A few evenings back, we had our class in a small room, which is long and narrow. It wasn’t the best place to train, but it was the best place to listen to Harry sensei, because in the enclosed confines, we can finally hear our soft-speaking sensei clearly!
He is 78 years old this year, and he spoke about a lot of things, many of which was memorable, one specific thing that stayed with me was the existence of our lives.
Sensei is 78 years old.
He mentioned something like, ‘When someone reaches 80, and asks god if it is time, and sometimes god will decide, well if this person is still useful to others, let this person stay for another year or two.’
That is not in his exact words, but it was enlightening.
What Harry sensei said forces us to think above and beyond ourselves. Specific to training in martial arts, we tend to get caught up in ‘my’ movement, and how ‘I’ throw the opponent, and ‘I’ control the situation. Everything we made up to be, it is all ‘we’.
Although the lives we lived are often a very egocentric, we are born, live a life, and die in the most personal way, no one else can die for us, except ourselves, and no one else can live our lives except us. But the irony is, our existence will not have happened the way it did, had it not been for other people. We cannot be who we are today, without the help and assistance of other people.
So we fear death, and try to hold it at a distance, hoping to live a few more years, doing the things we love. What Harry sensei say urges us to be above and beyond that, we need to live our lives helping other people, make ourselves useful- to other people. Let us become a tool for other to become better people, we extend our lives and longevity as long as we continue to be useful to other people and the world and society at large.
At his ripe old age, Harry sensei is a far more optimistic person than I am. Prior to the class, I was caught in my own familiar self-depreciating mood, questioning my own existence, and the seemingly ‘groundhog day’ mentality. Everyday seems to be the same to me. Even Aikido training feels the same… perhaps it was a plateau…until you hear an old Aikidoka says that. At that age, and pretty much sees whatever he has seen in life, he is still learning, still thinking of how to contribute to others.
While we think of the ‘I” in an egocentric circle, we want people to need us, so we try to build ourselves to a level of importance that makes us feels as if we are the centre of activity. Contrary to that, we need other people too, and these people are as fragile as us. As much as I like to dwell in my own finite existence, Harry sensei said something that tells me, we have to be nice to other people, because as much as we will not be around for our next breath, others are also having the same existential crisis. They might not be around for the next breath, and we might lose that opportunity to show kindness and love to these folks who, we need, and needed us.