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Awareness (or “Kizuki” in Japanese)

The other day, I was speaking with my students about "awareness", which is called "kizuki" in Japanese.

Through our martial arts techniques, we are trained to feel the muscles, bones, our center of gravity, and movements of the body that people are not typically aware of in everyday life. In our Aikido practices at Chiseikan Dojo, we focus our attention on joints and muscles that we normally use without paying attention to them, such as the fine joint movements of fingers, elbows, knees, etc., and we then study the physics that influence these body movements and how to work with or against such movements.

Sometimes we may think about our heart beating, or the fact that we can see and hear. But we typically don't pay much attention to whether we can use our fingers, move our legs, or other everyday things like this. The better our bodies function, the less we are aware of these things. However, when things aren't functioning properly, we realize that we have to do something about it. And when we then recover, we feel thankful that everything is functioning properly again. When I was hospitalized for an emergency due to an intestinal obstruction and acute pancreatitis, I could not go to the bathroom properly and became more and more bloated because of this. Eventually, I looked like the Japanese anime character Anpanman because of the buildup of fluids in my body. Thanks to the medicines that I was given, I was able to finally get rid of those fluids, and because of this experience I really came to appreciate the everyday functions of the human body. Unfortunately, because of a blood disease that I have been diagnosed with, I am also unable to donate blood. I feel sad every time I see a blood donor van because I would like to donate blood to help increase the supply of blood, but I can no longer do so.

All of us have become accustomed to things that are "normal" in our daily lives. Even for essential things like electricity, we need to remember that there are people who made the electric lines, people who did the construction, and people who continue to produce and manage the electricity. We must not forget that it is not only our income that allows us to sleep with a roof over our heads, but also the people who build that roof, and the people who made and gathered the materials to build those roofs. We are able to live thanks to the work of so many people. We know this in our heads, but we are usually unaware of it. It is only when we lose them due to disasters or wars that we "realize" how important they are.

We are kept alive by the sun, rain, oceans, and forests. It is only when we began to lose these things that we finally began to realize their importance. There are still many people who think of them as something else. As the environmental activist Greta said, "Our houses are burning," but there are many people who think, "My house isn't burning yet, so I'll be fine," and try to escape from the reality of things that are unpleasant for them.

The other day, I went to a sports park where a baseball tournament was being held for junior high and high school students. It was there that I saw a family that looked as if they had come to cheer for the students. An old man with his elementary school grandchildren left a garbage bag filled with empty food containers in front of a plastic bottle collection box, because he couldn't find a better place to throw away that garbage. I stood there for a moment in dismay.

Like this man's garbage, many of us adults who are responsible for the future have too little awareness of the problems that are actually happening. If it is not inconvenient or painful to them, they don't care. With adults who have an "as long as it's good enough for me" attitude preaching to their children about how they should behave nicely, it's no wonder that the children of the world's future are angry about environmental issues.

If we do not concentrate on having "awareness" and do our best to then cherish even those things we take for granted, not only will this impact your children or grandchildren, but also people all around the world will receive a negative effect. In a martial arts situation, it is like closing your eyes to a scary attack and turning around to run away. If you do this, you will be attacked and get physically hurt.

Now, I'd like you to close your eyes, and think about those "normal" things in your life and begin to "be aware" of them. Just by doing this, you will start to realize that you must care for other people, things, and nature even more than you do now, and a sense of gratitude should start to bubble up. Then, don't just think about taking better care of these, but take real action to do so. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a situation similar to when an opponent applies a martial arts technique that pushes you to the very edge of your ability to remain unhurt, but then ignores this and pushes you beyond this limit. No matter what you say after that, it's too late to recover and stand back up.

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