A Fresh Start

By Greg Noble, Chief Instructor, ZAA

            It’s been a year since the Zeshinkai Aikido Association has been in existence and lately I’ve been reflecting on all the wonderful things we’ve accomplished along the way. It would not have been possible without the countless support of the members, whose dedication to the art of Aikido and strong kiai, carried us through the rocky periods.

It’s snowing outside now and the air is brisk with a sense of cool freshness, as if to announce the new year. The traditional American new year’s parties will take place with plenty of food, alcohol and games for everyone to enjoy as we pass over into a fresh start. There will be resolutions in hope we will lose weight, work harder,  make more money and perhaps be a better person somewhere along the way.

Traditionally, in some dojo, preparation for the new year begins early with susuharai, or an intense cleaning of the dojo. Tatami mats are scrubbed, the shomen is cleaned and every piece of lint and dust bunny is an enemy of the aikido student! We clean the dojo to clear away the past year, in order to purify and make a fresh start for the new year.

In Zen there is a tradition of ringing the temple bell 108 times at the stroke of midnight to symbolize the 108 mortal desires, which cause us suffering, and to get rid of those desires to start fresh and new. Most of us are guilty of these desires as they are human nature but we seek take responsibility for our actions and continue to practice on our self. We become absorbed in the sound of the bell, following it and allowing it to cast aside thoughts of the past.

Hatsugeiko is the first training of the year and this will usually be held during the first week of the new year. A fine tradition is to conduct suburi to open the class, usually in the sum of a thousand or more cuts. Becoming one with our breath and body with each swing, we use our hara to cut completely through our small self to emerge as something different.

The joy of that first training of the year is invigorating and purifying as we rededicate our self to our way of training. In this manner we seek to continue this mind set during all of our training during the year.

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