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When a novice starts learning martial arts, he wears a white belt, symbolic of innocence. After months of practice, the white belt gets dirty and turns brown, symbolic of the first degree of attainment. After more practice, the belt gets soiled and eventually turns black, symbolic of full attainment.

If the practitioner does not stop learning even after full attainment, the black belt starts getting frayed, turning almost white, symbolic of return to innocence. The frayed white belt represents technical competence of an experienced martial artist, combined with the innocence and receptivity of a beginner. It signifies going beyond technique and embracing no-technique—coming full circle.

story source: white belt


The original martial arts used only one belt as described above. But now-a-days the different colored belts are used to describe the practitioners growth.

At inner spirit martial arts, the white belt was symbolic of the crane. Where speed was developed and patience acquired. A crane can only survive a tiger’s attack with evasive maneuvers.

Through much practice, exercise and persistence one attained an orange belt. The symbol for the Tiger, strength.

Then comes the green belt. Where the student learns holds and throws. Agility, vitality, perseverance.

here is where many schools differ, some will have blue belts (water), purple belts (air)  and other colors before the brown belt. Many will go from brown to black as is many customary practices. At Inner Spirit Martial Arts the brown belt symbolized: Earth, well grounded, growth, deeply rooted and solid.

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as shone here…

Red belt symbolized… the dragon, full of fire, energy and the stage where one readies them self for black belt testing.

To attain the black belt one must demonstrate their abilities in their style of martial arts. One of the key elements is teaching, for a black belts primary task will be to teach others… coming full circle.


I thought about this when I went to work the other day and I was asked to mentor a new officer. To teach them the ways of our profession. I realized I had come full circle in my employment. No matter what you do in life, when you have reached a certain point in your life, you will end up teaching others. Rather it be a profession or a grandparent. So, teach them well…


may you pass your wisdom on to another this day


Immovable Mind

I watched a movie, ‘Ninja‘ Wednesday, where the Sensei was trying to teach two promonate successors the supreme lesson, (Fushosin) ‘The Immovable Mind,’ so that they could one day take over his role as ‘Soke’ or head of the martial arts school.

He described one student as being like that of a Tiger, strong and feirce. Then described the other student as being like that of the wind, he came in as a small breeze and has grown into a strong wind. That each needed to learn from the other’s traits to become the Soke.

Fudoshin (immovable mind and heart) is a Japanese term that describes a state of equanimity or imperturbability literally and metaphorically.  It is a philosophical or mental dimension attributed to a (usually Japanese) martial art which adds to the effectiveness of the more advanced practitioner.


Fudoshin and its Continuing Relevance

By Stephen Fabian


Sparkling crystal clinked with seasonal good cheer as the revelers toasted each other. Garbed in gowns, suits, and other formal evening wear, the foreign ministers, diplomats, and general VIPs and their spouses basked in the light and warmth of fellowship and bounty at the gala event. Suddenly an explosion shook the assemblage, bursting the dreamlike party image and replacing it with a nightmare, like the twisted plot of a cinematic thriller. Gunfire erupted stark and loud and was met by shouts and screams, and the mass of nearly 400 people milled about confusedly. Doors burst open and shots cracked over their heads, sending the guests headlong to the floor. Armed and masked guerrillas swarmed through the official residence. 

“Everyone down,” came the snarled command, “and don’t raise your heads unless you wish them blown off!” Screams were nearing hysteria. “Silence!”   

The shots and shouts subsided, replaced by an electrified quiet punctuated with stifled sobs. Fatigue-clad men glared ominously over the inert horde, and then leveled their weapons at an unexpected sight: one VIP remained standing, visibly unshaken by the violent infiltration.

 A rebel moved closer, shoving the still-warm barrel of his gun towards his face. “Who are you?”   

The man faced gun-barrel and glare without flinching. “I am Morihisa Aoki, ambassador of Japan.” His voice was forceful and unwavering. “These are my guests, and they are unarmed. You will respect them and cause them no harm.”   

Awed, the guerrillas’ eyes widened, and for a brief moment fingers tensed on triggers. But bold themselves, the guerrillas could admire grudgingly the courage of their captive. The rebel leader nodded. “All right. No one will be harmed.” Guns were lowered, and an audible sigh spread among the hostages. 

Fudoshin. This is a Japanese expression based on the Buddhist guardian figure Fudo Myo O, who is unflinching in his defense against wickedness. Figuratively translated, fudoshin means “unmoving mind/heart”or “immovable mind,” and connotes the imperturbability as well as courage of the truly mastered self. It is the mind/heart from which have been purged all impurities and weaknesses in the resolute process of forging artistic and self-mastery. While historical examples of the demonstration of fudoshin in Japanese monks and warriors are not uncommon, the above scenario is not from Japan’s feudal and relatively isolated past, but from its contemporary and international present. 

The scene described is based on newspaper reports of the takeover in Peru of the Japanese ambassador’s residence by Tupac Amaru guerrillas during an evening Christmas party on December 17, 1996. Although I know nothing of the Japanese ambassador’s past or training, it is clear that he is a man who has learned to govern his thoughts, words, feelings and actions. He has discovered self-mastery, and has applied it strategically and intelligently to help bring an explosive and potentially deadly situation under level-headed control.         

(read more here!)

Then, no thoughts of past failures or future problems will exist in the mind, and a truly positive mental state will result—fudoshin, the “immovable mind.”

Immovable Mind

‘May your mind be immovable’


Yagyu Tajima no Kami was a great swordsman and a teacher in the art to Tokugawa Iemitsu, the Shogun during that time. One day, a personal guard of Iemitsu’s visited Yagyu Sensei seeking instruction in the art of swordsmanship.

Master Yagyu said: “As I observe, you seem to already be a master of swordsmanship; pray tell me to which school you belong, before we enter into a relationship as teacher and student.”

The guardsman said, “I am ashamed to say that I have never really learned the art of swordsmanship.”

Master Yagyu replied by saying “Are you trying to trick me? I am teacher to the honorable Shogun himself, and I know that my judging eyes never fail me. I can see that you already are a master”

“I am sorry to defy your honor, but I really know nothing” replied the guardsman.

This resolute denial on the part of the visitor made the old swordsman think for a while, and then he finally said, “If you say so, then it must be so; but still I am sure that you are a master of something, though I know not what.”

“If you insist, I will tell you this. There is one thing of which I can say that I am a complete master. When I was a boy, it appeared to me that as a Samurai I should never be afraid of death regardless of the circumstances. I had grappled with this obstacle for some years but finally overcame it. Death ceases to worry me and perhaps this is what you sense.”

“Exactly!” exclaimed Yagyu sensei. “That is what I mean. I am glad that I made no error in my judgment. For the ultimate secrets of swordsmanship also lie in being released the preoccupation of death. I have trained ever so many hundreds of my disciples along this line, but so far none of them really deserve the final certificate for swordsmanship. You need no technical training, you are already a master.”


Courage is not the absence of fear but rather doing what needs to be done in spite of fear.

may you be the master of your day


A long time ago there was a young samurai and his fiancé who were deeply in love. One day his fiancé was walking through the forest when she was attacked and seriously mauled by a man-eating tiger! No matter what the young samurai did, nothing could save her… and she died

From the depths of his sorrow he vowed to revenge his beloved, by seeking out the tiger and killing it.

So he took his bow and arrow and sought out into the forest, month after month in search of the man-eating beast. Searching daily in the forest, the samurai finally saw a sleeping tiger in the distance and concluded that this must be the tiger responsible for the death of his lover!

He drew his bow, took careful aim and released the arrow which found its mark and pierced the tiger’s body deeply. Drawing and mounting another arrow he slowly approached the motionless creature to confirm the kill… only to find his arrow stuck deeply into a striped colored stone which happened to resemble that of a sleeping tiger!

After this, everyone in the village began to talk about how strong he was, because he could pierce a stone with his arrow, and people became determined to test him. However, regardless of how many times he attempted to repeat the undertaking his arrows kept bouncing off the rock.

This was because he now realized that his target is only a stone. In the past his resolve had been so profound that he was actually able to physically pierce a stone with his arrow. However, now under different circumstances, he was unable to repeat the same feat.


Moral of the story?

“A strong will can even pierce stone”. In other words, resolve can serve as a powerful vehicle for achieving seemingly impossibe things.


This story reminded me of the mothers day post, if you missed the read,,, click here…

Tiger’s son

~another great tiger legend tale~

May you achieve seemingly impossibe goals today


zenkai’s tunnel

Zenkai, the son of a samurai, journeyed to Edo and there became the retainer of a high official. He fell in love with the official’s wife and was discovered. In self-defense, he slew the official. Then he ran away with the wife.

Both of them later became thieves. But the woman was so greedy that Zenkai grew disgusted. Finally, leaving her, he journeyed far away to the province of Buzen, where he became a wandering mendicant.

To atone for his past, Zenkai resolved to accomplish some good deed in his lifetime. Knowing of a dangerous road over a cliff that had caused the death and injury of many persons, he resolved to cut a tunnel through the mountain there.

Begging food in the daytime, Zenkai worked at night digging his tunnel. When thirty years had gone by, the tunnel was 2,280 feet long, 20 feet high, and 30 feet wide.

Two years before the work was completed, the son of the official he had slain, who was a skillful swordsman, found Zenkai out and came to kill him in revenge.

“I will give you my life willingly,” said Zenkai. “Only let me finish this work. On the day it is completed, then you may kill me.”

So the son awaited the day. Several months passed and Zendai kept on digging. The son grew tired of doing nothing and began to help with the digging. After he had helped for more than a year, he came to admire Zenkai’s strong will and character.

At last the tunnel was completed and the people could use it and travel in safety.

“Now cut off my head,” said Zenkai. “My work is done.”

“How can I cut off my own teacher’s head?” asked the younger man with tears in his eyes.



The master of Kennin temple was Mokurai, Silent Thunder. He had a little protege named Toyo who was only twelve years old. Toyo saw the older disciples visit the master’s room each morning and evening to receive instruction in sanzen or personal guidance in which they were given koans to stop mind-wandering.

Toyo wished to do sanzen also.

“Wait a while,” said Mokurai. “You are too young.”

But the child insisted, so the teacher finally consented.

In the evening little Toyo went at the proper time to the threshold of Mokurai’s sanzen room. He struck the gong to announce his presence, bowed respectfully three times outside the door, and went to sit before the master in respectful silence.

“You can hear the sound of two hands when they clap together,” said Mokurai. “Now show me the sound of one hand.”

Toyo bowed and went to his room to consider this problem. From his window he could hear the music of the geishas. “Ah, I have it!” he proclaimed.

The next evening, when his teacher asked him to illustrate the sound of one hand, Toyo began to play the music of the geishas.

“No, no,” said Mokurai. “That will never do. That is not the sound of one hand. You’ve not got it at all.”

Thinking that such music might interrupt, Toyo moved his abode to a quiet place. He meditated again. “What can the sound of one hand be?” He happened to hear some water dripping. “I have it,” imagined Toyo.

When he next appeared before his teacher, Toyo imitated dripping water.

“What is that?” asked Mokurai. “That is the sound of dripping water, but not the sound of one hand. Try again.”

In vain Toyo meditated to hear the sound of one hand. He heard the sighing of the wind. But the sound was rejected.

He heard the cry of an owl. This also was refused.

The sound of one hand was not the locusts.

For more than ten times Toyo visited Mokurai with different sounds. All were wrong. For almost a year he pondered what the sound of one hand might be.

At last little Toyo entered true meditation and transcended all sounds. “I could collect no more,” he explained later, “so I reached the soundless sound.”

Toyo had realized the sound of one hand.




The most difficult phase of life is not when no one understands you; it is when you don’t understand yourself!

may your day be filled with understanding

A hermit from the monastery of Scete went to Abbot Theodore:

“I know precisely the objective of life. I know what God asks of man, and I know the best way of serving Him. Even so, I am incapable of doing everything I should in order to serve the Lord.”

Abbot Theodore remained silent for a time. Finally, he said:

“You know that there is a city on the far side of the ocean. But you haven’t yet found the ship, nor have you loaded your bags, nor crossed the sea. Why spend time commenting on what it is like, or how one should walk through its streets?”

A little boy is telling his Grandma how “everything” is going wrong: school, family problems, and severe health problems in the family. Meanwhile, Grandma is baking a cake. She asks her grandson if he would like a snack, which of course he does.Here, have some cooking oil,” she says. “Yuck” says the boy.

“Then how about a couple raw eggs?”

“Gross, Grandma!” he replies.

“Would you prefer some flour then? Or maybe some baking soda?” she asks.

“Grandma, those are all yucky!” he replied.

To which Grandma replies: “Yes, all those things seem to taste bad all by themselves. But when they are mixed together in the right amounts and the right manner, they make a delicious cake!”

Some times life tastes like the different ingredients of a cake. Then some times it tastes wonderful, like a day when all the ingredients are prepared just right and everything falls into place perfectly, tasting like  wonderfully prepared cake.
an earlier zendictive post…

Nails in the fence

have a quality day
Sesshu Toyo and the rat
The artist and Zen monk who is known by the name of Sesshu is one of the greatest Japanese artists of all time. Born in Akahama (now part of Soja, Okayama Pref.) in 1420. The son of a samurai family, at the age of 10 he was packed off to the nearby Zen temple of Hofuku-Ji to train as a monk, and it was from this time that a famous story about him is set.
Apparently he was not a good novice, preferring to spend his time drawing rather than chanting the sutras, and one day as punishment for his misbehavior he was tied to one of the pillars in the temple hall. Later when a monk (or abbot) came to check on him he was startled by what appeared to be a rat on the floor in front of the bound Sesshu.
On closer examination it turned out that the rat was a very life-like drawing done by Sesshu using his toe to draw in the dust of the floor with his tears.

His artistic talent being recognized he was encouraged to follow his heart and so became the great artist he is known for today.

There is another version of the story that says that the rat drawing was so life-like it actually became real and chewed through the ropes binding Sesshu and freed him. (this sounds like a story exaggeration that was added to the story as the years went on)
this story and more found here…

More glimpses of unfamiliar Japan

Sesshu Toyo is a prime example of how others may try and tie you to their way of thinking and bind you to reform and yet with perseverance it is possible to show others that the fault lies with not accepting one for the way they are. His story, a zen monk back in 1420 and yet we as a society have learned so little from such an inspirational artist.

Rituals and a cat

a zendictive story (related topic)
may your day be filled with such perseverance
A Samurai who was known for his nobility and honesty, went to visit a Zen monk to ask advice. However, the moment he entered the temple where the master was praying, he felt inferior and concluded that, in spite of having fought for justice and peace all his life, he hadn�t even come near the state of grace achieved by the man before him.

“Why do I feel so inferior?” he asked, as soon as the monk finished his prayers. “I have faced death many times, have defended those who are weak, I know I have nothing to be ashamed of. Nevertheless, upon seeing you meditating, I felt that my life had absolutely no importance whatsoever.”

“Wait. Once I have attended to all those who come to see me today, I shall answer you.”

The samurai spent the whole day sitting in the temple gardens, watching the people go in and out in search of advice. He saw how the monk received them all with the same patience and the same illuminated smile on his face. But his enthusiasm soon began to wane, since he had been born to act, and not to wait.

At nightfall, when everyone had gone, he demanded: “Now can you teach me?”

The master invited him in and lead him to his room. The full moon shone in the sky, and the atmosphere was one of profound tranquility.

“Do you see the moon, how beautiful it is? It will cross the entire firmament, and tomorrow the sun will shine once again. But sunlight is much brighter, and can show the details of the landscape around us: trees, mountains, clouds. I have contemplated the two for years, and have never heard the moon say: why do I not shine like the sun? Is it because I am inferior?”

“Of course not – answered the samurai. – The moon and the sun are different things, each has its own beauty. You cannot compare the two.”

“So you know the answer. We are two different people, each fighting in his own way for that which he believes, and making it possible to make the world a better place; the rest are mere appearances.”

The pen is mightier than the sword!
Have a zendictive day

Once the great Anthony of the Desert was relaxing with his disciples outside his hut when a hunter came by. The hunter was surprised to see Anthony relaxing, and rebuffed him for taking it easy. It was not his idea of what a holy monk should be doing.

Anthony replied, “Bend your bow and shoot an arrow.” And the hunter did so. “Bend it again and shoot another arrow,” said Anthony. The hunter did so, again and again.

The hunter finally said, “Abba Anthony, if I keep my bow always stretched, it will break.”

So it is with the monk,” replid Anthony. “if we push ourselves beyond measure, we will break. It is right from time to time to relax our efforts.”


moral: Balance, as with the ying and the yang; up, down, light, dark, hot and cold, there is exertion and relaxation, a necessity for muscles to operate properly. Life is the same, stress caused by enduring to much can only be resolved by a resolution and/or relaxation. Relax, take your shoes off! For the farther a man’s/woman’s feet are from the earth, the farther one is from them-self.

have a relaxing day


During a momentous battle, a Japanese general decided to attack even though his army was greatly outnumbered. He was confident they would win, but his men were filled with doubt. On the way to the battle, they stopped at a religious shrine. After praying with the men, the general took out a coin and said, “I shall now toss this coin. If it is heads, we shall win. If tails, we shall lose. Destiny will now reveal itself.”

He threw the coin into the air and all watched intently as it landed. It was heads. The soldiers were so overjoyed and filled with confidence that they vigorously attacked the enemy and were victorious. After the battle, a lieutenant remarked to the general, “No one can change destiny.”

“Quite right,” the general replied as he showed the lieutenant the coin, which had heads on both sides.


moral: we make our own destiny, sometimes we need encouragement to believe in our selves or to have someone believe in us.  You can’t change the spots on a leapard, but the choices you make, can change your destiny,



To a woman who complained about her destiny, the Zen Master said, “It is you who makes your destiny.”

“But surely I am not responsible for being born a woman?”

“Being born a woman isn’t destiny. That is fate. Destiny is how you accept your womanhood and what you make of it.” Replied the Zen Master.


food for thought

the choices we make, not the chances we take, determine our destiny!


It is a mistake to try to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time.
….Winston Churchill…
Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice: It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.William Jennings Bryan

One meets his destiny often in the road he takes to avoid it.
have a quality day


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Emma (Sunshine),

wedding day