by Patrick Augé Sensei
With regards to Yoseicamps and one's ability to succesfully participate in them, we have two matters to consider. One is confidence; the other is priorities. In our lives, we have areas in which we display confidence and organize our priorities according to the goals we want to attain.
When we examine the nature of confidence, we see that it does not have any intrinsic existence. It exists as a result of causes and conditions. For example, if we have confidence in our professional ability, we know that it came as a result of doing. Often we hear people say: "I don't have confidence to do this now, but when I feel confident, I will do it! " These people never do it. Confidence comes from doing, not waiting.
When under pressure (due to desire or fear), we find ourselves facing challenges that we would otherwise qualify as "insurmountable" in normal times. Then we put priorities in order and act. We are able to do this due to the fact that we have a tangible means of measuring the results of our efforts. Doing something just for an external reward such as money or peer recognition, regardless of ethics, is an example of this kind of behavior.
What about when we don't have any conventional system to measure the results of our efforts?
This is why most of us, conditioned by our materialistic upbringing, feel uneasy and reluctant to embark for the unknown. As a result of failing to question ourselves on the meaning of life and look for an answer, we get so busy with unimportant matters, such as satisfying unessential needs and engaging in sterile activities, that we have no longer the time nor the energy for the really important matters. And I don't see any direct connection between finding meaning and financial success. Let us take food, for example: it does not make any difference whether we eat junk food in nice china or right out of its wrapping, and drink soda out of crystal flutes or out of the bottle. What we put into our bodies still has poor nutritional value. If we feed ourselves convenience food, we will develop all kinds of health complications. (The food industry might very well become the next target of those who have been attacking the tobacco companies!)
The same goes for the mind. What we feed it makes a difference.
Just as our bodies reflect what we feed them, so do our minds become what we feed them (what we think all day long). It is due to our ignorance and lack of awareness that those thoughts can be planted in our minds by special interests and keep deluding us. Once we accept to take some time every day to study and think about the meaning of life, then we find answers, we become familiar with those ideas, and we acquire knowledge. We soon realize that many of the things that had been important to us are useless. At this stage, we are equipped to rearrange our priorities and make better decisions. Then it may become easier, for example, to close our office for an activity together with other people of similar interests, that helps us develop and improve the qualities that we need. Obviously, it is a better choice than closing our office for some expensive yet fun activity that in reality is an escape and may leave us mentally empty. As we act, become familiar with the process, and feel the improvement, we develop confidence.
In the case of Yoseicamp participation, we can build confidence by attending one or several kangeiko (winter training) as a first step. However, it is essential to remember that we should not look at events such as camps and clinics as minimum requirements for ranks. They exist as means of training, not to get credit for promotion. In this respect, budo is quite different from school, work, or sports, for example. Similarly, ranks should never be looked at as objectives. In the case of the black belt, the rank indicates that a student has reached a level of mental, technical, and physical maturity obvious to his teachers and peers. This student has engaged in the martial path and has committed himself to it for the benefit of all. Here is a definition of the meaning of black belt:
"A black belt is a practitioner who has acquired maturity through self-transformation and has made the necessary life changes to continue shugyo throughout life."
We should have a clear understanding of this. If not, then we are not ready and should study more. I have been training myself and my students to make Mochizuki Sensei's teachings -- which he received from Kano and Ueshiba Sensei -- part of our thoughts and actions. Every promoted student represents those teachings. We should think seriously about the consequences of our attitude on other students and our teachers when we put on a black belt. We have six ranks before it to build our immune system against blackbeltitis (budo equivalent of the Peter Principle).Patrick Augé Sensei, December 2000