A Dojo Named Katsu

logoI’ve always been fascinated by Aikido’s motto: Masagatsu Agatsu Katsu Ayabe. 正勝 吾勝, 勝早日: The true victory is the victory over oneself, the victory here and now. There are many different literal translations of this sentence by Aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba. The core meaning is that our worst enemy lies within ourselves and if we defeat it we will obtain the true victory.

I experienced the fatigues of this war on my own skin and I’m also convinced I did obtain several victories. I’m not talking about martial practice but of real life (but isn’t it the same?).
On other instances I have wrote about having “killed” my old self and replaced it with a more real, functional, vital person. Aikido has arrived later, almost as a consequence, but during the ongoing war anyway, though maybe close to the end of my first great victory.
Katsu! A Japanese would have shouted! I won! I did it! Katsu, among other meanings, is, indeed, victory. There are many Japanese names based on this word, just like our own Victor, such as Katsuaki, Katsushiro, etc. In Italy the sound of the Japanese word provokes hilarity. It has the same sound as the derogatory word for the masculine sexual organ. Therefore, by calling my dojo with that name I’m exposed to jokes that in English would sound like “it’s a fu**ing dojo”, what a “fu**ing” teacher, “what a fu**ing name?” My intention is not making fun of anyone or anything. I’ve always been self-ironic. Self-Irony helped me a lot in obtaining the great victory I mentioned above. Actually, being ironic about the situation I had put myself in, I was able to relieve the tension and …win. Katsu! (Never take ourselves too seriously!). own worst enemyAt those times someone suggested I read a book, Your Own Worst Enemy, by Roy Baumeister and Steven Berglas, published by Basic Books. It is about the psychological expedients we create in order to self-defeat ourselves in life, so that we won’t ever realize the goals we feel not able to manage. I gifted someone with this book, like you give something that would be good to others after it has been so good to yourself. The victory over myself was not easily achieved.
Recognizing the enemy within is relatively easy. Defeating it is another matter. It means behaving like you have never done before, playing the game like you have never dared to. It’s a tough job. This is true for anyone. The human potential has no limit, the enemy within can operate at different levels. My case was particularly severe. We’re talking about a man that didn’t want to grow. But the same would apply for a man or woman who could have the potential for a great career improvement after a lifelong success: lacking the courage to take responsibility for what the new duties would imply, he or she unconsciously creates odds and hurdles so he/she can blame bad luck for not having reached that so much desired goal.
Our subconscious is powerful. If you really (don’t) wish something, it knows how to (not) obtain it. The biggest, classic, mistake is blaming external factors or other people for our failures. Luckily, it all depends on ourselves.
Those who knew me before my “great victory” are well aware of how much I changed in a positive way. I was “unlucky” in everything, with dates, jobs – not with health, thank god, but it was a matter of months before I would have started to show the first psychosomatic symptoms. I was inclined to melancholy – there was nothing to laugh about, actually; I wonder how people would even bear with me. Those who haven’t seen me in years wouldn’t believe I am the same person. Now I’m also running an Aikido dojo! Me! Really me!? I was so uncoordinated, I never fought in the streets, always been a thin 4-eyed boy many would pick on – also because I was good at school. It sounds like the story of a comic book hero: everybody laughing at him, but the fate gives him superpowers. Actually, I really liked those comics characters when I was a boy. I still like them now that I have my own superpowers: no matter how I am tired, depressed, anguished, nervous, maybe even sick, but if I take my cloths off and wear my keikogi I am transformed in another person. The Aikidoka! Katsu!
I may joke about it, but it works just like this. Aikido can do wonders about it. Budo, in general, if practiced correctly (with the right goal, not to beat up someone or win a combat) is the ideal practice to make our deeper self surface so that we can analyze it, overcome it and eventually become better human beings.
The mere fact I actually achieved the black belt in a martial art is really surprising. At the same time, it is the symbol of a human revolution that was already going on when I met Aikido. Maybe in another moment of my life I wouldn’t have been impressed (something that could put me out of trouble? No way! How could I complain then?). Instead, I never stopped, I keep on practicing Aikido because I know there still are many battles to fight in life.
I gave the book away hoping it would be useful to who has received it. Now I also want to give back all the good Aikido has done to me. That’s why I’m teaching it. I will never be a big name of the art (though I was also convinced I would have never be a black belt), at my age people have higher ranks. But if I had won over my own worst enemy thanks also to Aikido, I feel compelled to do whatever I can to make others understand how good it can be for them too. Even if it will be so for just one person in my whole teaching career, it’ll be worth it.
Therefore, with all this in mind, how the f**k do you think I should have called my dojo?