This post was written by Will Ng, 2nd Dan. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect that of the Mayfair branch nor the BSKF.
I have the Japanese 一期一会 (ichi-go ichi-e) embroidered onto my belt. Ichi-go ichi-e The phrase can be translated as "living every moment as if it was the last", or "every moment is a unique opportunity". My reading of it is that opportunities are only momentary, that they only come round once. If you miss it, then it's gone forever, so make sure you make the most of everything and live every day as if it was the last.
Of all the teachings in Shorinji Kempo, I chose this phrase to be embroidered on my black belt 6 years ago because it resonated with me most. It was something I truly believed it, but I have always felt that I don't practice it as much or as well as I should. I wanted the embroidery to be a constant reminder.
The ideas behind the phrase aren't too radical and similar sayings can be found across many different cultures and languages. Nonetheless we don't tend to use them all the time; they sound quite serious (I mean, it is a bit morbid to assume every moment to be one's last!) - though more likely it has become a bit of a cliché.
But when I heard the tragic news about the cyclist who was killed by a lorry the other week, I also learned that she was a friend of a friend. It was quite a sobering moment - the realisation that the beauty and miracle of a living human being can be taken away and wiped out in an instant, that it can happen to just about anyone, not just those who are far far away in some distant land, but also those who are very close by, physically and metaphorically. Let's not kid ourselves. In a way a lot of us have become desensitised to the realities of life and death, presumably through the overload of online media and global connectivity. The phrase ichi-go ichi-e isn't just another cliché anymore; it is very real.
I went to training that evening and with the news still fairly fresh in my head. It was strange, because after about 5 minutes into kihon my training changed, as if a switch inside of me was flicked. Every punch, every kick, every block, every ki'ai - they all became very purposeful. I could feel my body giving it all, but it wasn't because I was being more aggressive, or running on a sugar high. No, I think the difference came first from the mind which was translated to my body and its movements. It was not aggression, it was purpose.
But shouldn't I be training like that every class anyway? Shouldn't every movement be purposeful? If not then why even bother? Why even bother turning up if all one does is to go through the motions? Shorinji Kempo - or anything else for that matter - isn't just about training the body; it is also about training the mind. It is our mental state and our attitudes too. Time is too precious to waste, so why waste it doing something if we don't give it our all and our very best efforts?
Training in the dojo isn't just about throwing your arms and legs around and getting a sweat out of it. Sure, some of the basic training (kihon) is done every class and may seem repetitive, but do we always consciously and critically ask ourselves, if that punch or that kick we've just thrown is better than the last one? Do we consciously focus on a specific area we want to improve on (e.g. body motion, footwork, weight distribution, etc) every time we perform an action? How often do we question our motivation for training, or doing something in life? Or are we satisfied with following along, riding the wave with everyone else thoughtlessly?
Life is too short, so let's make sure every moment is purposeful and meaningful.
I'd like to use this opportunity to offer my most sincere condolences to the friends and family of Ying Tao, the cyclist killed in the tragedy cited above. May she rest in peace.