A Zen Koan

Okugawa sensei walked in calmly into the stiflingly packed auditorium. He was smiling as he walked in, his eyes fixed on the floor. He came up to the mike and surveyed the auditorium. It was quite unlike the open field where his Master had introduced him to Aikido. His Master never smiled; hence, Okugawa sensei learnt to smile. But their hearts were the same.

He spoke as if from the pit of a ravine and his voice struck every attendee with full force. Some people gestured awe for the auditorium acoustics; those who knew, smiled.

“Welcome to your free introductory session in this Aikido camp.”

His smile seemed to increase although physical limits would have told you that it didn’t…

“I have 4 things to tell you and I would like you to reflect on them and decide whether you wish to enroll.”

Some children took out their notebook and pen and wrote something like “Aikido Tips” on top.

“After sharing each one of the 4, I will leave the auditorium for 10 min. Your actions will not be questioned or judged.”

Notes were made: 10 minute intervals are vital to Aikido.

“Firstly, we will not be breaking anything for the next 3 years. No bricks, no tiles, no iceblocks. We would not be throwing the opponent 30 feet away. I am sorry, there will be no dramatic improvement in your display of martial arts capabilities.”

He walked out, though some thought he glided over the floor.

Murmurs rose even before he had walked out of the door and many people packed their bags and were exchanging other camp details where “they teach you how to bend a bar in 72 hours. Can you beat that?”

After 10 minutes, Okugawa sensei returned and was still smiling.

“Secondly, we will not be learning kicks and punches everyday. There will be sessions of meditation and discussions on the philosophy of creating harmony out of conflict.”

He disappeared with an ease which seemed to leave him exactly where he was, but merely invisible.

Some of the parents who had come to escort their wards, grew impatient.
“I wanted some good activity for my son, not old wives’ gossip. Come on, Hiro.”
“My girl needs lessons in self-defense. She can’t talk to people who come to attack her, right?”

After 10 minutes, Okugawa sensei returned and gestured the remaining 50 attendees to come closer. He moved away from the mike but thundered in the same tone and tempo.

“Thirdly, there will be no competitions nor any red, brown or black belts awarded. You will get a receipt of your payment and that might be the only document that you will receive from this camp.”

He stood there for a few seconds ensuring that this point sank in, before walking out. His pace never altered, nor did he stumble or roll anywhere. It was as his Master had once described: Silk over purer silk.

“Damn! What am I going to show Kunio? See, Kunio my-love, no belt, but I can close my eyes and ponder over the great … bull! I’m not going to stay here!”

Okugawa sensei returned after 10 minutes, but was now in the customary uniform. He beckoned to the last boy standing.

“No gimmicks of resilience, strength, power, depth and truth will be taught here nor will they, on your part, help you further yourself.”

So saying, he started to walk out.

“Master, I am not going to go. In all your four points I still haven’t learnt what Aikido is. I do know what it isn’t, now.”

Okugawa sensei turned around to watch this dark haired boy kneel in supplication.

“Who are you, boy? What is your name?”

“Morihei. Morihei Ueshiba”

[This is a fictional story about how O-sensei merged with Aikido.]

4 thoughts on “A Zen Koan

  1. “Silk over silk” indeed! – the ease with which you create such perfect nuggets of gold time and again…Beautiful story. With more to come I am sure 🙂

  2. Dear P, 🙂 Glad you like it.Dear M, Yes indeed. This picture haunted me for long before I decided to write this post…Dear GI, It would be an honour to know your sensei’s views about this. Hai!

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