While I was having a clear-out this weekend, I found a single sheet of paper tucked amongst some leaflets and other papers from my first trip to Japan (and one and only visit to Shorinji Kempo headquarters), for a world taikai back in 2005.
It was an extract from a talk given by the founder of Shorinji Kempo, Doshin So, back in the 70s. I'm not totally sure home I came into possession, but re-reading it, I was struck by how relevant the words were to the current political climate. Against a renewed backdrop of isolationism, it’s a pertinent reminder that changing the world starts with the individual; that we must build up not just strength and resolve, but also consideration for others, in order to stand up to injustice.
Given I have no idea of its provenance, I can't comment on the copyright status of the text. So until someone tells me to take it down, the full text is replicated below. Enjoy.
Speech by the Founder at the Shorinji Kempo 30th Anniversary National Taikai (1977)
It truly gives me great pleasure that the Shorinji Kempo 30th Anniversary Taikai is being held here today on such a grand scale. After Japan having lost in World War II, I returned to Japan to start my life all over once again, together with many other Japanese people. I thought that we could work things out together by helping each other when I returned to Japan. However, Japan at that time was in a really terrible state. Some behaved like gangsters to other Japanese, or those from some of the victor nations committed many overbearing acts. Despite seeing such acts, nobody tried to help. Under such a situation I honestly felt regret about having to return to Japan.
Perseverance is not a passive idea. It doesn’t mean weathering or suffering through negative events happening to you or around you. Perseverance is active, it's striving, pushing through oppression, a burden, or unpleasant experience, towards a better resolution. It can also mean actively challenging or seeking change. To persevere is to work to improve the situation, despite resistance to that change.
In the same way that perseverance isn’t passive, it also isn’t directionless. It’s towards something, a maintaining of purpose despite obstacles. Simply surviving or abiding is not perseverance.
Tl;dr, training is how we condition ourselves for a real self-defence situation, and if you allow yourself to give up in training, that's what you'll condition yourself to do for real. The goal of effective training needs to be building up resilience, as well as skill.
In our world of instant gratification, it’s easy to give up when something gets difficult, to move on to the next “fun” thing. But in the end that results in only superficial experiences. You lose out on the real deep enjoyment and meaningful satisfaction that comes from losing yourself in an activity; pushing through the barrier of “trying” to the experience of “doing” that we sometimes call flow, or being in the zone, and that defines an activity (in the Japanese mindset) as a do. The catch is, that deeper engagement can only come through extensive practice, to the point where movements and actions become internalised enough that they become like a direct extension of your will. And that’s where the hard bit, the perseverance, comes in!
Ben is instructor at East London Shorinji Kempo. He has been practicing for 16 years and has reached the rank of 3rd dan.
Shorinji kempo stances