Putting the Important Things in One’s Mind

Once, while I was still in my uchideshi (apprenticeship) training, I was summoned by Tohei Sensei and rushed to see him in the waiting room of the main dojo. This happened immediately after training, so I was still in my dogi.

Tohei Sensei stood up and took hold of me by the lapels of the dogi, staring into my face but smiling, and said,

“You know, I am being very patient with you.”

I knew I had not met his expectation in any way, but I felt this must be something very serious that I was not aware
of. I was not sure what this was all about, but I thought I should apologize anyway.

Tohei Sensei continued, “You still do a lot of things that bother me. So I am planting this in your mind now. And as long as it is in your mind, it will eventually come out. Even if you don’t understand it right now, there will come a day when you will understand it as you gain more experience. So, I am going to put what is important in your mind now.”

I had no idea what he was talking about.

“Do everything you were told to do without saying this or that!”

Then, it hit me! I had been deciding in my mind whether the task I was given was meaningful or meaningless, and I did not always have a positive attitude to engage in things that did not interest me. I knew he was referring to this tendency of mine.

Tohei Sensei’s words had such a tremendous impact that I clearly remember the conversation to this day.

Even though it has already been 25 years since we had this conversation. During that time, Tohei Sensei passed away, and 10 years have gone by since his death.

And what Tohei Sensei put in my mind in those days has finally started coming out. There are things we can understand only with an effort and after having gained various experiences.

We are always seeking results.

As leaders and instructors, we have this desire or selfinterest to have people meet our expectations, because we poured our time and energy into guiding them.

This self-interest becomes a problem when people do not improve in the way we want them to. It makes us feel impatient and frustrated.

We simply need to put what is important in their mind, even when they are not listening to us, not understanding or not being unable to understand it. As long as it is in their mind, it will come out someday, and they will come to understand it.

This is especially true with children.

It can be very frustrating when children don’t listen to us.

But they are listening, even when they act like they are not. They will never get better if we stop putting what is important in their mind just because they do not seem to be listening or understanding what we are telling them, or they don’t show any improvement.

The important thing is to put it in their mind again and again.

When I train young leaders and instructors, and they do not change for better no matter how many times I explain something, I, too, sometimes get irritated and become quite forceful in tone out of frustration.

Yet whenever that happens, I have to recall the conversation I had with Tohei Sensei, and I have to make an effort to “put what is important in their mind”.

Oddly enough, people improve out of the blue several years later.

I remember Tohei Sensei treated everyone in this way. This was his basic attitude as a leader.

The sun does not shine on only those who please it. The sun’s rays create a bright side and shadow side of things depending on the environment we are in. But the sun itself shines equally on everything.

This is the spirit of “Ban-yū Aigo” (loving and protecting all things), which is the most important thing for all the leaders and instructors to understand.

I am striving to become a leader and instructor who can continue to put what is important in people’s mind, regardless of their listening to me, not listening to me, understanding it immediately, or unable to do so.

“I am being very patient with you.”

Having become an instructor myself, I can now really related to what Tohei sensei felt.

Translated by Mayumi Case
Edited by David Shaner and Matthew Attarian
Eastern Ki Federation

Original article in Japanese: 大事なことは入れておく(Daijina koto wa irete oku)
October 1, 2022