Updated: Jan 15, 2019
Sunao by P.G.
Sunao Na Kokoro (Adopting an open, honest mind in training)
Being truthful in our training is one of the most complex concepts to understand about our own martial arts development path. It requires each training partner to become fully committed with a pursuit of mutual growth. Its purpose not one of winning, nor losing; it is also not about “besting” but about aiming to become better than the day before (see Kaizen). Truthfulness does not need to impress anyone not even our own selves, because it is…well…the truth. It means physically investing emotion while staying alert and while wholly inhabiting our body, from pinky toe to the tip of our noses and foreheads. It is about lending our partner our best and only material possession for about 2-3 seconds, repeatedly, while committing 95% of ourselves to the movement (the other 5% of commitment we keep to ourselves for safety purposes). Talk about Trust!!!
The following text was taken from a well-regarded Aikido practitioner’s memories and series of blogs; but it can also be perfectly applied to any type of martial arts training:
By Stanley Pranin:
“When I trained in Iwama under Morihiro Saito Sensei many years ago, every so often he would say something like, “Sunao ni keiko shite kudasai” (Practice with an honest mind) to admonish students to practice sincerely and in a spirit of cooperation. An example would be when he saw a student resisting another’s attempt to perform a technique using his foreknowledge of the technique being practiced.
“The following was a true story that occurred at the Iwama Dojo many years ago. I was practicing with a strong partner. Every time, he would use his knowledge of the technique we were practicing to block my movement. This of course was a cause of frustration to me. To make a statement, I proceeded to block his technique in the same manner, but only once to prove a point. He continued every time to stop me, and from then on, I just resigned myself to continue until the end of class vowing to never train with him again. “I knew that Saito Sensei was watching us as we continued in this manner, and I saw him becoming upset out of the corner of my eye. Finally, Sensei shouted, “Dame! So iu kudaranai keiko yamero!” (Stop that stupid training!). We all sat down while Sensei exploded at my partner. He explained that anyone can block a person’s technique if they know in advance what they intend to do. That this kind of training totally defeats the purpose of practice and that one cannot progress by training this way. Sensei then proceeded to ban my partner from practice at the dojo. The man was totally humiliated and immediately left the dojo with his head hanging down. “Sensei eventually let the man back after about a month. From that point on, he trained in a respectful way and became an exemplary student. I trained with him several times after that and it was an enjoyable experience. He later established his own dojo and is still active.
This one is a humorous story that shows another instance of someone not being “sunao.”:
One day Professor Futaki said to Ueshiba Sensei, “Sensei, I am going to attack you with a bokken. Can you escape from my attack?” Sensei answered smilingly, “Anytime.” When the professor used to attack Sensei from the front during demonstrations, Sensei always evaded to the left. So this time, he anticipated and decided to make an attack to the direction in which Sensei always evaded. As a result, Professor Futaki’s attack missed Sensei again, because Sensei did not move. The professor of course admitted his defeat. When Professor Futaki asked Sensei how he could tell the direction of his attack, he responded, “Your mind had already flown to the right. Your empty-spirited body made that attack ever so slowly!” (From “An Aikido Life — Chapter 8″ by Gozo Shioda)
On my first trip to Japan, there were two foreign men that often trained and hung out together. They were both ranked about 2nd dan at the time. They could often be seen practicing together after class and really mixing it up. Years later, I happened to ask a mutual friend what happened to these two men as I had not seen or heard about them for a long time. He said that both had stopped aikido altogether because of their frustration at not being able to make techniques work on each other. They did not practice aikido with an honest mind. To my way of thinking, they had totally misunderstood the importance of honest practice as the correct way to develop good aikido skills.