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
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.