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.
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…
This search into past movements must aim at improving our understanding of the techniques used in the Dojo.
SHOSHIN-KAN enables the practice of Japanese martial arts in the respect of traditions and in a favourable atmosphere for training and exchange.
In Japanese «KAN» means «PLACE» (in our case the DOJO). «SHOSHIN» is written using two characters that mean «ACCURACY» and «TRUTH», together meaning « AUTHENTICITY».
The SHOSHIN-KAN Dojo was founded in 1989 by four Frenchmen, including Jacques MARTIANO, with the purpose of practicing Japanese Martial Arts in their traditional form.
This 12-year adventure is also closely associated with laido, and more particularly with the Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu school.
Master IKEDA was born in Kyoto and trained in Kendo for many years in the OTOKUMI Dojo (run by his uncle IWAI Saburo), then his research into and his passion for katana lead him naturally to laido.
For many years, the IKEDA family has welcomed Jacques MARTIANO as part of their family, and he was taught by Master IKEDA Shigeo. Here were the perfect grounds for learning the best possible way of behaving in life. Master IKEDA Shigeo was on all fronts to help Jacques MARTIANO progress. There were numerous occasions for learning (on average 4 to 5 times a year). And of course all the telephone calls, faxes and letters that demonstrated a fierce will to expand the teaching of techniques to the teaching of man as a whole.
Thanks to this relation, the SHOSHIN-KAN Dojo has become a prerequisite for those practicing traditional Japanese martial arts in France and in Europe.
Due to relations built up by Master IKEDA Shigeo, Japanese karate or kendo teams regularly visit the Dojo when over in Paris.
The most famous masters have come to visit the SHOSHIN-KAN Dojo whose traditional way of operating was already considered unconventional at that time.
Numerous press articles or television reports have been made, and testify the exceptional reputation of «a small private Dojo» that hadn’t been prepared for all that.
For this occasion, the 2lst Soke FUKUI Torao officially accredited the SHOSHIN-KAN Dojo for teaching the Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu school.
On the 28th August 1994, during a demonstration that they made together in the BUDOKAN in Tokyo, Master IKEDA Shigeo and Jacques MARTIANO met Mr HASHIMOTO Ryutaro, who visited the SHOSHIN-KAN Dojo in September 1998.
In 1998, Master IKEDA suffered a serious illness that prevented him from physically practising his art. In spite of this he was ever more present, which only goes to show how unique he was. New students practiced under his tutelage without ever having seen him take out his katana…
Soke FUKUI Torao died in June 2000.
In May 2001, even though Master IKEDA was becoming ever weaker, he decided to go on a trip with Jacques MARTIANO that was to lead them to GIFU, to Master FUKUI Masataka, 10th Hanshi Dan of the school and Soke FUKUI Torao’s son.
During this encounter, Master IKEDA asked Master FUKUI to take care of Jacques MARTIANO in the event that something should happen to him.
Lets conclude by quoting a few words written by Jacques MARTIANO during the 10th anniversary of the SHOSHIN-KAN Dojo:
«I would like to dedicate this event to my Master, IKEDA Shigeo, 8th Hanshi dan of the laido Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu School.
The gratitude that I wish to pay him comes from the heart and no words can do justice to this gratitude, so great is my debt to him. The respect that I have for him is flawless and without bounds. I ask that he may forgive me for all the countless efforts that he made for me to constantly progress in my mind and in technique. I hope that one day he will be rewarded for his generosity.»