News: Shibumi


In the dojo, what ISN'T said is often as important as what IS said. To most of us who've been raised in the USA, the reticence we encounter in the dojo can be off-putting. American society is very "content" oriented. Our legal contracts, for instance, run for pages and pages. Everything needs to be spelled out. In "context-oriented" societies there is far less reliance on such a literal approach. Much more importance is placed on the relationship between the two parties entering into an agreement, for example, than is placed on the contents of that agreement itself. Essentially, the relationship creates a context. Everything flows from the relationship. It would be considered rude in such societies to ask for confirmation or proof of each other's bona fides before agreeing to a meeting. The decision to meet in the first place conveys all that needs to be known.

The Japanese word shibumi is applied when describing something that is "just so." By that I mean something that has neither too much nor too little of precisely what is called for in a situation, whatever the situation may be. In the discipline of mathematics, a proof that is simple but explains much is called "elegant." In physics too, incisive theories of cause and effect are referred to as elegant. Elegance is a suitable English equivalent for shibumi. The word conveys something that is timeless, refined, potent and somewhat reserved.

Our Seido practice can cultivate our perception of shibumi. Much of this is done through context. Saying less rather than more is part of the context of the dojo. A trusting relationship, in this case trusting silence, precedes any change in perception. Much of your training can be explained in a didactic manner, but such an approach loses a valuable element of the practice; introspection. There is a time for words and a time for silence. The traditions of karate-do and Zen suggest that, in terms of personal growth and understanding, trusting silence is the more valuable approach of the two. In terms of its ability to ignite your curiosity and propel your practice, a non-answer is often exactly the right response to a question.Gambatte kudasai!

See you in the dojo.


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