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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Lesson learn from Shodo

I have been working on shodo (Japanese calligraphy/ kanji). A challenging task for one who is not schooled in that fine art. Coming from a point a view of standard Roman alphabet where an “A” has to look like an “A” and a “V” like a “V”, I was very much concentrating in reproducing the kanji step by step and line by line. It was a bit frustrating to say the least.

Then I started to look at some shodo done by Morihei Ueshiba (the founder of Aikido). I noticed that they were very different than the standard shodo I was working so hard at copying. Studying it closer I notice that really everything was there but it was expressed in a very personal manner. Ueshiba, in his own style was expressing himself, and beautifully I might add. I realize I am showing my ignorance here as I always thought of shodo as very prescriptive when it truly is meant to be an expression or understanding of the basic principles of the kanji. I took a step back to look at the kanji as a whole instead of broken down parts. When I finally figured this out a light bulb went on in my head

This truly freed me to draw the kanji’s. It became fun instead of frustrating. I was looking at the symbol, it’s meaning then I could interpret it my own way, with the tools I had available to me.

This is very like Ueshiba performing Aikido in his later years . He truly understood fundamentals and the basic concepts that made techniques work. He worked hard in his earlier years at understanding and drilling those principles and building on good habits, good foundations. He was able to improvise, interpret the techniques the way it needed to be utilized at the time, in its purest most practical form. To watch him do so it looks effortless. If you pay attention you can see that all the strong key elements, good solid biomechanics are present. It was no magic. It was the best interpretation of someone who truly understood the basic principles of what he was doing. Sheer beauty.

(notice how well he is staying out his opponent’s center)

This should apply to everything we do: self defense, martial arts, work, and life. If you can find and understand the true fundamental principles that guides what you are doing, you will be able to improvise, flow, adapt. Taking a step back to move forward. By taking a step back you are allowed to see the big picture, to visualize the road map. When you know where you are and where you have to go, let’s say from point A to Point B, you don’t need to focus on every steps on the way there. You can take the focus off your feet and onto the horizon, where they belong.

Where are your going and how are you getting there?

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