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“Kokoro i ki”….. Construction, by example.

In a previous note, I announced that I wanted to talk about the notion of “Kokoro”.

Many people have asked me to explain the meaning of the Japanese conception of Kokoro to them. People have even sometimes tried to get me to translate this concept into languages where it doesn’t even exist as such. If a literal translation existed, it would be reassuring for many people, particularly for those who believe they can progress without a Shisho.

But the search for Kokoro is worth devoting time and energy. Following the example of the knights on their quest for the Holy Grail, I strongly believe that the ‘quest’ is itself an element of Kokoro, because if it’s difficult to find the meaning of Kokoro, it’s just as difficult to put meaning into your Kokoro.

Throughout the many years we spent together, my Shishô, IKEDA Shigeo Sensei, tried to help me to understand the contents of the word by shedding new light on this concept whenever he was able to do so. Without me even being aware, he both filled me with and removed from me some of the elements that would one day enable me to follow the path towards the quest for Kokoro, by feeding me with experience and future encounters.

I still don’t know how to explain what Kokoro is in simple terms, but I immediately know how to identify the elements that are part of it or the people who convey these elements.Kokoro is the expression of a philosopher of action and definitely not an attitude of universal significance that would delight in looking for words to explain other words, and so on.Kokoro is the outer casing for the daily implementation of bushido values that I have made my own.

Makoto           Honesty

Meiyo              Honour

Chugi               Loyalty

Yu                   Courage

Jin                    Kindness and Compassion

Gi                    Honesty in Behaviour

Rei                   Respect and Courtesy

Tchi                 Intelligence and Intuition

Shin                 Belief in human nature

The years go by and there isn’t a day when I don’t think of ways to fulfil my Kokoro through new feelings of well-being thanks to others, thanks to me and thanks to life. Kokoro only exists over time.

It is filled with what’s given to you and with what you give to others.

By making it an essential element in making decisions that dot our lives, we give meaning to the values we believe in. It would be a mistake to concentrate your energy on only wanting to fill your Kokoro with a few strong emotions that punctuate our existence. The elements that make up Kokoro can’t be ranked into importance because they all contribute to our personal enrichment, even the little things in everyday life.

And how wonderful it is if, in addition to these moments of well-being, we feel swept along from time to time by a particular behaviour whose exemplary nature and level of emotion makes us touch the very heart of Kokoro. These moments are true lessons for living… How we would so like to perpetually initiate theses moments.This is a logical consequence, because the work performed each day will bear fruit, and one day, when everything appears to be the same as it was before, people around us will in turn be deeply moved by a simple gesture that we do naturally for them, without any need to give them any sort of social justification.

Maybe they won’t necessarily identify this as being Kokoro. But what does it matter what we call it?

So that I in turn may convey what makes me progress in my quest for Kokoro, I would like to give three examples that are naturally associated with IKEDA Shigeo, my Shisho. They happened after his death and represent Kokoro i ki for me.

1. My thanks to my Kohai

Since our Shisho died almost five years ago, the ties that I maintained with my Kohai have grown stronger and our relation, a combination of kinship and mutual respect, fill me with joy and pride.

Therefore, I decided to go to Japan for three days last November, not to train, but to be by his side for one of the most important events in his life, to show him how important our relationship was to me.When we left each other on the last evening, I felt that he had understood why I had come to Tokyo. We said good-bye affectionately.

But the following morning when I came down to the hotel’s reception at 6.30am, he was there, even though I hadn’t told him what time I was leaving and that he lives 45 minutes away. He told me that he thought I wouldn’t have time for breakfast, and so he had brought me a bento (Japanese bowl) and some tea.

1. My thanks to Mrs IKEDA and the whole of her family

In January, as indeed for all my travels, I contacted Mrs IKEDA, my departed Shishô, IKEDA Shigeo’s wife, for the sheer pleasure of meeting the woman who has done so much for me.

She made the Shisho–Deshi relationship possible between me and her husband. And to this day, her perception of me motivates me in my quest, so that I may be a credit to her and to the memory of her husband.

And when I visited her in January, she was waiting for me to give me IKEDA Shigeo Sensei’s “bun kotsu” - part of his bones.

How that moment made my head spin… What a message... What responsibility…

1. My thanks to my Shisho’s close friends.

For many years I lived in the “kindly shadow of my Shisho” being very careful to tread in his steps. Thanks to that, I learnt a lot and spent many wonderful years that seemed never to end.

His qualities as an exceptional and unselfish man did not leave people indifferent and many men and women of quality saw him as a devoted and sincere friend.

I was often witness to that, and even if I attempted to stay in the background, in accordance with my status as Deshi, I naturally participated in many events in IKEDA Sensei’s company and with his friends.

When he died on the 24th July 2001, we all cried.

Just as the man had been exceptional, so were his friends… Some time later, Shinobukai was born. An association where his friends regularly get together to talk about and honour his memory.

On the 16th April 2006, Shinobukai moved to Kyoto, the town where IKEDA Shigeo was born. In the morning, everyone gathered round his grave, without any particular reason other than to pay him their respects…