KARATE WAY

eave you ever felt the urge to cor­rect your mar­tial arts teacher? Word to the wise: Read this es­say by 'ave Lowry be­fore you say any­thingK

Black Belt - - CONTENTS - E\ 'DYH /RZU\

Tough ques­tion. The Con­fu­cian-based sense of or­der that per­vades the budo makes it hard for a stu­dent to cor­rect or even ad­vise a teacher. We’re in the dojo to learn karate. We’re un­der a teacher’s con­trol. It’s very awk­ward for us to give ad­vice, par­tic­u­larly when it’s not sought, to a sen­sei. We risk his dis­ap­proval or anger.

I sure don’t have the an­swer. It’s a very del­i­cate mat­ter. How­ever, I’d like to pass along this his­tor­i­cal note that of­fers a worth­while per­spec­tive.

ǧ ͺ ǡ the great war­lord Hideyoshi Toy­otomi was ea­ger to make a de­ci­sive move that might win him con­trol of all Ja­pan. His lord Oda No- bunaga had been in the same po­si­tion a short time be­fore when he was be­trayed by an ally, trapped in a tem­ple ϐ him­self. Hideyoshi quickly avenged his lord’s death and strength­ened his own po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary po­si­tion, build­ing an im­pres­sive moun­tain­top fortress that al­lowed him to con­trol the vi­tal re­gion be­tween Ky­oto and Osaka.

At this point, Hideyoshi was poised to strike against a num­ber of en­e­mies and ea­ger to do so. He was im­petu­ous, ϐ Ǥ ϐ was Oda Nobu­taka, Nobunaga’s son, who had plot­ted against his own fa­ther. Hideyoshi gath­ered all his gen­er­als in the cas­tle on Mount Tenno for a coun­cil of war.

When Hideyoshi built the cas­tle, he in­cluded space for a tea hut. Just as his lord had been, Hideyoshi was a near­fa­nat­i­cal en­thu­si­ast of chado, the tea cer­e­mony, col­lect­ing tea im­ple­ments and build­ing gar­dens for the prac­tice of the art. He had in­her­ited from his lord a tea mas­ter named Sen no Rikyu. Hideyoshi in­structed Rikyu to build a new tea hut and gar­den on the grounds of the cas­tle.

There are nu­mer­ous sto­ries of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the quiet, bril­liant con­nois­seur Rikyu and the hot­headed Hideyoshi. Hideyoshi came from peas­ant stock and had un­e­d­u­cated Ǥ ϐ Hideyoshi to ap­pre­ci­ate the aus­tere sim­plic­ity of the tea cer­e­mony. Tech­ni­cally, Hideyoshi was Rikyu’s stu­dent. Po­lit­i­cally, Hideyoshi was Rikyu’s lord. The con­fronta­tions be­tween them, then, had many lev­els.

his gen­er­als to agree with him: At­tack Nobu­taka im­me­di­ately to con­sol­i­date power and

elim­i­nate an im­por­tant en­emy. Many of the gen­er­als were in agree­ment; those op­posed made for a vig­or­ous de­bate. Sud­denly, into the hall came Hosokawa San­sai, a high-ranked sa­mu­rai who was also a stu­dent of Rikyu’s.

“Ex­cuse me, but I bring a mes­sage from Rikyu,” Hosokawa said. “He has a sug­ges­tion for nam­ing the new tea hut and wants your opin­ion.”

The gen­er­als were in­cred­u­lous. They were en­gaged in a de­bate that could de­cide the fu­ture of many clans, per­haps of Ja­pan it­self. And this guy was in­ter­rupt­ing to ask about the name of a tea hut?

Hideyoshi over­ruled them and al­lowed Hosokawa to speak. Hosokawa un­rolled a pa­per on which Rikyu had writ­ten his sug­ges­tion: Tai-an.

An means a “refuge” or “her­mitage.” It’s a pop­u­lar part of many tea-hut names. Tai is a word we use in the dojo; it means “to wait.” A “Refuge for Wait­ing” — an odd name for a tea hut, but Hideyoshi was smart enough to look be­low the sur­face. He un­der­stood what was go­ing on. Rikyu had heard about the pos­si­ble tim­ing of the at­tack. He was, in a sub­tle, in­di­rect way, giv­ing his ad­vice. Wait.

Hideyoshi waited. He re­al­ized, think­ing about Rikyu’s ad­vice, that win­ter snows were com­ing soon. Once they fell, the passes from the north would be blocked. Shi­bata Kat­suie, Nobu­taka’s chief ally, would be un­able to of­fer as­sis­tance from his lands in north­ern Ja­pan. In wait­ing, Nobu­taka even­tu­ally be­came im­pa­tient and at­tacked Hidey ϐ Ǥ Ǥ RIKYU COULD have told Hideyoshi, “Hey, wait­ing is go­ing to be a big ad­van­tage if you think about it.” He could have been blunt and di­rect. He was not, for sev­eral rea­sons. Hideyoshi was, as noted, Rikyu’s lord. Rikyu lit­er­ally lived or died by Hideyoshi’s wish. (In fact, six years af­ter this in­ci­dent, Rikyu was or­dered to com­mit sui­cide by Hideyoshi.) Also, given Hideyoshi’s tem­per and stub­born­ness, if Rikyu had been di­rect, it would have an­gered Hideyoshi and caused him to dig in. Sub­tlety was more ef­fec­tive.

It’s a won­der­ful old story, in part be­cause it ac­tu­ally hap­pened. But we don’t know for sure if Rikyu was send­ing the mes­sage Hideyoshi got. There have been all kinds of thoughts as to why Rikyu chose the name for the hut. He was a very deep man who saw life pro­foundly. Per­haps the “wait­ing” he meant was some­thing en­tirely dif­fer­ent.

Ad­di­tion­ally, Rikyu was not a war­rior. He came from the merchant class. Nev­er­the­less, we can sur­mise from this in­ci­dent and many oth­ers that he had a pro­found un­der­stand­ing of strat­egy. He un­der­stood how to ma­nip­u­late ǡ # ϐ - ations, how to see cir­cum­stances and em­ploy wis­dom to af­fect them.

Many mar­tial artists don’t un­der­stand strat­egy at this level. They think of strat­egy only in con­tests. They think it’s noth­ing more than com­ing up with ϐ # Ǥ This is a nar­row view of strat­egy.

As to the ques­tion posed at the be­gin­ning of this es­say, I have no good an­swer. I hope, how­ever, that this has given you some­thing to think about.

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