The 2010 Gi-Yu Dojo Seminar

Compassion and Refining

Jim Nielson


The third annual Gi-Yu Dojo Annual Seminar has come and gone and now is the time to contemplate lessons learned.   Two subjects that were discussed during the seminar in both formal and informal settings were Compassion and Refining.  Just like most things in our way, I see these two subjects being connected.  Not just connected but interwoven and bound to each other.  The idea of Compassion seems for many people outside of our way and even those inside the martial arts, to be unrelated to the warriors’ path. 

I know there are language studies that breakdown the meaning, origin and other aspects of words.  My intention is not to give a sterile analysis of the words meaning but instead discuss my perception of what the words mean to me.  I see two distinct and significant words when I look at the word Compassion.  I could see during the training that everyone on the mat was giving their complete attention to Sensei Sukh Sandhu as he performed, described, dissected and repeated each technique.  Then when each of us individually attempted the techniques, you could clearly see a look of concentration on our faces.  In the word Compassion, you have Passion.  A common use of the word passion is to hear someone speaking of a deep love for someone or something.  I think it is safe to say that if you do not care for or love something, you give it little attention and are not Passionate about it.  It was apparent to me that those present were Passionate about their training.  But this begs the question, is it the techniques that we are Passionate about or is it what these techniques develop in us that brings out our Passion. 

Most everyone in our dojo speaks of a transformation of one kind or another and how it is the direct by product of their Kobudo training.  It is not uncommon to hear teachers and students speak of how it has transformed their physical, emotional and/or spiritual states.  For me, the training would be useless if all I was getting out of it was “self defense” training.  There are plenty of schools and programs in this country that teach “combat skills” or “street self defense” or what ever name is the current industry accepted catch phrase.  These programs, at least the reputable ones, tend to be short term and offer some effective techniques to physically deal with the most common scenarios that one would likely encounter.  They serve a purpose for the masses that may not be seeking true warrior skills and ideas but instead seek an immediate answer to perceived threats.  This type of training tends to not bring out the Passion I speak of.  This may be because it usually only affects a small part of the whole person. 

Kobudo on the other hand and by its’ inherent nature, puts us in an environment to grow in all ways as a person.  Even though the techniques are rooted in the physical world, it is the Refining of these techniques that helps us to grow emotionally and spiritually.  Refining is something that we must do on a regular basis.  As Sensei demonstrated each technique, it became clear to me that the level of Refinement that he has reached could have only been accomplished by having Passion for what he was studying.  Teaching his Refined skill to us in an effort to help us grow in turn shows Compassion.  He is sharing with each of us something that he has put his heart into not to mention countless hours of repetition, time away from family and friends, through injury and sickness, when other things in life seemed over whelming. 

Each of us who hold rank in this dojo knows that the color of the belt we wear around our waist means little.  It is the growth that each of us had to go through to reach that level that truly matters.  I watched and participated in the testing during this seminar.  As always, the highlight for me was the randori.  I learn as much from watching randori as I do from participating in it.  This time around, I heard something that really stuck with me after the first day of testing / randori.  It was mentioned that each person going through the testing and randori now understands Compassion as it relates to our training.  Perhaps this is because it’s easier to understand another persons’ struggles when you go through the same or similar struggle.  And there a few greater struggles than facing your own weaknesses under the stresses of peer pressure/peer review and pain. 

This brings me to the second word that I see in Compassion and that is Compass.  When speaking of a Compass we all know that its’ purpose is to identify direction usually through the wilderness to safety.  When I think about the purpose of a warrior I often think it is the warriors’ responsibility and duty to lead others through danger and hard times and into safety.  So the warriors’ Compass (read Heart) should always be set on the true north of Compassion.  Compassion is reached through the constant Passionate struggle and Refinement of our skills.  The testing / randori process that we go through is the anvil and hammer that we forge our spirits in. 

The 2010 seminar was a great success.  Many friendships were strengthened and knowledge was passed.  I tested for my Ichi Kyu and Sho Dan and passed.  I can only compare this experience to the birth of my daughter and the marriage to my wife.  I look forward to forging my spirit with everyone again soon.