What I learned from the philosophy of Eiichi Shibusawa

My husband is currently doing research on Eiichi Shibusawa, the father of Japanese capitalism for his work, so right now we’re watching the current NHK taiga drama "Seiten wo Tsuke" every week. Because of this, I’ve been able to study his philosophy and sayings a little.


One of these sayings is the maxim “chijo-i” which can be translated as “wisdom, emotion and will”. Through this saying he was explaining that there are three elements in the human mind: wisdom, emotions, and will and in order to be active in human society and achieve positive results, these three must be in harmony. If you have only "wisdom" and lack "feeling", you may take advantage of others for your own benefit. Or, if you only make decisions from "feelings,” you’ll easily be swept away by strong emotions and never be able to accomplish your goals. This saying means then that we need to have a strong will to strike a balance between these two. However, this saying also warns us that if only our will is strong without being accompanied by wisdom, we will simply be stubborn. Therefore, this saying teaches us that if these three elements are not equally balanced, we will not be useful to society. The first kanji character in our dojo name "Chiseikan" has the meaning of wisdom, knowledge, and the ability to see through something to its essence. We adopted this first character in our name from the late Minoru Mochizuki’s poem “Yamato Kokoro” that explained the five elements of the Japanese martial arts (called “budo”), Ki – energy/spirit, Tai – body/strength, Chi – wisdom, Toku – ethics/morals and Bi – preparedness. I think that Shibusawa Eiichi's ideas about "wisdom" apply not only to the business world, but also to various other pursuits such as the martial arts, other arts, and interpersonal communications. In martial arts, "chi" refers to our techniques or waza. Using "emotion" helps us to feel the movement, feelings and positions of the other party. It is essential to use our "will" to make sure we apply both of these in a well-balanced manner. Even if a martial artist has the "wisdom" to understand the mechanics of a technique, if they apply this wisdom according to a pre-conditioned pattern, they cannot apply this technique in the exact same way to different people. If they try to apply the technique just according to its mechanics without paying attention to the differences in body types and movements, they will quickly injure their opponent. Because of this, if there is a difference in physique or in the ways that different people move, we have to teach how to modify this technique based on these differences. There are therefore many different ways to do the exact same technique based on the opponent that we face. If we practice with 100 different people, we will need to understand 100 different ways to modify this one technique. Moving on to "emotion", while it is related to the wisdom that we just discussed, if you are unable to deeply sense the movements, emotions, and responses of the opponent, the mechanics of the technique will not work. However, if you concentrate too much attention on the other person and lose your core in the process, you will lose your balance together with your opponent. You will be swept away by your opponent’s movements and actions. If you do your best to follow the movements, emotions, and sensations of the other person without losing your own balance and focus, you will be able to effectively deal with your opponent. Regarding the last kanji character “will”, it is necessary to have a calm mind to balance the wisdom and emotions that we’ve just discussed. Once someone has reached a certain level of mastery of a technique they often will believe that, "There are no mistakes in my technique." I have actually practiced with an Aikido sensei who teaches his students in this way. He accused me of being a bad student because my body didn’t respond exactly in the way that he had expected or wanted. But my Sensei and many others whom I deeply respect say that there is never a set or absolute way of applying a technique. They keep teaching me that techniques should always evolve and improve. It seems that the teacher who got angry at me for my inability to respond “correctly” to his technique didn’t have a good balance between his wisdom and emotions. This saying “chijo-i” from Eichi Shibusawa also applies to the situations and relationships within our daily lives, right? When I look at my own actions in my daily life, it seems that I have too much "emotion" relative to "wisdom". Learning this new saying was a good opportunity for me to review my own attitudes and behaviors again.



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