Lessons From A Real-Life Samurai
Lessons From A Real-Life Samurai
One time in the early 1990s I was approached by a middle-aged Japanese man who had entered my school. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was a martial artist. I could tell by his posture, his focus, his calloused knuckles and his sense of respect. He just had that way of carrying himself. He came in to inform me that he had recently moved to the area and was starting an instructor course on Okinawan Weaponry and he invited me to participate. Being the martial arts junkie that I am, I quickly accepted his offer. Since then, for the last twenty plus years, I have had the distinct pleasure of being a student of Shihan Mikio Nishiuchi.
During the first decade we focused primarily on Okinawan Weaponry, aka Kobudo, but since about the year 2000, our focus has been on Iaido, the peacetime art of the Samurai. I have to say that he is as close to a real life Samurai as I will probably ever get. He lives the martial arts lifestyle as well as anyone I have ever met.
Twice per month he travels to my school to work with me and my two senior students, Ken Grube and Mark Caswell. I enjoy the martial arts training we get from him. I have learned things that have helped me improve my skills in ways beyond the weapons training. Training with Shihan Nishiuchi has made my Kenpo better, my Filipino arts better. It has even made my Jiu Jitsu better. But, it is really the life lessons that I have learned from him that makes the training so valuable. I leave every one of his classes physically fatigued but extremely inspired, and usually with a new bit of functional knowledge. He always gives us something useful to think about and focus on. I would like to share a few pieces of wisdom, compliments of Shihan Nishiuchi.
Bushi-ni-nihon-nashi = No two words; dont speak with forked tongue. The modern translation would be Live with integrity.
Chu-u-de-ari = Live with moderation, variety and balance.
Hou-shi-sei-shin = Have a spirit of contribution. Be service-minded.
Gan-batte-kuda-sai = Always give your best.
Hari-hachi-bu = Dont be gluttonous when you eat. Stop when you are 80% full.
This is basic stuff. We all have heard it before many times, from our mother to our high school coach and several others in between. But somehow for me, I hear it better when it comes from my martial arts teacher. The words are certainly important, but what makes it work for me is Shihan Nishiuchis total belief in what he teaches. He clearly practices what he preaches and leads by example.
In turn, his example makes me more aware of the important role that we, as martial arts instructors, play for our students. We can have a cool student creed on the wall. We can talk about the importance of having self-discipline. We can stress the importance of exercising self-restraint when under pressure. We can, and should, do all of these things, but without backing it up with action, our words are just a shade above meaningless.
In closing, I have to say that I am a big fan of progressive and mixed martial arts. Everything evolves. Martial Arts is no different. I will continue to learn as much as I can from as many different sources as possible for as long as possible. With that said, I also find great joy in classical, old school training. There are a lot of lessons to be learned in traditional martial arts. It is my personal opinion that we should embrace and preserve our history. I am glad to have been able to learn from Shihan Nishiuchi and I encourage everyone to reach out and connect with their roots as well.