Sunday, October 12, 2014

Steps in the Right Direction

Here is a photo of my dance teachers, Minato Kojima and Megumi Morita, taken today as they placed 3rd in the 34th Prince Mikasanomiya Cup national championships, dancing in front of a packed auditorium in Sendagaya.

They are AMAZING dancers, amazing teachers, and amazing people.  We are blessed to benefit from their skills, knowledge and experience.

I learned a lot from spending a day watching this competition.  Martial arts and dance share many lessons in common.

Dance, like martial arts, is about making and keeping a connection to someone else.
In martial arts, the connection is used to deadly effect.  In dance, it is used to graceful and elegant effect.  Moving in harmony with others is a skill we all need to master, and when we do it allows us to be truly beautiful.

Rhythm and Feeling
There is a timing and rhythm to dance, just as there is in martial arts.  To dance well, we must match the music and, in so doing, we create a precious moment with our partner that is beyond words.  It is very important to listen for the rhythm everywhere we can hear it in our lives, and to try to act in accord with it.  That is what grace is all about.

Being True to Your Training and Giving 100%
Dance training is hard - every bit as hard as martial arts training.  Minato and Megumi have been doing this every day since they were in preschool (they are now in college).  The long hours of training over so many years have given them incredible strength, precision and poise.  Eyes closed, their bodies know every step like they were born to it.  They still train for hours every day and give 100% on the floor, not just as competitors and champions, but also as teachers and coaches.  It is honest testament to their hard work and sacrifice that they should look and move the way they do.  Every training session matters and it is important to deliver 100% every single time.  You owe it to yourself to become the champion you are born to be.

Making It About The Other Person
Minato-sensei is a great dancer.  He is a great teacher.  He is a great man.  He is a true gentleman with or without the tuxedo.

I have come to love dance because it is such an elegant and graceful way to be, especially the way he does it.  In every movement I see what it means to be noble, and to be a gentleman.  He is sublimely understated in his actions, and the way he dances makes his partner, Megumi-sensei, look like an angel.  By doing so, he reminds me that being a true gentleman is about focusing on your partner rather than using your partner to showcase your own talent. Because he allows her the space to move freely, she can complement his own steps and together they create a beautiful harmony.  He doesn't ever hold her back, and in return she allows him to be more than he could ever be on his own.

This is common to martial arts training as well.  Make the focus on your partner rather than yourself, and your skills will improve far faster than you imagined.

Don't "do", "BE"
To look at Minato-sensei and Megumi-sensei when they dance, you would realize that nothing else in the world exists except that single moment in time and their connection.  They don't dance, they ARE dance - a perfect embodiment of what it means to live in that moment, and to express oneself completely through movement.

In Kali as well, we must seek to be in the perfect moment, in Zanshin, and to use Kali as a way of expressing who we are and how we feel.  For them, dance is an all-encompassing way of life.  I completely understand.

I was really proud to see my teachers shining so brightly in front of those huge, cheering crowds.
I am sure all those people saw the same magic I did.  I hope they were moved the way I was.

Thank you for everything you have taught me, Minato-sensei and Megumi-sensei about dance and about martial arts.  You help me to become better at both.

See you next week.

It is bad when one thing becomes two. One should not look for anything else in the Way of the Samurai. It is the same for anything that is called a Way. If one understands things in this manner, he should be able to hear about all ways and be more and more in accord with his own.
Hagakure - the Way of the Samurai, by Tsunetomo Yamamoto

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