Ars longa, vita brevis The art is long, and life is short.
Andrew Sunter Sensei’s guidelines for training
(Abridged and reproduced with permission)
We look forward to Sunter San’s visit to our annual Winter retreat for a special session on the nature of Budo.
1.Aikido is a principle-based art, not a technique-based art.
2. Everything has advantages and disadvantages
Everything has advantages and disadvantages: every person, every culture, every art, every situation and every moment. It is unreasonable to expect perfection. The only “one true way” is the tortuous path I navigate for myself through accidents, wrong turns and poor decisions, emulating the people I admire, trying to live up to my chosen ideals, and striving toward the best possible outcome for all. It is important to remember to include myself in “all”.
3. There is nothing new under the sun
There is nothing new under the sun. I do not believe this means that one group is right and the other group is wrong. Nor do I believe there are only two narrow options to choose between. We do not all live in the same house in the same street. Circumstances change and we have to deal with them as best we can. This is true for all people in all countries in all cultures and in all arts. If the “traditional”, “authentic”, “Japanese” way is to follow one teacher unquestioningly, how do new arts arise? How can there be more than one sword school? How can there be different branches and lineages within one school? This does not mean that any yudansha would be well-advised if they were to start their own independent style. Musashi Kensei said we must do a million cuts before venturing from home…
4. Boundaries without Aikido
Over time I have learned just how little I know, and I have been convinced of the value of diversity of opinion and approach, and the value of peer-review. I wish that I could train every week with my teacher, but that is not possible. Without that regular guidance, I rely on the feedback of trusted seniors, peers and juniors to guide me on my progress in the application of the principles.
5. It’s up to you
There was a time when Maruyama Sensei responded, “It’s up to you”, to all manner of questions, from the trivial to the profound. I don’t think it ever meant, “Anything you decide is OK with me.” To me it means, “You have to take responsibility for your own decisions, your own actions, your own training.” It is not up to Sensei whether or not I learn and develop as a result of his instruction. It is up to me.
6. Train joyously
It’s often said that O-Sensei exhorted us to “train joyously”. Sometimes, in training, the effortless application of a principle elicits a shout of laughter and astonishment from uke (and sometimes even from nage). For me, this suggests there is a possibility that some actual aiki might be in the offing. I will pursue this relentlessly.
7. Everything rests on the tip of motivation
A Buddhist aphorism states, “Everything rests on the tip of motivation”. I cannot know whether what I decide is for the best or not, but doing my best to ensure correct motivation makes the consequences a whole lot easier to live with.
8. The roles of uke and nage
Maruyama Sensei has taught us that our practise is kata-based and that uke’s role is to assist nage to improve their performance at every repetition. When uke does not support the learning process, I believe not only that this is a waste of time, but also that both participants are actively getting worse. They would have been better at aikido if they had stayed home.
9. The roles of teacher and student
A recent post admonished us all to read up on our responsibilities as students. What jumped out at me was not what it had to say about the responsibilities of the student, but those of the teacher. In some cultures, people believe that as they rise in rank they have more and more authority over others, that increasingly they can do what they please, that the rules apply to others and not to them, and that lesser mortals have the responsibility to suck it up.
In functional cultures, people take on more and more responsibility for others as they rise in rank, and their authority comes from the respect and trust of the people junior to them.
In Buddhist thought, a teacher is a “spiritual friend”: not someone to hang out with, but someone you can trust always to tell you the truth, and always to guide you in your own best interests, whether you recognise them or not.
10. Ars longa, vita brevis The art is long, and life is short.
O-sensei famously said, “This old man must still train and train.” I must not waste a minute. There is no time for ego. No time for competition. No time for talkie-nage.
Have we missed anything?..please add to the comments section below
2 thoughts on “Ars longa, vita brevis, The art is long, and life is short.”
You have absolute disrespect for posting this. You have no honour and respect to your sensei. You do not recognise and accept the change your sensei is trying to implement, but happily post this all to justify for what you (and your handful of allies) want to believe in. Why be in Yuishinkai if you don’t want to embrace the change? Not once in your website have you
Mentioned the new roles sensei have assigned to certain people (btw this is anonymous; it’s not from anyone who does aikido but who is very aware of the situation and being Japanese is quite disgusted). As far as I can see you and a select few of your buddies are using sensei’s name but have no respect for the decisions he has made. Firstly you will quite happily pay and travel to non Yuishinkai seminars but won’t even try to attend sensei’s seminar- what kind of a student is that? You should just leave the organisation so that people who truly want to embrace sensei’s teachings can do so in peace and with full support. It’s not right to promote this instructor when you have failed to mention other instructors who have been given specific roles by sensei to initiate the change. Your are in fact disrespecting sensei as you are not accepting the change he wants to see happen. I say leave the organisation so that you don’t continue to poison those who truly want sensei’s teachings. Time to get over the pride, lower yourself and you might just begin to understand internal power (load of crap when aikido basics cannot even be executed well enough). And if you truly want to be in Yuishinkai you should be going to sensei’s seminar, it’s the first step towards redeeming yourself. There is only one truth but many paths to get there. Pick a path and stay on it (too many paths ie minds will lead you astray and lost). You all talk about being open minded but you and the above instructor are not, that’s why you stick together. And you will only include those who meet your way of thinking. It is time to embrace or leave!
[…] change to a more Koryu model saw rapid change and we spoke sincerely of what the art meant to us (“Ars longa, vita brevis”) and of what we felt was unacceptable. Eventually this lead to the founding of Great Ocean […]