Lately, there’s this lovely post floating around Facebook, and as it’s quite similar in nature to some of the other lifestyle articles that we have here, I figured it would make a nice addition. There will also be some of my commentary and thoughts after the below quote.
Guidelines on the important foundation of a healthy lifestyle for a Budoka (martial artist), passed down to Hatsumi-Sensei by Takamatsu-sensei:
- Stretching exercises for thirty minutes before sleep. (寝る前に柔軟体操三十分。)
- Raw food and exercise. (生食と運動。)
- Respecting the Gods and Buddhas. (神仏を尊び)
- Whatever may happen, don’t become anxious / fearful. (何ことも恐れず。)
- Go with the natural flow of things (Kami-nagara gyōun-ryūsui; 神ながら行雲流水。).
- Make simplicity / innocence the foundation (kihon) of your lifestyle. (The simple life.) (天真らんまんの生活が基本である。)
- “You mustn’t become angry, don’t allow your heart (to be clouded) by anger. (「怒るということはいかん、心から怒らんことや」。)
“戸隠流忍法体術 Togakure Ryu Ninpō Taijutsu, Masaaki Hatsumi (1983 Japanese Shin Jinbutsu Oraisha)
Stretching before sleep
For the first point regarding stretching for thirty minutes before sleep, I’ve seen over the years many articles suggesting and discussing this. Some of the benefits include improving the quality of sleep by stretching out the tension of the day, reducing stress levels, and offsets the chance for injuries, etc. I also recommend this in the morning as well. For years I’ve avoided having a warm-up or stretching part in my classes as I want the students to understand that it is their responsibility to start the day on the right foot and not take way from learning time in class. So with that line of thought, it makes sense to stretch every morning and evening.
The next point mentions eating raw foods. This is something that I lean towards myself, though there are certainly many times that I crave a greasy something-or-rather at the local pub. But this reminds me of the quote by Toda Shinryuken Masamitsu,
“Ninja should eat food that is uncooked. People begin losing stamina, energy, and their sixth sense as a result of eating cooked food. Ninja must become familiar with eating natural food. First though, we need water, but drinking water is not enough. You can also fill your chest with mountain air.”
And indeed, it has been my personal experience that I have had more physical energy and steady amounts of energy since going vegetarian, and then later vegan (though now I am a Pescetarianism, because, sushi is a thing), as well as a notable decrease in sick time; I’ quite used to several colds and flu sickness a year, but now it’s only once or twice a year. By correlation, most of my food (including the fish) is raw.
Respecting God and Buddha
Contrary to the current trend of atheism, and a general disposition regarding religion (for most, in all its forms), there are many benefits to at the very least respecting such figures as God or Buddha. For the context of things like the martial arts or trauma, I feel that this best fits into the theories of Post Traumatic Growth (PTG). This is basically when one is subjected to something highly traumatic, whether an accident, sexual assault, violence, and so on, usually resulting in experience somewhere on the post traumatic stress spectrum. The coping methods and mechanisms that allow one to not only resist, recover, and overcome this Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but even grow from the experience and process of recovery.
In regards to religion ad spirituality and PTG, “Spirituality has been shown to highly correlate with posttraumatic growth and in fact, many of the most deeply spiritual beliefs are a result of trauma exposure” (O’Rourke 2008). For some, it is a little like when you suffer a care crash, and have physical and emotional trauma to recover from, “knowing” that this experience was a test of faith from your god, gives you a sense of both place in the cosmology of your beliefs, as well as a certain closure.
It has been observed that people who have a nervous or anxious disposition tend to be rather drained, make poor gut decisions (because it’s not their intuition, it’s their fears making the decisions), and often drain the energy from their relationships.
Being nervous and anxious is also bed for the nervous system, and by extension the immune system as it gets drained. Thus for a martial artist, having a weakened sympathetic nervous system means that you are less able to respond to sudden emergency, and having a weakened parasympathetic nervous system means that shock and tunnel-vision are likely to be the response to the emergency. As a result of having worn down nerves, the results are contrary to the goals of any martial artist.
Go with the Flow
We call this Gyoun Ryusui, and its a little like having faith in your purpose in life, or simply not resisting the circumstances that come your way. Similar to the natural water cycle, water falls to the earth, hydrates biological life, evaporates and returns to the clouds, only to fall again. at no point does it resist its natural process, just fulfills it’s role. The problem is when the ego comes into the picture; what happens when the water doesn’t want to go with the flow anymore? What if that raindrop wants to be something great, to be recognized and leave a legacy behind that it was there? Then that raindrop is going to cause some problems. As usual, the ego continues to be the only real enemy… But when the ego is put to the side, then we have the energy and patience to be happy, to enjoy the life that we were gifted with, instead of fighting for things like arrogance, ambition, and materialistic gain.
Leading a Simple Life
I personally find it hard to elaborate on this one, as I am someone who deeply enjoys convolution, TV shows like Game of Thrones and Sherlock, and anything that forces me to think in order to keep up invigorates me, and if I’m still thinking of it a week later, all the better; I don’t turn off well.
But, I’ve known for a long time that leading a simple life is a surefire way to reduce tension, stress, anxiety, and most other ailments in life. If we are talking about having a healthy lifestyle, simplicity is key; one doesn’t need to study bio-mechanics to have a healthy jogging routine, you don’t need yoga class to stretch your body, you don’t need magazines to feed you dieting theories. Keep things simple – run, walk, paint, eat; keep it simple.
I can’t imagine very many times where I’ve made a good decision while angry, in fact, the only times I think such has worked out has been when I decided to wait to “consider things” (i.e. chill out), before making a decision while angry. As both a martial artist and a shinobi must be able to make sound judgement that will likely influence the lives of others, in some cases many others, then tat judgment and decision-making must not be colored by strong emotions.
- O’Rourke, J.; Tallman, B.; Altmaier, E. (2008). “Measuring Post-Traumatic Changes in Spirituality/Religiosity“. Mental Health, Religion, & Culture. 11: 719–728. doi:10.1080/13674670801993336.