a sempai I once had. It was after a particularly brutal sparring session of which I was the recipient of most of the brutality. I asked him how he was so strong and more importantly ,why?  His answer made quite an impression (as did his fists and kicks). He told me that there were others who were more naturally talented, faster with better reflexes and techniques. He couldn't control that. The one thing he could control was his conditioning, he was going to make sure that he was never out conditioned. To this day I thank Sempai George, because of this short albeit very painful lesson  that he would repeatedly impart to me.

So in essence, Hojo undo is designed to strip away everything else until you reach your core. There are no excuses or reasons when you arrive there. It's just you and the tool (or tree). It shows your level of training or lack thereof and becomes a reliable mirror into where you are. The tools used are quite numerous although you would be hard-pressed to find many of them in most martial arts schools these days. If you are serious about your practice and wish to seek another level of training to further your conditioning you will gravitate to some form of them, like I did with the tree.

I seriously consider hojo undo one of the most important parts of training in any martial art. If you only become proficient at striking air, the day you make impact you will experience a rude awakening, and quite possibly broken bones. If you are serious about pursuing hojo undo in your training you should invest in:
The Art of Hojo Undo by Michael Clarke. It is the only book I have been able to find that not only discusses this supplementary training but also gives instructions on how to build the tools.

Dive deeper into your practice and try hojo undo, it brings you face to face with yourself. We may not want to face ourselves, but on this path we must.

strong spirit-strong mind-strong body
Sensei Orlando

Monday, April 16, 2012

Confronting the Wall

Let me begin with a short story.

Somewhere in the mountains there is a temple. One day a man journeyed countless miles to arrive at this temple. When he approached the temple he encountered a massive wall blocking the entrance. On on side of the wall were several small huts, where he was directed to stay. He was given tools and one instruction; to enter the temple he must tear down the wall. He also had the option of leaving at any time he chose if he found the task too difficult. Each day he would remove part of the wall only to find it restored the next morning.

 This continued for many days, then weeks,months and finally years. Still the man would not give up. Each day he arose and approached the wall. His body became stronger along with his will and strength of  spirit. Then one day as he made his way to his wall, instead of a wall stood the abbot of the temple before the open entrance.

The man approached the abbot, who had not spoken to him in all the time he had been there.
"What happened to the wall?" the man asked.
The abbot looked at  the man and looked around the entrance and said "What wall?"
 The man clearly surprised and a bit annoyed, responded in a very unzenlike manner.
 "The one I have been toiling at for years now!"
 "Oh that wall, well it seems that you have finally realized that you no longer need it, please come in." said the abbot as he smiled.

As the man entered  past the doors he encountered an immense courtyard. To one side lay a beautiful lake surrounded by trees. On the other side was a serene zen garden.
" You can stay here if you like." said the abbot "After all you have spent quite some time on that wall."
"No I want to enter the temple, its the reason I am here." said the man.
 Further in the distance along a winding path was the temple proper. The abbot walked along side the man as he made his way to the temple.

 As they were nearing the last bend of the path before approaching the temple, the abbot reached into his robes and produced some tools.
 "Here, you might need these, you left them at the entrance." he said as he handed the man the tools used for tearing down a wall and left him on the path.
 "Why would I need these? " the man thought as he walked the path and found himself before another wall...

It is inevitable that in the course of your practice you will confront the wall. Unlike the wall in the picture you will not be able to simply walk around it. How long the wall persists depends primarily on how long you need it to be in place. Many times we say would like to go deeper, train harder,or devote more time. We can choose to just embark on the path, taking the actions that lead to these goals with the understanding that along this path there will be obstacles some small, others large, and in some cases some that appear insurmountable-the wall.

 What you do when you face your wall determines if your progress or remain where you are. I say your wall because it is a wall of your own creation, just like the man in the story, we each create our walls and they become as solid as we make them.

Some of us are quite content to have a wall, it allows us a fallback position, of course I cant progress any further, cant you see this immense wall before me? It makes all our effort all the more admirable because we are striving against such a large obstacle. Some of us have walls of pride, some of ego, others still have built up walls of towering fear and self doubt. Some of us have walls that contain bricks of anger, and pent up frustration.

Whatever your wall consists of- until you dismantle it (face it), you will not be able to move past it. It took the man in the story years to get past his first wall, only to encounter another wall. It may seem disheartening to have to face wall after wall, until you realize that through this process you achieve growth, strength, compassion, fortitude, temperance,and gentleness.

There will always be walls to face, the question is how will you approach your wall each day? Will you use the tools given to you to dismantle it, or will you discard them and leave the wall intact, hiding in its shadow?

At first, form is needed;
Then doubt and inhibition must be dispelled.
Eventually, form is celebrated with joy:
And expression becomes formless.
-   Deng Ming-Dao

strong spirit-strong mind-strong body
Sensei Orlando

Monday, March 12, 2012

In Memory Of

Last weekend the karate community suffered a profound loss. Sensei Diogenes Perez passed away, leaving a void that will not be easily or readily filled. Every Monday I attended class, he would be there. At every seminar he was a fixture. A promotion would not take place where he was not present.

Normally this would not be out of the ordinary, as a Sensei it was expected he be there. The only difference was that Sensei Diogenes could not longer train as actively as he once did. He had suffered a stroke years earlier and his hearing had been affected as well, requiring the use of a hearing aid. Even with what may be perceived as limitations, he made it a point to be at the Sunnyside school as often as there was class. I have fond recollections of conversations with him about weapons kata. He would often speak of how training was many years ago, stories which always put my own training in perspective. He was soft spoken and reserved, but when he spoke he spoke with conviction.

When teaching kata, in which I had the privilege to participate and watch, he was exacting and precise. Any sign of infirmity would vanish when he held a bo or a tonfa in his hands. At the last promotion he attended (a seven and half hour ordeal) he was vigilant for the entire promotion. Around 7am ( the promotion started at 12 midnight) he asked the Sensei conducting the promotion, when the students would be jumping the bo.

His embodiment of the spirit of karate is what will be remembered the most. He was never too busy, he always had a word of encouragement. When he trained he was a formidable and fierce warrior. As an instructor his classes where difficult, but he always expected his students to progress and surpass previous levels of skill.

He will be missed for his presence and his kind words.
The spirit he embodied as a karateka will continue to live on in the lives of those who he touched while he was here with us.

Sensei Orlando
strong spirit-strong mind-strong body

Friday, January 20, 2012

Ikigai-The purpose of your life

I recently saw a talk on TED about how to live to be 100+ by Dan Buettner ( I will post the link at the bottom in case you have a spare 20 minutes to hear this excellent talk). One of the things discussed in the talk was the concept of ikigai.

According to the Japanese culture everyone has an ikigai. Unlike the French, raison d'etre which can have a negative element if you are consumed by passion for the reason of existence to the exclusion of everything else, ikigai is thought to enrich and bring meaning to your life. It was cited as one of the factors that led to a long life, which makes sense. Having a purpose creates a sense of direction, of being needed.

Now lets switch gears a moment. Every morning our youngest addition to the family, gets up (she is only 9 months old). She doesn't hit the snooze button, she doesn't ask for 15 more minutes. When she awakes, she is fully engaged ready to face the day(or at the very least the next 5 minutes). My 3 year old can be a little surly when she wakes up, but once she is up the broadcast is " I'm up!" This broadcast is usually very loud at around 6 - 7 am. My five year old immediately wakes up with an agenda. The first question is" Where are we going today?" The next question is " Is today a holiday?" I have fond recollections of waking at 6am as a child to watch the Saturday morning cartoons. Much to my mother's consternation since I didn't manage this during the school week.
So what does this have to do with ikigai? Well, when was the last time you recall greeting the day with excitement and anticipation? At some point we ALL did. Then somewhere along the way we lost this excitement, this sense of expectation of what the day held for us. It slowly turned to a sense of dread and apprehension. Now we look forward to the weekend, we cant wait to get the week out of the way, we have lost sight of our ikigai.

When you are aware of what your ikigai is, everyday is a manifestation of purpose and of joy.
When I asked the question I'm sure you are asking by now, ( how do I find my ikigai?) I was told this; "What would you do each and everyday, no matter what, even if you didn't get paid for it, or any kind of recognition or external validation. What would you do just for the sake of doing it? When you can answer these questions-you are on your way."

So when you strip it down to its bare essence- ikigai can be ending world hunger or being the best parent. For each of us it will be different, no expression more valid than the other. The sad aspect of this is that many of us wait until it is late in our lives to go on this journey. So today as you read this ask yourself, "Why do I get up in the morning? What brings meaning to my life?"

It requires an investment of time, energy and deep introspection. Sometimes its hidden and sometimes its hidden in plain sight. Discovering your ikigai is always worthwhile. Why not start the journey now?

strong spirit-strong mind-strong body
Sensei Orlando