Suzuki Chan


Suzuki Yoshi was a martial artist in Kamakura, Japan at the turn of the century. As a young child his father had started him in Arakai Ryu to strengthen his poor constitution. After a few months of training it seemed all the children in his class were progressing but him. He said to his Sensei “Sensei why do you hate me? You have passed everyone in the class but me, even the Tanaka the Dork!”

“Yamae” his sensei yelled! “Stop whining! And don’t ever put a person down again! Whatever their limitations. As for your not passing the question you should ask yourself is why you don’t come to class and train. You dishonor us all with your lazy behavior!”

He spoke with Osho san the local Zen priest who told him two stories. He key points to each he etched into his mind.

A day without training is a day without progress.

The bushi when he misses the target looks inside himself for the answer.

And the points helped greatly. Suzuki-chan rarely missed a practice again. He trained on his off days as well. Needless to say he made great progress. He also stopped blaming others for his poor performances and rather looked to find the correction in his methods or attitude. This added even more progress to his training. As his confidence grew over the next few years so did his need to putting down others lessen. It seems he did not need to put others down to raise himself up since his work ethic and self-correction did that for him.

Now a young man at University in Tokyo and training daily with a Katori Shinto Ryu group about an hour by train. He would study on the ride to and fro. This took some discipline but he felt it well worth the time for his Sensei and his dojo were excellent. He had some 10 years training in when he started at the Katori Shinto Ryu dojo and found he was the youngest there. These were men (and two women) training. A step up from his previous training.

His Sensei noticed that despite being a good earnest student Suzuki chan was stuck at times. In talking one day during an especially hard training session, Suzuki chan said, “Sensei this is the way I learned this kata! Why do you want to change it? I do it just as I learned it.” Sensei laughed. You are chudan level training here, yet you hold fast to what you learned as white belt. How can you improve if you keep doing things the way you did them as a white belt?” Sensei laughed and walked away, leaving Suzuki chan in a near trance. How could he be so foolish? What an idiot he was! And so he let go of those past correct ways and found that there are ways within ways. Training variations inside variations. Bunkai within kata. And that kata changed as the individual matured as a martial artist. And Suzuki chan remembered back to Osho san and his story of the Zen priest and the cup.

Empty your cup.

He etched the old man’s words again into his mind.

The years pasted and while Suzuki chan graduated and started work in Tokyo, he always made time to train. One day he was asked by his boss to take over the Kamakura branch. This would be a big promotion and much help to company. He declined for it would mean he wouldn’t be able to train with his Katori Shinto Ryu Sensei, but his boss asked him to think it over anyway. That night at training he came up over tea after training. Sensei said he should take it and he could train with a good friend of his and wonderful Sensei of more skill and wisdom than he had. It took a bit but Sensei convinced him to take the job in Kamakura and start training with Yagyu Shinkage Ryu.

Suzuki chan again made great strides. His new Sensei was excellent and his dojo mates while not as strong as the dojo he came from were still quite good. It was not long however before he passed all but his teacher in skill. And then he was stuck again. He worked harder and found no improvement. He soon grew frustrated and it showed itself in many ways; even folks at work notices an edge to him. Anger built.

Sensei asked him to come to the mountains with him for a gasshuku, intense training. He they trained 8 hours each day and quietly sat by fire each night before dropping off to sleep. This went on for 5 days. The last night sensei sat him down and spoke to him. More at one time then he had heard Sensei talk in the past 7 years. He knew this must be some important.

“Suzuki chan you are talented and earnest. You understand much of the martial arts but at each level you much add the next step to your training or remain at that level until that lesson is learned. You must begin to recognize for yourself the core principles that aid the Bugeisha throughout his training and those that are needed only for a short time. I am sure you know you have grown frustrated with this plateau you have been on. This breeds anger and poor judgment. You make mistakes and you blame yourself. Your see others faults and snarl at them. You keep this hate inside you and it grows and you are forgetting where you are going. I know you have heard the story of the Empty Cup – it is what you need but I shall phrase it in a new way that should help you.

Learn to forgive.

This may seem foolish. The stories of martial artist and revenge are renowned. Hatred a strong motivator. However these are of limited use. You are stuck because you can empty your cup – you can’t forgive yourself some error and so you carry this baggage with you. You can’t forgive yourself and thus you can’t forgive others. An ugly world. Heck, you can’t say ‘I am sorry’ when your wrong or even admit you are wrong! Is there any wonder you are stuck in your martial skills?! Emptying your cup means doing it even when your emotions are strongly attached to stuff inside the cup. Is this not what machismo is? Envy? Hate? Learn to forgive as a way to empty your cup. One is part of the other.”

Suzuki chan saw his recent life flash in front him. Sensei was most correct. The need to be right was a sign of immaturity; the immaturity of his Art. He also saw his bullying of others, his rudeness to strangers, and lack of caring of others feelings. And so he took responsibility for his actions and it was ok. And he forgave himself and as if a huge load was lifted off him he breathed, as if for the first time.

“Sensei lets train.”

And the two did and immediately Sensei felt the difference in his young student. He matured two levels that day and gave Sensei some wonderful training.

Suzuki Sensei in time has his own dojo. On its walls are four scrolls:

A day without training is a day without progress.

The Bugeisha, when missing the target looks for the mistake within.

Empty your cup.

Learn to forgive.

His dojo is one of the strongest in all of Japan.