Monday, February 25, 2008

Project Confidence: Become Someone the Spirits Want to Protect

I took an Aikido seminar this past weekend with Mary Heiny Sensei, a sixth-degree black belt who began her training in Japan in the late 1960s.

In addition to the greater understanding of Aikido that I gained in my body -- there's nothing quite like moving to demonstrate what you understand and what you don't -- I increased my awareness of Aikido as good self defense.

Heiny Sensei told us something she had learned from one of her Japanese teachers. The Japanese phrase for self defense is go shin jutsu. "Shin" in that phrase is generally written to mean "body." But one of the real entertaining (and subtle) things about the Japanese written language is that many Japanese kanji are pronounced in the same way while meaning different things.

When O Sensei -- the founder of Aikido -- wrote go shin jutsu in kanji, he used the character pronounced as "shin" that means "kami, or spirits." His interpretation of self defense was something like "be someone the spirits want to protect."

Now O Sensei was a religious man, but I don't think even he meant that phrase in a purely religious sense. I interpret it as act with integrity -- both in how you move and how you deal with others -- and you will be protected.

I'm using the word "integrity" because it is a core principle of Aikido and encompasses both physical integrity and the concept of ethical conduct. I could say Aikido principles, but explaining that will take me much more space than a brief blog post, and integrity is a good fit.

Integrity underlies a lot of what I mean when I say project confidence, but it also includes the concepts of flexibility and calmness, not to mention paying attention and trusting your instincts. If you move through this world with that sort of integrity, you will be protected simply by being who you are.

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